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The V-Spot: I Keep Falling for Straight Girls

Hi Yana,

I’m a 20-year-old student at one of the local women’s colleges. I’m gay and have been out for five years, though I’ve never dated anyone.

I figured that it wouldn’t be too tricky to find someone here, since there’s a pretty large population of people who identify as LGBTQ+. However, despite the fact that I’m pretty social, and part of multiple student groups, I’ve only managed to fall for straight girls.

To most people, I appear “stereotypically straight” — my hair is pretty long and I wear mostly dresses. I also don’t drink or attend parties. For these reasons, everyone recommends that I try Tinder, etc., but I’m demiromantic so I don’t find people attractive unless I have some level of friendship with them first.

I also can’t really engage with anyone if I go in thinking “This is a date!” So, this cuts off the prospect of being introduced or set up with people. Furthermore, I currently identify as asexual. I’m really worried that if I do find someone, my asexuality will turn them off, and eventually make the situation even harder.

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom?

Having Doubts About Asking Out

 

Dear Having Doubts,

The extensive topic of queer identity and visibility is one that many writers dive in to daily in regards to queer visibility as working positively to affirm identities, build community, and score dates alongside visibility working negatively as targeting folks for harassment and violence. We can’t get into all of that important stuff here but let’s talk about visibility re: finding you a good date.

When I first moved to San Francisco in 2007, I was decidedly less visible in my LGBTQ+ community. I had a wicked crush on my local (female) barista who (spoiler alert!) eventually became my partner of five years. Like you, I also had long hair and chose dresses as my go-to apparel. I felt like I didn’t know the first thing about flirting with other women beside writing in Sharpie on my forehead NOT AS STRAIGHT AS I LOOK PLZ DATE ME.

My strategy then as a “straight-looking” lady trying to pick up another lady was to send clear signs about my sexual fluidity. And what could be a clearer than bringing an entire stack of books I was reading for my undergraduate thesis with titles featuring words like “lesbian community,” “bisexual identity,” and “sexual fluidity” into the cafe and then strategically positioning them towards the counter in plain reading-view of my soon-to-be-girlfriend?

I’m not saying but I’m just saying that we were dating the next week. But, before you book it to the library, there are certainly a few more, less passive-aggressive, ideas to consider…continue reading…

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Am I Queer? Or a Fraud?

Hi Yana,

Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about my sexuality. Recently, I came across the term “heteroflexible” and immediately, I felt like I identified with it more than any other sexual orientation I previously knew about.


However, I continue to feel invalidated by my lack of sexual experience with people who are the same gender. I know sexuality isn’t defined by our experiences but by what we think and how we feel. But I can’t help but continue to feel like a fraud (to myself) because I’ve only ever been with men. I also feel like because I’m in a serious, long-term heterosexual relationship, people just assume my sexuality and wouldn’t take me seriously going by any other label. In a way, I feel like I don’t belong. When I’m with my straight friends, I feel like the “most gay,” but when I’m with people who identify as gay/lesbian/queer, I feel like the “most straight” person in the room.


I pretty much let my friends believe that I identify as 100-percent straight to avoid confusion, judgment, and having to explain myself. I feel very happy in my monogamous heterosexual relationship. It’s not that something is “missing” regarding my relationship. I think this is more of an identity dilemma.


How do I become more comfortable and confident in my sexuality? How do I talk to my friends about being sure of my sexuality without the experience to back it up?


— Feeling Flexible

 

Dear Flexible, 


When I first learned the term “bisexual” in high school, bisexuality was trending in whatever way that was possible well before hashtags and tweeting. While the term made me think, “Yes! That’s it!” I saw other young women performing bisexuality — typically at parties for the enjoyment of high school boys — and it made me unsure that this label was for me, after all.


I continued dating boys until college when I finally had my first ever girlfriend and I too felt like a huge phony. In a ridiculous twist of living in the liberal valley, when I came out as publicly dating this woman and formally affixing the label “bisexual” to myself, men I had dated on campus spread the rumor that I was “actually NOT bisexual.” I questioned my already questioning self, felt ashamed at my lack of “real experience to back it up,” and ultimately ended up in relationships with women for the next decade (so joke’s on those dudes).


All of which is to say, Flexible, that there are two types of validation we receive: validation from others and validation from ourselves. Both are important in identifying who we are and how we feel supported in that process. Identity is an ever-evolving process and our labels can change as we do.


