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Dire Straights

There are many different types of 'off limits' people—married, taken, gay, straight, BFF's ex, etc.—but what do you do if your type is 'off limits'? The 4-Way discusses attraction and sexual orientation.

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Dear 4-Way,
I am a gay woman who often falls for straight women. I am not stupid enough to date them anymore, but I’m way more attracted to them. My friends and articles I have read have had all kinds of theories—that I am subconsciously afraid of intimacy, that I am suffering from internalized homophobia so unconsciously don’t like gay people, that I don’t want to be happy, and so on. The thing is, I have been out and proud for nearly twenty years now and I have worked through my “issues.” I don’t think I am doing anything subconsciously and feel very healthy and ready for love. I think it happens because I grew up in the South and was only around straight women my whole life. What do you guys think? Does my attraction to straight women have to be pathology? Also, how do I make it stop? CWRichmond, VA

The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
I think we’re capable of being attracted to and having chemistry with all kinds of people, and sometimes that attraction and chemistry is sexual or romantic in nature, and sometimes it’s not. When I look at my group of close friends, for example, I can actually remember thinking right after I met each of them—male and female—that they were really cool people. Something just clicked—I had a connection with each of them, and wanted to know more about them. That elusive “good connection” is what we’re all looking for, and when we find it—even on a friendship level—it can be so intoxicating that we ignore our brain and instead follow our heart.

But our hearts sometimes ride the short bus, as far as making smart decisions. (Trust me, I know.) Eventually you’ll tire of having feelings for women who are unavailable to you, but until then you can try to stop the feelings by developing the Ring Reflex (I just made that up but I kind of like the sound of it), which is the reaction I have when I meet a fantastic guy who’s married or taken. The second I notice the ring, or get any whiff of a girlfriend, I take him off my radar of romantic interest and move him over to the friend bucket. Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t easy, it takes a lot of practice to hone, and you have to catch the feelings in the beginning, before they get too out of control. But after a couple of torturous crushes on people who were completely unavailable and who dangled pending breakups (that never happened) in front of me, I think I finally learned my lesson. And that lesson is this: putting all your energy into someone you can’t have doesn’t leave much for the people you can have. Every second you waste pining away for a straight woman is a second you take away from pursuing the love you want.

A smart and coincidentally lesbian woman once gave me that advice while I was wasting my time on someone completely unavailable. She also promised me that if I stopped focusing all my thoughts and energy toward that one person, someone else would come along. And guess what? She was right—someone did. It was only for a few weeks, but after he was gone, I found that I didn’t have as much interest in Mr. Unavailable and that I began to notice other, more available men. As the ladies of En Vogue once so sagely said, “Free your mind, and the rest will follow.”

The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
First up, let me remind you that you cannot control whom you’re attracted to, so don’t even try it. Gay, straight, red, blue, whatever the case may be, when our emotions take over, we cannot always be in front of them no matter how hard we try. And Lord knows we’ve all tried. That said, we should make more intelligent choices and learn from our mistakes. I’ve had a few crushes on straight men in my day. I’d think maybe, just maybe, they’d be curious enough to try life on the other side of the fence and we’d make things work. Then I realized that not only would that likely never happen since I’m packing the wrong equipment, but also that the straight baggage they would bring along with them might weigh down my hopes of a healthy gay relationship.

Look, it’s fine to have crushes. It becomes harmful when it becomes self-sabotage. Realize the difference between the two and think about where you are at this point in your pursuit of happiness. To continue to have these sorts of crushes is like putting a band-aid on a wound requiring stitches: not effective.

The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
Straight women. Can’t live with ’em, can’t get ’em to become lesbians on your whim.  The simple facts are that there are a lot more straight women than gay women in the world, so it’s understandable that with more to choose from, you’re attracted to straight women more often.  As you know, where you grew up and still live is not a hotbed of gay culture. Richmond ain’t San Francisco or New York or even Virginia Beach—the largest city in Virginia. (Yeah, I looked that up.)

You can cut yourself some slack, though. Regardless of how “through your issues” you are, I think even the sanest of us are tempted by forbidden fruit, or at the very least, a challenge.  I don’t know how you can make yourself stop being attracted to something you find attractive. But for your own sanity and for the sake of your love life, you’ve got to accept that you’ll be attracted to straight women, but not be able to “get” them. Welcome to the lives of most of us who aren’t celebrities and/or incredibly wealthy.  In other words, focus on those lesbian women who are available, interested in you, and in your geographic area. This smaller dating pool may actually make it easier to find someone with whom you’re compatible.  I assume you’re capable of finding lesbians attractive, but maybe that’s difficult since they’re fewer and far between. If it’s any condolence, from what I’ve heard, it’s tough even in bigger cities.

So my advice is don’t follow the straight—narrow your sights on lesbian women who are attracted and interested in you. May you have lady luck.

The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
Let’s unravel some preconceptions about what it means to fall for a straight woman before we address your query. When you say you fall for straight women, I wonder what exactly it is you are falling for. Is it a look? Is it a personality trait? What does it mean to appear straight? And what specifically are you drawn to? Make a list of the qualities of the women you fall for—personality traits and appearance. I have to tell you that I’ve certainly met many queer women who seem straight; I can’t tell by looking at these women or by talking to them that they bat for my team. On the other hand, there are also gay women out there who fit a stereotypical lesbian personality and appearance. It’s just easier to spot the obvious ones, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other kinds of lesbians out there.

We’re attracted to what we’re attracted to, my friend. And it seems like you know what you like and you’ve worked with your issues. Good for you. There’s nothing you have to stop. In fact, it’s time to go out and find that lesbian who has been mistaken for a straight woman her whole life and is just waiting to be swept off her feet by a proud and out gay woman. Be proud of who you are AND what you like. When you can be at peace with your choices, you will find her.

 

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