Sexual Orientation Can Change

#sex #BDSM #queerphobia/biphobia

Hey, did you know that sexual orientation can change? Mine did!

I was bisexual for years, throughout adolescence and college and half of grad school. Like many bisexual people, my attractions to different genders weren’t identical or equal: I tended to be more attracted to women, but everyone I’d fallen in love with or had a serious relationship with had been a man, so I wondered if I could ever love a woman at all.

Well, I could and I did. Perhaps because of that experience, perhaps not (probably not, in retrospect), my patterns of attraction started shifting.

I’d always experienced a certain…apathy about men when it comes to sexual attraction, but I figured that was just attributable to demisexuality. The only way I could ever want to fuck a man would be if I sort of made myself do it the first time, and then afterwards I’d usually really want to. Sometimes I even thought about men when I masturbated. But it was always tenuous and fragile thing. When I saw male partners after a long time apart, it would always take me at least a few hours to want them again. They’d expect me to throw myself into their arms at the first greeting, but honestly, in that moment I usually didn’t want to touch them or look at them at all. Eventually I would “get into it” again.

But starting about a year ago, even that started slipping away from me. The idea of having sex with men started to fill me with dread, then revulsion. At first I thought I could have mostly-asexual relationships with them, but then I realized that I couldn’t even really experience crushy-type feelings with them anymore. (My last crush on a guy was probably over a year ago, unless you count Jon Snow.)

How much of this is political and how much of it is “biological”? Truly, I have no idea. Maybe I would feel differently about this if every single relationship I’ve ever had with a man, no matter how casual or how serious, didn’t fall apart in the same tangled mess of unexamined assumptions about gender roles. Somehow, no matter progressive they are, it’s only a matter of time before it’s my job to take care of their feelings, and they’re feeling sad because I’m not interested enough in sex or moving in together or whatever, and they’re trying to take charge of my mental health for me without my consent, and “I just don’t understand why you’d even want to be with me,” and on and on and on. Worse, they keep insisting that they’re not trying to get me to change my desires or behavior, but then they consistently act in ways that seem designed to get me to change my desires or behavior. Seriously, anyone would lose interest after all this.

And maybe it doesn’t matter. Even if these negative experiences somehow caused me to lose all ability to even imagine fucking a man without feeling nauseous, I mean, the nausea is still real.

People really don’t like to hear about all this. Straight people get terrified of being “turned” gay; gays and lesbians are terrified of being “turned” straight; bisexual people hate me for “confirming” the stereotype that bisexuality is “just a phase,” since I guess I ultimately did “pick a side,” didn’t I?

I feel that. But it’s not my job to make sure that the things that happen to me are politically expedient for The Movement. It would be awful if someone decides to use my experience as “proof” that bisexual people are all going to “pick a side” at some point or that maybe we really can turn queer people straight, but even though it would be awful, it wouldn’t be my fault. I can’t singlehandedly stop queerphobia, not even if I make sure that my feelings and experiences always align with what’s most politically advantageous.

It would be convenient if I could somehow convince myself (and others) that I was Really A Lesbian All Along. And I do wonder if I would’ve been, were it not for the social conditioning that caused me to believe that I desperately Need A Man. But again, it doesn’t really matter. For ten years I genuinely felt that I wanted to be with men, romantically and sometimes sexually. Now I don’t.

There are exceptions, though. I sometimes enjoy sex with men in the context of a threesome with another woman. I sometimes enjoy cuddling with men. Sometimes, men who exhibit a certain combination of Dom-ness, sweetness, and great progressive consent-focused politics can really turn me on. But the idea of looking for Doms specifically is horrifying, because very few of them have those other two qualities. I’m not looking for some controlling, hyper-masculine asshole who’s actually deeply insecure on the inside. I’m looking for someone who knows how to make me feel good and has the confidence to make it happen. I’m looking for someone who knows how to fuck without me having to patiently explain every little detail. I’m looking for someone who actually knows what he wants and gets it rather than prefacing every single sexual encounter with “But what do YOU like?” (Please do not assume my preferences are universal. I’m a kinky sub, and even then not all kinky subs like what I like.)

But those men are very rare, and even then I’m not sure I’d necessarily want to have a relationship with one.

I don’t really have much of a label nowadays; I tend to use “gay,” “queer,” or “homoflexible” depending on the context. I know I’m not comfortable claiming the word “lesbian,” since most of the interactions I’ve had with lesbians about this suggest that they want nothing to do with me unless I either 1) agree to never ever fuck or date a man again, or 2) can qualify for their bullshit and often transphobic-in-context “Gold Star” rule. Well, I can’t, so you can keep your label, I shan’t sully it with my ambiguous sexuality.

(#NotAllLesbians, surely, but you can’t deny that as a community, they haven’t been very supportive or welcoming to women who can’t always define their sexuality.)

Where does all this leave me? Confused and lonely, mostly. I feel powerless to find solidarity among others who have had similar experiences, even though “used to date/fuck men and no longer interested in dating/fucking men” seems to describe many queer women. But there’s no label for it, so I don’t know how to find them.