Find people who validate you. Public figures who are out as heteroflexible or bisexual, media that represents you, friends who understand the difference between the straight man you’re dating and your sexuality, and even new community spaces like queer events or organizations that are unlikely to make assumptions about you at all.


Most importantly, validate yourself. Sexuality is often developed within someone long before she is sexually active with anyone. It’s only once we become horribly category-obsessed adults that we start to fret about the proof and experience of who we are.


You say you’re heteroflexible, and so you are. There’s no application or passport stamps necessary to certify you.

 

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Genderqueer & Breaking the Binary in Bed

Hello Yana!

I’ve had a lot of difficulty telling partners that I’m genderqueer and that I use they/them pronouns. It definitely comes into play as soon as sex gets involved. Maybe part of what I’m asking is how can I and my partners break traditional gender norms in the bedroom? But I also want to know how I can discuss gender with partners who might be new to the concept that gender is a spectrum not a binary?

— GQ Cutie

Dear GQ Cutie,

As genderqueer identities and the singular, gender-neutral pronoun “they” become more commonplace (this year the singular “they” was named 2015’s Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society), this conversation will crop up in more people’s sexual and romantic lives.

Sam Dylan Finch wrote an article for EverydayFeminism.com called “8 Tips for Coming Out as Non-Binary,” which includes a helpful four-sentence formula Finch says will help. 1.) State what you are not. 2.) Say what word(s) you use to describe what you are. 3.) Clarify what the word means to you. 4.) Tell your partner why this is important.

In my genderqueer coming out, I explained it like this: 1.) Even though you may see me as a woman, on the inside, I’m not a woman and I’m not a man. 2.) I’ve been using the word “genderqueer” to describe my gender, 3.) which means that I don’t identify with either. 4.) Identifying as genderqueer has made me feel so much better because being seen as a woman made me feel so distressed and unhappy.”

Of course, gender identity is much more complex than four steps, but Finch urges that the initial goal isn’t to flawlessly educate your partners, but rather to invite them into a conversation.

Cool, so we have a gender. And then we have these bodies. Bodies that come heavily into play when it comes to sex — in both pleasurable and complicated ways. What to do?

By design, binaries only give us two restrictive options. They assign us roles to play in sex; stereotypically feminine roles are indirect and submissive while masculine roles are directive and wordlessly all-knowing…continue reading…

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Intro to Vaginas: 9 lessons for bi-curious beginners

Art by Vicky Leta

Art by Vicky Leta

The first time I slept with another girl, it was awkward as hell.

Sure, I had dabbled in the giggling French kisses of curious high school sleepovers, but never did I go to a girl’s room with the intention of having Lesbian Sex Official with her. But this is what I did one tipsy night my first year in college (#classic). As a girl, making out with a girl is easy — their lips are softer, the absence of stubble is refreshing, and mixing lip glosses all over your face is a tasty mess. It’s the rest that stumped me.

The vagina, by sheer design, is just trickier than the penis. And the clitoris? It’s hidden in all these folds and it’s wearing a tiny hood? WTF?! Penises, on the other hand, are just…out there, seemingly more easy-to-please by design. So, mid-roll-around in this girl’s tiny college bed, it suddenly dawned on me: Though I had gotten the penis down, I had no idea what to do with this vagina-having human.

And how could I have? It’s no secret that it’s a penis-penetrates-vagina world out there when it comes to popular representations of “what sex looks like.” Even in regards to this “acceptable” version of heterosexual sex, government-funded sex education programs aren’t doing much for us, no matter how we identify. In fact, the Public Religion Research Institute found in a 2015 survey that four in 10 millennials reported that American high school sex ed classes weren’t helpful to them in making decisions about sex and relationships at all. In a sexist world of sexual shaming, the details of sexually pleasing vaginas are back-burnered in educational efforts, as they have little to do with reproduction and rarely result in anything but pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Because of this, heterosexual men and even women themselves struggle to learn about vaginal pleasure. Throw homophobia and stereotypes into the mix and us LGBTQ folks are screwed when it comes to learning how to screw.

While sex ed is a required part of the health curriculum in the public schools of 22 states and the District of Columbia, information specifically for LGBTQ youth is not mandated as part of the lesson plans. According to a statement from the HRC titled “A Call to Action: LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education“: “Fewer than 5 percent of LGBT students have health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.”

