“I always need that female glue holding the experience together. Otherwise, I don’t feel the same desire for it.”
It was a July evening in the sunroom of a lakeside home. The statement floated into my ears as I stared at the devastatingly handsome man I’d just kissed. Our partners, two queer women, gazed gleefully. They had witnessed our enthusiastic homoeroticism. The salt of his lips lingered on my whiskers, flavoring the warm stew of emotions stirring inside my mind. His honesty took me aback. Female glue? It sounded crass, but the concept resonated. I looked at our partners, knowing I wouldn’t have engaged with this beautiful man without their presence. Hearing him confess that left me rattled. Countless heroes had fought and died for queer expression, and here we were, toying with it. I loved how those women looked at us. When we kissed, I felt the warmth of arousal not purely from his technique but because it aroused them, and that made me lean into it. But now, pondering what he’d shared, I felt conflicted. Same-sex interaction held shame and confusion for me: I worried I wasn’t queer enough to experience it freely.
Since entering a community of sex-positive folks, I struggled to identify my sexuality.
Since entering a community of sex-positive folks, I struggled to identify my sexuality. My sexual journey felt so embarrassingly normative in comparison to others. My first memories of anything remotely sexual were mimicked representations of what I had seen in movies. I planted a juvenile kiss on my kindergarten teacher after she commended my handwriting. I pulled my pants down during recess after a classmate said she was my girlfriend. In high school, my friends and I pondered which of us would “lose our virginity” first. I was the first to do so and spent the experience trying positions I read about in the magazines stashed under my bed. I was the textbook definition of a cis-straight male.
In college, I pursued a Theatre degree and received a commendation for my portrayal of Louis in Angels in America. In my bio in the playbill, I cheekily (or so I thought) referenced myself as distinctly separate from my character, adding, “Don’t worry ladies, he’s straight!” My queer professor asked, “Is that really what you want to say?” I responded casually that everyone knew it wasn’t meant to be serious. He nodded politely and said, “Ok, then.” His face conveyed disappointment, but it was still my choice to represent myself however I wanted. The playbill was printed, and a critic who saw our production would later tell me he reacted viscerally to that statement and felt apprehensive about meeting me. The work I put into my performance felt meaningless compared to this flippant homophobic remark. Why did I need to specify my heterosexuality in that way? What was I so afraid of? I couldn’t understand why I had besmirched my reputation. In the years that passed, I grew exceedingly ashamed of this foible. My 19-year-old self and his boyish ridiculousness wouldn’t define me.
When asked about my identity, I’d gush about my openness to embrace whatever queerness I may feel in the future.
I became a fervent supporter of Queer rights, protesting bigoted legislation and celebrating wholeheartedly at weddings. When asked about my identity, I’d gush about my openness to embrace whatever queerness I may feel in the future. “As soon as I see a penis I want to suck, I’m putting that thing in my mouth!” I cheerfully declared, “But so far, it hasn’t happened yet!” I searched myself for threads of queerness. I also examined the foundations of my sexual expression and mused about the reasons for the assorted connections. Why are feet so attractive? Why do lace stockings make me feel like a bowl of slutty Jello? What’s with sexy lower-back dimples?
My fantasies were blank canvases where my thoughts could transform into any painting my brush felt like stroking. My kinks and fetishes evolved as I analyzed my desires like some sort of lecherous Sherlock Holmes. But still, my fantasy engine stalled when given the opportunity to engage with male bodies. That elusive cock I spoke of years ago hadn’t come home to roost.
I shuffled through my emotions on the journey home to Brooklyn from my lakeside kissing session. Am I Bisexual and merely on the pathway to realizing it? Could I imagine going on a date and taking him to my apartment to fool around? No, that didn’t feel right. What if my girlfriend was in bed waiting for us to arrive so she could watch? Oh, well, that felt quite sexy. But why the difference? Why the female glue? I began feeling like I must be kidding myself, avoiding admitting a deeper truth about who I was. I was reminded of the vile Roy Cohn obfuscating definitions in Angels in America, “Roy Cohn is not a homosexual. Roy Cohn is a heterosexual man who fucks around with guys.” Was I still the naive 19-year-old clutching onto his straightness like a toddler with a blanket? I took to Google to find some validation.
Page 1. Wikipedia. Heteroflexibility is a form of sexual orientation or situational sexual behavior characterized by minimal homosexual activity in an otherwise primarily heterosexual orientation, which may or may not distinguish it from bisexuality. It has been described as “mostly straight.”
I was a beneficiary of the heteronormative patriarchy, even if I hated it.
I grimaced reading it. It felt very Roy Cohn-esque to me. But alas, as far as labels go, it was the best fit I had found. Calling myself straight felt so rigid; calling myself queer felt like a form of blasphemy–I hadn’t earned it the way that others have. I didn’t have to fight. I was a beneficiary of the heteronormative patriarchy, even if I hated it. Ok then, Heteroflexible it is.
