I'm a Gay Guy, but There's This Girl....

jayman858
asks:
I've considered it for long hours, and decided that I was gay. This was when I was about 11. I still fought with it for a while, but just recently I finally talked to myself and decided not to fight it anymore. Finally, when I get the mindset and confidence to say I'm fully gay, I meet this beautiful, sweet, hilarious, and honestly perfect girl who I connect with wicked well. I asked her out recently and she basically said not yet. I didn't go out and search thinking, "I want to be straight now please!" this girl just popped up out of nowhere last year. We've been friends for about a year now, and she recently moved onto campus. We've hung out non-stop, and she isn't even weirded out that I asked her out, she even said she'd thought about it, as in she thought about dating me. I'm just not sure if I should go for it or not. She did say not yet, in more words, but should I really try to become straight again? She really is the perfect girl, and I really want to, but will the fact that I'm with a girl cause any psychological stuff, like depression or like anything bad? I'd really like to just go date her, but a little voice in my head always whispers, "You're gay. You like men. You watch gay pR0n. You won't make her happy. Etc." I am completely lost and need some form of guidance moving forward.
Sam W replies:

Identity can be such an obnoxious creature sometimes. Just when you think you've got it all sorted out, some new evidence pops up and you have to rethink things. And I don't need to tell you how frustrating that shift can be, because you're in the middle of it. It can be doubly trying if you've already had to struggle to accept that initial identity. All signs pointed to gay, until suddenly a new sign lit up flashing "BUT MAYBE NOT!?" in big, neon letters. And now you're trying to work out which signs you should believe.

The bad news is, I can't give you the answer to that. Identity is personal, something only you can work out. The good news is that I can give you some advice about how to approach this new information (and your relationship with your cool friend) that will make working out your identity easier.

Let's start with something simple: have you done any reading about bisexuality or pansexuality? Because it may be that you experience attraction to more than one gender, and this particular friend was the first to ping that chord in your brain in any significant way. It may be that you experience attraction to girls differently than guys, or maybe you like mostly guys with the odd lady person (or non-binary person) thrown into the mix. Liking multiple genders doesn't mean that you feel exactly the same about all genders. So, give yourself some space to read and explore how you feel this girl fits into your identity. Reading about other people who have experienced similar shifts, or found their identities to be more complicated than they thought may give you some guidance on how to proceed or at least quell any of those pesky "ack, am I the only one who feels like this" thoughts.

If you do decide that you're bi or pan or something other than gay? That doesn't invalidate the conclusion your eleven-year-old self came to. It's a cliche in the sex ed world to say that sexuality is fluid, but we keep repeating it for the simple reason that, for so many people, it is fluid. Eleven-year-old you chose an identity based on the information you had at the time. Your friend is providing the you of now with some new data to add to the equation. If you re-evaluate and decide "nope, still gay"? That's as okay as deciding you're something else. There is no right answer here.

Sometimes statements like the one I just made come perilously close to the awful "this is just a phase you'll grow out of it" comments that so many queer kids run into when they come out. To be clear, there is a difference between acknowledging that people's sexual orientation can be fluid and saying that anything that is a non-straight orientation is some flight of fancy that you'll grow out of. A bi woman can decide later on she's lesbian and that doesn't mean that she was never bisexual. A bi man can marry another man and that does not invalidate his bisexuality. You can decide that you want to date girls and that does not invalidate the time where you identified as gay.

I want to add that you may want to factor in how much your previous struggle to accept your identity is playing a role in how you're feeling now. If that was a fraught process for you, some part of you might be jumping at the chance to go,"see, I'm not actually gay. What a relief." Or I could be way off base and nothing like that is going on inside your head. I'm just trying to give you a sense of some of the things that could be playing a role in what you're dealing with right now.

One other factor that might help you sort out how your feelings fit with your identity is: are you attracted to your friend? It sounds like you are from your description of her. Do you feel like you want to do sexy things with her? Does thinking about her arouse feelings similar to those you have when you watch porn or see a guy you think is hot? Keep in mind that those desires may not feel exactly the same as your attraction to men, but see if they're there in one form or another. If they're not, do you just think she's super cool and awesome, but you aren't attracted to her physically? Again, there are no right answers to those questions, but asking them may help you get a better understanding of what's happening in your heart and head (and pants).

On to whether or not dating this friend will cause any psychological issues. There's nothing about exploring new angles of your sexuality that's risky to your well-being. Where there is the potential for stress, for both you and her, is if you're not open with your friend about where you are in your journey. You don't have to come to a solid conclusion about how you identify before you talk to her, but if she does approach you saying "okay, ready to date now" you need to be honest. Tell her that you want to date her, you've identified as gay, but that you're wanting to explore your sexuality more, and you want her to be aware of that. (Huge caveat: if you feel she is not a safe person to disclose that part of yourself to, don't. But also think about what that means in terms of dating her.)

To be clear, I don't think that queer folks are required to immediately disclose their identity or history to a partner in order to have a healthy relationship. I'm making this suggestion to you because, even if it sounds simple on paper, you might find that working out how you identify causes a lot of tough feelings. If you're having to hide those feelings from the person you're dating, it can intensify the stress on you. Too, that sense of concealing your identity or your history from a partner can be wearing, and possibly take a toll on any relationship that develops, because it can create a sense of "something is up, but no one will talk about it."

I will say that some of this is just borrowing trouble. Your friend is definitely interested in spending time with you, seems to like you, and has even considered dating you. But she hasn't actually agreed to date you. Her "not yet" may mean "not ever." That's one of those tricky things, because on the one hand it's good to take people at their word. But on the other, women are usually socialized to give "soft no's" when turning down dates, and "not yet" could very well be one of those no's. If the two of you are friends, she may also not want to jeopardize your friendship by turning you down directly. If that turns out to be the case, it's important to check with yourself to make sure you're okay having a platonic relationship with her, rather than a relationship where you're technically friends but you are always secretly hoping to be more than that.

If you don't end up ever dating, that doesn't mean that the self-exploration your feelings for her triggered was a waste. She sparked in you questions about your identity, and working out answers (or partial answers) to them may help you understand your own identity a little better.

But, there's an equal chance that she is interested in dating you, and is just not in the place to be dating anyone right now. If that's the case, and she does approach you in a few months and wants to date, I encourage you to take the chance and see where a romantic relationship with her goes. It may be that you two find that you're a good fit. Maybe you'll discover that you make better friends than partners. Or you may find that dating girls, even super awesome rad girls, is not for you. As long as you're open with each other and willing to be true to yourself (whatever that self may be), this will be a relationship worth exploring.

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