Though LGBTQ-inclusive sex education is absolutely needed in our high school sex education efforts, what of those of us exploring the spectrum of our sexualities later in life as adults, fumbling around in our dorm rooms, boardrooms and hot tubs, a la Gaby Hoffman’s vaginally curious character in Transparent? Where do we go to learn how to sexually pleasure another vagina?

If formalized sex education in schools is failing us, we’re left to media, porn, word-of-mouth and Google to educate us about how to have good, safe(r) sex. These self-education avenues rarely if ever teach us how to communicate with our partners about sexual pleasure, and they barely skim over consent, two key components of healthy and pleasurable sex. Mass media manages to offer us a limiting, predetermined course of action for penis-and-vagina sex: foreplay, intercourse, male ejaculation, fin. But there is no classical road map when it comes to vagina-on-vagina action (not even a half-baked one!), and the robotic, unrealistic girl-on-girl scenes in mainstream, male-gaze-satisfying porn certainly aren’t helping.

It should be no surprise that back in my college dorm room of yesteryear, things weren’t headed in any particular direction. It seemed to take hours before our shirts came off. Awkwardly stalling with my hands frozen unnaturally at my sides, my gracious hostess finally put me out of my bi-curious misery: “You know, we don’t have to do this at all,” she said. “We can just snuggle.” I wonder how audible my sigh of relief really was.

We were more successful the next time, and over the course of our year-long relationship, I really got the sex-with-a-girl-thing down. These days my lady-laden romance resume speaks for itself: I can do (and even teach workshops about) The Vagina² Sex. And all you straight, bi-curious, bisexual and/or newly queer women can, too….continue reading…

 

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Bisexual Invisibility: I’m bisexual & I refuse to leave the LGBT community

The day the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage I sobbed into my boyfriend’s shoulder in bed for half an hour. My shoulders heaved and my dog looked worried as he frantically tried to lick my tears away.

When I managed to stifle my drool-crying, I lifted my head and a wobbly tightrope of snot connected his clavicle to my septum ring. “I don’tttt — (hiccup) — want to be straight — (hiccup) — FOREVER!” I sobbed dramatically, before jamming my face back into the snot-pool running down his arm.

But I’m not straight. I identify as both bisexual and queer (choosing my words wisely depending on who I’m talking to, their terminology knowledge or my mood). So, why did I feel straight, so snot-sobbing straight, the day same-sex couples were granted equal access to legal marriage in the United States?

Patrick and I had just gotten engaged . In fact, our engagement party was set to happen that very night. Though I had dated cis-men until I was 21, for the nine years prior to meeting Patrick I had primarily dated queer women . I had even married one in Massachusetts. And once you have a “lesbian wedding,” your “bisexual” label magically becomes a “lesbian” label in the public eye.

This never bothered me much. I had always felt special with my membership to this group of gender-fucking, pierced, shave-headed hotties in the LGBTQ community. I barely kissed the straight community goodbye when I left in 2006.

But when I fell in love with a straight man, I became instantly paranoid. Would my LGBTQ community membership card be revoked? I was devastated, a devastation that had been quietly seeping its way into my heart since I had enthusiastically said “Yes!” to Patrick’s question. It’s why I exploded in a tearful mess that historic day last June. I was overjoyed to read those headlines — and also so, so sad. I felt like the marriage equality victory and its celebration were no longer mine.

A few weeks ago, months after the marriage equality ruling, Alex Anders of the YouTube channel Bisexual Real Talk uploaded a video asking his fellow bisexuals to leave the LGBT community. He cited a 2015 study that implies the LGBT community might be doing more harm than good to the “B” part of the equation. The study reports that bisexual people internalize just as much biphobic discrimination from the “L” and “G” parts of the LGBT community as from the straight community. Bisexual rates of suicide are three times the rate of lesbian- and gay-identified people.

Anders wants the “B” to GTFO of LGBT before our fellow queer folk hurt us even more. “Every time we tell young people who are bisexual to go and search the LGBT community, we are creating certain expectations in their mind.” He believes it’s harmful “when a person is told that they will be able to find solace in a group, and they lower their guard and then they’re discriminated against.”

But I don’t want to leave. And neither should other bisexual people.

