I’m More Afraid to Come Out to Gay People than Straight People

Specifically, lesbians. I’m more afraid to come out as bisexual to lesbians than to straight people.

I should note that I live in San Francisco – if I lived in bumblefuck homophobiaville, the story would probably be different. But, here in San Francisco, the land of the gays and politically correct, straight people are way easier to deal with than lesbians. When I come out to a straight person, they will usually say nothing. Sometimes they will talk about how great it it gay marriage passed, (or, back in the day, they’d talk about how they thought gay marriage *should* pass) to indicate how OK they were with it. Sometimes, if I casually mention my girlfriend, they will get this facial expression which I’ve interpreted to mean “I am trying as hard as possible to project that I am totally fine with your having a girlfriend.” It’s a little awkward, but sort of charming. I realize that they’re trying to tell me they accept me, without being unhip enough to project that being queer is a big deal.

On the other hand, I dread mentioning ex boyfriends to lesbians. Usually, gay women meet me in a gay context and assume I am also gay. When I’ve casually mentioned a male ex of mine, I’ve gotten responses like “Oh my god, what?” to which I’m awkwardly like “Uh – yeah, I’m bisexual.”

Check out this video:

I get that people have preferences, but what’s amazing to me is how entitled lesbians seem to feel to be outspoken about it. If you didn’t date black people, would you be willing to have a recording of yourself saying that published to the internet? I imagine most people who secretly felt that would probably keep it quietly to themselves. Of course, sexuality is different from race – but the majority of gay people argue that it wasn’t a choice for them. It’s generally polite not to rail on people for things they can’t help, which would seem to apply to bisexuality in this case.

Even with people who aren’t this outspoken, when I mention to a woman that I’m bisexual, it’s usually a “bad” thing. I’m sure to mention it to any woman I go out with on the first date because I expect it to be a possible reason she wouldn’t want to stay with  me. Conversely, when I date men, I’ll usually bring up that I’m bisexual whenever because I’ve never had a man get upset about it. Sometimes, I’ll get a “zomg, that’s so hot can I watch?” which is irritating, but a lot more welcome than the lesbian “that’s a shame.”

To be fair, not all lesbians are like this (my girlfriend, being one obvious exception.) In fact, possibly even *most* lesbians aren’t like this but enough of them are that make me wonder what is going on with it?

I asked my girlfriend for her take on it.

Me: Why do some lesbians not like bisexuals?

Her: Maybe because they’re insecure about it

Me: Insecure about what?

Her: I don’t know – like how I get insecure cuz you slept with guys.

Me: Why does that make you insecure?

Her: Cuz you slept with them before me.

Me: Why would that matter?

Her: I don’t know, cuz they have something I can’t give you.

Me: Like what?

Her: I don’t know.

Me: Like dick?

Her: *giggles* yeah.

Me: Why do you think I want dick?

Her:  I don’t know.

The cultural power of the dick is pretty impressive. I was hanging out with one of my more dude/bro friends the other day, and he was inquiring that had it really been two years since I’d had “the D” and didn’t I miss it? (“The D” was clearly capitalized, given his tone of voice.) I responded that what I missed about men was nothing so specific – it was more a male “energy” or something. I miss parts of all my lovers when they’re gone because everyone is unique, but that’s just a part of dating. What I miss about men as a whole doesn’t feel terribly different from that.

I think that bi-phobia is really a form of misogyny. The stereotype about bi men is they’re really gay, the stereotype about bi women is they’re really straight. The unifying theme is that people have a hard time believing someone who was attracted to both genders would choose to be with a woman. But, I don’t have trouble believing it because I love being with my girlfriend and I choose to be with her every day.

