Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sexual Disorientation: Am I Gay, Bisexual, Straight or Somewhere in Between?

So many men who read Straight Guise tell me that my discussions of straight men who have sex with men ( SMSMs) confuses them because before coming out, gay and bisexual men are often in denial and convince themselves that they are 100% straight.

I even receive e-mails, some of them hostile, from gay men who accuse me of keeping gay and bisexual men closeted by citing the ways in which men might still be straight and have sex with men.

They often write, in effect, “If I had read Straight Guise during the years I was in denial and lying to myself, I’d have felt comfort in thinking I was straight and gone on leading an inauthentic heterosexual life.”

For them, staying closeted was fraught with lying to themselves that they were essentially straight, with simply a “kinky” side or that their sexual interests were just that—sexual—and not about their identity. They now have great remorse over the lost years when they could have lived as openly gay men. The trauma of staying closeted was so painful that it strikes a nerve to learn that it’s possible to go through all that and still be straight.

I understand their strong reactions: The trauma of suppressing their identity is so profound that reading Straight Guise can prompt symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, reminding them of their horrible experiences of being closeted and of all the deprogramming it took them to understand they were truly gay.

To me, that all makes perfect sense: I, too, had to go through the very same coming out and deprogramming process as a gay man during my coming out years!

No doubt, the experiences I address in Straight Guise parallel the experiences that every gay man—and some bisexual men--can relate to. Secrecy, shame, hiding, lying, self-hate and self-blame are the very things straight men who have sex with men present in the therapy room.

Differences Between Gay, Bisexual and Straight Men Who Have Sex With Men

There are major differences between SMSMs and gay and bisexual men. Straight men who admit and come out as having sex with other men are usually not anti-gay or homophobic. They do not tell their therapists or people they trust, “I hate fags!” In fact, they usually have gay friends, support and affirm lesbians and gays they know and the gay civil rights movement in general.. They’ve often have read books on coming-out process to see if they are going through that process themselves and to understand what it is to live as a gay man.

Whatever shame and self-hatred these SMSMs are coping with does not arise from homophobia, but from their acting on impulses that are incongruent with their heterosexual orientation.

In other words, they are experiencing something like an addiction, a mood disorder, a chemical disorder or some other compulsion that causes them to go against their own will, repeatedly, and is interfering with their life. They cannot accept it, not out of denial regarding their true identity, but because it is not their true nature the way it would be if one were truly gay or bisexual.

True, some SMSMs are anti-gay and homophobic, straining their masculine muscles to ward off any trait that may appear gay or effeminate. This, too, parallels the dynamic gay men display who resist their homosexual identity and so “protest too much” to attempt to disown that there is anything gay about them. But these are not the SMSM’s who seek treatment and who I write about on the Straight Guise website and blog.

Another difference is that gay and bisexual men recall having sexual interests and crushes on other males during their childhoods, teen years and even in college. Heterosexual men who have sex with men do not have these type of memories. They might have memories of having sexual experiences with other males—some of which are a result of sexual abuse—but it is not erotic for them as is their recall of interest in females once they hit puberty. For them they have always been sexually and romantically interested and aroused by women. Their sexual behavior with other men is episodic, situational, spontaneous and momentary. For gay and bisexual men, the sexual desire is enduring and is connected to a romantic, affectional and psychological desire to connect with another man.

How do I know if I’m one of the SMSMs,
or if I’m truly gay or bisexual and in the closet?

I can’t know for sure what is true or right for you. Only you will discover that as you read and experience things related to sexuality. But I can tell you some things that I’ve learned from my 24 years of treating men and their sexuality issues:

1. Gay men enter the coming out process and recognize their identity not
when they have sex with other men but when they fall in love with other men. Men
can rationalize that their sexual behavior is a bit “kinky” or different but
when he begins to feel romantic desire for another male—in addition to sexual
desire--he then has to consider it is more than just about sex.

2. For
closeted gay men their depression and anxiety arise from being out of integrity
within themselves and from living an inauthentic life related to their identity.
This “out of integrity” dynamic is also true of SMSMs—their behavior goes
against their true orientation—but it is not related to their identity. SMSMs do
not feel compelled to--nor desire to--have a romantic relationship with another

3. No matter how much they read about or investigate the gay
culture, it never feels like a true fit for them. SMSM’s feel a desire only for
the sexual acts with other men. Typically, gay and bisexual men will say they
enjoyed the other guy and whatever they did with him, while the SMSMs enjoy the
sex alone. The other man is irrelevant.