I’ve written extensively about my own queer and bisexual identities — and my related identity crises about them — more so now that I’m engaged to be married to a cis-man. My queer sexuality feels more invisible than ever. The thing about bisexuality is that it’s often socially determined by the body parts and gender identity of your partner. No matter how many times you repeat, “I’m bisexual. I’m bisexual. I’m bisexual.” to yourself, when you walk through life holding your cis-male partner’s hand, your attempts at making meaningful eye contact with the other queer couple at the party fail. Your boyfriend’s friends scratch their heads, “I dunno man, I think Patrick’s girlfriend might be gay.”

Socially, bisexual folks are done disservices by both the LGBT community and the straight community via terms such as “gold-star lesbian” (which, lauds the supposed purity of having never touched a penis before, while invalidating those who have). As queer/bisexual writer Ashley C. Ford explains in her piece “I’m Queer No Matter Who I’m With,” the sheer “un-catergorizability” of a bisexual/queer person makes others in our communities nervous and, as a result, we are forced into one lane or the other. Ford writes:

Identifying as queer means being mistrusted, misunderstood and, often, mislabeled for the rest of your life. Every time you date a new person, you have to come out again. Every time someone says, ‘But I thought you were…’ and drifts off at the end, you feel guilty of a deception you didn’t intend, based on a projection of the other person’s assumption…I end up bearing all the blame for someone else’s assumptions that have little do with me.

Yes, this is all true and happens all the time. But I’m still not leaving the LGBT community.

Prompted by Anders’ video, Trav Mamone wrote a piece called “Bisexual Invisibility: The LGBT Community’s Dirty Little Secret” in which they detail the statistics showing just how erased bisexual identities are in the LGBT community and the overwhelmingly negative impacts this has on bisexual mental health.

One solution feels much more productive to me than leaving the LGBT community entirely: “We must debunk the myths surrounding bisexuality that fuel its erasure.” Rather than following Anders’ lead in taking the “B” out of LGBT all together, I propose that we do quite the opposite, and BOLD that beautiful “B,” making it bigger and more visible than ever. Ghosts are being made out of bi people in both the LGBT and the straight communities, partially because we’re dangerously misunderstood by these common bi-erasing myths…continue reading on Mashable.com…

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Getting Hitched: Wet for Her’s New Double-Ended Dildo

What's that you say, double-ended dildo? You liked our review time together? So did I...

What’s that you say, double-ended dildo? You liked our review time together? So did I…

The first time I tried to use a double-ended dildo was painful – both physically and socially. Seduced by its promises of sweet, sweet hands-free lovin’, my girlfriend and I jumped at the opportunity to ditch the straps and embark on a mutual, simultaneous pleasure endeavor. The dildo’s silicone was stiff and full of friction, the bulbous “wearer’s” end slipped out with every attempted thrust, and the sex toy quickly lost its hands-free appeal as we struggled to hold the thing still for long enough to get a good rhythm going.

Fast-forward five years later to present-day, as I excitedly unwrapped that day’s present – the Union double-ended dildo by sapphic-centric sex toy company Wet for Her. Just looking at the sleek box, I knew that my partner and I were in for an entirely different experience than I had bumbled through with my last dive into double-dipping.

First, the high-end, medical-grade silicone the toy is made of is silky, run-your-cheek-across-it smooth and responds positively to both water-based and silicone lube (that’s right – their grade of silicone is that good – it can be used with silicone lube). Extra perks of buying medical-grade silicone toys are that you can disinfect them easily with soap-and-water or you can even boil them for a few minutes for super-sanitary satisfaction (just take the vibrator out first)...continue reading…

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Lost in Labialand

I recently started reading your sex column, and it’s really great! There are sooooo many questions I had floating around in my mind about sex, because they don’t really talk about lesbians that much (ahem, at all) in sex ed.

My problem is this: I recently started dating a girl who is sexually active and when the time comes to do The Do I have no idea how to make things enjoyable for her. I have my own vagina as a reference point, but everyone’s bodies are different so I don’t know if she’ll respond to similar things as I do.

I would just let her to take the lead, but I think she expects me to know what I’m doing because I tend to align more with the butch category. Do you have any tips on just getting it on with a girl in general? Like, what are some things partners in the past have responded well to? I dunno. Pretty much any advice on the subject would be appreciated.

