Years ago, I went to a gay and lesbian singles night. There were a good thirty or forty people at the event, and the organizers had put together all sorts of very fun get-to-know-you games. It was a mixed-gender affair. I knew a few people there, but not many. And it wasn’t so much that I was keen to meet the love of my life while on a scavenger hunt, I just thought it’d be a fun way to get to know the community and happened to be single at the time.
One person there really caught my eye. He was a tall, soft-spoken gay guy, and I really liked his vibe. Um. A lot. He was smart and funny and engaging. As the night progressed I kept on thinking to myself that I should really keep my attraction to him concealed – not because I was in any way ashamed of my bisexuality, far from it. I just felt like flirting with a gay guy, as a woman, was somehow disrespectful of his orientation. The last thing I wanted to do was make him feel like even fellow queers couldn’t be trusted to actually take his orientation seriously. I mean, we’ve all heard the message from heteronormative society: “You’re not really gay/lesbian. All you need is to meet the right woman/man.” “It’s just a phase.” “You’ll get over it.” We certainly don’t need to get more of that from our own! Not to mention, for all that a lot of gay men love their fag hags, sometimes it’s clear that fag-haggery is about women wanting what they can’t have (romance) rather than appreciating what they do have (friendship), and I don’t want to be one of those women who loves gay men but just doesn’t get the message.
So I left it alone. But he came to me at the end of the night and asked for my phone number. And we went out for dinner the next week. And then we started having dinner once a week, walking hand-in-hand, talking about sex and books and the meaning of life, telling each other how gorgeous we found one another. I started to notice that people on the street would look at us wistfully, the way you look at people who are newly in love. We shared dessert. We laughed. We made snow angels.
I still left it alone. The topic of “us” didn’t come up. I just couldn’t be the one to mention it, I was too afraid I’d freak him out or hurt his feelings. All my instincts were screaming “Yes it is happening! Fuck the labels!” but I just wanted so badly to be respectful.
The months went by. One day I heard about a bisexual discussion group in town, and I brought it up to him. We talked about going together. The next meeting came along, and we attended. Everyone there was part of a male/female couple, mostly made up of straight guys and bi women. Everyone there assumed that’s exactly what we were too, and treated us as such. It was really uncomfortable. Like, not just a little. It was awful. I thought I’d be going to a place where we might be understood, where we might find kindred spirits – fellow outlaws who couldn’t quite figure out how to navigate the clashes of identity and attraction. But we were put in a box even there. Apparently “bisexual” meant this one thing, and it’s not what either of us were – a faggot and a dyke, starry-eyed for each other but not sure what to do next, and no place to fit in.
The next time we met for dinner, he arrived earlier than I did. When I got to the restaurant there was a single long-stemmed yellow rose on my plate – yellow, the colour of friendship. He said nothing about it, and I didn’t ask. We chatted about everything under the sun, but not about what was between us, never that. The conversation settled on something totally banal – some work situation or something – and he said to me, perfectly in context of that conversation, “I’m just not ready.” But he held my gaze and I understood that this was not about work and it was not banal. I got the message.
Our dinner dates went from weekly to bi-weekly and then to monthly. He met a guy. I met a gal. We kept in touch. Months turned to years. We still keep in touch, and run into each other on occasion. We’ve still never talked about it. For all I know he might read this blog post and know I’m talking about him, and he might have a totally different take on the whole experience – I don’t pretend to know what he was thinking that whole time. I just know what I heard, saw, noticed, felt. And it felt like identity got in the way of something that could have been… well, who knows what it could have been. Something more than it was.
I’m still not sure I did the right thing. I’m not sure I’ve done the right thing in other instances since then, either. The sweet little leatherman who kissed me one night in San Francisco after I beat him up for a while and the energy was high, but who moved back when his buddy noticed and gasped in shock. My friend’s former roommate, a tall, dark and handsome lad who said to me on more than one occasion, “If I weren’t gay, I’d totally be all over you,” and who in fact was all over me, but stopped short of kissing me every time. The older gay gentleman who became very attentive with me one night after we had a conversation about strap-ons and I explained that for me, my strap-on is a cock, no more and no less, and that yes, indeed, I am attracted to men. The gay man who came to a workshop I gave and asked a lot of detailed questions about female anatomy but who insisted – three or four times – “I’m gay, of course, you understand, I’m just curious.” The hot leatherman who told me, just recently, that he’d like to remove my stay-up stockings with his teeth and then find out whether or not he was still any good at orally pleasuring women, because he used to be way back when – but who then stepped away and coughed and said, “But I’m gay.”
I have no desire to “turn” anyone straight. I certainly don’t plan to become straight anytime soon, no matter how much I enjoy men, so I would resent anyone making such an attempt with me. But then, I’m not shy about identifying myself as a bisexual sort of queer – as in, not simply a queer who likes Foucault and wants to explode the gender binary, but also a queer who likes to play with male-bodied male-identified people as a queer, and with a strong preference for those men to be queer as all get-out too.
I don’t get some sort of fucked-up thrill out of messing with people’s identities, and there’s no ego trip in here for me about somehow being such a singularly exceptional woman that I can “even” get the fags interested. Really, all I’m after is the excitement and energy of an erotic connection with someone I find hot. And it just so happens that “hot,” for me, is deeply queer, and the versions of masculinity that get me hard and wet are the ones that tend to come packaged in the bodies of butch women, trans guys, bisexual/queer/effeminate/androgynous boys, and gay dudes. And for all of the above, all the better if they’re wrapped in leather. Which means that at least some of the time, I don’t find my own attractions problematic at all, but for the other people involved in the equation, their attraction to me, when present, might pose a bit of a dilemma. Our communities often pay lip service to including bisexuals and queers, as though bisexuals and queers were those folks over there whom we should welcome into our space. They’re not nearly as kind when it’s one of their own who’s stepping outside the magic circle to see what it’s like in the grey area.
I guess the question is, for a faggot-cruising dyke, what’s the most respectful thing to do when cruised back? Is it best to follow through on a flirt that challenges someone’s self-conception, or leave it hanging despite all the desire in the air, in favour of paying attention to the label? When there’s an open door and an enticing aroma, do you say “fuck it” and walk past the “do not enter” sign, or do you leave your curiosity unsatisfied in order to toe the line? When someone’s body language says one thing and their words say another, which one do you listen to?
I genuinely don’t know. All I know is that sometimes there are two hard dicks in the room, mine and his, and I’m a little bit tired of thinking with the head that’s on my shoulders.