Peter McGraw invites two friends into the Solo Studio to discuss what appears to be an emerging shift: once heterosexual women embracing their bisexuality. His guests, Rachel and Taylor, discuss their experience becoming bisexual in their thirties, and Peter presents data identifying a shift in the number of people identifying as lesbian, gay, and bisexual.
Listen to Episode #161 here
Welcome back, Rachel.
I’ll tell you the origins of this show. I have noticed this based on my own personal experience with platonic friendships. Women who typically were identified as heterosexual have started dating women. Two of those women who told me this or disclosed this to me are you two. I think that there’s something going on here based upon personal anecdotes and paying attention to the world. I wanted to do an episode to explore this and you both were kind enough to say yes.
You did treat me to the recovery center in order to twist my arm to come here.
I fed you too. Taylor has left out. She’s got neither the recovery center nor the food.
To happen in the future.
She was not available.
The recovery center is not a rehab facility. It’s for athletes.
We sat in the sauna before this and the cold plunge. What’d you call them?
Squishy leg bags. It’s a better thing than going to a bar to grab a drink so.
Rachel is an avid cyclist and athlete. Before we dig in, I want to recognize that talking about heteronormativity and how people diverge from it can be a difficult endeavor. Not everyone agrees on terminology. They don’t all agree on biology and so on. I am far from an expert on these topics. I just want to say that this is a super complex topic. It’s outside my expertise and much of my personal experience. My goal here is just exploration.
I want to bring forth some data, and some ideas, but focus on practical matters and your personal experience, recognizing that it’s limited. Each of us, and especially me is limited in that way. Taylor and Rachel, you both identify as women. You’ve started dating women, and so I know that we’re even just showing a smaller segment of a bigger complex topic. Is that okay?
Let’s start with a little bit of data because I don’t want to rely on my intuition. I teach a class and on day one, I talk about how bad your intuitions can be in terms of solving problems. However, there’s a variety of big panel surveys that look at people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or something else other than heterosexual. There are a number of these and they all say the same thing. They say, “Their number is growing.” This is happening and it’s especially happening among younger adults, so folks in their twenties in particular.
That tracks on TikTok for sure.
Yes. We can explore some of the reasons why this is happening, but part of the reason this is happening is the same reason that we are seeing a rise of singles, which is I say, “Singles beget singles.” When you live in a world where you don’t know any single people who are happy, you don’t see that as a path to happiness, and then here comes Peter McGraw living this great life and you go, “Maybe I could do that too,” and so social media amplifies that.
The actual percentages of people identifying as LGBT vary from survey to survey depending on whom they ask and how they ask. I’m going to give you some data from a Gallup survey in 2021. The percentage of adults who identify in that way, LGBT, or something other than heterosexual has increased to a high of 7.1%. 7 out of 100 adults in the United States identify in that way.
I thought it would be higher.
I did, too.
I think it feels higher because this topic is getting a lot of attention. Now when it was prior, almost completely ignored. One of the things is it has had a linear increase. In the last years or so, this uptick. There are two other things here. There’s identifying that is in the sense of being willing to tell pollsters what people’s actual behaviors may be so that’s the first piece of data. Of LGBT Americans, 57% identify as bisexual.
That’s higher than I thought.
I thought these were fascinating. That percentage translates into 4% of all US adults identifying as bisexual. That’s four times as likely as identifying as lesbian. This is the biggest group of a growing group. Women are much more likely than men to say they’re bisexual, 6% versus 2%. Women are three times more likely to identify as bisexual. Men are more likely to identify as gay than bisexual while women are much more likely to identify as bisexual than lesbian. That tracks.
A big thing that makes people say that they aren’t bisexual is that it seems like a 50/50 almost. I feel like if you would reframe that question and say, “Are you on a spectrum? Do you feel like I might be 97% attracted to men, but 3% attracted to women? I’m not bisexual because I’m mostly heterosexual. If we looked at it through that lens, the numbers would probably be quite higher.
This is Gallup. It’s a very traditional organization and so on. There’s a term that I learned from a dating app that is heteroflexible which has that element to it where you’re like, “Maybe a little bit more of a gray area there rather than, “Are you in this bucket or that bucket?” Which is what these polls do. You’re both in your thirties. How’d you come to this choice?
How did I come into this? It’s a hard thing to say in terms of identifying. It wasn’t a moment. There were times in college. A woman was a mechanic down the road when I was a bartender. I wouldn’t say we dated, but that was a long time ago. Other than that, I just figured that was a moment in time, but it’s not anything to explore further. I grew up in the South, so I’m sure that geography and culture had a role in it.