Welcome to the fold(s)! Yep, traditional sex education does diddly squat in providing LGBTQ-inclusive information. But let’s be honest — most government-funded sex education programs aren’t doing a great job with the penis-in-vagina sex ed either. In fact, the Public Religion Research Institute found in a 2015 survey that four in 10 millennials reported that high school sex ed classes weren’t helpful to them in making decisions about sex and relationships at all. Throw in homophobia and limited views as to what kinds of sex “count,” and us LGBTQ folks are screwed when it comes to learning how to screw.

Luckily, you’ve got me, the Internet, and a thriving LGBTQ community to learn from. You’re right, while your own vagina is a great basic anatomical reference, all vaginas respond differently to stimulation; so you can’t make many assumptions. This is intimidating, but the good news is that this is true for everyone with all kinds of anatomy and sexual identities — everyone responds differently to sexual stimulation so in reality, nobody has any idea what they’re doing when they sleep with a new person…continue reading…

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5 Hours to a Blissful Partnership

Now that marriage equality has been won (!!), lesbian and queer couples are poised to pay attention to marital therapy’s age-old research which, was previously relegated to the straight realm, but can be easily adapted along the gender and sexuality spectrums, to all married/committed couple’s benefit.

The first therapeutic theory worth adapting? The Magic 5 Hours. Renowned marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman spent countless hours observing what makes (heterosexual) married couples thrive. Or, more importantly, what separates the soon-to-be-divorced from the happily-ever-after. One of these key differences? Just 5 measly hours per week (which can be effectively perfected by doting LGBTQ partners, too!), all devoted to your partner in these particular ways:

Partings: Give your partner a warm farewell before parting for your workdays. This means eyes-up, phones-down, people. This doesn’t mean through the bathroom door, via text message, or with a fleeting glance up from your laptop, kids, or dogs.

Time it takes: 2 minutes. x 5 workdays = 10 minutes/week

Greetings: Have a debriefing conversation when you reunite after your workdays. This conversation should include each partner taking turns actively listening to each other unwind about their day without offering solutions or conflict.

Unsure where to start? Use the Rose/Thorn structure: what was the biggest highlight of your day? (Your Rose). What was the biggest lowlight (Your Thorn). One couple I know also adds in a humorous “Tiny Win” such as “I found $20 on the ground”, “I finally got that splinter out of my foot”, or “Everywhere I went today had gender-neutral bathrooms!”.

Time it takes: 20 minutes. x 5 work days = 1 hour 40 minutes/week

Continue reading…

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Bi-curious at Bedtime

While I don’t think labeling one’s sexuality is always necessary, I’ve always considered myself a heterosexual woman. I’ve been attracted to members of the opposite sex for as long as I can remember. During puberty, I plastered my bedroom walls with magazine cutouts depicting boy band members and only developed crushes on my male classmates. However, nearly all of my recent erotic dreams are of me performing a variety of sexual acts on females. I always wake feeling aroused.

I’ve heard that dreams are manifestations of things we see throughout the day. Could this be a result of living in a society where the female body is hyper-sexualized? Is this bi-curiosity? I’ve considered the possibility of being bisexual with an open mind. However, I don’t feel capable of having feelings of romantic love for another woman.

I’m currently in a loving and committed relationship with a man and I don’t feel as though anything is missing, sexually or otherwise. Because of these dreams however, I sometimes can’t help but wonder: is there a part of my sexuality that I’m not exploring?

Traditional stage theories of identity development dictate a linear story of same-sex sexuality identity: girl meets boy and falls in love; girl goes to liberal arts college; girl starts watching the L-word; girl makes out with her “lesbian friend”; girl breaks up with her boyfriend; girl gets short haircut; girl is now a lesbian; the end. This implies that once someone achieves a full awareness of her sexual desire, stability occurs.

In convincing contrast to this, psychologist Lisa M. Diamond found in her 10-year study of female same-sex sexuality development that young women’s sexuality is particularly fluid. Specifically, her research revealed female same-sex desire to be more malleable than male same-sex desire, featuring drastic, often late-blooming, and seemingly abrupt changes in female sexual desire and attraction…continue reading…

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Related Reading: Don’t Wanna Be Straight Forever: My Bisexual Marriage Equality Freakout

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Don’t Wanna Be Straight Forever: My Bisexual Marriage Equality Freakout

The day national marriage equality passed I sobbed into my boyfriend’s shoulder in bed for half an hour. My shoulders heaved and my dog looked worried as he frantically tried to gain access to my tears so he could lick them away. When I managed to stifle my drooly crying hiccups for long enough, I lifted my head from his shoulder, a wobbly tightrope of snot connecting his clavicle to my septum ring. “I don’tttt — {drooly hiccup} — want to be straight — {drooly hiccup} — FOREVER!!”, I sobbed dramatically, before jamming my face back into my own snot-pool, now running down his arm.

