I Don’t Understand Straight People, Even Though I’m Married to One

I’m confident in my sexuality, but my husband’s makes no sense to me

“Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be enough for you,” my husband says, “because I’m just a man.”

“You know I’m happy with monogamy,” I tell him. “You’re enough. You’re the person I chose.”

“But how can I be enough?” We’re spooning under the covers.

“With me, you can’t do everything.”

“Who needs to do everything?”

“I want to do everything.”

“Well, not everything,” I say, pulling his hand to my lips and nibbling his fingers.

“I want to do everything with you.”

I’m pansexual: I’m sexually attracted to people of all sexes and genders. Sometimes I use the word bisexual instead because “pan” makes me cringe with visions of a cartoon Peter Pan. But bisexual implies — duh — a binary. And my sexuality does not feel binary at all.

It’s not that I’m attracted to men and I’m attracted to women. It’s that I’m attracted to people.

When I say I’m pan, I’m not saying I’m attracted to all people. In fact, I’m not attracted to most people. But when I am attracted to someone, that someone can be of any sex and any gender.

My worldview is colored by my sexuality. I only date women,” sounds to me like I only date redheads.” Like, really, you can’t even imagine being attracted to a brunette?

My first impulse is to assume society tricked all the 100% heterosexual and 100% homosexual people into thinking they had to live in the binary.

As Elle Beau recently wrote about herself and her husband:

“We considered ourselves straight at that point, largely because we’d never had very much opportunity to be anything else and we knew we weren’t gay — and for most of our lives, those seemed like the only choices.”

We don’t choose who we fall for. Sometimes you just feel chemistry with someone — when I met my husband, the chemistry was immediate and intoxicating — and you can’t choose who that person is or what’s under their clothes. Attraction isn’t a decision.

So it’s hard for me to understand the total surety some people feel that they’ll never, ever be attracted to someone who doesn’t present/identify as a certain gender or doesn’t have specific parts.

I was nine years old when The Crying Game came out. One of my schoolmates had seen it (or, more likely, had heard his parents talking about it). At recess, we huddled under the rope ladder, wide-eyed, and listened:

“Then he finds out that she isn’t a she! She’s got… a thing!”

All my friends screamed, Gross!”

I took note of their reactions, and learned something about the cruelty of the world. But in my little pansexual head, already, I was thinking, “Does it really matter? If you love someone, who cares?”

My first crush was Veda from the movie My Girl. My second crush was a boy in my Hebrew school class who held the door open for me. I wrote about them both in my first diary and hid it under my bookshelf, convinced my family would pick the heart-shaped lock with a bobby pin.

I’ve always been suspicious of people who say they’re 100% straight or gay.

My husband is one of those people.

He says he’s 100% hetero and it’s not because he’s afraid to be honest with himself. It’s not because he’s never considered it. He says, after total openness and soul-searching, it’s always been clear to him: he loves the combo of a female body and a female gender identity. And when it comes to attraction he has no interest in anything else.

He made out with guys once, at a punk rock kissing skillshare. He didn’t like their beards. Can’t blame him; I don’t usually like kissing beards either. The experience confirmed for him what he already knew: he’s straight.

It doesn’t make sense to me. But I believe him. I have to.

Each person knows their own gender and their own sexuality better than anyone else does. It’s as important to believe the straight people as it is to believe the rest of us.

Some cisgender people struggle to understand trans people. Trans, I get. But being hetero? That’s where I have a hard time understanding.

I wish transphobes would believe people and not be jerks, so that’s what I try to do with hetero people, starting with my own husband. I don’t understand how he feels he’s 100% straight, but I believe him and I try not to be a jerk about it.

I don’t understand his sexuality. He doesn’t understand mine either.

“If you ever want to have sex with a woman,” he says, “you have my blessing.”

“You want us to be polyamorous?”

“No, just if you want to be with a woman, you can,” my husband says, “especially if I can watch. But even if not.”

“I’m not asking to be with anyone else.”

“I don’t want to hold you back.”

“Do you want to be with someone else?” I ask. “Is that what this is about?”

“Well, maybe we could both be with a woman,” he says, “but that’s not what I was saying.”

He keeps coming back to this assumption — or is it insecurity ?— that I’ll be sexually unfulfilled without a female sexual partner, no matter how many times I tell him that pansexuality is not about having multiple partners. (Pan people — just like straight or gay people — can be poly or monogamous.)

To me, being with another person would mean transitioning to a poly relationship, and this would be the case regardless of gender. But to him, my being with a woman vs. my being with another man are two completely different things.

He’s a trans ally, but I doubt he’d be so supportive of me being with a woman if that woman had a penis. I want him to be the person in my life. He wants to be the penis in my life.

He’s both.

“I want you because you’re a woman,” he says. “I want you to want me because I’m a man.”

“I want you. Isn’t that enough?”

“Not really.”

“I could’ve chosen literally anyone in the entire world to be my partner.” I cup his chin in my right hand. “I chose you. I choose you.”

What could be more romantic than that? More sexy?

But his sexuality is about male-desiring-female and female-desiring-male. So my part in his ongoing fantasy is that of the female, specifically desiring his maleness.

I fear I won’t live up to his feminine ideal. I wear overalls. I don’t shave my pits or wear makeup very often. When I take the time to look femme, it’s as a gift to him. My femininity is his love language.

His desire for me is rooted in gender. My gender is more important to my husband than it is to me.

Even if we throw out all the labels, we are who we are. Whether I call myself bi or pan or don’t label my sexuality at all, he knows my desires. And I know his.

There’s beauty, even in our differences. Our love and intimacy bridge the gaps. My attempts to understand him help me understand all the other people who see the world through a lens different than mine.

He’s my penis. He’s my person. I’m myself, even if my marriage makes some parts of me invisible and other parts appear larger than they feel.

With my body and his body, we can do almost everything. And that’s more than enough for me.

Empathy for the win! Published in Gen, Human Parts, Heated, Tenderly —Feminism, Sexuality, Veganism, Anti-Racism, Parenting. She/They darcyreeder.substack.com

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