8 thoughts on “I’m More Afraid to Come Out to Gay People than Straight People

  1. This is definitely my experience as well. I’ve been on both sides of it. When I identified as a lesbian I felt a general sense of disappointment when someone I’d pegged as a lesbian identified as bi or started dating a dude. Outwardly I tried hard to be supportive of bisexuality but inwardly I definitely found it threatening. Bisexual women are often portrayed as tourists, either going through a phase or just doing it to impress guys, and despite knowing this wasn’t true I still managed to internalize it. It actually took a while for me to admit to myself that I was bisexual rather than lesbian, and I had a lot of really weird feelings about it. Mostly I felt like I was defecting or otherwise failing the lesbian community.

    The feeling was mutual. When I broke up with my girlfriend, everyone knew it was a messy breakup, but that was pretty much normal and everyone stayed civil. Two months later when I started dating a guy I was promptly ejected from the queer community. I’m pretty sure that, despite having dated exclusively women for the previous 7 years, many of the lesbians in our circle of friends wrote me off as another bisexual tourist.

    Now that I’m married (to a guy) I’ve just sort of let it rest. I refer to my exes, both male and female, and no one really seems to care. I’m rarely in a situation where it comes up anymore though, and part of me still feels some weird guilt about “passing” as heterosexual. My husband and I did recently reach a major milestone in our relationship though: we finally saw a girl we both agreed was super cute.

    • I mean, I’ve sort of been on both sides of it as well to be fair. When I date bisexual women, I sort of expect them to not be as into women as lesbians – which sometimes is true, sometimes not.

      It’s interesting you say you feel guilt about “passing” – I actually find it much more comfortable to be read as queer than straight. Feminine presenting women are targets for a lot of violence in our society, and I prefer how people treat me when they think I’m a lesbian. I actually had one man apologize to me for obnoxiously hitting on me when he thought I was gay – I have never received that level of respect for inappropriate sexual advances when people read me as straight.

      The pain I feel when I’m seen as a straight woman is that many people refuse to see my autonomy, and that some important part of me is always hidden. When I was reading stone butch blues, the main character, a very masculine lesbian, eventually takes testosterone and passes as a straight man. Ultimately, s/he decided to transition back to butch lesbian because the pain of not being seen for who s/he was greater than the pain of the discrimination s/he received.

      It’s hard to be hidden. Being bisexual means having to come out over, and over again to everyone, gay and straight. It’s tiresome. I have never felt there is a social group to which I belong, where I can just “rest” and be myself. Anyway, maybe you can rest being a “straight” woman in your marriage, but I’d imagine it’s still difficult to have this major part of you just disappear as people make assumptions about you.

      Finally, your conclusion sort of – sat weirdly with me. When I was dating men, there was this way that my bisexuality was reduced to make me a better partner for a man. I could relate to them about women, I might have a MFF threesome, I was seen as more sexual, etc. But, this was part of the cultural narrative of how women are there to serve men, how my sexuality existed for the pleasure of men.

      It’s great that you and your husband can bond over cute girls, but your sexuality goes much deeper than that. You have had a unique set of experiences because of your sexuality – you know what it’s like to fall in love with a woman, to lose a baby, to get married in a catholic wedding. I don’t know how you integrate your past experiences as “lesbian” with your current experiences as “mom,” but I think it’s important that you do so. While obviously your importance to your husband and children is beyond measure, I think you also have the potential to add something to the larger world as well. Maybe not now, while you still have young children and are facing some of the most heartbreaking moments of married life, but maybe in 10 years or 20 years something will crystalize. Your experiences have meaning, all of them. Don’t forget them.

      • question about something you wrote:
        “Finally, your conclusion sort of – sat weirdly with me. When I was dating men, there was this way that my bisexuality was reduced to make me a better partner for a man. … But, this was part of the cultural narrative of how women are there to serve men, how my sexuality existed for the pleasure of men.”