Patrick and I had just gotten engaged — in fact, our engagement party was set to happen that very night. Though I had dated cismen up until I was 21, for the nine years prior to my meeting Patrick, I had primarily dated queer women — I even married one. Though I had found that one’s “bisexual” label magically turns into a “lesbian” label in the public eye once you have a “lesbian wedding”, this never bothered me much; I had always felt so special with my membership in this group of gender-fucking, pierced, half-shaved-headed hotties we call the LGBTQ community that I barely kissed the straight community goodbye when I left it in 2006. I more-so quietly stepped into my jeans and snuck out the next morning.

And then there was Patrick. He came out of left field to say the least (I mean, I met him when he was on a date with another woman) as did my borderline-insanity-inducing love for him. Four months later we were engaged and a month after that marriage equality was passed and I was smearing my boogers all over him, crying both from being overjoyed about marriage equality and from being overwhelmed about my forever-straight fate.

The Other Side of Bi

While I’ve always conceptualized the bisexual experience as a two-way swinging door, I’ve found that most people find it more enjoyable when you push that door towards women. The queer community is all “Cool! Welcome to the fold!” and the straight community is all “Ah, so French! So titilating!” as fantasies of bi-curious pillow fights abound.

When you decide to go back through the doorway however, back to cis-manlandia, people are more baffled than bisexually bewitched. The cis-dudes are all “WTF?! Since when do you date men? Why didn’t I get a shot?” and the queer women are all “Another one bites the dust” and the reception from the straight community is all *shrug*, without a welcome banner in sight.

The thing about bisexuality is that it’s often socially determined by the body parts and gender identity of your partner. No matter how many times you repeat “I’m queer. I’m queer. I’m queer.” to yourself in your head, when you walk through life holding your cis-male partner’s hand, your attempts at making meaningful eye contact with the only other queer couple at the party are failed, or your boyfriend’s friends are left scratching their heads all “I dunno man, I think Patrick’s girlfriend might be gay”. No matter who you date, half of your sexual identity, half of who you are, is invisible.

For many of my peers, coming out was a long, painful process, starting with the realization of same-sex attraction at an early age, followed by a well-planned-out coming out process. Many’s coming out histories involve violence and abuse both physical and psychological. In my experience, my same-sex desire developed within a larger culture of understanding and acceptance. I grew up in notoriously lesbian-friendly Northampton, Ma with liberal parents who already had many LGBTQ friends and by the time I started dating women, I was attending Hampshire College, also notoriously liberal with a thriving queer community already established.

In fact, “coming out” was never a process I really had to do — I simply brought my first girlfriend to a family party and introduced her as such, simply started holding her hand on campus without fanfare. I never felt that I had unspoken same-sex desires as a younger teen and if I did, I certainly never felt guilty or afraid of those feelings.

Living in these communities is a privilege. Passing as a dominant identity (whether it’s as male, as straight, as white, as wealthy) is a privilege stacked with socially constructed perks. My personal experience of coming out as queer without the pain and loss associated with so many LGBTQ people’s traditional coming out stories is a privilege. But the pain of watching nine years of my meaningful queer sexual and romantic history being erased and the loss of my social membership in the queer community when I started dating my now-fiancee was and is very real. Re-coming out as bisexual by starting once again to date cis-men is confusing.

Loving On & Bumming About Boys

Traditional stage theories of identity development dictate a linear story of one’s sexual identity: girl meets boy and falls in love; girl goes to liberal arts college; girl starts watching the L-word; girl makes out with her “lesbian friend”; girl breaks up with her boyfriend; girl gets a new short haircut; girl dates her first girlfriend; girl is now a lesbian; fin. Linear stage theories imply that once an individual achieves a full awareness and expression of her sexual desire, stability occurs and no more change happens. This is what the traditional coming-out model is based on. You realize you’re gay, you come out, and then you’re gay forever.

In convincing contrast to this, Lisa M. Diamond, in her 2007 study of the development and expression of female same-sex sexuality, argues that multidimensional development theories such as Dynamical Systems Models more accurately represent the seemingly random spectrum of female same-sex sexuality development. Dynamical Systems Models were originally designed by mathematicians and physicists to model complex physical phenomenon in the natural world. These models are used to explain how complex patterns emerge, stabilize, change, and then restabilize over time. Diamond (2007) shows in her 10-year study of young, non-heterosexual women, that this is precisely what female same-sex sexuality development is likely to do.

In her study of 89 non-heterosexual-identifying women, Diamond found female same-sex sexuality to be particularly fluid. Specifically, her research revealed female same-sex desire to be more fluid than male same-sex desire, featuring drastic, often late-blooming, and seemingly abrupt changes in female sexual desire both in strength-of-desire (how attracted they felt to men or women) and object-of-desire (such as women moving from opposite-sex attraction, to same-sex attraction, and then back again).

Much research has shown that the male model of sexual orientation — which often features linear shifts in identity — cannot be simply overlayed onto the female sexual experience. However, our patriarchal, heteronormative concept of sex and sexuality continues to imagine female and male sexuality as two sides of the same coin. Studies of both adults and adolescents have shown that women are more likely to report bisexual attractions than to report exclusive same-sex attractions, whereas the opposite pattern is found in men. While many gay- or bisexual-identified men recall experiencing their first same-sex attractions a few years prior to puberty (similar to the age at which most heterosexual children recall their first other-sex desires), many women report that they didn’t experience same-sex attractions until adulthood, instances which are described by women as situational, interpersonal, and contextual rather than pre-determined or gradually developing as with men. Though many women’s same-sex attractions were described as emerging “suddenly” and “by accident”, two thirds believed they were born with their particular sexual orientation (only 18% believed their same-sex attraction to be a choice).

Even more interestingly, Diamond’s study found female sexuality to be defined by continuous change. By the end of her 10-year study, 10% of participants who had identified as lesbian had settled into long-term relationships with cis-men while 60% had experienced sexual contact with a cis-man and 36% reported romantic relationships with cis-men.

Women’s descriptions of their unexpected shifts back to straightsville were often illustrated as being similarly abrupt and as changes they had no control over. As one participant elaborated, going back to the cis-boys was a bit of a bummer: “I’ve kind of straightened out! I still call myself bisexual but I’m on the edge of heterosexual, which I’m not pleased about. I never really wanted to be heterosexual but I don’t have much choice in the matter…I think sexuality changes, but I don’t have any idea what causes those changes” (Diamond, 2007, p. 148).

Diamond herself reports that “women who reinitiated other-sex behavior typically described these experiences as feeling fundamentally different from the forms of heterosexuality they had pursued prior to ever questioning their sexuality. Hence, they did not perceive themselves as going back to men but, rather as moving forward toward new forms of sexual and erotic experiences” (Diamond, 2007, p. 148). Diamond’s study has shown me that I’ve been doing it all wrong. Bisexuality — and indeed, sexuality — is not a swinging door which transports us from one side or the other. In fact, female sexuality itself is more of a hallway, full of trap doors, entrances, exits, stairwells and maybe even the fire escape or two. There is no going back to old forms of sexuality and sexual identity, there’s only the new and exciting road ahead to traverse.

Bye Bi Binary

In the near-decade since Diamond’s study was conducted, the binary system of identity has been slowly dying. Binaries do nothing but attempt to stuff our multi-layered human experiences and identities into two rigid categories (gay or straight? male or female? kinky or vanilla?), leaving no room for variation when the human sexual experience is nothing but variant. The image of sexuality as a swinging door, with one side or the other, is broken and does nothing for our modern queer (or straight!) communities but make us feel like we don’t fit in. In its place thrives the spectrum of sexuality, sexual experience, gender identity, sexuality identity and even the meaning of bisexuality itself. Legal marriage, once defined by the binary of “one man and one woman”, is now celebrated by the entire spectrum of what makes up love and commitment.

My fiancee Patrick is one of those cis-dudes who’s a feminist dude who doesn’t need to tell you “I’m a feminist dude”. Patrick cried on marriage equality day, too, (actually all day long on marriage equality day), simply because of his sheer, genuine love of love and equality. I’m the luckiest lady alive to be marrying him, no matter what he’s packing in his pants, or what his preferred pronouns are. Gently breaking my snot-trapeze from his body, he laughs as he tells me “Babe, you’re not straight. You’re queer”. “Yeah, I know,” I sniffle, finally finding my way to a Kleenex. “For now”.