Anna Pulley, @annapulley
RedEye's sex columnist
10:03 AM CDT, October 27, 2011
I'm 29 years old, and I've been out and totally happy living as a queer person since I was about 21. I had only dated queer women since I came out, although I knew I was open to other possibilities. My sex life is pretty polyamorously perverse, and I tend to connect with people on a lot of levels besides gender and physical sex, so you know, whatever. But still, last year I surprised no one more than myself when I ended up in a fairly lengthy relationship with a boy—a sort of queer boy, to be sure, but a boy nonetheless. I felt incredibly awkward because no matter how non-traditional, non-straight our relationship was on the inside, it automatically got read as totally straight by the outside world. Throw into the mix that my physical appearance has gotten to be what would be termed sort of femmey over the years, and all of a sudden I was feeling really invisible as a queer person.
Eventually the relationship broke up, and after some time off I'm going on dates again, but somehow it's completely different. For one thing, I get constant attention from men, including straight male friends who know me to be queer and to have primarily dated women. As far as I can tell, the thinking is that a) I look "straight," and b) I dated a boy last year, so clearly it's totally legit to hit on me now. To make things more confusing, I also feel more open to the possibility of dating men, although I'm very clear on the fact that I am first and foremost queer and that is a crucial aspect of any relationship I will ever have. Most of the men who are hitting on me don't really fall into that category, and so I'm not particularly interested in them.
But here's the shitty part: I find myself wondering. I mean, I enjoy the male attention— even if it's not exactly my cup of tea—and I dated a boy and yadda yadda yadda... I find myself wondering if I'm somehow straight after all and just didn't know it. I know that's not true, but the longer I go without connecting in an emotional or physical way with a girl while still getting all this male attention, the more confusing everything feels. I haven't felt this unsettled since I came out, and I'm not sure what to do about it.
It's okay to be confused. Sexuality is confusing. Scientists are still puzzled over something as seemingly non-puzzling as why the female orgasm exists, so don't beat yourself up too much for teetering back and forth on the Kinsey scale. (For the record, I think the Kinsey scale is way too simplified, but there really aren't many sexual continuum references in existence. Would someone get on that? Thank you.)
Aside from owning your confusion, part of your frustration can be chalked up to simple cultural biases. What do I mean by that? Well, men tend to be more aggressive when pursuing sexual partners. So odds are that you will always get hit on more frequently by men than by women. The other cultural bias you're dealing with is one that presumes everyone is straight. This is more true if you are a feminine woman, but not even the dyke-iest FedEx uniform-wearing, crew cut-sporting, hockey lesbos are spared from male come-ons. Unless you decide to join an all-womyn farming commune in Oregon, male attention is something that you will simply have to get used to. Plus, it doesn't sound like it's all that bad for you. You admit to liking the validation, and we all want to feel desirable from time to time.
While you're waiting for the queer ladies, if you feel like giving it a go with a dude, by all means, make an exception. Dating is one of the few arenas where it's perfectly acceptable to make irrational judgments based on your wants, needs and whims. If you only want to date queerish boys from time to time, that's totally within your rights as a Modern Dating Person. I promise not to alert Lambda Legal.
I can totally relate to your "Wait, maybe I am straight" dilemma. While I do date dudes on occasion, my heart is pretty firmly set on the side that tastes the rainbow. Yet, sometimes, all it takes for me to start questioning my sexuality is watching 15-minutes of a Ryan Gosling movie. How does he do it?!
Ultimately, dating isn't about liking what's in someone's pants—although that's important!—it's about finding people you enjoy spending time with. To that end, don't let laziness and cultural assumptions impede you from fostering connections with gay ladies. In other words, don't wait for someone to hit on you because it's easier. Light your own fire!
Aside from that, trust your gut. Accept that there might not be a definitive answer to your sexuality. Maybe that'll eventually change, and you'll swing hard in one direction or another. Or maybe you'll spend the rest of your life wanting to bang anyone and everyone under the sun. We can't know for sure. But you'll feel a lot more at peace with yourself once you stop worrying about which box to check and start checking on your box.
Anna answers your sex and dating questions every other week. Got a dilemma for her? Email email@example.com.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC