The end of the semester is finally here! We know that you all have been working hard and hope that you take the time to congratulate yourselves on another wonderful semester. We are also celebrating that we now have a full semester on the books reading your questions, writing our responses, and having such amazing conversations with you all, so thank you for reading. We’re excited to see what next semester brings! We have one last answer for you, but we hope that we’ve answered your questions with consideration and care and that it’ll encourage you all to keep submitting questions in the fall!
Q: I’ve been in a long distance same-sex relationship for over a year, and I’ve seen my partner maybe five times in person since we got together. (We’d been best friends before.) This is my first relationship, and I’m worried because (I don’t think?) I’ve ever really felt much physical attraction, to her or otherwise. I’m also a baby queer, so I’m scared. What if I’m actually straight? Or ace? Or bi? How do I figure out which label best fits me? And what exactly does it mean to be physically attracted to someone? Help!
A: Hey baby queer. Here is a somewhat elder queer also in an LDR to answer your question.
I’m hearing that the lack of physical attraction to your partner raises some questions about your sexuality. If you and your partner are satisfied with the dynamic now, that’s less pressure to put on yourself. There are allosexuals (people who experience sexual attraction) who aren’t physically attracted to their partner or those that choose to be celibate. For some people, lacking that type of intimacy is a deal breaker and others find a way around it.
However, if it is an issue for you, I would first recommend being kind and gentle to yourself when trying to find an identity that fits what you’re experiencing. After years of compulsory heteronormativity, it can take a while to know what you really feel compared to how you’ve been socialized to feel. Try the label that feels right to you now and if your feelings change, then your label can change too. Not everyone gets it right the first time. Something that helped me was doing some digging. Try talking to friends, reading books with characters you might see yourself in, and reading affirming theory and research.
Attraction can be hard to pinpoint and it can be an individual experience moreso than a universal one. We tried to break down the different between platonic and romantic attraction in our very first column. One thing I always take away from that piece and our overall work talking about sexual intimacy is that there are other things that can influence attraction. Safety, closeness, stress, and anxiety can affect our attraction and arousability. A smart and helpful colleague showed me these two models, Basson’s Sexual Response Cycle and the Dual Control Model of Desire, and I found them really helpful.
Until then, know that community and support, like going to the Office of Gender and Sexuality Resources (GSR), doing some introspection, and maybe even talking to your partner can help you shoulder the burden.
I wanted to make sure the answer to this question was as helpful as possible, so I asked my LGBTQIA+ coworkers in HPWB for their thoughts too. 🙂
Sometimes it just takes time. Your brain is still developing (presumably), and you’re probably figuring out what kind of person you are or want to be outside of your sexuality too.
Maybe by placing some attention outside of sexual/physical attraction, you will figure out the process of how you determine what you like or don’t like, and then you could revisit this topic again. You don’t have to get it right the first time around, many people don’t get it right the tenth time around either (he says from experience). I don’t want to say a cliché “it gets better,” but it will feel clearer, and you will feel more self-assured as you continue to learn more about yourself.
–Glen, Mental Health Educator
Hi there! As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community myself, I want you to know you are not alone. So many people, me included, have questioned their sexuality at some point. It is completely natural to be uncertain about who or what you like and how that may fit into a label.
My advice would be to focus on what makes YOU happy and don’t let the labels distract from what brings you joy. If being in a relationship with this person truly makes you happy, you may find condensing those feelings into a label isn’t as important. It’s not always as black and white as being solely straight, asexual, gay, or bi. Society created those labels as a means to simplify incredibly complex feelings, emotions, and desires into one word. Most of the time, it’s not that simple.
Discovering your sexuality takes time and your preferences might even change or evolve over time. Don’t feel pressured to figure it all out now. Just focus on what brings you joy and fulfillment. Chances are, discovering what makes you happy will help build the foundation of your identity.
-Tim, Graphic Designer
Co-signing everything the team has already said! I think the idea of finding a “label of best fit” can be attractive, because it gives us language to define ourselves and language to describe ourselves to others, but because sexuality and sexual attraction can be fluid, sometimes the language we use to describe ourselves will evolve and change with us, and that is totally OK! You do not have to define yourself based on your current relationship (or even at all, if that is what feels best). For some folks, sexual attractions, romantic attractions, and physical attractions can ebb and flow over the course of their lives and over the course of their relationships and partners. Your identities are valid, no matter who you are partnering with at any given time. If a current relationship does not hit on every part of the multifaceted individual you are, you are still that multifaceted individual! I agree with the team; patience, self-kindness, and leading with curiosity about yourself can be really empowering.
If you do want to explore more about your identities, I know some folks (including me!) have found the book A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities by Mady G and Jules Zuckerberg helpful in thinking about queer identity. It also has some very adorable illustrations.
~Alyse, Gender-Based Violence Prevention
We hope it helps! Much love from all of us.
We want to thank you all for reading this semester! Listed below are some statistics about how much engagement we received since January.
Again, we just want to thank you all for being such a terrific audience as we couldn’t have done this without all of you! We will be back to releasing new blogs starting in September, but email HopkinsGBVP@jh.edu if you have any questions about your intimate relationship or would like to get connected to resources during the interim. Best of luck to you all with your finals and have a happy and healthy summer!
Tyler and Jay