Although some of them still identify as bi, in practice, I don’t find that I have much to say in bi spaces. Almost every bi woman I know is either in a serious relationship with a man, or is looking for a serious relationship with a man. Therefore, most bi women I encounter are often talking about dating and fucking men. Of course, that’s 100% their right: they’re still just as queer, no matter what some bullshit xoJane article says, and they don’t owe anyone any proof of that. But it does mean I don’t feel that I have much in common with them, and right now I really need spaces where men are decentered. I just really need to not hear about fucking men for a while. (Both in the adjective sense, and in the verb sense.)

I love blogs like Autostraddle for this reason, but in terms of finding community and people to talk to, that’s a lot harder. I don’t think most of my friends (let alone my partners) really understand what’s going on with me, and I don’t know how to explain it any better than I’ve already done.

To be fair, I don’t really understand what’s going on with me, either.

I will delete any comments that tell me that I’m wrong about my identity, or otherwise try to invalidate my personal experience.

Yes, that includes telling me I’m “actually bisexual.”

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9 thoughts on “Sexual Orientation Can Change

  1. I’ve heard a lot of people say that once you’re (add a sexuality here) you can’t change… and I’ve always thought that was insane because a person is in a constant state of change and especially in their heads. People who have been straight for years/decades become bisexual; folks who’ve been bisexual for years/decades can find that being gay is what really works for them; bisexuals, well, right now we can be more about men than women and then in the space of the speed of thought, be more about women than men. But I suspect that the people who say that change cannot happen in this (a) don’t know what they’re talking about and (b) could be dyed-in-the-wool straight or gay; since they’d never change, maybe they just assume that no one can change in this.

    If someone’s mind is changing about their sexuality, that’s just normal and how one defines any changes in this is, ultimately, up to them. I do find it interesting to read what you wrote; I’ve read a few other things written by women who felt they were “shifting” to being more about women than men and, well, anything we can learn about how women think about their sexuality is priceless, so thanks for sharing with us!

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  2. Thank you for writing this!

    I think that the main problem is the wide majority of people seek a label to describe their romantic/sexual attractions when really this restricts us. If we suppose orientation to be more of a scale, where at one end attraction is “exclusively female” and the other is “exclusively male”, this helps to explain shifting and changing feelings.

    For instance, a “bisexual” person may place themselves dead center, or as you experienced initially, leaning more-so to the female end of the spectrum. It’s because labels are so subjective that one person’s idea of bisexuality could be interpreted as someone else’s homosexuality. It’s a massive limitation. Everyone’s feelings are their own and aren’t objectively quantifiable.

    Personally, I grew up thinking “oh, I’m male so I should be attracted to females” – even having crushes for females – but nowadays I’m very much leaning towards male attraction. People shouldn’t be scared that their opinions and moodset change, it’s how we grow and shape. What I think the wider community doesn’t like about “changing labels” is so people can use it as an argument against identity validity. It’s the use of labels that is inherently flawed.

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    • I disagree. Without labels, I’m pretty powerless to find community (let alone people to date). In fact, that’s what I’m dealing with right now. It’s all well and good to say We Are All Just Humans Who Are Attracted To Other Humans, but how does this help me find people that I relate to?

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      • Well, I understand the need to identify others for relationships and community connections, but other lesser used scales exist.

        Take the Kinsey Scale devised in 1948. It uses a number system from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual), with X to represent asexuality and F for other cases. In such a way, a person with 3 is equally homosexual and heterosexual (i.e. bisexual). And, its nature is similar to labels, but suggests fluidity (i.e. counting is progressive, switching terminology is a more drastic change).

        Of course, my idea isn’t perfect as you said (e.g. some F’s are not like all other F’s; labels are easier in day-to-day speech). But still, labels can suggest that all orientations are seperate and unconnectable. I think it’s definitely something to work on.

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      • Yeah, it’d be neat if using Kinsey numbers were more popular.

        It would also be neat if there were more of an acceptance of multiple labels. Some people already do this (I know several “bi-dykes,” for instance), but it’s not as accepted as it could be.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I know quite a few people who simply identify as queer, which is a more vague umbrella term so you don’t have to really worry too about specifics. But even then labels aren’t uber important even though it seems like everyone has one.

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  4. Fluidity is normal, especially in bisexual women. We tend to have minor arcs, that take place over months, and major arcs, that take place over years. However, if we assume my experience and those of my bisexual friends is vaguely relateable if not normal, you never completely dismiss the gender you’re not attracted to at the moment, and though our sexual orientations may shift about (NOT change, mind you), our romantic orientations tend to stay the same. I fell in love with and married a man, and even when my attraction to him is almost nil and I can’t keep my eyes off every woman in tight jeans I see, I still love him more than anything and value his companionship and intimacy above all others.

    That’s also why I can’t have a label. I’ve been essentially barred from being a part of any LG-etc anything because I’m a cis woman who married a cis man after claiming to be part of the movement, and just to further clinch how much I’m not a “real” bisexual, it’s never crossed my mind to take a female lover alongside my husband or share him in any way. I am the worst sort of traitor.

    So, I reject their labels and completely refuse to engage in the toxic identity politics such labels spawn. And I gotta tell ya, it’s definitely the way to go. Better to focus on yourself, on finding how to love and except yourself and make yourself happy, than on trying on all of their labels until you find one that basically fits, and then trying to convince yourself (and them, until you reach the zen of not caring what others think) that you aren’t actually really uncomfortable in that label. It’s no fun. Better to train yourself to be strong enough to stand completely on your own, because that way you can really appreciate the people who willingly come to help you regardless.

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