Dear Straight Guys, I’m Not Your Bro
It happened on Day 3 of my new job. I’d come out to my coworkers earlier that morning when they’d asked me the “Ooh! What kinds of things do you write?” question. Throughout the day, employees clocked in and clocked out and by the last hour it was just three straight men and me working together.
We wear headsets at work, which help us to better communicate with each other when we’re not side-by-side. While in the backroom running some dishes under hot water, there came a voice whispering into my right ear: “Hey, so, McKenna. What kind of girls are you into?” I looked up from the suds slowly, in the style of Jim from “The Office,” looking exasperated at a camera that wasn’t there.
This is something that I’ve experienced since first coming out at 18. Oftentimes, I come out as bi to a straight man, and his first thought is to ask “what kind of girls are you into?” or something equally as invasive. I don’t know why exactly; I can only guess it’s some kind of bonding attempt? This particular conversation usually leads me down a rabbit hole and into a world where straight dudes feel weirdly comfortable using inappropriate and misogynistic language around me.
This time I felt trapped by the situation of being new at work and trying to connect with my peers, I answered the question. I told them the honest truth; I’m not attracted to a particular kind of woman. I think women in general are great, and that when reflecting on those I’ve showed interest in in the past it becomes clear that I don’t really have a “type.” I did not follow up this simple answer by asking my coworkers what kind of women they are attracted to. Nevertheless, this led to a conversation in which these three straight, cisgender males talked about what kind of “chicks” they were into, and specifically, what race(s) of “chicks” they were into.
It was…deeply horrifying, but it wasn’t the first time. It brought me back to college when a man I barely knew decided it would be okay to tell me about what he felt was a sub-par oral sex experience from his girlfriend. I thought about the time when a friend-of-a-friend asked me about sex with people of my own gender and what my favorite part of the female body is. I remembered when a mere acquaintance told me one of our mutual female friends was “just so…ugly. Right?”
For several moments I just stood there at the sink wondering what is it about me that makes so many straight men think it’s okay to talk to me about this stuff at all, let alone before I’ve even had time to learn their last name. But I already knew the answer. It’s my sexuality. My identity as a bi woman somehow acts as a green light to them. It’s as if me being interested in women means that I myself register as less of a woman to them, and therefore I won’t and can’t be offended by what they’re saying. The attitude seems to be that I would want to join in—that I’d leap at the chance to see behind the curtain and be “just one of the guys!”
After realizing this, I began to ask around. I questioned all of my queer lady friends, asking if they’ve experienced the same phenomenon. It turns out that my case is far from rare. While listening to their stories, I learned that it didn’t just stop at wanting to know about our sex lives, or what kinds of women we’re attracted to, either. Being asked to be a “wingwoman” is another common request, and it’s one I’ve experienced many times myself.
While the idea of being a “wingwoman” to a friend of mine is something I can handle, (I have lovely friends and would enjoy setting them up with other lovely people) it’s a bit different when it’s coming from an-almost-total stranger. If I don’t know you, why would I feel comfortable helping to hook you up with my fellow women? I’m not going to endorse anything before I’ve done extensive research, and I’m certainly not going to throw my support behind some dude I barely know who’s trying to get into some woman’s pants. Plus, if you’re the guy who found out I’m bi and immediately began trying to talk to me about sex and/or what “chicks” I find hot, I’m not really going to want to help you get near any woman, ever.
Basically, straight guys, it’s like this: If you want to bond with me, just try doing it the normal way. Get to know me on a normal, human level. Let’s talk about our hobbies and Game of Thrones. Don’t treat me any differently simply because you find out I would also love the opportunity to date Megan Fox (who is bi, by the way, and would also disapprove of your weird bonding attempts).
Because if I know you – actually know you – of course I’ll talk about women with you. I do it with my father, my boyfriend, my brother, and my best friend all the time. But I actually know them. I don’t know you.
You’re a stranger and that means I don’t want to immediately know what you look for in a woman. I don’t want to learn about what turns you on. I don’t want you to ask me about my own turn-ons and sexual experiences. And I certainly don’t want to use my gender and sexuality to help you hook up.
I don’t know you, man. And just because you know I’m queer does not mean you know me.