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Author Topic: Feeling really overwhelmed
JB
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Hello there! I just...needed a place to talk. I'm feeling really overwhelmed and sad and just generally off, and I don't know why.

I just started what I'm pretty sure is gonna be my last year of college (I'm graduating a year early) and I'm excited for all the new things to do. But I'm also the busiest I think I've ever been. It's only been the first week of classes, but I already have so much to do, and some of it I feel like I'm not getting clear instruction on, but I don't know who to talk to. I'm hoping that with time/more classes it'll clear up, but for now it feels so overwhelming. And none of my friends have the same course load as me and it's kind of frustrating sometimes because they have all this free time and I don't, and I won't all year.

I have also recently begun identifying as queer (along the lines of bisexual but I just prefer queer). This whole summer was kind of stressful, for a number of reasons (work, friends changing, etc.) but a big part of that was grappling with my sexuality. My current partner, my boyfriend, has been so amazingly supportive and awesome and never made me feel bad or like my sexuality is shameful. We've talked about maybe one day trying to coordinate a threesome, or the possibility of me being intimate with another woman, but nothing concrete because that's just sort of logistically hard.

But lately I find that the idea of being with a woman, and my curiosity about it, is growing and growing and gnawing at me. Like to see if I'm "really" queer or not. But I don't want to cause that kind of turbulence right now, I've got too much going on. And I don't want to break up with my partner. We have a great thing going, I love him a lot, he respects and cares for me. I just find I've also been short with him lately and the things he does. I just expected things to be different after not having seen him for several weeks, and after only getting to see him a handful of times over the summer. I expected to be happier. Things have changed, but at the same time, things haven't changed and that makes me glad and also really upset.

I feel sad and crappy and low and it's only the start of school. But I don't want to do anything. I want to lie in bed. I'm sorry this post is so unclear. Any feedback I could get would be appreciated.

Thanks.

Posts: 186 | From: Richmond, VA | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Smarties
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Hey JB, I'm sorry to hear you're having such a rough go of it right now.

As far as school pressure is concerned, don't be afraid to frequent you professor's or TA's office hours with your questions. It's a good one-on-one way to get your questions answered and it also shows the prof or TA that you actively care about the class (which I know makes a difference in their eyes). I found it helped quite a bit when I was in school.

Best of luck!

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Onionpie
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Hey JB, I'm sorry to hear you're feeling so bad right now.

It definitely sounds like you've had a lot of big changes in your life recently, so it's understandable that you're feeling overwhelmed. You say you've recently started identifying as queer -- have you got in touch with any LGBTQ community groups, perhaps ones in your college? They will sometimes hold group meet-ups in which people can discuss their lives as queer people, and you can also make some good friends who I think would serve as good support with getting a handle on your evolving identity. Does that sound like something that would be good for you?

Also, you mentioned that your boyfriend and you have discussed a possible threesome or you being intimate with another woman. Have you also talked to him about your growing curiosity about being with a woman? You could discuss the possibility of an open or polyamorous relationship if that's something you're interested in.

Though, I will say -- being intimate with a woman won't really let you know if you're "really" queer or not. Because chemistry is different with every person, even within a gender we're SURE we're attracted to. So if you get intimate with a woman and find you don't enjoy it much, that would very possibly be just about the chemistry between the two of you, not you and the whole gender, you know? Knowing if you're "really" queer is just about knowing for yourself whether you have romantic/emotional or sexual attraction to anyone in any of the genders.

What do you think?

Posts: 1311 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JB
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Well, my close friend is living in the LGBTQ housing on campus (he's a queer trans*man) so I've been talking to him about my issues and also about meeting some of the people he's met.

But I'm nervous about getting involved with an LGBTQ group only because I'm afraid it'll make my curiosity about being with a woman stronger and that will distract from my current relationship and I will get stressed and insecure and just be a total mess. I'm sorry that probably doesn't make sense. Maybe a group would be good. I'm just also afraid I'm not stable enough, that I'd get upset or something. But maybe I will go to one and see how it is. I guess I can always leave!