It’s a dampening effect.
Yes. That running joke of, “You go to college to get your MRS degree and all.” I had been serially monogamous and had dated primarily men or the majority of men.
People may recognize Rachel from the Relationship Sponsor episode where we went into detail about how good Rachel is at being a serial monogamist with a man who’s not a good fit. She was so good at that or bad.
It was six relationships or something along those lines but I had gotten divorced. I filed on my birthday. I’ve remained primarily single that whole time. After divorce, I do think social media and this prominence made it seem much more accessible. In terms of dating, I have not been on apps at all. I did meet one woman and I had set my app to be for women because I was quite done with men. That’s a whole other topic I’m sure we could get into.
I want to talk a little bit about why this is happening. It’s not just social media. It can’t be.
The differences and everything but I’ve met a few women out. It’s not as challenging as I thought it would be and I also have a lot of friends who are lesbian. They’re married but the majority of them are in relationships so it was easy to get them to want when they heard that you’re dating women. “I’ve got somebody that you need to meet.” They’re introducing me into the community.
It was organic, it ramped up, and then I developed an eye for knowing when she was interested. This is not just a, “I like your dress,” or whatever. There were ways in which to more easily identify. It’s like old-school flirting. It was surprisingly easy for me. I don’t know if you’ve had that experience. It was a little easier for me. In terms of monogamy, it’s been easier to date and be much more transparent. There’s a whole host of things I’m sure we could dive into on that.
You made a decision that you were not going to be a serial monogamous for the time being. You’ve been ethically non-monogamous since then. You’re saying that has been seamless.
That’s not been seamless. It’s been seamless with the women that I’ve seen and a few men.
Not everybody’s welcoming of that idea.
No, and it’s hard to do.
Here’s part of the reason why Rachel gets herself in these six long fraught relationships. These guys come along and they want to lock it down. They’re like, “This woman,” and then it doesn’t work for her. That’s fair to say. You can’t say it. You’re modest.
I might have picked the wrong one. I take some ownership of that too.
A streak of six monogamous lacking relationships with men has to have factored into this.
I’ve done a ton of work on inner child and every kind of therapy. Beyond that, I never had explored the attraction that I had for women. I did have a lot of friends who also dated men but primarily went to women much earlier in age. They seemed very happy. I was never opposed, so why not give it a shot?
One last question. Was the execution as simple as, “I’m going to change my setting on the app?” One night, you’re like, “Here we go.”
I don’t know if it was like a light switch, but it was very easy at times. Often when I was with my male friends, I was getting more women than they were and it was fascinating and also fun. It was pretty easy. I don’t know if I was expecting something harder. I don’t know why. It seemed different and even just the dynamics of dating itself have been very easy.
That’s wonderful. Taylor, does any of this resonate with you?
Honestly, I’m surprised. I feel like we’re the same person in a lot of ways, other than the fact that I’ve just been serially single my whole life.
You’re on the other side of it.
Yes. I’m not good at the relationship part of it, but everything else really resonated.
You’re a solo and have been for a long time. You recognize this is who you are in some ways. About how long has it been since you began this?
Just to go back to the beginning just a little bit, I think the same thing like you said. I grew up in the Midwest, so very similar upbringing. One of the questions that I’ve gotten a lot is, “Have you always known? Have you always been attracted to women?” I feel like people pose that question with the attraction being your physical appearance.
The answer to that is yes, but I feel like any heterosexual woman would also say yes that women are attractive. On the other side of the coin there, I still feel like men are attractive as well and so it’s not so much about the physical appearance of it, but I’ve always just felt a deeper connection with women in an emotional way. I’ve figured that out as well.
How far back does that go?
That goes back all the way. I’ve had these moments where you just connect with someone and it’s always been with women where that energy passes and you have that little, “That felt different.”
Do you have an example of this?
I don’t know if I have a specific example. It’s like when you’re having a conversation with someone or meeting someone new. Interacting with even people within friendships and stuff like that where it’s just like, “I feel like this is something more.” It’s never had anything or much to do with the physical side of things. It’s been more so that energy and emotion.
That helps me a little bit to process it. Growing up was never going to act on it or do anything about it. I always thought I’d marry a man and do all the things. I just never had that instinctual desire to do it and every time I would go on a date or be in a relationship. That was more than three dates long. I would get cold feet and be like, “I can’t do this.” When the show came out, it’s a pretty big part of my story because I identified with all of it.
