A MASSIVE CUTIE:
Throughout my early 20s I was dating exclusively men and then started a relationship with someone I thought I’d marry and so I never really gave much thought to my own sexuality. Fast forward 5 years and I’m single! I’ve grieved the relationship, I’m starting to date again, but... I’ve realized that my “friend crushes” on women were more serious than I was acknowledging (I’m a late bloomer) and that I am actually attracted to literally everyone.
I’m 28 now and I almost feel like I’m too old to start dating non-cis men at this point. Dating and having sex with cis-men is so incredibly easy and I don’t normally worry about forming relationships with them, but now I’m worried that other people will think I’m not queer enough or that I’ll be bad at sex or something and that no one will want to date me!
Howdy howdy howdy! Fellow late bloomer here *lady raising hand emoji* !!! I didn’t have my first real kiss until 18 years old (I had a kiss on the cheek at 16 that I lied about though!!! GOTCHA!) And it took me until about 25/26 years old to realize that, like you, I’m not exactly straight, and that the friend crushes I had on women might be … crushes. It’s pretty fucking common for people in their twenties to come to these realizations, especially when they’re also attracted to people who would be the other half of a straight relationship. It’s kind of “easy” to date men and fuck men and lust after men as a cis woman because that’s been socialized into you, and is widely accepted. And this socialization and normalization of heater relationships brings with it a bunch of weird baggage. Is the attraction you feel towards women and non-men because those groups are frequently sexualized and objectified? Or is it actual attraction? Am I actually into women or just not turned off by them? Am I into women and non-men enough to “count” as not straight? What is the label here? Is it just “popular” to be not straight and I’m lying to myself? Does it matter if I’m not straight when I’m in straight relationships? At least, those are some of the questions I’ve asked myself, especially because I am dating a guy and I’m not going to be experimenting with anyone else any time soon, so I have no way of testing anything out other than in my mind. Those questions and wonders and worries and quandaries are all, based on my internet searching for myself, normal as hell.
Number one: YOU ARE NOT TOO OLD AND NEVER WILL BE TOO OLD TO START DATING NON CIS-MEN!! THERE IS NO SUCH THING. That’s a made up concept that you personally created because you’re feeling trepidatious, which is normal when confronted with new aspects of your identity and desire and sexuality. I’m sure you have never once read a story of a queer person coming out later in life and thought, “THEY ARE TOO OLD, GO BACK TO BEING STRAIGHT.” That is a ridiculous reaction that you would never have for anyone else, so take it off your plate. If anyone thinks that about you they are a rude little brat and not a friend, so their take doesn’t matter anyway.
The nervousness and questions are a big hallmark of the whole shebang. But they aren’t the whole story. The rest of the story is excitement! You just learned something new about yourself. That’s thrilling! What a boon! You aren’t a static, unchanging person. Do you expect your taste in art to change over your life? Do you expect your relationship with your friends to change over your life? Your sexuality and identity will also likely change and mature and grow. I would encourage you to frame the whole process as, “I’m finding new things and new people who turn me on.” I wouldn’t concern yourself too much initially with defining hard boundaries or labels. I would just give yourself the chance to imagine and fantasize and experiment with what feels good (without hurting other people obviously; as I’m sure you know, no one is there to be your little test subject). If you find a label that you like, wonderful. If the label doesn’t work forever, that’s fine. If it only seems to feel good sometimes, that’s ok, too. We humans lack sufficient language for sexuality and gender identity. We’re inordinately underdeveloped in that department. A lot of LGBTQIA+ folks are doing wonderful work to try to address the issue via writing and activism and art and therapy. But it’s not just you who feels a bit adrift or confused or ambivalent. Those are common experiences.
As you go forward, a small reminder: Dating straight men isn’t a singular experience, so it’s not like you just have one skill and one skill only. I mean it feels like it is—seriously how does every straight dude have maroon bedsheets and 3-in-1 shampoo???—but it’s not. Dating Channing Tatum is likely very different than dating Adrien Brody, which is likely very different from dating Dev Patel, no? (Although all appealing). They’re different people! Of course it is different! But the cornerstones of dating and love are immutable. They aren’t changed by someone’s gender or genitalia. They can’t be; what a shallow thing love would have to be to be fundamentally changed based on those things.
Because really, you’re interested in dating people, just like you were before. Yes gender is a construct and gender is also real. Both are true. But just as you were before, you are looking to date a person who is loving, who is good to you, who supports you, who makes you laugh, who makes you think. Those things are true across gender and sexuality. The next person you fall for might be a cis man (sorry! I’m not trying to curse you!!! I promise!). But now you’re opening yourself up to the possibility that they may not be. That’s all you’re doing. You’re plenty queer. You’re as queer as you are, and good on ya for it. There is no magical threshold that you must pass to be queer. You don’t have to be at least 24% queer or no more than 64% straight to be queer. You are. Whoever you date or smooch or sleep with next doesn’t change that or define that.
As for your more logistical concerns: there is no way you will be bad at sex or love just because it’s not with a cis dude. Be open with partners, but also trust yourself. Watch or read some not-straight porn if your imagination needs a boost. Most sex boils down to two people rubbing on each other because it feels good. And everyone likes different stuff anyway, so just like every other new sexual relationship, you’ll have new things to learn and communicate. You’ll be fine. You’ll be more than fine; you’ll be in horny, happy love. I promise!
ALSO: please check out these pieces and consider writing into Hola Papi because John Paul Brammer is the most brilliant and has covered this better than I ever could. Below are some of my favorites that helped me, and which I think are relevant:
Also this essay by Cyrus Grace Dunham was wonderful and spoke to the experience of grappling with self: