Dear Deirdre —
I’m writing to you because I’m confused. I guess you already know that. People don’t write you when they have it all sorted, do they? Sorry. I’ve never written anything like this.
I think that I might be a bad person. I told someone I love them and I don’t know if I mean it. Now I haven’t talked to him in a few days.
Okay. You need more context. I am straight. I have been straight my entire life. I’ve never, ever thought about a guy in like, a sexual way, or a romantic way. I’ve only ever had girlfriends. I’ve had sex with them. I liked it. The thought of having sex with a guy does NOT appeal to me.
I don’t meant to say I’m homophobic. I have gay friends. I have — let’s call him Z. Z is probably my best friend. We hang out all the time. We play video games together. We talk about our relationships. Well, we used to. I’m totally cool with gay guys.
I just don’t get the appeal of gay sex. It’s like, someone who’s into feet. Like yeah man, whatever floats your boat. I don’t think it’s gross or wrong. I’m just not into it. No part of it, you know, gets me going.
See, that’s why I’m confused. I am convinced that I’m not gay. I’m not into dudes! I don’t check them out, I don’t like dicks, nothing. But then there’s Z.
I’ve been in love with a girl. Or, I thought I have. In highschool I said “I love you” to my girlfriend junior year. She said it back. Then we broke up. I don’t feel bad about that, because at the time, I didn’t really know what love was. I was too young. What I felt was lust.
I met another girl and we dated for our first two years of college. I did love her, and I told her that. I liked to be around her. I wanted to do things for her. It felt good just to be near her. She told me the same thing, but she lied. That’s not the point of this letter though. The point here is, I know what it’s like to love a girl.
It’s totally different with Z. I don’t know how it started. I know I was sitting next to him on the couch last winter. We both had our feet tucked up beneath us to keep our toes warm. We were sharing a blanket. I joked and said “no homo.” Then our feet touched, and I felt his warmth against my skin, and I just… left it. I didn’t pull away. It felt good to be touching him.
Then I realized that, when I hug him, it feels good. Not just good like a normal hug feels. Like, my whole body just feels… Nice. And not in a sexual way, either. More like you feel when you’re cold and someone puts a blanket on you that they just took out of the dryer.
When I meet his eyes, my heart skips. I thought that was just a thing people said in books and movies, but it’s real.
I feel things for him like I never felt for the girls I’ve been with. I want to be with him all the time. It actually hurts, sometimes, when he’s away It really hurts that I haven’t talked to him but I don’t know what to say. He knows I’m straight. I know I’m straight. I don’t want to be unfair to him.
I’m lost, because part of me wants a relationship with him, but the other part knows it wouldn’t work. I don’t feel sexually attracted to him. And you need that, right?
— I’m Pretty Sure I’m Straight
Well, let me say one thing right off: You’re not straight, not in the way our society teaches. If you can realize that, it will make all of this easier.
With that out of the way, I want to mention that I’m glad that you sent me this letter. It gives me the opportunity to talk about something I’ve been researching lately.
Sexuality is not black and white. I think that’s common knowledge, these days, but it never hurts to repeat it for those that haven’t learned the lesson yet. Sexuality exists on a spectrum. Maybe there are people that live on the very edges of that spectrum, who really do feel nothing for the same sex ever. Most people live somewhere in the middle, with a tendency toward one side or the other. Perhaps you’re just a little bit more toward the center than you realized before you started feeling this way with Z.
As for not feeling any sexual feelings for him, well, you’re not the first person who’s felt romantically attracted toward a person without any sexual proclivity toward others of their gender. People who identify as asexual don’t desire sex at all, for example, but they might still seek out romantic partnership with a person of either gender.
Sexual desire and romantic desire don’t always go hand-in-hand. That’s something that we, as a society, haven’t quite figured out yet. It is perfectly possible that you are, as you say, completely heterosexual. If you’re feeling the way you describe, and it sure sounds like you’re in love with your friend Z, then I suspect that you are heterosexual and biromantic. That means that, while you may only be sexally attracted to women, you are perfectly capable of have romantic desire — and yes, love — for another man.
You need to talk to Z, because the longer you wait without speaking to him, the more painful it will be for both of you. You didn’t give me a lot of context about how it went when you said you loved him, but I can only imagine that there’s a person on the other side of this who’s just as confused as you are, though perhaps for different reasons.
Maybe the two of you won’t be able to be a couple. If Z is understanding, maybe it will work out for the two of you. Whatever relationship you end up having is going to take a lot of discussion and understanding on both sides. You have to go to him and explain all of the things you’ve explained to me. That’s the only way you’re going to get close to solving this.