It gave me a language to understand how I’ve always felt, which also gave me the freedom to date with less pressure even after I came to grips with knowing I’m probably not going to get married. I’m probably not going to have children that are biologically mine within my lifetime. I still felt like I was needing to date to marry or have a goal in mind. This show gave me the freedom to understand that I can have these romantic relationships and they don’t have to have this goal or trophy at the end of it.
It doesn’t always have to be moving forward and moving upward.
It doesn’t have to be that linear path. One night I was just in bed and it was very much that just on the hinge and I was like, “What am I?” It’s just a button. It was a big moment though as I sat there. I thought about it. I was like, “Am I going to switch this button over?” I just thought about all the repercussions of it and they’re things that I’d thought of. There was a lot of reckoning within myself and I finally came to the point where I was like, “I’m going to do it because what’s the worst that could happen?” I did it and then I didn’t do anything about it for a few months. I let it sit there.
You didn’t swipe on anyone?
I did. I looked around to swipe but I was way too nervous to do anything about it. Once I finally came around to actually going on a date, it was just so easy. It was like talking to a friend in the park. From then on out, going on dates and everything has been very easy, seamless, and smooth. All the things that historically go on dates with men have not felt like this.
That’s great. That’s so wonderful. I have some questions from the community as I told them that I was going to do this episode, and there was an immediate positive response to this. People were excited because they’re seeing it too. They’re experiencing it also. You can sign up for the SOLO Community at PeterMcGraw.org/solo. From a member of the community rights, where have you had the most success connecting with the same gender?
I’d say my whole life I’ve had success connecting with the same gender.
If anything, it’s been the opposite. You’ve had failures, challenges, and struggles connecting with the opposite gender.
For me, it goes back to that I don’t know why. I just feel the emotional component of it. I can easily connect and feel myself when I’m talking with a woman, whereas with a man, I always feel like there’s some weird barrier there that makes me feel different or act differently.
Let’s just flip that question around so it feels natural and easy, which is wonderful. What is it that makes it not feel easy when it’s a man?
Is it the mask that you wear? You can’t reveal your whole self in front of someone because you might scare them away. That’s something that I’ve been just trying to do myself, but the mask eventually will come off. It’s six months. I feel like I have been able to be a bit more of my authentic self with women as opposed to with men earlier on in a relationship, just me personally. Also, end it much earlier if it’s not working out. Whereas for whatever reason I just suffer through with a man because it’s supposed to not be good.
This is supposed to be hard, so this is just what you do.
Not that I hate men because I enjoy men as well too and that’s not the purpose of that.
Same. I don’t know why. It’s easier with women and I do feel like as far as dating goes and my history like going on dates with men. I just feel like it’s not so much them. It’s more how I act and at the end of the date, I’m just like, “Why did I act like that?” I was trying to be something that I wasn’t. I was putting this mask on or I don’t know. I never felt authentic and it drained me of energy. I just hated going on dates.
We have to be very careful when we talk about an entire gender. When you say that time and time again, you’re feeling this friction, it’s probably not the men per se, but it probably is men, in a sense. It has to do with you rather than them. I always talk about this with young men. There’s this manosphere of young men who don’t have success with women and they have a very important decision to make and sadly, they’re often too young to make an informed decision. That is, “Do they say it’s me or do they say it’s all women?”
The bad choice is to blame all women for the fact that you’re not having success. What you have to say is, “What is it about me that is making this situation not work, and what can I do to change my behavior to make it work?” What you’re describing is exactly that.
You’re like, “It’s not you. It’s me.”
That’s not a copout. That’s completely legitimate.
Connected with men and getting into those monogamous relationships, I also chose to be in that. Over time, in doing that, we just grew apart. That person didn’t want to grow or they were done with their growth and I wanted to continue on. It seems like at least of the dates and answering that question of where it has been easiest to meet women. For me, it’s been out which is interesting. Most men I had met out never did the apps, but it’s been about the same as I’ve had flirted with men and it’s very similar in flirting with women and not even in LGBTQ places. It’s out and about which is why I was so surprised by only the 7% statistic.
Your sample is not representative because of where you live, how you live, and who your friends are.
If I were doing this back in Tennessee, I don’t know that it wouldn’t.
There are people who are bisexual and they don’t know anyone else who feels, thinks, and behaves the way that they do because of where they live and that must be very difficult. Another question, did you find better connections with other bisexual/bi-curious folks, or with people farther toward the gay end of the spectrum?
