Is This Normal? I'm Straight but I'm Crushing on a Girl
"I’ve never even had a crush on a woman—until recently."
You’ve got embarrassing, tricky, and otherwise unusual life questions. We’ve got answers. Welcome to Is This Normal?, a no-nonsense, no-judgment advice column from HelloGiggles, in which we tap experts to find out exactly how typical (or not) your situation is.
Dear Is This Normal?,
I’m 26 and I’ve always considered myself straight. I’ve had two serious relationships (both of which were with men), I’ve dated only men, and I’ve only had sex with men. I’ve never even had a crush on a woman—until recently.
I’m considered an essential worker and have started to develop feelings for one of my fellow coworkers who is a girl and openly gay. People have historically dated at our workplace, so that’s not the issue…The issue is that I can’t stop thinking about her, and I don’t know whether or not these feelings are valid. I still find men attractive. Does this make me bi? I just don’t understand how I could be straight one second and attracted to a woman the next. Please help!
Ah, I relate so much to your letter…mostly because I have been there. A few years ago, after a particularly bad breakup, I felt a strange desire to date women. My ex and I had dabbled in the threesome world, but I had always considered myself “heteroflexible.” I kissed girls when I was drunk, enjoying the novelty of same-sex makeouts, but never considered myself anything but straight. After all, I too had historically dated and had sex with men.
I started to marinate over my sexuality. Was I this or that? Straight or gay or maybe bisexual? Then I learned that pansexuality was a thing and was even more confused. I’d walk down the street and think, "Wow, that girl is cute." Another day, I’d have the same thought about a dude. Like you, I was especially confused because this attraction seemed to pop out of nowhere, and I wanted an answer. But I’ll be honest with you: You might not get one.
Our society has conditioned us to think of sexuality and gender as a very black-and-white thing. And any time we stray from that black-and-white thinking, society gets confused. Society has tried to keep up by adding labels for all different sorts of orientations and genders: pansexual, asexual, transgender, genderqueer, etc. But even with this wide buffet of labels, some folks might still find it hard to pick one.
I feel like this is you right now. Up until this point, you’ve thought your label was “straight,” and now you’re crushing on a girl and you don’t understand why. But lots of women, myself included, realize that they’re crushing on a woman at some point in their life. And like you (and me), many of these women consider themselves to be straight.
“One of the first things I point out to someone who is confused about their sexuality is the Kinsey scale,” says Lindsey Cooper, an associate marriage and family therapist who often works with young folks grappling to better understand and make sense of their sexuality. The Kinsey scale developed by Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy, and Clyde Martin is a heterosexual-homosexual rating scale. It was first published in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred C. Kinsey and accounts for findings that showed people who did not fit into exclusive heterosexual or homosexual categories. In other words, you aren’t just “straight” or “gay”—you could be a million things in between.
“Your sexuality doesn’t have to look like anything,” Cooper adds. “And you don’t need to have an answer.”
Oftentimes, people want a clear definition of their sexuality, but that’s not necessarily something we can always define, even if the media and pop culture make it look like we can.
I often think about how, when I was a child, the only relationships I was exposed to were heterosexual ones. In nearly every Mary-Kate and Ashley movie, the twins met cute boys. Lizzie McGuire had a crush on Ethan Craft. Cady Heron had Aaron Samuels. There was no sexual fluidity in our media, which is maybe why it makes it so hard to understand when we experience it ourselves. Maybe that’s why we want an answer. We want proof that it’s okay to be curious.
In one of her Instagram posts, queer artist Florence Given writes:
“Wish I knew earlier that my #GirlCrushes were actually just real, equally valid crushes like the ones I was encouraged to experience with men, and that sexuality is a spectrum enabling a person to feel attracted to ALL genders. There is so much shame behind being attracted to other women we literally have to call it a ‘girl crush’ to make sure people know we’re ‘not queer.’ Internalized homophobia squashed my queerness into a #girlcrush as if that’s all it is. YOUR QUEERNESS IS VALID. Your attraction to same-sex people does not require you to then define your sexuality if you don’t want to. It’s just a part of who you are.”
That said, if you’re still wondering whether or not to act on your crush, there are some things you can consider first before you do. According to Sarah Escalante, an associate clinical social worker, it's important to remember that queerness doesn't have to be defined in just one way; it can be defined differently for any one individual. “But I would personally define a legitimate girl crush as being attracted to that person on any level (emotional, intellectual, sexual, etc.), and that attraction is strong enough to develop a desire to have a romantic relationship with them," she explains.
After you consider the type of crush you have and decide that you do want to act on it, you might want to consider how you want to act on it to feel most comfortable. Do you want to share how you feel with them? Like any crush, it’s a risk to confess, and that’s a choice only you can make. If you do, you could say something like, “I have these feelings for you, and I’m not sure what to do about them.” That way, you’re being honest with her and with yourself.
Maybe this will be the only girl you ever crush on. Maybe you’ll like both girls and guys from here on out. In any case, these feelings are totally valid—and you are totally normal.