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Why do I feel the need to define and label my sexuality?

(12 Posts)
xmascrackered Wed 10-Dec-14 12:11:35


Just a brief back story, was with a guy for 8 years (father of my child) but always knew deep down it wasn't really right, although I always loved him, hence I stayed for so long. I started having feelings for other women, but assumed they were just sexual, harmless fantasies and fantasies which wouldn't be realised. I was wrong. I met and fell in love with a woman and she is now my partner and I'm overall, very happy.

So why am I posting? Well, as the title suggests, I'm having trouble coming to terms or understanding, you could say, my sexuality. I predict most of you will ask me why it matters. Just love who you love and get on with your life and in all honesty, that would probably be my advice. However, I find myself almost obsessing over what I am and I don't really know why.

I've been with my dp now for over 2 years and I don't feel like anything is missing or anything. It feels right, but then at the same time, it didn't feel 'wrong' in that way when I was with men. You are probably thinking, well just accept that you're bi, but for me, it just doesn't sit well now I'm with my dp.

I get asked so much (for some reason) what I am and I find myself thinking deeper and deeper to try and understand my feelings. People seem to have a hard time accepting that I'm bi/lesbian, I think because I'm probably not what you'd consider a 'typical' lesbian confused Although, to me a 'typical' lesbian, is a woman who fancies other women, end of. I don't want to offend anyone, but I get told a lot that I can't be a lesbian because I'm feminine and crap like that. It does my head in to be perfectly honest and it makes it hard for me to just relax and be who I am. This is probably why I'm questioning it so much myself.

I kind of get the impression my dp would find it easier if I associated as lesbian, as she does.

I find some peoples opinions, interesting and sometimes, downright bizarre. My mum, for example, said that there was no point in associating as a bisexual, because I am now with a woman and so therefore I should associate as gay, because I have no intention of being with anyone else. I didn't really know what to make of that, but when I mentioned it to my dp, she said it makes sense.

I saw an article somewhere, which asked does bisexuality exist when you're in a relationship. My first reaction, was of course it does! But then with my recent thinking, maybe that question is kind of relevant. I don't know.

I know this shouldn't really matter, but for whatever reason, it does.

I'm not confused about my feelings for my dp, but I'm confused about my sexuality generally. Does this actually matter though?


CogitOIOIO Wed 10-Dec-14 12:24:40

I wonder who all these people are who are so impertinent as to ask you so much 'what you are'. smile With the possible exception of when I travel and I am asked 'what I am' referring to nationality, I can't think of a single occasion when anyone has asked anything about my sexuality.

It sounds as though your partner is the one worried about the definition rather than you. Maybe she thinks that if you haven't plumped for men or women specifically this means you are still in two minds, maybe open to persuasion, looking elsewhere perhaps, and she would prefer it if you committed to one or the other? Insecurity, in other words.

dirtybadger Wed 10-Dec-14 12:28:47

A very interesting post! I am an undergrad final year student and this is literally exactly what my main area of interest is.

I identified as heterosexual until I was about 22. I was in a relationship but realised I was very fond of another woman. I have always found women attractive but that is sort of permitted in heterosexual women so I never questioned it. After breaking up with exdp I realised that I definitely was sexually attracted to women. Well, to all people. But the attraction, for me is different. Its not 50% men, 50% women. It's not even on a linear Kinsey scale. Sexuality is multidimensional. So I gave up. I don't call myself bisexual except for ease of explaining to someone else sometimes. I still feel like "bisexual" reduces my sexuality to something it's not. I tend to stick with a light hearted "anything that I fancy" explanation. I don't fancy all women or all men so it makes no sense to me to choose gender as the object which defines my sexuality. The things that attract me to men and women are actually the same (intelligence, sense of humour)...not their genitals? That is more relevant to my sexuality personally than gender.

Interestingly until the 19th century we didn't even really have "homosexuals". Peoples sexual orientation wasn't all defining. Now, it is. That's probably why you want so hard to have a word for what it is. You dont feel like its anything to do with behaviour, but a very "essence" or important part of your identity. Honestly, it doesn't have to be.

