I’m Zachary Zane, a sex writer and ethical manwhore (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I’m very, very open about it). Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I’m here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn’t just “communicate with your partner,” because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It.
To submit a question for a future column, fill out this form.
Dear Sexplain It,
I’m more effeminate than most men, and have been teased about being gay for so long that I actually thought I might be. A few years back, out of curiosity, I hooked up with a couple of guys, thinking I may be gay or bi. I didn’t enjoy it the way I enjoy being with women, and now I know I’m straight.
Cut to today. I have a girlfriend. I was out with her and a friend of mine, and he drunkenly made a joke about my “gay phase.” I had never told my girlfriend about that part of my life because I didn’t see any reason to, but after that, I had to tell her what happened. My girlfriend wasn’t mad, which is good, but she’s definitely confused. I can tell that she believe that I’m straight. (She keeps saying it’s totally fine if I’m bi, and if I’m gay, we’d still be friends.) She thinks I was “hiding” something, which really, I wasn’t.
Obviously, I know there’s nothing wrong with being gay or bi, but I don’t want my girlfriend to think I am when I’m not. I’m not sure what to tell her, or how to convince her I really am straight.
Dear Actually Straight,
There is a very frustrating double standard when it comes to sexual experimentation. Women can explore sexually with other women, and there’s no question as to whether they’re straight if they say they are, but if a man so much as thinks about another man sexually, he must be gay. It’s why some (toxically masculine) straight men claim they can’t admit when a guy looks attractive. I’m like, seriously, dude? You can’t see that Henry Cavill and Michael B. Jordan are fine as hell? I find that hard to believe.
Honestly, I believe society’s inability to allow men to explore sexually with other men contributes to homophobia. It’s why you have guys saying dumb shit like “No homo.” It’s why men are afraid to share their emotions and embrace femininity and creativity. They don’t want to be perceived as gay and ridiculed for it, the way you were. Toxic masculinity causes men not to explore their sexuality, and not being able to explore their sexuality further perpetuates toxic masculinity. It’s a vicious cycle.
I bring all this up to say I’m proud of you. I know that’s not why you wrote in, but the fact that you explored your sexuality with another man takes courage, and you did it. You realized you’re not gay or bi, and you’re still embracing your femininity. I wish there were more straight men like you.
That said, there might be more out there than we realize. We only hear the stories of men who experimented, and then realized they were actually gay or bi. We don’t hear stories from straight men who experimented and then concluded that they were indeed straight. Why? Well, you know why: because people won’t believe them, which brings me to your girlfriend.
I understand why you didn’t tell her, and I agree that you didn’t have to disclose this to her. You don’t need to share every little thing about your past, especially if it doesn’t pertain to your relationship with the person you’re with now. The good news is that she wasn’t mad when you told her. Homophobia and biphobia are real (among women too!), and a less enlightened person might have dumped you right then and there.
I think you need to make it clear that she isn’t “holding you back” from dating men, which it seems like she’s insinuating. I’d tell her, “I’m only interested in dating a woman, and I’d be really bummed if that woman weren’t you!” !
I showed your question to gender and sex therapist Casey Tanner, MA, LCPC to get some additional advice on what to say to your girlfriend.
“I think a boundary needs to be set here, and a request for trust needs to be made,” she said. “Something along the lines of, ‘While I appreciate that you’ve made it clear you’ll accept me no matter what, the thing I really need you to trust and accept is that I’m telling you the truth.’”
You need to make it clear that you don’t want to have this conversation again. Don’t be an asshole about it. I think of guys who say, “I’m done with this conversation,” right in the middle of a big argument where feelings do need to be expressed and things need to be addressed. But this isn’t that scenario. This is your partner not believing what you say and repeatedly questioning your identity when she has no reason to do so.
I’d also consider discussing the double standard between men and women when it comes to sexual exploration. I think this could help your girlfriend understand how you can explore and still very much be straight.
And I know you didn’t ask for my advice on what to say to your friend, but this is my column and I make the rules. So here it goes: Your friend sucks. It is his not place to share your secrets with your girlfriend. It’s not like you were cheating on her and she asked him about it. He brought this up unprompted for no damn reason. I don’t want to say he “outed” you, because you are not gay or bi, but I can’t think of another word for it. (Also, the fact he called it a ‘gay phase’ is ridiculous and TBH slightly offensive. Being gay isn’t a phase, my dude.)
You need to tell your friend he made a dick move and make it clear that it is not his place to say anything about your sexual past. If he pulls some shit like this again, you won’t be friends with him.
I know you’re feeling a little deflated right now. But I honestly think this will pass with time. Just keep showing your girlfriend you love her and keep being a great partner. Eventually, she’ll move on from your past and you two can live happily in the present.
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