Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] Am I bi-curious? A lesbian? How do I explore these feelings?

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer

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[Two Pronged] Am I bi-curious? A lesbian? How do I explore these feelings?

Guia Abogado/Rappler

'How do I flirt? How do I notice the signs of attraction from another woman?'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer, 

I’m a 49-year-old woman who is thinking about exploring relationships with women. There has been no scarcity in the attention and affection of men. Whether younger or my age…but I find that I enjoy the company of women much more. 

I’ve always had “girl crushes” in the sense that I find certain women incredibly attractive and interesting. But I’ve never really thought about exploring those feelings romantically and erotically. The last few years of living abroad offer the liberation and anonymity of exploring what I previously thought was a passing fancy for women. 

BUT BUT BUT I don’t know how to even start. How do I flirt? How do I notice the signs of attraction from another woman? Eeep. I sound like a teenager. Does this make me bi-curious? Or a lesbian? Or am I just testing the fluidity of gender?

Late Bloomer

Dear Late Bloomer,

Thank you for your message. 

People who have questions about their sexuality face a confused and confusing world. The trend towards greater sexual freedom, almost a given for so long, is being reversed in myriad ways e.g. the overturn of Roe v Wade and the gender wars in the US, draconian anti-gay legislation in places like Uganda, the relentless misogyny and anti-gay position of religions like Roman Catholicism, and even the banning of Dr Rica Cruz’s show by the MTRCB here, more than 30 years after my co-columnist, Dr Holmes, got the first TV show about sex censored in the Philippines while pursuing her long and painfully slow attempt to encourage adult and mature discussion of sex.

A recent New York Times interview of Judith Butler, author of Who’s Afraid of Gender?, posited that “gender has been constructed as a threat throughout the modern world — to national security in Russia; to civilization, according to the Vatican; to the American traditional family; to protecting children from pedophilia and grooming, according to some conservatives.”

She went on to say that the anti-gender ideology movement seems to believe: “If you break down the taboo against homosexuality, if you allow gay and lesbian marriage, if you allow sex reassignment, then you’ve departed from all the laws of nature that keep the laws of morality intact — which means it’s a Pandora’s box; the whole panoply of perversions will emerge.”

In the light of this fraught sexual environment it is understandable that you want to take advantage of the relatively benign backdrop of Europe, where traditional family values (such as the man as patriarch, the woman as mother and housewife, children dutifully observant of filial piety) continue to give way to efforts to encourage greater equality of the sexes and individual agency. The more open approach to sex and the anonymity that you mention are far more conducive to exploring your options.

As for how to go about it, apart from the plethora of advice available on the internet, you could do worse than canvas your friends’ views. If you do not want to be too obviously involved yourself, perhaps you can be researching for an article, asking for the proverbial friend, conducting a focus group discussion or some similar stratagem. You could also visit some gay bars or clubs and observe how people behave; this might even have the additional advantage of the chance to meet new friends!

Best of luck,
JAF Baer

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[Two Pronged] My sister seems very unhappy with my lesbian relationship

[Two Pronged] My sister seems very unhappy with my lesbian relationship

Dear Late Bloomer (LB): 

Thank you very much for your letter. Thank you very much also, Mr Baer, for not only answering, but also encouraging Late Bloomer’s questions about flirting and noticing signs of attraction. Thus I now need to answer only her last three questions which I shall address in the order they were asked: 

“Does this make me 1. bi-curious?  2. Or a lesbian? 3. Or am I just testing the fluidity of gender? 

  1. Am I bi-curious? If we define a bi-curious person as someone who is/was heterosexual but is now exploring attraction to people with genders similar to theirs, then yes, you are definitely bi-curious. Isn’t that an absolutely wonderful thing to be, LB?  

It also suggests you are very high in openness to experience. The Big 5 Personality Theory in psychology describes people with a high score in openness (one of the 5 traits all of us have) as those that tend to be more creative, imaginative, adventurous, open to trying new things, and eager to tackle new challenges.

  1. Am I a lesbian?  If we define a lesbian as girl/woman who is attracted to and prefers intimate relationships with other girls/women then yes, you are a lesbian.

An extremely well-written 20 page monograph (“I Think I Might be a Lesbian”) suggests you ask yourself some of these questions if you wonder about this: 1. When I dream or fantasize sexually, do I think about other girls? 2. Can I picture myself dating, having sex with, loving, or being married to a woman? 3. Have I ever been in love with another girl or even have a crush (ehem, you crusher of girls, you 😊 )? 

Please also remember that sexual orientation is not always static. It can sometimes depend on what stage in life you are and where your head and heart are at the moment.

  1. Am I just testing the fluidity of gender? Hmmmm that is a bit harder to understand.  On the one hand, why not?  But the word “just” in this sentence could come across as simply out of curiosity, but not the kind of curiosity in the question you first asked, which is heartfelt, more than a mere intellectual curiosity. I sense you are not “just” testing gender fluidity as an academic exercise, but wanting to know about yourself more deeply so you can enjoy and give the kind of pleasure, sense of wonder and joy, more authentically. You are doing what many of us dare not to do – move from the traditionally expected, socially approved gender roles – to take a risk on truly loving and/or strongly lusting for and/or deeply connecting with another sentient being (or beings). Bravo, LB  

After all, as Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” So, good luck, my sweet smelling rose (or gardenia, or sampaguita).  

All the best,
MG Holmes


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