Of course, gay and bisexual men
also have encounters that are only about sex, where the other man is
irrelevant—an insignificant other. It’s also common for heterosexual
men to have sex with women just “to get their rocks off.” The woman is

But for these gay, bisexual and straight men, that is not always true or
the norm. They will have periods of genuine romantic interest in the person they
hook up with. However, SMSMs never feel any interest in the other male as a
person--only for the sexual act between them. The encounter is strictly sexual, often involving a heightened sexualization of
a certain act, fetish, sexual scene or part of the body.

4. If a man
having sex with other men is authentically gay, his identity will eventually
surface, whether or not he wants it to. When a gay or bisexual man calls me for
therapy and wants to stay closeted and remove any shame or guilt they have about
their homosexuality, I always warn him that the more he talks about his
homosexuality, the harder it will be to keep himself closeted. Ultimately, his coming out process will get activated. He will want to come out and
won’t be able to hold back his identity.

It is reductionistic to assume that having sex with the same gender, in and of itself, makes someone gay or bisexual. That seems to be the worst form of homophobia, contributing to the myth—seized on by reparative therapists and others heterosexists—who define homosexuality as merely sexual behavior.

Being gay or bisexual entails much more than just sex. If a gay or bisexual man never engaged in sexual behavior for the rest of his life, he would still be gay, because that is his identity, not a description of how he behaves.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article, Joe. I have a 40 year old friend struggling with who he is. After reading the article I don't know his orientation AND it will certainly give him some questions and concerns to focus on as he continues his path.

Greg said...

Hi, Joe!

Bless you for the amazing work that you do. This article will inspire many to think openly about this sensitive topic.

Greg Halpen
Relationship Coach
Relationship Success! Mentor

Joe Kort said...

I am glad it is helpful!

Anonymous said...


First, I thank you for this article (I think?). If I took this article in and of itself, my long struggling question of 30 some odd years is answered. I'm bisexual. Perhaps with a leaning toward gay more. It is hard to say because I am sexually drawn to men and romantically, but I seem more emotionally drawn toward women.

Joe, my problem is that I tend to romanticize the best friend/brother aspect with men, the masculine, and the male body. But I'm far more fed by the emotional side of the woman, I wouldn't mind sex with her, and I would love child birth with a woman. I know what it is to be in love and be affirmed by a woman and it's uplifting. But when I settle with one side or the other, I feel the pain of the loss of "the other side". So I'm playing with both.

I'm scared with the women that I will hurt her either through unfaithful eyes or acts with men because I'm more interested in them typically, and I'm scared with men that I will live in regret if I take a man. My focus seems unclear, maybe in the wrong place.

Any insight?

Anonymous said...

A very insightful blog entry Joe but i have one question:

for me, i feel the potential to feel romantically about men, despite never having done so

The idea of romance with a man doesn't disgust me, and i feel that if i frequented with homosexual men i would probably begin to feel romantically for them. But this doesn't disguise the fact i have never in my entire life had a romantic thought about another man

What do i call myself then? Bisexual? Potentially bisexual? In denial? You can see how confusing this is

Joe Kort said...

It is confusing I agree. I think the best anyone can do is to be armed with the best information that exists about sexual and romantic orientation and then see for themselves what is right for them.

I am going a presentation in March called "Sexual Dis-orientation" because it truly is confusing.

Anonymous said...

I would like to ask a question but I don't want my name or address published, can I do this?

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who's husband doesn't have sex with her much like once a month if that sometimes, he has had an encounter with a man do you think he is gay or just experimenting? Is she crazy for staying with him? When she's not home he goes on chat lines and talks to gay guys and asks them to hook up but he doesn't anymore but he did, what is your thoughts on this one....

Anonymous said...

I write a lot about these topics and find it interesting how much of this behavior is attributable to childhood sexual abuse. I understand the rationale, but have difficulty believing that all of it is tied to abuse. I do agree, however, that sexual boundaries are fluid and also agree with you that bisexuality, in particular, is tied to same sex emotional connections. Nice work.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article, it doesn't make me feel any clearer about what is going on in my head but it at least gives me another perspective on what is happening to me and what I might be.

Joe Kort said...

