Queer as mud

Dr. Daley on Sex and Relationships

Queer as mud

photo / Terry Johnston 

Dear Dr. Daley: I have a serious problem. I’ve always had trouble picking boyfriends. Every single guy I date winds up eventually coming out. It’s to the point where I’m starting to get a reputation with my friends. How can you tell if your boyfriend is bi or gay? Is there even a way?

A whole lot of men in America would sleep better if they knew there was a way to tell which guys are gay. But why promote their insane homophobia? Let’s just stipulate to the fact that you can’t always guess someone’s sexual orientation just by looking at him. Or her. I imagine by now your friends are having a field day with teasing you about your power to Make Men Queer, but a bad lover does not a queer person make. So you’re not making them turn gay, either. Then what’s the deal?

I’m thinking you are drawn to men who possess androgynous traits. For those of you who missed that day in class, “androgyny” refers to people who possess both masculine and feminine traits in abundance. Strong, assertive, nurturing, empathetic individuals who can cook, clean, change tires, do push-ups, initiate sexual activity, talk about their feelings…. You know the type.

So your first assignment is an in-depth exploration of the traits you find attractive in a man. Make a list – commit yourself to paper at least. Then you need to think about why you find these traits attractive. “Well, I just do!” is not enough of an answer. You need to think about everyone you have ever cared about from birth up to this morning. How have these people shaped your “ideal?” And, conversely, think of all the people who have failed you. Who were they, and what traits did they possess? Did you decide you wanted someone exactly like them so your love could fix them? Or did you decide that macho men were the Antichrist, never to be allowed into your Zip Code?

You say you have a pattern of falling for guys who turn out to be gay. Are you absolutely sure you want a relationship with a man? A relationship that includes sex? Hot, frequent, ravenous, naughty sex? Maybe there’s something about a normal, ravenous sexual young man that gives you the creeps. Maybe the straight guys in your social circle would rather have their hands on their X-Box controller than a woman’s thighs.

I’m asking you to explore your own ambivalence about being in a relationship with a sexually lively straight guy. Sex can be complicated and messy; commitment can be difficult. Perhaps you are protecting yourself from both these minefields. None of us has any way to really know everything about anyone else, but we can make a little progress into understanding ourselves a little better. Once we do that, we can start going after what we really want.

About the author Dr. Nancy Daley is a licensed psychologist and adjunct assistant professor who teaches Human Sexuality at The University of Texas at Austin. If you would like to submit questions for her to answer in this column, please send them to drdaley at thatotherpaper dot com.

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