I dunno about being poly/open. I don't know if I could handle it. Even if he said it was totally ok, I'd feel guilty, I think, knowing my personality. I've thought about it. But. I don't know. Plus, I'm not sure it's a good time. I'm graduating this year and he's not, so I know we're going to have to figure out how to proceed with our relationship...I just don't know if now is a good time in my life to explore a poly/open relationship, you know?

And you're right. I know the whole "proving" I'm queer is kind of...well, not as I've put it. I guess I'd have to be with a woman in a relationship.

I think I'm going to talk to him about some of this, but I don't want to make him insecure or nervous that I don't love him/want to be with him because I do. For so many reasons, I want to be with him, and a huge one is because he has been SUCH a supportive partner and ally.

I like some of your ideas and I might check them out. But thank you for getting back to me! [Smile]

Posts: 186 | From: Richmond, VA | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Onionpie
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Well, if you're not comfortable joining an LGBTQ group now, or if you don't think it'd benefit you enough right now, that's totally okay. That option is always there for you to come back to if you change your mind [Smile]

And the same goes for being in an open or polyamorous relationship -- if you're not comfortable with it, or if you don't think it'd work for you right now, then that's obviously a decision you get to make [Smile]

However I'd also actually like to clarify -- I wasn't meaning that you'd have to be in a romantic relationship instead of just have sexual contact with a woman to know whether you're queer or not. What I meant was you don't need to be "WITH" a woman in any kind of capacity to know whether you have or have ever had any romantic or sexual feelings for any women, you know?

I think it'd be a good idea to talk to him about it. If you need to, you could make clear that these feelings are not about the relationship you have with HIM -- it's not about loving him less, and it's not about the relationship lacking in any way -- it's more about your relationship with yourself, you know, about your own evolving identity, sense of self, sexuality, etc.

Here are a few articles that might help you think about this, if you haven't seen them already:
Polyamorous? Does That Mean You Like Parrots?
Bi the Dozen: A Bisexuality Quiz
The Bees and...the Bees: A Homosexuality and Bisexuality Primer

[ 09-09-2012, 08:54 PM: Message edited by: Onionpie ]

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Claire P.
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Hi JB!
Sorry to hear you're going through a rough time. Core identities are really important to who each of us is, and I’m glad your boyfriend seems open to your changing/growing ideas about your orientation. I’m more often heard (and experienced) male partners responding with something like, “Well, who cares? That doesn’t mean anything/doesn’t matter cause you’re in a ‘straight’ relationship with me.”

I was wondering though, how did the talk of a threesome come up? Was that your idea? Also, just because I’m curious, if you felt like you might be attracted to another man, would your boyfriend be open to the prospect of a poly/open relationship? And if not, what is the difference you or he is distinguishing?

Obviously, this could be totally unrelated to your particular situation, but I have noticed (and this is why I started using ‘queer’ over ‘bi’) the common misconception that when a person identifies as an orientation other than heterosexual or homosexual, in order to be true to their orientation, they must be pursuing/satisfying all routes for potential attraction simultaneously. There are definitely queer people out there who prefer polyamorous relationships, but that’s just like how there are straight people out there who choose that lifestyle. And there are all kinds of people who will have a variety of both open and exclusive relationships during their lifetime, depending on a bunch of different factors.

What I am trying to say is that while I totally understand your desire to figure this core element of who you are out, that does not need to interfere with how you are currently living your life, and who you are currently loving. You want to see if you’re “really” queer? Have you found that you are sexually attracted to certain women- in a real way that centrally involves lust? Or have you found yourself crushing on a woman in a similarly romantic way you’ve experienced with the men you have dated? Did you feel you had to have a sexual experience with a man before you knew you were definitely attracted to that sex? If yes, why was that do you think? And if no, what do you see the difference being here?