        Could you elaborate on this way that your bi-sexuality was reduced? I think it would be reduced if it were a monogamous relationship. Is it along the lines of what you were saying about expecting a bi person to be less attracted to the opposite sex of the person you’re currently dating? I’m not sure how a boyfriend could encourage (rather than accepting or diminishing) your bi-sexuality outside of what you mentioned: threesomes and mutually agreeing about the attractiveness of other women. Are you saying that you felt the cultural narrative coming out in the way your boyfriends treated you, like expecting you to do things you weren’t comfortable doing? Thanks

      • To Sebby

        Thanks for your comment. Sorry – my phrasing was unclear. The act of dating men didn’t reduce my sexuality, the act of dating men highlighted some ways my sexuality was already seen as reduced in our culture – by both people I dated, and my friends.

        For instance, once a man I dated asked me “Are you really bisexual, or are you one of of those bisexuals who gets drunk and makes out with women?” (I ultimately ended my relationship with him to start dating my girlfriend, so I suppose there’s his answer.) Another time, one of my friends told me “Dan has a crush on you because you’re bisexual,” and my sexuality was seen as an alluring point – something to attract men with.

        And, that’s all fine. It’s fine to attract men who are into bisexuals, it’s fine to bond with men over other women. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just, that’s not *all* female bisexuality is, and I think a lot of people don’t see that. Even if a woman was only attracted to other women, never acted on it, and was monogamous with a man her entire life, her sexuality says something about her as an individual outside of her straight relationships.

        As a culture, I think we sometimes see the female role to be a supporting role. Consequently, sometimes female sexuality is seen only to support male sexuality. Lesbianism and bisexualism clearly contradict that, but we try to tie bisexual women back into that narrative by hyper-sexualizing it and treating it as something that exists for male pleasure. But, it’s not. Women have value to society outside of the ways they support men, and their sexuality has value independent of how it interacts with male sexuality. I think culturally, appreciating latter has proved difficult for us in recent years.

      • When I say letting it rest, I mean the angst about my own sexuality. My experiences haven’t gone away, I just no longer spend a lot of energy trying to qualify them to other people.
        Neither of the men I’ve dated are particularly titilated by lesbians or bisexuals. My history dating women has brought some insecurity into the relationship for fear of not having something I want (breasts / a vagina) but at this point we’ve worked beyond most of that.

        I think I’m able to let things rest because I’m “settled” moreso than because I’ve ended up with a man. It’s pretty rare that I am in a situation where I would even need to come out anymore. His family knows, our friends know, and I can talk openly about past relationships on the odd chance they come up.

        It’s interesting that you view my experiences as a lesbian and a straight-appearing mom to be so different. When I was younger I definitely viewed being gay as a part-time job, a huge part of my lifestyle, but I stopped seeing it that way even before I started dating men. I remember getting very frustrated trying to find other women who felt similarly, that being gay was part of who I was but not a defining characteristic. I think because I had pretty normal high school relationships with women, rather than dating men and then having some sort of aha moment later, I processed a lot of that stuff a little earlier than some of my friends who came out in college.

        I think it’s important not to cover up the past, which is why I refuse to ever downgrade an ex-girlfriend to “a friend” should one come up in conversation (if anyone in my husband’s family found this surprising or noteworthy they hid it well). But I admit I don’t feel like I’ve left the meaningful parts of it behind, in fact I’m not sure it would even be possible to do so even if I tried. In terms of understanding what it’s like to be a minority, I’ve experienced exponentially more discrimination as a woman than as a lesbian, something that will continue to be an issue regardless of who I married.

    • Hey – sorry if I projected my own expectations on to your experience.

      You’re right, there is no real division between you in high school and you now. That said, frankly, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see you differently after your marriage. I appreciate that this impulse is coming from me, and is probably unfair – and perhaps, is even indicative of the role I’m playing in supporting a wider culture that ultimately discriminates against bisexuals.

      That said, when I started dating my girlfriend, we were not allowed to get married. Now we can. When that happened, something changed between me and her, not because we changed, but because the world changed. Who we function as in the world matters, I think. While your inner being may not have changed, your role in the world has changed and I don’t really understand the significance of that.

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