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Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008

Trapped in the Closet

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I am a VERY closeted bisexual male who is in a relationship with a long-term girlfriend. I have not told her that I am bisexual. I'm about a No. 2 on the Kinsey Scale, maybe 2.5 (but definitely not a 3). I do prefer women more than men. When we first started going out, the sex was good, and I was faithful. About three years into the relationship, the sex was just so-so, and I could not convince her to experiment with toys or videos or manuals or such. So I slipped into my old ways and started cruising for guys (in parks, adult video stores, bathrooms, etc.). Lately, though, my urges to have sex with men have increased to where I enjoy going to saunas/bathhouses where you can see multiple men naked and engage in sexual activities. At this point, I would like to tell my girlfriend that I am bisexual, but I am scared stiff. I know you're going to say that I need to just come out and tell her and be honest with her, but I sincerely know that I won't be able to do it. Here's my question: Is there a way to maybe hint that I am bisexual or maybe let her "catch me" in some bisexual situation (like maybe allow her to walk in on me while viewing gay porn) instead of outright telling her? I'm pretty confident that there are many other men in my situation, so any advice you have would be most appreciated.

 

This week's question deals with a familiar scenario: what to do when you haven't been completely honest with a long-term partner and want to come clean. You're right that there are many other bisexual men (and women) in your circumstance, but this dilemma can happen with other sexual situations too-I've heard from women who have faked orgasms for years and can't figure out how to bring this up with their partners.

Yes, it can be really difficult to come right out and tell someone verbally that you're bisexual, while adding that, oh, by the way, you've been hooking up with random guys. The problem with "hinting" at being bi is that your girlfriend can choose not to take the hint. If she can't deal with your sexuality or doesn't want to hear something that may disrupt your relationship, your vagueness allows her to sidestep the issue.

You may be able to come up with a compromise that allows you to avoid an awkward conversation, but still be direct. How would you feel about writing a letter-or even handing your girlfriend this column-and saying, "I have something important to discuss with you, but it's hard for me to say it. Please read this and let's talk"?

It's also important to address the issue of having sex with men outside of your relationship with your girlfriend. From your message, it sounds like you agreed to have a monogamous relationship (you mention being "faithful") and that your hookups with men could be considered cheating. Your bisexuality and the sex that you've had outside your relationship are two separate issues, but to your girlfriend they could appear to be the same. It's crucial to be honest about both, but also be clear that your identity and your actions, while related, are distinct. And I hope I don't need to say this, but I will: If you haven't been using condoms during your cruising encounters, you're putting yourself and your girlfriend at risk for sexually transmitted infections.

On a side note, for anyone who is thinking about coming out (as bi, lesbian, gay, transgender, polyamorous, or whatever), consider what the consequences might be. What would happen if your girlfriend ended your relationship? If she outed you to friends, family or co-workers? The benefits of being honest with others and true to yourself usually outweigh any potential negative consequences, but it's critical to be prepared for whatever might happen.

For those who might not be familiar with the Kinsey scale that this week's writer references: Alfred Kinsey was one of the first sex researchers to suggest that human sexual attraction should be visualized as a continuum rather than a binary "heterosexual or homosexual" model. On Kinsey's zero-through-six continuum, a zero would be someone exclusively attracted to people of a different sex ("heterosexual"), a six would be someone attracted exclusively to people of the same sex ("homosexual"), and people in the middle of the continuum would be attracted to different-sex and same-sex partners to varying degrees ("bisexual"). Our writer describes himself as a "Kinsey 2," meaning that he is closer to the "heterosexual" end of the scale, experiencing attractions to both men and women but with stronger or more frequent attractions to women. Other researchers have expanded greatly on this original continuum: Check out the Klein grid (http://www.bisexual.org/kleingrid.html) for an even more nuanced look at sexual orientation.

Disagree with this advice? Had a similar experience? Comment about this article below.

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, a sex toy store in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood. She has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

To submit questions online, visit ExpressMilwaukee.com/sexpress.

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