In my dating history, for me, they are farther along on the spectrum. I’ve connected with bi women, but it tends to be a bit more on the lesbian end of the spectrum.
I would say I’m not sure as the women that I’ve dated, I’m not really sure where on the spectrum they are. A lot of people’s profiles on the apps say what they’re but I don’t think about that when I’m on a date. It would be hard to say. They’re probably like me people that are on that spectrum but leaning more toward dating women are more interested in dating women than men.
Has anyone ever said to you, “I don’t like to date bi women?”
It sounds like you’ve been told this.
I’ve had that of my lesbian friends. We don’t date. We’re friends and they’re like, “No. I don’t want to be somebody’s experiment. I’m in it to meet one person,” and for a variety of reasons. I don’t want to train someone.
I have a woman whom I dated very briefly who’s bisexual. One of the things that we talked about is the degree to that you are still attracted to the opposite gender. It creates a situation where it often would lead to non-monogamy because it can be a lot. If you’re dating someone who is bisexual and you’re straight and you want to have a monogamous relationship, you’re essentially asking this person to shut down potentially half of their sexuality in a sense.
When you’re doing that, it complicates things. Just because someone is LGBT doesn’t mean that they don’t want monogamy for example. Bisexual people either have to set aside some of their sexuality and they may or may not want to do that and so that can create that situation. That person might just be like, “I just want a monogamous relationship and that’s easier to do with someone who’s only attracted to women. How do you deal with the judgments? Why are you so wishy-washy? Make a choice or, “Two women together. That’s hot.” How do you deal with the stereotypical reactions and judginess of the South or the Midwest in a world where like, “This is pretty leading-edge behavior?”
I would say that honestly, I’ve been pretty lucky. I haven’t had to endure many judgments. A lot of that is because I’ve curated a friend group and people around me that are like-minded and open. That was a big thing for me too. As I was still very nervous to come out and talk to people like my friend friends and loved ones about it, I didn’t have to deal with too much negative backlash, at least to this point.
To that end, there are some questions that are tougher to answer, but I don’t shy away from them. I feel like if you just logically talk to someone about it and break everybody down just to be like human beings forming connections while we’re on this earth for a very short amount of time. You can make someone feel pretty stupid for saying something dumb like that.
It’s a speck of dust in a tiny moment in time. What would be a tough question or something that’s awkward?
From an E and M standpoint, when you’re communicating that you’re, “I’m going on a date with this woman,” and then they want to know details. Is it, “Are they wanting to know details to get off or do they want to?” That’s frustrating.
If you say, “I’m going out on a date with this man,” they’re not like, “What does he look like?”
It depends on who it is. They’ll be okay with you dating a woman but not a man. I personally don’t do well when they have those types of reserves about what I’m doing and maybe they should look at themselves.
You don’t like that they get to tell you whom you get to date, Rachel. I wonder why.
That’s one of the tougher things to hear. How do you deal with those comments? Communicating and asking questions back, “Why are you asking this but you don’t ask it about that?” and being okay with not getting a good response or a positive response, because you might not. Like you, I haven’t had any judgment around this because of the community that I surround myself with which also makes it hard to identify as bisexual because then you didn’t have to endure what the LGBTQ community did several years ago. It makes it, “Can I say that now that everybody else put in all the hard work?” I get to then come out and be like, “Now things are smooth sailing and easy.” It makes it harder for me to embrace that.
I agree with all of that. I One of the things is more nonverbal and it goes back to that same thing. I feel like when you talk about being in a same-sex relationship the first thing that comes to people’s mind. You can almost see it on their face or feel it is that they’re automatically picturing how that works between them.
It’s the same thing as you come out to your parents and the first thing that they’re thinking is the sexual side of that relationship. That’s just something that is going to, with time, get better. I feel like eventually, it’ll get to the point where you meet someone and you ask if they’re into men, women, or both and that’s just like a normal thing. Until then, it’s not anything that you could respond to. It’s just being okay with making other people feel uncomfortable for that little moment in time.
This happens on the single side of things when you say, “I’m not interested in dating.” People are like, “Huh?” They don’t get that. Rachel mentioned identifying as bisexual. Is that the term you use?
I’m not going to put it in my bio on Instagram or anything but that’s what I would use when I was on the apps. I met one woman and then I deleted the app because I didn’t like apps, but that’s how I would identify.
For me, back to what I said at the beginning with bisexual being so much more of this, I feel like it’s a 50/50 response. On the spectrum, I’m leaning more toward women at the moment.