(Side note: Another thing about this experimentation, of course, is that it would only “work” if your female partner was someone you were already feeling attracted to- and desired sexually. Picking a woman just because she is a woman who is attractive (not the same thing as one YOU are ATTRACTED TO)and interested in having sex with you is the same as picking a male partner who is attractive but whom you have no particular sexual interest in. Another FYI- group sex can be a very different creature than two-people sex. I personally would not use it as an indicator of anything important.)

Another thing to remember is that there are all different ranges on the queer spectrum, and people can move among them during different time periods in their life. An example: one of my very close male friends only watches and masturbates to gay male porn, and has had multiple attractions to guys throughout his life- indeed, he’s told me that the first time he got an erection in direct reaction to someone, it was his 9th grade science partner in his single-sex school. He recently got engaged to a woman- and has actually never sexually or otherwise been with a man. Not because he was in any way ashamed of his men-specific urges/lusts (and his family/friends would have been supportive), but because he had not experienced romantic feelings for any of these men – and while he felt turned on easily by men, he found he could be BOTH romantically and sexually attracted to women, even if the women who caused this combo response in him were fewer to come by than his male objects of desire.

He announced his engagement a few weeks ago, and I’ve since asked him if he ever felt like he had missed out by not exploring his sexual attraction to men in a concrete way, and he looked at me like I was insane, and just said, “Well I know men can turn me on- and I know I want to be with this woman.” And I’m tempted to say more, but I think that can speak for itself.

So here is what I am wondering- what is it that you feel you are unsure about exactly? Is it your orientation, your current relationship, and/or your current relationship and whether it fits into your growing understanding of who you are and who you’d like to be and be with...? Or maybe there’s some other thing that happened over the summer that made you start questioning everything else, and THAT’S the root of the problem?

You know, my sophomore year of college, I used to have this frustration I experienced often- where when I told a man who was interested in me that I was queer, he did not treat me any differently. (Talking men I trusted here- obviously I’ve gotten my share of gross and homophobic jeers.) I eventually realized this frustration was based in the fact that while I was obviously still going on dates with men- and ones I thought I was potentially interested in- I was more into pursuing my interest in women at that time. I’m not trying to plant anything in your head here, or suggest your situation is the same as mine just because we both have been confused about women. I just think it is important to question yourself and your thoughts as much as you can, to try to figure out the roots of what is causing your particular feelings at this time. It could take a lot of grappling with different ideas, and god knows it took me over a year to actually put my finger on MY root of the issue, but fundamental causes are the only real and lasting places from which to start fixing everything else you think is being affected (like mood, etc.) bit by bit.

[ 09-09-2012, 09:47 PM: Message edited by: Claire P. ]

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JB
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Hi there Claire! Thanks for responding! I'll answer everything/explain everything as much as I can, although some of it is hard to put into words.

My boyfriend and I had talked about a threesomes, largely in a theoretical sense, before I started ID-ing as queer. I don't remember whose idea it was at the time, but when I brought it up again, it was kind of my idea, although I'm not sure. I know it was a mutual discussion, and not just me forcing the discussion on him.

As for threesome-ing with a man vs. a woman, I don't think he would be as receptive to a threesome with a man. I think this is because while I am attracted to men and women, he is really only attracted to women, so having sex with a man would be uncomfortable for him. I also think he understands that it's something I want to explore, and respects that even if he doesn't quite understand having the same desire to explore intimate relationships with the same gender. Does that make sense? I hope it does!

I guess I have just been getting some messages, and also projecting this idea onto myself, that I have to have been with a woman in some capacity in order to "prove" myself queer, like I'm not /really/ queer unless I've had sex with a woman. And sometimes I doubt myself. For so long I've been an ally and I've dedicated a lot of my person to being a really good, strong ally to people. I've always been curious about relationships with other women, even from a young age...my first same-gender crush was in high school (it was poorly timed...I was NOT in a good or healthy place to pursue ANY kind of relationship, let alone one that explored my sexuality so deeply.) Last semester really shook me as I got my second real same-gender crush on a classmate who I perceived as female (not sure if they actually are, but I kind of file it under same-gender crush because that's what I was perceiving them as/don't know for sure...if they ID'd as genderqueer/agender/not a binary gender I would still have had a crush on them! I'm sorry I don't want to trivialize, I hope you understand!) There aren't a ton of women I've been attracted to, but then again, there aren't a ton of men! I've only had three male partners, and only two of those were healthy and serious relationships.

