Is my boyfriend gay?

Dear Alice,

I'm worried about my boyfriend. A lot of people have told me that he is probably gay, because he looks good and most guys who look real good are. I didn't believe any of it at all because he doesn't act or talk gay. The ones telling me this are also guys. Could it be that they are jealous? Because I'm getting ready to believe it. I say that because every time we are alone, he knows how to get me really turned on, he gets me turned on, and then refuses to "DO" anything.

What's going on? Is he or is he not?

Dear Reader,

It can be difficult to know what and who to listen to when everyone is giving you their "two cents" ­— whether or not you ask for it! While others may have you wondering about whether your boyfriend is truly into you, keep in mind that you two are the only people who are actually in the relationship. Being honest and straightforward with each other is essential to building and maintaining a healthy and trusting relationship. This may include talking about personal topics that may be a bit uncomfortable for either of you, whether it's about his sexuality or sexual preference, your level of sexual satisfaction, or any other issues in, and out of, the bedroom. It's also worth noting a person's sexual orientation can't be determined by their appearance, their clothes, the way they speak, or other personal gestures. The idea of looking, acting, or speaking "gay" is rooted in stereotypes, and only your boyfriend can say whether or not he is gay. The way he dresses or even his engagement in sexual activities with you aren't reflective of his sexual orientation. 

First, time to dig into about the rumors you've been hearing: there are many stereotypes of what a person who identifies as gay "should" look or act like. However, identifying as gay is only a sexual orientation and isn't a reliable insight into a person’s character, behavior, or actions. There are plenty of folks of all sexual orientations who take pride in their appearance, and assuming that dressing well is synonymous with identifying as gay is an example of bias, whether it be conscious or unconscious. These biases can further perpetuate negative stereotypes about different groups of people and have the potential to adversely impact their lives. Thus, it's critical to be aware of these biases, continuously make an effort to examine them, and adjust behaviors accordingly in order to treat everyone fairly and with respect.

You may want to consider talking with your boyfriend about your concerns. Before doing so, clarifying what those concerns are may be helpful. Other than the rumors, do you have any other reasons to believe he is gay? Do you have other issues with your relationship, such as having less physical intimacy than you would like? Answering these questions may help you figure out how you want to navigate the discussion. Moreover, if you're nervous about starting the conversation, it could be beneficial to role-play with a friend beforehand. Additionally, you may also want to have a conversation with the guys who are telling you your boyfriend is gay. If you're uncomfortable with their comments, you can assert your right to let them know that commenting on your relationship isn't appropriate. Their comments could be coming from a number of places, ranging from jealousy to genuine concern to just being plain difficult. Whatever the intention, you have a right to not have to hear about it from them if you don't want to. Letting them know how you feel about their comments may allow you to get a sense of their motivation behind their speculation.

Finally, the fact that your boyfriend doesn’t "do" anything after turning you on doesn’t mean that he's gay. Instead, he may not feel ready to engage in sexual activity past a certain point yet, or maybe he enjoys and is aroused by intimacy without sex (however the two of you define it). There may be many other reasons for him to not initiate sex or other activities, but the best way to find out why is to ask him. Being frank, open, and caring of yourself, as well as of your boyfriend, will likely get you the information you need to make the best decision for yourself and your relationship.

Best of luck to you,

Last updated Feb 11, 2022
Originally published Nov 20, 1998

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