The feminine thing I get too. I'm not really OTT feminine but people are shocked I fancy women. I have no idea why. I've tried to look for a women equivilant book but have failed. There's a book called "Gay Masculinities" all about how for some reason gay men are expected to perform their gender differently. The same assumptions exists for gay women. The idea of gay men and women being "closer" to the opposite gender because they happen to have the same object desire (the same sex).
The result is femme invisibility and bi-erasure. Google them and find some articles, very interesting. YouTube may also be helpful. You might also like to google "pansexual". If you want a name for how you feel, maybe that's it, I don't know?

Sexual orientation, basically, has been conflated with gender issues. Over time "true" gay people have been defined not by their actual sexual conduct, but by their gender performance. It's all rather backward.

Sorry for the very manic rant I have so much to say on the matter but there would never be enough words.

dirtybadger Wed 10-Dec-14 12:36:50

Sorry I didn't really give advice, just a mumbling.

Ultimately express yourself exactly as you please. Call yourself what you want. Biphobia on the lesbian and gay community is unfortunately quite common. Maybe your girlfriend needs to watch/read a bit about why some of her concerns are based on myths? If cog is on the right lines and she's insecure and threatened by your approach to your sexuality...

xmascrackered Wed 10-Dec-14 12:56:20

cog, you might be onto something, but I'm not 100% sure. I did ask her why she would prefer me to identify as gay and she said that it would make her feel closer to me in a way. Like I understood more of how she felt. She isn't naturally a jealous person at all, but I have to say, I do wonder if insecurity has a part to play. Having said that, I'm hardly the most secure, as this thread might suggest.

dirty, what an interesting post. I have read about pansexuality quite recently and I think by definition, isn't it someone who is almost gender blind? Their partner could change sex for example and it wouldn't bother them, as they purely find the person attractive and not their gender. It's fascinating really.

A lot of my thoughts regarding this, are a waste of time really, but I find myself looking at men who I initially think 'yeah, they're hot' and then allowing myself to go further with it (in my head, of course) but usually it doesn't really do anything for me anymore and looking back, I'm not sure it ever really did. I think it's more common for me to look at a man and find them initially attractive, than it is for me to look at a woman in that way, but when I do look at a woman in that way, it's completely different and it does do something for me. Maybe my confusion is that it's just very rare for me to feel like that. So going back to you dirty, I'm pretty sure I'm not a pansexual, as I think the gender isan issue for me.....but then, I don't know for sure.

Docmartensanddungarees Wed 10-Dec-14 13:21:59

How about the all encompassing 'queer'? I quite like that word.

Sexuality can be fluid. I have friends who usually describe themselves as lesbian, but sometimes are interested in a man.

I agree about the femme thing (my username is quite misleading wink ). I think I got over this by gradually building up a group of lesbian/bi friends who are also mostly femme, thus realising I absolutely am a typical lesbian, but perhaps not such a visual lesbian. People think that boyish/butch is typical because people see these women and read them as lesbian. They see a femme woman and assume she is straight. There are absolutely loads of feminine lesbians out there. Also loads of less feminine women who are bi/straight. How a person chooses to look and behave doesn't necessarily equate with sexuality!

Labels can be a pain. It worries me a little that people around you seem to be telling you that you 'should' label yourself. Others are even saying what they think that label 'should' be. There is no should.

If you put aside the opinions of others, including your partner, is there a label you like? Or maybe you could event your own label?

xmascrackered Wed 10-Dec-14 14:32:16

Doc, I get you. The lesbian categories , such as butch, stud, femme and then there's the combinations, such as stems confused, are something I'm still getting used to. I suppose I would be considered a definite femme, but then I find the whole catagorising thing quite odd. It's bizarre that you have to be a 'type of lesbian', but if you're hetrosexual, you're not a 'type of straight', but a type of person. Why are gay people defined so much by their sexuality and not their general personality and qualities? I mean, I'm asking these questions, but then that's exactly what I'm doing! Trying to define who I am, by giving myself a label, to explain my myself? Or to others?....I honestly don't know. The thing is, I know my sexuality is only part of who I am and not all of who I am. I think maybe because my life has changed so much since having a gf, that it kind of has been a big issue, even though it shouldn't be. Does that make sense?

