"I identify as a queer woman and am now dating a straight man for the first time since coming out. He honors me completely yet does not know much about LGBTQ life - he wants to learn and become an advocate. Any advice on showing him what’s up? Ideas on how I can keep expressing and opening up about my queerness in a new female-male relationship?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Aaminah Khan as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
I’ve always wondered – how do straight virgins know they’re straight?
When I first came out as bisexual, a gay friend told me I wasn’t really bi because I’d never had sex with a woman. I was in a relationship with a straight guy at the time, and we were very definitely monogamous, so it wasn’t like I’d had the chance to experiment, but I was still reasonably sure that I was, as they say, hella freakin’ queer.
Before I came out and before I had sex, people assumed I was straight. I’d never slept with a dude before, nor even so much as held hands with one (barring an awkward misunderstanding with a friend when I was 18). So how did people know I was straight?
The answer, of course, is that we live in a society that is cisheteronormative, and that people assume you’re cisgender and hetero until proven otherwise. What really sucks about that is that when we’re open and honest with our identities, the burden of proof is somehow on us.
You’ve asked two questions here. You want to know how you can help your parter become a better ally, and you want to explore and hold onto your queer identity even though you’re in a relationship that people outside are going to read as straight. As a lady in a similar situation (happily married to a very cool and very understanding straight dude), maybe I can help a little.
Your first question about education is a really easy one to answer. Your guy sounds like he’s willing to put in the work. I would start by pointing him in the direction of some 101-style articles on LGBT+ activism. Try to aim for stuff that’s trans-friendly and non-binary-friendly. I don’t have any particular favourite sites, but I ran through my bookmarks and found a few links you might find helpful. I actually wrote an article about bisexual erasure and biphobia that I think is a good starting point. This Bisexual 101 pamphlet by PFLAG is pretty solid as well. The Bisexual Resource Centre has a whole lot of links to handy resources that your partner might find useful. And if you want to expand his education beyond the “LGB” of “LGBT”, here’s my favourite article about being a transgender woman as well as my favourite Trans 101 post.
Why am I linking to articles about trans identities and issues when you asked me about bisexuality and biphobia? Partly because these identities can intersect, and partly because I’m sure you want your guy to be the best advocate possible. Understanding the full spectrum of not only sexualities but genders is vital to being a true advocate.
The other part of education is changing the everyday conversation you have about queerness. I’m sure your partner has already eradicated slurs like “that’s so gay” from his vocabulary, but you can help him become more aware of his biases by gently redirecting conversations that become problematic. I have to do this with straight friends all the time, and if they’re well-intentioned, they’re generally glad to be corrected. (If you try this and your partner gets defensive and refuses to change, that’s a red flag – but by the sounds of it, I don’t think that’ll be a problem for you.)
Now for your second question. How can you keep being an awesome queer lady in your straight-seeming relationship?
This is something I’ve definitely struggled with in the past. My last relationship ended partly because my partner just wasn’t able to come to terms with the fact that I am attracted to multiple genders. There are a lot of myths surrounding bisexuality that make it hard for us to perform and live our identities without criticism and hate being directed at us. But if your partner wants to understand and make this work, I think you’re at least starting in the right place.
I guess my best advice is to be open and honest. Talk to him about how you feel. Use lots of “I” and “me” statements so he doesn’t feel like he’s somehow failing you by being a dude (lots of guys get defensive, perhaps out of a feeling of inadequacy – centering the conversation on your feelings can help mitigate that). Talk about ladies or non-binary people you find attractive. Be as open as you’re comfortable being about your past relationships and attractions. If he reacts poorly at first, ask him where his negative feelings are coming from and see if you can’t work through them together. I think that in time he’ll come to accept that your queerness is a part of your identity just like your womanhood is, and that it doesn’t affect the relationship between the two of you in any way.
There are other options for exploring relationships with people of different genders, of course. If you’re not strictly into monogamy, there’s plenty of room for safe sexual exploration with other consenting adults. If that’s something you think your partner might be open to considering, why not discuss it with him? Even if you never end up acting out such plans, talking openly about those kinds of desires is a healthy and productive thing to do.
By the sounds of it, you’re in a great relationship with a cool dude who wants to love you and support you. I think you’re going to do just fine. Keep communicating, educating and just living openly and honestly. Either you’ll get the love and support you need, or you won’t – though I think that in your case, the former is far more likely. Either way, however, you’ll be living true to yourself and ultimately a happier person for it.
Best of luck!