I guess it's mostly this: I DO want to explore having a relationship with a woman. But I DON'T want to get out of my relationship for that and I'm not sure now is a good time to open my relationship up, what with how volatile everything is. I want to sit and appreciate what I have now, this amazing supportive partner I love. I try to remember how happy my current boyfriend makes me, but I just have this gnawing curiosity and this stupid insecure desire to "prove" myself queer.

I just...I don't want to get out of this relationship. I want to go back to being happy and fulfilled. I'm in a lull, a very comfortable patch (in a good way, not a boring way...a healthy relationship kinda way) and I think that the stress of school and then being back in the place where my whole "queer journey" started are just throwing everything for a loop. I want to be comfortable with my attraction to women and also comfortable with my current relationship with my male partner.

So I guess that is my ultimate issue. Can you help me in any way? Words of wisdom? I'm thinking about going to my university's Stonewall Center to talk to someone...

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Claire P.
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Okay, first of all, to clarify something: you mentioned your boyfriend was possibly okay with an open relationship (one where he is not involved in any way with your relationship with another woman), so I was wondering if he would also be okay if you were opening the relationship in order to date another man. If your sense is that he would NOT be okay with that, I would ask you to explore the “why” behind that a little more.

Do you think your need to “prove” your identity is coming more from outside pressures, or truly from something YOU have formulated? I know it’s hard to distinguish between behaviors/thoughts that we have been socialized into vs. what we actually think, but usually, people deep down know what they do and do not want, who they are and are not attracted to.

People definitely love putting other people in boxes, and it’s natural to want to satisfy that, but you actually don’t have to. It is surprisingly uncomplicated to mention, where appropriate, that you’ve been attracted to some men AND some women, and when faced with, “So are you bi?” either respond, “I identify as queer,” OR “I don’t like labeling myself.” You can even broken record people (aka just keep repeating either/both of those) who insist/respond in some way that isn’t accepting of your answer with what you just said. Re the whole “How do you know if you’ve never tried it?” question that for some bizarre reason is sometimes uttered by even the most understanding and accepting of straight people—try responding with “How do you know you don’t like (whatever is their same sex) if you’ve never tried it?”

Honestly? My feeling is that if you’re queer, you’re queer- and deep down, you know the answer to that already. It is totally fine to be queer! It’s just something important about who you are – but just like having a certain eye color, it doesn’t HAVE to dictate other things about your life. The reason I brought up the ‘additional man’ thing is that a normal part of being in a relationship is occasionally finding other individuals attractive to you, but choosing not to act on those feelings. Whether that individual is female or male should not make a difference, if you are in an exclusive relationship that you want to be in. I can understand the curious urge you may have to make a different decision in this case, just because the individual in question (using your last semester crush as an example) is very different in certain ways than you have been attracted to in the past. But I don't think you should give the difference much weight- insofar as choosing your future behavior in this kind of instance goes- if you would not make the exception for another man, plus have no desire to end your current relationship, and do not want to alter/open it in any way.

So again, I’m wondering why you say you “want to explore having a relationship with a woman” if you don’t want to get out of your current relationship. Let me tell you: romance is romance. Sex with a woman is different in some innate ways than sex with a man, but actually, depending on what you and your partner(s) are into, it may not be that different from your sexual experiences within your current relationship. So understanding that- which I’m sure you do, just reiterating for clarify- it would seem that perhaps your “gnawing curiosity” and “insecure desire” to prove yourself are the same thing? If that is the case, I think the best place to start is talking to your friends who are LGBTQ, reading up on relevant literature/educational articles online or elsewhere (including the ones Onionpie posted links to above), maybe making an appointment to talk through some of these feelings with a school therapist? (Going to your school’s Stonewall Center sounds like a great start.)

Really, it probably comes down to just being comfortable with yourself in general. Leaving school soon for a whole new phase of life is a scary prospect in many ways, and it’s totally natural to feel like you want to have everything under control/sorted out before making that leap- which could be adding to your current stress regarding this whole thing. Like you need to “prove” this so you can tick off a box and file this away, knowing you’re completely aware and in control again of who you are and what your life is/where it's headed once again?

So I basically would suggest that you take your current life situation into consideration while exploring your GLBTQ educational options a bit- but also, know that no one has the right to force you to identify yourself to them. You are who you know you are, and even if people are jerks about accepting your self-expressed orientation, that does not in any way change who YOU fundamentally are, and who you are attracted to.

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JB
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Claire, I have to go to class, so I don't have time to write out a proper response...I will later. But thank you so much for all of this, really, thank you so much. It was really helpful, I read it over a few times, it made me feel...really reassured and validated, if that makes sense?

Just, thank you so much. You and Onionpie, you've both been amazing.

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JB
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Claire, ultimately, you're right. If queer feels like a good identity for myself, and I feel good and comfortable using it, I should be able to do so without any worries or doubts of what other people might think.

And not to throw buzzwords, but I feel like I have some, hm, internalized homophobia maybe? I just, I know there are people out there, I have heard these sentiments, who either don't think bisexuality is a valid identity or who feel like you need to meet certain guidelines in order to fit in and I feel like I've internalized that and as a result, I'm projecting it onto myself.

I did some errands with my boyfriend today, and we talked about everything that's been stressing me out (schoolwork/graduation business included). He was really, really supportive and patient, and told me that I should do what felt right for me. Honestly, that made me just feel this really intense appreciation for him, and so while I'm still feeling conflicted, I also feel good knowing I can talk to him about all this.

As far as "exploring a relationship with a woman" I guess it's just, I've never BEEN in a queer relationship, where both of us are queer, and now that I'm ID-ing as queer, I'm curious about queer relationships. I'm sorry if that doesn't make sense...I don't mean to sound foolish, or like I'm saying queer relationships are these HUGELY different things. But just...I don't know. I don't know how to explain it. I feel like there must be differences, even if, really, there are none, or that it really just boils down to the same thing as a "straight" relationship - trust and love and respect.

It's hard to explain. Sometimes I feel like I have two sides of me, and one side is telling me "YOU SHOULD GO EXPLORE A RELATIONSHIP WITH A WOMAN BEFORE YOU GRADUATE OR ELSE YOU'LL REGRET IT!" and the other part of me is saying "NO THAT'S STUPID DON'T DO THAT YOU DON'T ACTUALLY LIKE WOMEN YOU'RE A FAKE!" and then just I don't know the "regular me" ends up getting saddled with these conflicting messages. And in moment of clarity, I can say "yes! I'm a queer woman! In a relationship with a straight guy! And none of those things 'cancel' the other out!"

And then I have times like this where I am just a conflicted mess and it's hard and stressful.

Gosh I'm sorry this is so rambly. Thank you for all you've done.

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JB
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Also, I really liked the way you phrased the dealing with the "difference" between my current partner and the last person I had a crush on, who I perceived as female. Thank you for wording it as a "choice", that makes me feel really good and in control of myself. I don't need to give it power over me. I can like women and men and be in an exclusive relationship with one man.
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Claire P.
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Glad to help, JB! It's natural to feel stressed and confused about something like this- that doesn't mean you have to make choices that determine important things about you and your lifestyle during those times. Which it sounds like you get now! Just hang in there, things will get easier- hopefully starting with when you meet with that someone at your GLBTQ center.
Posts: 170 | From: Northeast USA | Registered: Aug 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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