Docmartensanddungarees Wed 10-Dec-14 15:37:24

It certainly does make sense.

So many things define us in life, and if our perception of one of our significant traits changes, that's going to leave us asking questions and spending some time reflecting on who we are. If I ever fell for a man I would be utterly confused!

The 'types' of lesbian are ridiculous but there are plenty of us out there who are just ourselves. We don't have to wear certain clothes, have certain hairstyles etc. We just do what we enjoy and live life the way that suits us as an individual. I don't think I would look or act any differently if I was straight.

Your head obviously realises that you don't need a label to be yourself. Perhaps it's just that you are still working at being comfortable at now being a 'minority', you're now living on the outside of heteronormative society. It can take quite some time to feel happy with that, though I have to say I wouldn't change myself for the world!

CogitOIOIO Wed 10-Dec-14 16:52:07

My money is still on insecurity. If your partner is insecure in the relationship and you identify as bi then they have the potential to be anxious about everyone you come into contact with, male or female. If you identify solely as gay, they only have to be anxious around women... and she can compete with a woman, she can't compete with a man.

xmascrackered Wed 10-Dec-14 17:12:10

Doc, well I'm glad you think it makes sense smile I think you're right when you say I'm probably still working at being comfortable at now being in a minority group. I'm not really that comfortable with being openly a couple, for example, whereas my dp would always hold hands and has more of a 'fuck em' approach, I tend to weigh up and observe certain situations or areas, before I'm open about our relationship. I admire her approach and I feel bad about mine sometimes. The thing is, we have had some really negative reactions and I just don't want any trouble. Out the two of us, I'm certainly the more balshy one and I won't take any crap from anyone, but that doesn't mean I want any! I'd rather just avoid it in the first place. In an ideal world, we wouldn't have to worry about it at all and we could just be free to be ourselves. Let's face it though, we don't live in an ideal world.

Cog, but she'd swear she trusts me and doesn't feel insecure as far as that is concerned. I honestly do think it's more about having a connection. I get what you're saying and it does make sense. In all honestly, I probably do prefer that my dp is gay and not bi and for the reasons you mentioned.

dirtybadger Wed 10-Dec-14 17:31:55

Isn't both being women a connection enough? As I already said how I feel about women and men is different...part of my love for women is the likelihood of shared (mostly shit) experience. Just like heterosexual people might feel closer to someone with similiar tastes or experiences or personal troubles they've overcome (because lets face it sometime being a woman is something that feels like it must be overcome, and you are both "other" by being outside of the hetero box).

Put it this way...if you were with a man, how weird would you find it if they asked you to identify (as if someone can ask or tell you that!) as heterosexual because it makes them feel more similiar...or even more oddly but actually no further from the truth to identify as a lesbian (if you were heterosexual) because they fancy women so they'd like it if you did too. Even though you didn't. Huh!? No.

Asking you to think of yourself as a lesbian because you're with a woman is like asking me to think of myself as asexual because I'm single. Or something like that.

I don't's very peculiar that anyone would have any issue with what you call yourself if they're secure in the relationship and you're not attempting to hide your desire for them in your label either. You're hardly in the closet.

xmascrackered Thu 11-Dec-14 14:27:05

dirty, I know what you're saying, especially with the single, asexual comment. It does seem ridiculous, but tbf to my dp, she's not asking me to officially state my sexuality or anything, it's more other people.

I've obviously just allowed myself to be influenced by narrow minded remarks. They all add up though, that's the problem.

The thing is, even after 2 years, I still get anxious when people ask about my 'husband' and I have to correct them and then be faced with the shocked/puzzled/embarrassed expression. So clearly, I'm just not where I need to be. It's not that I'm not 'out and proud'. I am, but I wish I didn't need to explain so much. It makes me so anxious.

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