Jenny Block wonders: How do you convince a straight guy you’re gay?
He seemed perfectly nice. And we had been having so much fun all evening. He was flirty. So I made sure to mention my girlfriend enough times to be sure he “understood.”
And then it happened, as it all too often does.
“You know, one night with me and you wouldn’t be a lesbian anymore,” he said flatly. He was. Of course, completely serious.
I looked at him in disbelief. No matter many how times this happens to me, I am still completely shocked and caught off guard every time.
So surprised in fact, that I never get the chance to say what I really want to say.
This time I said, “I’ve been with men before. Wonderful men. It’s not about the man. It’s about me.”
“I don’t think so,” he said. Shaking my head was all I could muster in reply at that point.
I cannot tell you how many times this has happened. I imagine it has to do with me not “looking gay,” whatever that means. As often as lesbians and other friends tell me how lucky I am that I can “pass for straight,” it’s not all fun and games. Having your sexuality questioned because of your appearance can be heartbreaking.
Although I could not feel any more secure in my sexuality, it still makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable to be questioned, as if I somehow I don’t know my own mind and that my long hair and party dresses speak for me more than I speak for myself.
The trouble is, I’m not 100 percent sure exactly how to respond to men who say these things. But what I am 100 percent sure of is this: Being treated like I am somehow just missing something, or that I am in need of “fixing,” is incredibly hurtful at best … and devastating at worst.
I realize I am preaching to the choir in some ways. But it feels like it needs to be said. This isn’t OK. At all. And we have to find a way as a community to respond if it’s ever going to stop.
The problem is not simply with what is being said, but rather with what the thinking is that drives such comments and how that thinking perpetuates inequality and hate. We need to find the words and we need to use them.
So, ladies, what should we say? Here are some suggestions. Should we say:
“That’s like if I said to you, ‘One night with the right guy and you wouldn’t be straight anymore.’”
Or, “I would think you would get it. You love pussy. So do I.”
Or, “Do you want a cock inside you? What makes you think I would?”
Or, “Would the ‘right’ bowl of spaghetti make you Italian or the ‘right’ sushi make you Japanese?”
Or, “Believe me. Your dick is no match for my girlfriend’s fingers.”
Or, “I prefer someone who is intimately familiar with the operating equipment.”
Or, “It’s guys like you that make girls like me extra glad that we like girls.”
Or, “No man could possibility understand the clit the way a woman can.”
Everything I can think of sounds either too rude or too crass or too flip.
Here’s what I want to say.
“That’s incredibly insensitive. I’m a lesbian woman in the same way that you’re a straight man. I would never question how you identify sexually nor would I ever suggest that your sexuality is based on the performances of others or on your past experiences.”
“I respect your biology and your choices. I would never suggest that you are somehow gay and confused. So when you say things like that, you insult me and my sexual experiences and partners. You insult my integrity and my self-knowledge and self-awareness. Your comments suggest that there is something inherently wrong with me or that I am missing something in my life or my experiences or that I am not whole. And none of those things could be further from the truth.”
“Words are powerful things. You should think before you use them. I am gay in the same way that you are straight. As sure as you are that you’re straight, I am sure that I am gay. Suggesting that I could change, implies that the same is true for you. So unless you think you just haven’t met the right guy otherwise your sexuality would be different, please don’t ever make that exact same comment to a lesbian woman.”
I doubt I would ever get all of that out. Or anywhere even close. I’m working on something far more succinct. Perhaps just the first sentence and the last.
In the meantime, I’m going to remind myself of my own advice. Words are powerful things. I should always use them. And I should always think before I do.
Jenny Block is the author of O Wow! Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm, to be published by Cleis Press in August.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 3, 2015.