There’s also another term bi-curious or bi-curiosity which is probably the earlier stage that you might have experienced when someone is open to exploring or experimenting with bisexuality. Unlike bi-curiosity, bisexuality carries with it a deeper sense of knowing one’s sexuality.
The pansexual also covers a lot of that which I’m pretty sure is that you are attracted to the person and not their genitals.
This is from Pew Center. Another traditional organization, but I’m a big Pew Research Center acolyte. They’ve been super useful in terms of investigating topics that a lot of other pollsters are not interested in especially single living. They have a report that bisexuals are far less likely to be out to the “important people” in their life. The two of you have not had this experience. You talked about how you are out.
Maybe as far as how long we kept it to ourselves.
I’m going to compare bisexuals to gays or lesbians. The question was the percentage of those who identify as bisexuals, gays, or lesbians saying that blank of the important people in their life is aware of their sexual orientation. All or most, 19% for bisexual, 75% for gay or lesbian. Some, 24% for bisexual, 13% for gay or lesbian, but you’re already at 88% versus 44%. That’s different. There can be a bunch of reasons for this. Part of it is these bisexuals are more likely to be new to it as the two of you are versus someone who’s gay or lesbian who knew it since they were young and have done the work. Nonetheless, that’s a striking statistic in terms of coming out.
Have you told your mom? Was she happy for you?
It’s still a work in progress. We’re working on it. It’s the initial shit thing, but it’s been good. We’re doing a lot of self-growth and relationship growth, all that stuff. I’m pushing her.
I always like to remind parents that they should want their children to be happy. It just so happens to be the case that their children know what makes them happy more than their parents do. It’s very hard because how do you undo all that domestication that tells you that this is the way it’s supposed to be?
Any parent has that initial gut instinct where you tell them and it’s hard for them. It’s just because they love you so much and they think that this decision’s going to make your life harder thing. Getting past that mindset is a big part of it. My mom was stoked.
She would also identify but not say it. I don’t know, age generation from Tennessee, Mississippi so. She wants to retire with her best friend.
How many of our grandparents would be so happy for the lives that we’re able to live now?
To cite some data, in 1960 in the United States, 90% of adults married and these were all heterosexual couplings. First of all, you know there are a bunch of LGBT folks wrapped up in that statistically. Moreover, there’s a whole bunch of solos that are wrapped up in that. There are a lot of people and this is what we were talking about earlier. Regardless of their partner, this was not the right solution to their particular set of problems but you did it. In 1967, my dad married my mom and I asked him why, and he said, “That’s what you did.” It wasn’t a well-thought-out thing. That’s just what everyone did and so you did it.
Centuries ago, all three of us would be in a heterosexual marriage right now.
Loveless, heterosexual, and sad marriage.
What’s fascinating about this is that the probability would be lower hundreds of years ago, which is shocking to me.
Is it because of our age, we would’ve been dead?
At the turn of the century, marriage wasn’t as dominant as it became after World War II. I talk about the rise of singles, but in many ways, it’s the re-rise of singles which is super fascinating. Moreover, as we talk about this issue of non-heterosexual relationships, being gay a long time ago in different cultures was no big deal. There has been a regression with regard to that, often very religious-related that’s there where like this wasn’t as unusual. It wasn’t a moral issue in the way that it became in the Western world.
The problem is we don’t have TV, film, newspapers, and music from those time periods. You don’t have a sense of how much singles and even non-heterosexuals people were lesbian and gay, in particular, were accepted. It still wasn’t the norm, but it wasn’t as bad as in our recent history. You think about it. At one point in time, everybody on the planet was single. Someone had to invent marriage and then, someone had to make it difficult to do anything but that. The moment that everybody started doing it was the moment that it started to crumble because it’s just not right for everyone. It’s just right for some people.
To get the dowry or to form political alliances.
That’s a big part of it. I have some more data that I want to present from Pew Research Center, and it doesn’t seem to be in line with your own personal experiences as bisexual women. They asked heterosexual or straight people, bisexual people, gay, and lesbian people the following question. These are people who are in relationships, whether you’re in an opposite-sex relationship or a same-sex relationship. That may seem redundant but just go with me.
Straight heterosexual people, 100% said, “I’m in an opposite-sex relationship.” Gay or lesbian, 94% said, “I’m in a same-sex relationship,” so very high percentage. Bisexual, 88% in an opposite-sex relationship, 12% in a same-sex relationship. Again, these are relationships not how you’re dating. To use the language of the lifestyle community, it’s like your primary partner. This does not have a distinction whether it’s monogamous or non-monogamous, but the primary partner for this group is primarily the opposite sex.
I had a primary. That was the opposite sex. Now I have no partner. That’s the thing that I was referring to where leaning more toward the lesbian end of the spectrum, they don’t want to date someone. I’ve encountered this. I’m using they as a blanket term but of the people that I’ve experienced as well as a few others have said that they’ve had negative experiences with women who are bisexual because they will often end up with a man. They want someone that wants to be in a committed relationship with them. Unless we’re on a similar path of exploring, playing, and nothing serious but that’s not been my experience.
I can certainly see how you’d be afraid this is just a dalliance and this is a phase. She’s going to want to have a child sometime. I’m going to get involved with this person and I’m worried that they’re not going to be as committed as I am just because of these strong norms base rates.
It’d be interesting to see too if you ask those same people that are in the bisexual category several years down the line what happens to that percentage. As it becomes more of the norm and more accepted and things like that because a lot of those relationships and decisions that they’re making, maybe more so because of the outside forces.
Opposite-sex relationships are the norm. They’re rewarded. They don’t get people looking at you cross-eyed. They’re not asking inappropriate questions. They know exactly how they should treat you a little easier. I want to return briefly to why this phenomenon is happening. You two have a lot of self-awareness. It’s something that you have recognized based on your experience. Dating and realizing this doesn’t feel right and that does in a sense.
There is also the fact that you acted on it. There are people reading right now who feel exactly the same way and they haven’t opened up the app or they haven’t said to a friend, “I’m thinking about this and I want to start to explore it.” That is why this is happening. It’s like there’s just the natural fact that not everybody is heterosexual. The data is super clear about that.
We talked about the media so it’s not just social media, but you’re starting to see gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual characters in television, film, and so on. That stuff matters in terms of de-stigmatizing and exposing people to ideas and so on. There’s another thing here which is very real, and it’s something that’s come up on the show before. That is that men, as a group, in the United States and a lot of other places, are not doing very well.
There’s a tendency to think because of the patriarchy and so on that men have it easy and men are doing just fine. You could point to the billionaires, the senators and the presidents of the world. The fact is that so much wealth is accumulated by men, but there are a lot of men who are not doing well. Most homeless people are men. Most incarcerated people are men. Suicides are men. Victims of homicide are men. Also, alcoholism and drug addiction. Women are outpacing men in many places especially young women.
When we point to those powerful men, they tend to be boomers or tend to be older. 60% of college classes are filled by women. That number’s very similar for postgraduate work. There is a phenomenon that is happening where there are women who are like you two, very successful, ambitious, and educated. They look around and they are having a hard time finding a worthy partner. I had Melanie Notkin on when she talked about Otherhood, about being involved and having children in your life, not as a mom, as an aunt, or another some other capacity.
I thought you were referring to like your husband as another child.
No. That’s a phenomenon too. It is connected to this idea of men not doing very well. Part of her story and the story of a lot of women were that they wanted children, but they wanted to have children within this traditional framework and they couldn’t find the right person to do it because it’s not easy to do it, especially when you start to have a disparity that starts to get revealed. I’m curious about your reaction to that. I know this is not part of your own story but are you seeing this with other friends? Does this resonate in any way with what I’m describing?
It’s like opting out of the male side of the dating pool.
I recognize that we’re only telling half the story in terms of women who were straight and then become bisexual. That is the more common path and you happen to be my guests. I recognize the limitation of this. I have had women say, “I can’t find any good men.” There are all these great women in my life who are having these good careers, are emotionally stable, good communicators, healthy, and so on. She’s like, “Why don’t I try this because the alternative is not so great?”
My friends and I talk about pooling our retirement and buying a commune in the South of France and just doing that together because we enjoy each other’s company. It is much easier to connect and talk to other women. That is a pretty big phenomenon. It’s not even fun. I feel like that’s a fact. I’m sure Pew needs to do a research study around that.
I wasn’t prepared for the specific points of this, but I think that the social media story is not in line with the actual data that’s out there.
In 2020, personally, I was shocked at how the quiet parts were set out loud by a lot of the men in my life. That made me question why I would want to be with someone whom I am supporting financially and otherwise, helping raise who would vote against my best interests. That was perhaps a catalyst and at least me personally. I think the pandemic, a lot of people realized they were not happy at home and when they were stuck with this partner and they had to be able to argue and communicate. I feel like it’s so much easier to communicate with women in that regard but I do think of those two things. I don’t know. I would love to see the data on this in a few years of how many people got divorced as a result of perhaps those two things.
80% of divorces are initiated by the wife because they’re not satisfied.
The whole Golden Girls thing is going to be, hopefully, in our future. I have a very strong group of female friends as well. Everybody is single for the most part. Some of them are in and out of relationships, longer term and some of them not, but just strong females that are living their life and challenging a man to come into it and add to it, but not compromising. That’s huge.
This behavior is multiply determined. There are lots of reasons why people do this. That’s a little bit of the elephant in the room and I wanted to make sure to address it. Society thrives when both men and women are thriving. Women are thriving and many of them are opting out of traditional heteronormative relationships. Some of it is because they still have to do too much work at home and they find that their partners not well-equipped to be in a deep, intimate, and long-term relationship so they have to do a lot of emotional work. They tend to be in charge of the social calendar. It’s a heavy burden.
That’s unfortunate, especially if you’re doing the nuclear family. This is something that we’re not talking enough about and I want to start talking about. If you’re single and detached from friends and family and community more broadly, that’s an incredibly dangerous place to be. It’s a lonely place to be. It’s an unhealthy place to be and you are at great risk.
A very strong predictor of one’s physical health and emotional health is being able to answer the question. I have someone to call in the middle of the night when I’m afraid or sick. If you can’t answer affirmatively to that question, you’re very likely to be in a very bad place in your life. I have 35 people I can call in the middle of the night when I’m afraid or sick, and just knowing that I can call them is enough and my heart breaks for those people, and many of them are men.
They’re single men who have been dumped by a girlfriend or divorced by a wife. I have never been able to make that happen. There’s also a phenomenon>The singles who are thriving are the ones who have friends, family, and community are talking and planning Golden Girl-like scenarios for their future because they recognize that they can’t be on their own.
The next group that is at risk is the traditional nuclear family. That becomes this little insulated world where that other person is your everything. That’s great because there’s that person in the middle of the night. You don’t even have to call them. They’re sitting in bed, “Honey, I’m sick. I’m afraid.” This seems so wonderful and great until that person divorces you or that person dies which happens at a very high frequency. 1 in 3 marriages ended in divorce and in 1 in 2 couples, that someone dies. If you have been putting all your eggs in that one basket, now you’re in the same position as that single person who doesn’t have someone to call in the middle of the night when they’re sick or afraid.
That community is such a big piece. Not that men don’t get to participate in it, they can. I just think that there are a lot of stigmas. It’s hard to make friends as a guy and you can’t have those emotional conversations. You don’t get to really practice on that.
We can create our community like letting our barriers down and being emotional and saying, “I had a bad day. I’m going to come cry.” A guy can’t do that or can but probably less.
Homophobia is terrible for heterosexual men. It means you can’t hold your male friend’s hand when he’s crying. You can’t embrace him and let him cry on your shoulder. Yet you’d be totally comfortable doing that. A man be comfortable doing that with another woman or two women together perhaps. I recognize how we veered into a very heteronormative world here.
Nonetheless, my point about this is that it’s hard. It’s hard to find someone whom you connect very closely with. It’s hard to not put everything into that relationship when you do it because that’s what the world says you ought to be doing even though it’s a brand-new invention. Hundreds of years ago, if you were married in an extended family, there were likely uncles, aunts, grandparents, and elders or other people around. If one person left or one person died, Uncle Pete’s still here. There’s still a figure like that in your life.
To wrap up this point, a member of the community wrote, “Anecdotally, my observations are as follows. Socially and culturally, it has become safer to explore and express very hidden desires and support to do so more easily.” I think that idea, and then two, “Women are looking for more robust emotional connections and have a greater curiosity about people they’re interested in.” That observation captures these two forces that are fueling some of this rise.
You can expand that into anybody within the queer community as far as the emotional capacity. That’s something that I have realized. It’s been a little bit of a revelation as I’ve had these conversations with people within the queer community that they all seem to be elevated in a way. It’s because anybody who’s gone through the process of coming out and figuring that out about themselves have had a reckoning internally. They’ve had to look inward and do the work. Come to grips with it and make that decision to put it out into the world. All of that in itself gives you a little bit of a greater emotional depth as a person. I’m excited to be a part of the community for that reason because I feel like it has so much more range of truly good people.
People who are better at communicating are more in tune to what their desires are and their values. You know that because they’re going against the grain. They’re having to be vulnerable and own this and so that is something that does elevate you. It’s easy to go along. I talk about this with solos all the time. Solos are unconventional because they question whether the relationship escalator is right for them. If you’re asking if that’s right for you, then you are often asking, “Are these other things right for me? How should I be working? What should be the nature of my other types of relationships? What should my lifestyle be like?” and so on.
