I Came Out As a Lesbian — And Then Fell in Love With a Man
I can’t remember ever not feeling like a lesbian. It’s who I am. But then I met this boy.
Last spring, I fell deeply, deliriously, overwhelmingly in love. I’ve been in love before, but never like this. This is the cliched, over-the-top-Hollywood-romantic-comedy-nonsense-I-didn’t-think-actually-existed-oh-my-god-I-get-love-songs-now kind of love.
I didn’t know it was possible to be so compatible with someone on so many levels. We have a Simpsons quote handy for every occasion. Our shelves are filled with books of poetry. We’re both big/little spoon switches. We don’t want kids. We love dogs and are ambivalent about cats (okay, we hate cats). Our communication is open and direct, and as a result, we have never harbored resentment or had a serious conflict. We crack each other up. One of our hobbies is gazing into each other’s eyes while sighing and giggling. Okay, you get it, we’re gross. I found my person and am making no compromises or sacrifices in this relationship.
Except for his gender.
I came out as a lesbian over a decade ago, and my dykehood has shaped much of my life: I worked at the LGBT Office in college. My articles in this publication are usually queer-focused. I have a femme tattoo on my arm, which was sticked-and-poked by a fellow queer on another queer’s couch during Pride. I run a queer feminist comedy show called “Man Haters.” Much of my standup act revolves around my queerness. Basically, I’m super gay. Falling in love with a man is kinda my worst nightmare (My guy took this a little personally when I told him that. No idea why!). This relationship has forced me to rethink my identity and navigate coming out all over again.
What does my queer identity mean now that I am monogamously partnered with a cis man? Before meeting him, I identified not just as queer, but as a dyke. I felt powerful turning down men when they hit on me. I fantasized about sex with women as a pre-teen and crushed on my girl friends. In high school, I rented every single indie and foreign film from Blockbuster because many of them featured lesbian sex. I can’t remember ever not feeling like a lesbian. It’s who I am. But then I met this boy. He’s special. He’s kind and witty and supportive and sensitive and honest and intelligent and poetic and oh-so-handsome. I’ve never felt so close to another human being.
I’m still queer. Nothing about me has really changed. Most of my friends are queer, I still move in queer spaces and go to queer events. But the main reasons I frequented queer spaces in the past were to cruise for dates or to feel safe showing affection for my partner. I’m not looking for dates right now, and it’s safe to hug, kiss and hold hands with my boyfriend in public. And yet I still catch myself nervously glancing around when he takes my hand, before I remember that we blend in as a straight-passing couple. I suddenly have straight-passing privilege; it feels foreign and uncomfortable. I’m not straight and I never will be, but I can’t deny that I now benefit from the world thinking otherwise.
I didn’t think intimacy like this was possible with a male partner. I thought part of the beauty of queer relationships was that we could talk about everything. I’ll even admit that part of me smugly thought queer relationships were deeper, even, well … better.
But much to my surprise, our relationship isn’t really different from my past queer ones. We do talk about everything, I don’t hide things from him and he always shows up for me. A few weeks into dating, I had an IUD inserted, which was one of the most painful experiences of my life. The six months I kept it in were a nightmare. My daily cramps were at times so bad I woke up crying. I had constant spotting, infections and anxiety.
Society (and my three brothers) taught me that men are disgusted by menstrual blood, cramps or any “female body” talk. I have many straight female friends who hide their menstrual and reproductive struggles from their male partners to “spare” them discomfort. It always bewildered and even saddened me that so many women I know don’t feel comfortable talking about the reality of their bodies with their male partners. I worried my guy would be grossed out or otherwise turned off by my blood, my pain — hell, my body. Much to my surprise, he listens, sympathizes and supports me. Always. Gosh, it’s almost like he cares about me and wants me to be honest when I don’t feel well! It’s almost like love is love or something! He continues to surprise and delight me, and it makes my mind swim with questions about men, about relationships, about queerness, about love.
When we started dating, I was seeking a feelings-free fling. After two breakups in a year, I decided to protect my heart and commit to being emotionally unavailable. Casually and unemotionally dating a dude seemed perfect: I could get laid without fear of catching that big, scary, incurable STI: feelings. I mean, I’m a dyke, it’s not even possible for me to fall in love with a guy!
Ah, the best laid plans of dykes and men. I knew I was in trouble by the second date. This guy was everything I thought guys couldn’t be, and it confused me. It was new and kinda scary, and yet wonderful and so right. Though I toyed with leaving, he was simply too perfect to walk away, and I’m so grateful I didn’t. Our relationship is the healthiest, easiest, most natural one of my life, even with navigating the new experiences of birth control and how to still be out as queer when I’m now read as straight.
His family knows about me, but I’m terrified of meeting them. Sure, parents usually like me: I’m warm, I have good social skills, I help clear the dishes after dinner. But what if they Google me and watch my dirty stand-up jokes about being a lesbian? What if they pull my boyfriend aside and tell him they don’t approve of him dating a dyke who writes frankly about sex and depression on the internet? I have no secrets from my boyfriend; he knows I’m a lesbian, he reads my articles and comes to my comedy shows. I know he won’t leave me even if his parents don’t approve of me. I know I shouldn’t care, but I still worry. Will they think I’m not good enough? Too much? Too queer? It’s a new kind of worry, and it’s unsettling.
My queer friend Karla Elena Garcia also fell deeply in love with a cis man last year, and she’s been a source of support and camaraderie. I’m ending this article with the beautiful words she recently posted on Facebook that so poignantly sum up the beauty, complexity and depth of queer identity:
“My thoughts on being in love with a man while being a queer mujer:
Queer womxn who are with men are able to bring something unique to that relationship. Because we must navigate the hetero world and queer spaces, we have a specific lens that we see the world with and have a particular way that we love. I feel as though the queer women I know that are with men hold them to a certain standard of understanding queer and womxn’s issues. Since many of us have had mujeres as partners, we admire and appreciate radical softness in our lovers and partners. We expect that from our partners, whether they’re men or women or another gender. A level of being gentle with our identity, understanding that even if you’re monogamous you’ll still be queer and your sexuality will still be expressed in other ways. I’ve seen some straight women give their partners a pass (‘boys will be boys’), for their participation in rape culture and hyper-masculinity. Of course, this isn’t something I’ve generally seen, but I have observed it in many instances.
Queerness to me is healing. Healing of toxic masculinity. Queerness can have the ability to help you see your body as a beautiful one. It is radical while also intimately personal. It can be ambiguous and unclear, without needing to be boxed or follow any rules. It is beautiful and difficult at the same time. I love my queerness and I love being with a man. Those for me can exist happily together.”
I’m still here. I’m still queer. Before, now and always.
Ash Fisher is a comedian, actor and writer. She is not a comedienne, an actress, or a writeress. She runs the hit show “Man Haters” every fourth Thursday in Oakland, CA. Follow her at ashfisherhaha.com, @ashfisherhaha and manhaters.org.