In the months that passed, I leaned into more experimentation. More kissing, more touching, more homoerotic dirty talk with my girlfriend. She was thrilled watching me push the envelope. One night, we attended a play party hosted at a friend’s apartment. It felt like a fairly standard party (as much as a sex party can be described as standard!) At one point, my girlfriend began kissing a male friend and stated an intention to head to the bedroom. “Would it be Ok if I came along and maybe joined in?” I asked them both. They simultaneously agreed. Our friend was a charming, charismatic married man we had known for years. I had witnessed him making expeditions into same-sex play, and we had shared some sultry smooches on several occasions. My partner and I began having sex. She was on her back, and our friend had his very erect cock skillfully placed in her inviting mouth. It was exhilarating to witness. Then, out of nowhere, I inquired, “Would it be Ok if I sucked it too?” “Yes, please!” he enthusiastically consented. My girlfriend’s eyes rocketed from their sockets, and a huge smile spread across her face. I proceeded and found myself experiencing a familiar curiosity. It was much softer than I had expected, so smooth yet full. Difficult to compare to other body parts I had previously held on my tongue.
My girlfriend and I took turns for a while before the play session ended. On the ride home, she asked how I felt about it. “Your first blowjob, baby!” she gleefully exclaimed. We compared notes and spoke about the unique qualities penises can have. We talked about identity, self-love, and leaning into new experiences. My heart felt full, and pride was beaming in her big, brown eyes. “Do you see yourself doing that again?” she continued. Yes, totally. I enjoyed myself. Why wouldn’t I? It was so satisfying being supported for exactly who I was.
We are all on the spectrum of sexual identity, and placing a tent pole to mark where you reside isn't required.
I saw that my previous view of sexual acts as a benchmark for queerness was fundamentally flawed. My shame surrounding my “heteroflexibility” was a manipulation of the learned societal bigotry still ping-ponging around the interior of my subconscious—a need to place people, myself included, into categories with walled borders and rules. Queer heroes didn’t fight and die to be Queer; they struggled so that ANYONE could live equally as the truest versions of themselves. We are all on the spectrum of sexual identity, and placing a tent pole to mark where you reside isn’t required. Looking at it this way, it seemed as easy as breathing. You can inhale, exhale or let your body do its thing and not even think about it. It was a massive leap forward in my thought process, but I could tell more work was needed.
Months later, I saw my partner give a presentation on LGBTQ allyship and inclusivity at my old university. She was remarkable–compassionate, smart, and wholehearted. During her speech, she referred to me momentarily, saying, “My partner, who is also Queer.” I felt a warmth in my chest and butterflies in my stomach upon hearing it. We were steps away from where I foolishly declared my straight identity years earlier—the idea of returning and being described as Queer felt overwhelming. Waves of imposter syndrome crashed upon me. After she finished, I asked her about it, and she elaborated, saying, “Well, to me, you don’t feel straight necessarily, and saying Queer was an easier way to describe you. But it’s just a word; you can define yourself however you want.” I understood what she meant in my higher-level cognition, yet my baseline nervous system wasn’t ready to comply. I could understand the roots of my shame and discomfort and still not be fully prepared to absorb language that “placed” me into a different category than I was used to. The shame I felt about my straight declaration in college had morphed into a roadblock preventing me from accepting any other label besides straight.
Being labeled as Queer felt like an explosion–an undeserved and intimidating assignment. Calling myself Heteroflexible felt like a jagged knife carving a rough pocket for me to exist in between two worlds. Capitulating and referring to myself as straight felt wrong. It wasn’t telling the whole story–my story. But my obsession with the impact of these labels was what was closing my eyes to the benefits of the investigation itself—the magic of unearthing new joyful experiences. The feeling I had staring into my partner’s smiling brown eyes on that wonderful ride back home.
Dismantling thought patterns is a deliberate practice.
This linguistic examination can hopefully highlight the pitfalls in my journey and possibly yours as well. I’ve been working to disarm these terms and have accepted that it’ll be a loaded undertaking. Simply recognizing that I still harbor internalized bigotry doesn’t mean it will evaporate upon that acknowledgment. Dismantling thought patterns is a deliberate practice. I’d encourage anyone questioning their sexuality to view the exploration as a process. In particular, I encourage straight people to honestly ask themselves if that identity was something prescribed to them by others or a conclusion they reached after careful self-examination. Perhaps you will find that your Heterosexuality contains more flexibility than you initially thought. Maybe you won’t. There’s no wrong answer if you commit to honesty. It’s possible that you’ll be surprised to learn, as I was, how much of your inner conversation is influenced by people-pleasing tendencies and the need to fit into a familiar role.
Most importantly, forgive yourself along the way. Allowing myself to feel discomfort and rock the boat has loosened the fixtures holding my prescribed identity in place so I can sort through the pieces and identify which parts belong to me and which are baggage. It’s not always obvious, but I can let parts that no longer serve me drift away with patience. The journey toward self-actualization doesn’t have to be a revolution. Hell, at times, it’s downright tedious. But knowing you’re nurturing growth can bring peace and contentment.
On my dating profile, I currently have Heteroflexible listed as a descriptor. It feels most aligned with the pieces of myself I can see clearly. That could change; it might not. I’m very comfortable with any possibility. In the meantime, I’ll keep breathing and trust in myself to delight in any color this beautiful rainbow spectrum offers me.