You’re just thinking outside of the default.
It’s not easy to do. The moment you start thinking outside the default, at best, you get treated like a curiosity and at worst, it’s a moral issue and you’re judged negatively for it. Harshly, oftentimes. If you’re a member of the queer community, there could be physical risks associated with it. It can be professional risks associated with it and so it’s an act of bravery to embrace this and to own and be authentic about it. That’s great.
Let’s finish with a piece of advice. If there’s someone reading right now whom this resonates with, this makes sense. They’ve had these struggles. They feel connected in ways that the world has told them are not right or are a passing dalliance or something. It’s just a college thing or whatever that they had. What advice would you give these people who are considering exploring this? Where do they start? How should they be thinking?
The first thing would be to question what makes you nervous about it or who you are afraid to tell. Your family is one thing and I feel like that is something that affects a lot of people within the queer community and you can’t do too much about that. That could be a very hard thing to overcome. That’s out of your control. Within the people, your chosen family, within your friends and friend group, who would be someone that you would be afraid to tell or that you feel like you couldn’t tell? The question is, why are they your friends? Why are they in that position?
I feel like you should be able to be with people that would love you no matter what and would support you no matter what. Even if it’s a religious thing or something that they don’t morally agree with, would they still be okay with you as a person? Can you have that conversation with them and will they still treat you with respect and things like that? I don’t know. Work on that maybe first and so that you can feel that safety and moving forward and coming out if that’s what you want to do.
It sounds to me too, if I could add to that, as you think about where would you be nervous. Where would you not be nervous?
Exactly and go to that person.
Rachel just mentioned it in passing to me that you were bisexual and that you started dating women. It wasn’t like, “I need to tell you something.” You’re like, “I went on this date with this woman.” It went something like that. I was like, “How’d it go?”
It was very easy.
Who are those people who just go, “Okay?”
If you’re on one of the dating apps, just toggle that switch. It’s that easy.
It is in a sense because you don’t have to fully commit. That’s why the term bi-curious exists. You just want to explore this. You get to decide what your sexuality is like. In the same way, you get to decide whether you’re going to even date or not to begin with.
Honestly, if you are more bi-curious, still you switch over on the app or whatever match with someone and just tell them. Just say, “That’s what I did with the first dates that I went on. I’m very new to dating women. I’m not sure what I’m doing here. I’m just trying to figure it out.” It was received with a lot of grace and love. It made it very easy. Just be honest and you want to go on a date with someone who would be okay with that.
Lead with honesty on that if you’re not as afraid. I was more like IDGAF like what you think.
I have a hard time imagining you being intimidated by this choice.
It was more of a strip fear of judgment or anything of that way, but the fear that I had was within myself of showing up and like, “Can you just be your authentic self?” Just go in. If you’re nervous, be nervous. If you’re scared, be scared. If you are having a good time, have a good time but you don’t have to put on the mask that you do. At least in my instance, I never felt like I had to wear the mask in those dates that I was on.
I could be myself and it was almost like a mirror. You want that in a relationship as you want someone to mirror you, your energy, and what you’re putting out. It was great that they put in equal, if not more effort, into a date that I would put in with any sex of partners. That was something that was refreshing for me. If anything, show up and be your authentic self. That’s what you want to do in any type of dating relationship, men, women, non-binary, or otherwise.
Hearing you talk sounds exciting that you get to, maybe for the first time in a long time, just be yourself.
That could improve your relationship with men too if you are bi-curious, so you don’t feel like you have to put on. I don’t know why I ever felt and maybe that’s a whole another show, but why do you feel like you have to put on a show for men? That was how I felt about it but now it’s going to allow me to be more authentic in a lot of relationships.
I don’t think that any one gender has a feeling that they have to behave in a certain way. That way might not be completely consistent with how they want to behave. I have no advice.
That’s probably a good thing.
This is an exciting time for people as we start to allow people to make choices for what works for them rather than what works just for society. I appreciate the two of you showing up, sharing your stories, being vulnerable, and perhaps inspiring some people who are reading to explore this. At the very least, just feel like they’re not alone in this experience that there are other people who are having it and are finding that is helping them live a remarkable life.
Thanks for having us on.
Thank you, Peter.
- Rachel Beisel
- Relationship Sponsor – Past episode
- Pew Center report – Bisexuals are far less likely to be ‘out’ to the important people in their life
- Melanie Notkin – Past episode