I Was Queerbaited By My Girlfriend
You may have heard the term queerbaiting to refer to a television show (or some other media) attempting to woo queer viewers by hinting at a queer relationship without ever following through. You may have also heard it used in reference to politicians or public figures pointing out completely irrelevant details of someone’s sexuality in order to divert attention from themselves or to use a homophobic audience to their advantage. Neither of these forms of queerbaiting are particularly nice or helpful for queer people.
There is another type of queerbaiting that isn’t as well-known, but has been a problem for me when dating. It’s the queerbaiting of someone who continually expresses their interest in a person of the same sex, i.e. telling them how attracted to them they are, without having any intention of following through. I’m not specifically talking about sexual interactions, I’m talking about in the dating world. I’m a bi woman who has frequently faced the problem of being treated like someone’s accessory when it comes to same-sex dating. This is in no way an attack on anyone’s claim of the bi-label, only you know if you are bi, this is simply my personal experience.
It all started with a dating app (feel free to groan). I matched with this really sweet, cute, funny, passionate, and somewhat intense woman who said she was looking for the same thing as me: she was seeking a girlfriend, long term, who is familiar and comfortable with the poly dynamic. To me, that meant our relationship would be supplemental to our primary relationships, but just as important. To her, that meant she would get the benefit of having a best friend who was undyingly loyal to her and she could parade me around to gain praise from people–specifically the men in her life.
Right off the bat she was romantic, and would casually mention her desire to be physical with me. She would give me just enough to keep me hooked, with writings of sweet nothings and crafty collages of women with the suggestion of her being head over heels for me. I’ve always been the type of person who jumps all the way into a relationship, and does everything I can to make them feel special and beautiful and wanted.
For nearly three years I followed after her like a lost puppy, and even after she disappeared from my life for nearly a year I welcomed her back and accepted her reasoning as to why she had ghosted me. I fell right back into letting her be a huge part of my life because I really did believe that she had only left me because her boyfriend wasn’t comfortable with us being together.
I started to notice a pattern, though. She was only in my life when she needed me or something from me: a date to an event, a place to stay after she left her boyfriend of two years, to use my gym membership, etc. Knowing how I felt about her, she felt free to use whatever I had because I was devoted to her. She intentionally placed our relationship on a romantic level rather than staying friends, but continued to treat me like a friend. She essentially had me on a leash with this promise of affection that she never had any intentions of fulfilling. This too is queerbaiting.
And the more devoted to her I was, the less affection I got. We were hardly ever physical, kissing or otherwise, unless a.) she and I were drunk and she felt handsy, or b.) I had talked about maybe just being friends because that was all we felt like. A few times I had tried to express to her that I just wasn’t comfortable with the relationship, and she would talk me down. Over and over she expressed how much this relationship meant to her, and that the lack of affection or anything sexual was just because she was cautious about being sexual with people.
I understood that, and sex wasn’t really all that important to me. What made it so hard to understand was how much she brought up sexual things, or was sexual towards me… but only when there were other people around to witness it. The one time we did sleep together she made a point to tell me it wasn’t happening again with the excuse that she was still with the boyfriend who was uncomfortable with us being intimate. This was so confusing because she had initiated it and then expressed her worry that someone nearby had heard us, and then seemed disappointed that they hadn’t. Not only was she keeping me on a hook, she was baiting everyone around us.
When she left her primary male partner of two years she told me she was going take a break from men to focus on our relationship. I was optimistic. I figured with him no longer in the picture we could finally actually build our relationship. That isn’t what she did, though. Immediately, she made a Tinder profile and started talking to new people. That didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that the more attention she got from them, the less we talked. It got to the point where even though we were living together I hardly saw her or heard from her until she needed my help with the new guy she was talking to. About three months later she moved in with him and ghosted me again. Despite saying she didn’t want to be physical with me because she was cautious she had reached that point in their relationship within a couple weeks of knowing him, and even though I never want to make anyone feel bad about sex it did hurt to feel like she was willing to be intimate with anyone other than me. That line of thinking is ridiculous, but love makes people irrational. It came down to the fact that I was a fetish for her rather than an actual partner.
I realized I wasn’t the only person she’d done this to, and all of them were female. She had told me about her past girlfriends, and she followed a precise pattern. She didn’t have many female friends, and I think it was because she used the guise of a relationship to keep them around, until they wanted more from the relationship at which point she would be gone. There is no devotion like that of someone who loves you and is under the impression that you love them back, is there? Especially when that person is a marginalized member of the queer community.
It was always very confusing for me when I started thinking over the relationship, and I really did think it was something I did wrong. I didn’t understand what, though. When she wanted to take it slow we did, and I never pushed the issue. It was one of my friends that finally pointed out it sounded like she had been queerbaiting me, and when they explained what they meant by that I was sitting there with my mouth open thinking what a fool I was.
I’m not saying every person who is experimenting or in the questioning stage is doing this. Far from that, I’m trying to call attention to the damaging effects of dishonesty, and the problem with our societal expectation that love must be romantic or that all romantic feelings have to be sexual. I truly do hope that people struggling with either side of this come to the realization of what’s happening and work to better themselves because we’re all human and we’re all messy.
The reason what she did was problematic and I consider it queerbaiting was because her intentions were not what she voiced when it came to me, and her actions never matched up with her words. When she would parade me around in front of her friends, she would shower me with compliments and express how her girlfriend was beautiful and desirable. Once there was no longer an audience, everything would change. She wasn’t attracted to me, she just wanted to be seen as desirable and to prove that she was bi, using me as a token instead of truly being interested in me romantically or sexually. Her inability to view our relationship as anything other than a fetish was very damaging behavior to both myself and the queer community in general. While it is always healthy and acceptable to explore your sexuality, it is not okay to use someone else’s queerness to make yourself more appealing to others. That is queerbaiting and it hurts everyone.