When You Date Men…and Women

I grew up in Texas and was not aware that women could have sex with other women until I was 18 years old. I assumed, based on myriad unspoken rules and experiences, that sexual gratification was only for men. My earliest crush was a boy named Caleb. The first time I saw him, he was doing some impressive physical comedy with an ironing board in our high school play. I was 15 and he was 17, and I’d never been so taken with anyone in my life.

At 22, I moved to New York to pursue acting and writing, and I soon became enamored with the female producer of a short film I’d been cast in. (I played a rat who sang Björk songs.) It was the first time I had ever had feelings for a woman and expressed it physically. At the time I remember thinking it was remarkable how soft she was, how intuitive, how much she searched for me in each moment. I had never had someone try to connect with me and explore me as a human being during intimacy. I soon realized that this was common among women, who taught me to value sexual closeness in a whole new way.

There is an old joke that goes, “What does a lesbian bring to a second date? A U-Haul.” When I was 24, my girlfriend, Mandy, and I felt like we had shown immense restraint in waiting a full year as girlfriends before moving in together. Mandy had another trait that many women possess: She was a highly adept communicator. She was vulnerable and open. She knew who she was and what she wanted, and was eager to share all parts of herself.We were once running in McCarren Park in Brooklyn, and before I knew it we were both crying in motion as we discussed how we felt about her last relationship for all of the track to hear and see. It didn’t matter where we were or what we were doing, if anything came up we addressed it head-on.

“I’ve come to realize that the things I require in a relationship are available in a special set of humans across many perceived gender lines.”

After Mandy and I broke up, I dated a much older man who happened to be a famous musician. It was exciting to explore a connection with a man again. I had grown up in an environment that taught me not to expect openness from men. But in my relationship with the musician, I quickly realized that those expectations were wrong. I didn’t know it was possible for someone of the opposite sex to be so communicative.We would have “pretend” therapy sessions, and go as deep as we were able into our personal histories and emotions. We also did intense meditations together, in which we would carry each other through healing moments. His drive to share and listen surprised me—and forever changed my outlook on human connection and my romantic needs.

I am now 33, and I consider myself pansexual. Through all of my dating and sexual experiences I’ve come to realize that the things I require in a relationship are available in a special set of humans across many perceived gender lines. It is precisely because of my own fluidity that I am even aware of those needs. My openness to men was culturally encouraged, but if I hadn’t embraced my attraction to women, all of my relationships would have suffered.

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