I am glad it helped you try to articulate what you might be Annonymous. Only YOU can know what you are with the right guidance and education about what is possible. Keep on your journey and you will discover your own authentic sexuality.

Anonymous said...

I recently found out that my husband had hooked up with another man. It was very anonymous (he didnt even get his name). My husband claims that it is the one and only time he has done this. He was curious and although he did enjoy it, it wasnt all that he thought it could be. He says he is in love with me and we have a good sex life. Your article has helped me better come to terms with what happened. I was fearing that he was gay and living in denial. I don't want that for either of us. I have one question and am hoping you can answer it. Can he stop having sex with men? Man or woman, cheating is not conducive to a good marriage.

Joe Kort said...

Whether or not your husband will have sex with another man again depends on so many things he would have to explore whether it had anything to with the following:

1. Coming out gay/bisexual process

2. History of sexual abuse

3. Sexual addiction

What made him do it needs to be understood so that he can either prevent it from happening again or recognize it is related to a coming out process in which case it will happen again. I am speaking in general terms but this is what I have seen when men are coming out gay and bisexual.

I hope that helps.

Anonymous said...


So my husband was the one that hooked up and your response was spot on. He has done it again and he himself is not sure why. He is sexually aroused by women and obviously by men as well. What I have a hard time with is the deception and the fact that it is cheating now matter how you slice it. We need help. He needs to understand why he is doing this and I guess I do as well Know anyone in the Dallas area that is skillful enough in this area to help us? Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Not to be a pervert here, but I would consider myself a straight guy, given I don't think I could fall for a man like I do a woman but I would say the only thing that makes me want to be another guys girlfriend so to speak is the prostate stimulation and orgasm from it. I often date bisexual women and I have tried the prosthetic devices and all but the most intense orgasm came from breaking down and letting my friend give it to me. I was never sexually abused or anything, I saw a movie once with a girl and a prosthetic penis and the male actor had an orgasm from that alone and I got curious. I wouldn't seek therapy at all because I make it a point to date women who are attracted to male same sex acts, so it works out okay in my case.

Anonymous said...

"they are experiencing something like an addiction, a mood disorder, a chemical disorder or some other compulsion that causes them to go against their own will"

Neither love nor lust are mood disorders. I would say it is a disorder to not seek what you want most. And people want to love and have sex, which is perfectly normal.

"Secrecy, shame, hiding, lying, self-hate and self-blame are the very things straight men who have sex with men present in the therapy room." Certainly gay men present these symptoms too?

"Their sexual behavior with other men is episodic, situational, spontaneous and momentary"

Perfectly normal. To suggest that sort of behavior is limited to gay people is ridiculous.

"For gay and bisexual men, the sexual desire is enduring and is connected to a romantic, affectional and psychological desire to connect with another man."

You're begging the question here.

I am not saying "sexual dis-orientation" is not worthy of study, due to the conflicting emotions and relationship issues, but--and I can't say it lightly--you need think about this some more before you go starting a blog about this issue.

Joe Kort said...

To Annonymous who made October 14, 2009 12:34 AM entry:

I appreciate your feedback. What I don't respect is your judgment that a blog like this should not exist.

I don't pretend to know everything on this issue and I do beleive it needs to be addressed and that I want to do it and invite discussion whether it be agreed upon or disagreed upon.

I don't agree that a blog like this should exist until all the facts are in place as you suggest.

I wonder why you made your entry annonymous? I am not afraid to be exposed in terms of not knowing all about this issue and being challenged. Are you?

Anonymous said...

my boyfriend just told me that he has had sex with many men in his past. He is a young guy of only 31 years. He tells me that he loves me and that he doens't want guys anymore and that the only reason he ever engaged in sexual acts with men is becasue he was extrememly desparate and depressed.
He has not dated many girls in the past and I am wondering if it is becasue he is secretly gay. He has not been abused (to my knowledge) but I know that he masturbates quite often. Should I be concerned?

trayce said...

I have a boyfriend and we have been off and on since I found out he posted an ad on craigslist men seeking men (and other stuff). It has been ongoing since we met over a year ago. Each time he says he will quit, which of course has not happened. I am trying to understand what is going on. He sure can't tell me other than "I don't know". How do u not know? This is crazy, he has been doing this long before me. I know about it, but he will not fully come out and talk to me. I told him I need to try and understand this if he wants us to be together, which he does.