Bisexuality in The Locker Room

Here’s the rundown:

1. Someone notable came out as being homosexual

2. Someone wrote about their discomfort in locker rooms

I’ve written about this in the past and have gotten some flack for my lack of empathy. This is why: Some people feel uncomfortable being in a dressing room with people who are homosexual. They don’t want to be “looked at” by people who are attracted to them. So while I might not be able to express empathy, let me express some understanding, or sympathy even. I get that it might be uncomfortable to think that there are people in the dressing room looking at you. Dressing rooms can be a breeding ground for insecurity and discomfort. You’re in a place where people are getting naked and taking care of personal things. The feelings that you have are valid. The problem is that we need to look at why we as human beings might feel the way that we feel and how they might invalidate others around us.

Let me make it personal. When someone says “I don’t want to share the ladies locker-room with someone who likes girls” I hear “You’re bisexual and I don’t want you to ogle me.” It presumes that, as someone who is bisexual or homosexual, you can be reduced to your sexuality as someone who simply leers at those they are attracted to. That might not be how someone feels when they are saying things like that, but it could be how it’s interpreted by the people they are talking about.

What is frustrating about it is that people have had these conversations with me unknowing that I am bisexual. They were comfortable with me, but were I to disclose that I was not entirely heterosexual, they would no longer feel comfortable.

When I’m in the locker room I’m not thinking about how cute naked girls are and how I want to go bang one. I’m thinking about my workout, how I smell, what I look like, my training goals. I’m thinking about what the combination for my lock is or where I tucked my second sock. I’m not staring at your breasts because I’m a perverted lesbian, I’m staring off into the distance thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner. I have the common courtesy to give you your privacy and space just as you would expect someone who is heterosexual to do.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a chance that I’m going to see what you look like naked. Anyone in there, gay, straight, or bi is going to see what you look like naked. And perhaps a stolen glance out of passing human curiosity for what-someone-else-looks-like-naked happens. But it’s not about sex, or your sexual orientation. I would suspect that most decent and respectable people would look away when they caught themselves looking.

I’m not saying you can’t feel discomfort thinking about it but I think it’s important to think about the experiences other people have as well and how we might be a little bit demonizing when we talk about this. Is this solution to split up dressing rooms for gay? straight? trans? cis? bisexual? sexually fluid? male? female? how many do we need for everyone to feel properly comfortable? Can we learn to manage our internal conflict and look at human beings as decent or invasive regardless of what their gender and sexual orientation are? That’s what I try to do, and I think it’s a good goal.

How do you deal with locker room discomfort? Do you grab a private room or do you bare it all out in the open?

8 Comments Add yours

  1. I love your blog so much. When it comes to tolerance and understanding (and eloquence), you really are an incredible model to aspire to.

    Thanks so much for writing 🙂

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    1. suggestivetongue says:

      Thank you for reading!

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  2. c says:

    This is such a great post!! I love your point about regardless of your orientation, people are naturally curious and it’s possible someone is going to sneak a peek at you. I am fortunate that I go to a very small gym where hardly anyone goes And yet I still go into the bathroom stall to change on the off chance that someone might walk in while I’m changing. Pure discomfort with being naked anywhere…especially in a semi public place.

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    1. suggestivetongue says:

      I think it’s great that there are stalls available for people who don’t feel comfortable baring it all. I think we could have gender-netural dressing rooms and just have stalls for everyone. The concept of undressing so publicly to begin with is an interesting one that I’ve never really challenged. I myself am fairly indifferent to it, but for a country that is so ashamed of nudity, why DO we use dressing rooms in the ways that we do?

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      1. c says:

        And why are we so uptight about sex and nudity this country?!?! I’m definitely glad I have the option to undress behind a door. But there’s no reason why I can’t undress in the open. I’m working on my comfort level with myself.

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  3. Megan says:

    I have no problems in locker rooms baring it all – and never have. I am proud of the way I am built and shaped. I recently took another woman to task for criticizing another obviously pregnant woman for displaying her beautiful bump after a shower. We were talking together (naked of course) and she was a beautiful sight and it was one time that I wished I was pregnant just to look like her.
    At school there was a deal of concern among some girls (12/14) who were shy about exposing themselves but most soon adjusted to the fact they were no different to anybody else.
    Puberty was a difficult time for some as we matured at different ages and the fact hair was either non existent or blossoming caused some comment. I was cautioned for shaping my hair down there and for a time was not allowed to shave or shape it.
    Now I am an adult and a nudist i have no problems in being seen naked.

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  4. Jasmine says:

    First of all, I’d like to say this is a very well written text, you exactly put into words what I think.
    I just wanted to ask you something. You mentioned you were bisexual and you seem to be very confident about it.
    Well I’m bisexual too and I’m about to come out. Although I’ve already “checked” my friends’ attitudes towards non-heterosexuals and they (my friends) turned out to be very open-minded and wise about this issue (Okay, I must admit it wasn’t as easy as I’ve just described it, actually I kind of “moved into” another circle of friends since my former best friend (I call her my former best friend despite the fact we still get along pretty well because I reckon our relationship will become more aloof after I have come out) is in my “old” circle of friends and always drops something along the lines of “Oh, I’m so glad all my friends are heterosexual”, “Oh, I woudn’t hug a girl if I knew she was gay” or “Oh, I think gay people shoudn’t be allowed to marry or show public attraction towards each other to protect the children”), I’m still very afraid of coming out because of the fact that I’m in a swimming club, to be exact in the “DLRG” (“Deutsche Lebensrettungsgesellschaft”, german for “German life-saving association”). As I spend a lot of my free time there it’s a big part of my life. I get along with my friends there very well. It’s not just about swimming, our trainers often organise partys and stuff for the ones who are active as life guards (in the swimming bath etc.). It’s like a big community and what I like the most about our “Ortsgruppe” (I don’t know how to tranlate this into English) is that there is not this ubiquitous rivalry. You know, in all the other swimming clubs I know it’s all about who’s the fastest and who’s the strongest and you’re kinda excluded when you’re not that good, but in our club you can contribute otherwise to the prosperity of the club, by organising something for example or by just being a (more or less) good life guard.
    Well, as you may have guessed, there are only changing rooms for many people in our swimming bath, otherwise my problem woudn’t exist.
    I’m very afraid of the reaction of the other girls, even though I get along with them well. Maybe they’ll get uncomfortable knowing there’s someone bisexual in the cabin and don’t treat me the way they used to. It would really suck if I woudn’t feel comfortable anymore to go there, because I really don’t want to loose this part of my life.
    So..what do you think? What shall I do?
    I hope you don’t find it too weird that I’m treating you like some changing-rooms-issues-expert, but I don’t know who I should ask for advise instead. I’d be genuinely grateful if you took the time to reply to my question, it would be so nice.
    Btw I’ve never glanced at the girls in the changing rooms or something, in my opinion that’s somehow not fair for them.
    I apologise if there are any mistakes in this text, English unfortunatley is not my mother tongue, hence possible mistakes.

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    1. ST says:

      Thanks for reading! I think your reaction is very normal. It’s easy to say: “just come out, it’s good for everyone to come out, it helps people to come out, be who you are, screw the people who don’t understand it.” I think you’ve made some good first steps in removing the people from your life who aren’t tolerant of who you are. I also think that the reality is much more difficult, especially once you start going through the process of coming out. It’s possible that these people won’t accept you. It’s possible some people will feel uncomfortable. It’s possible that it will influence your life in ways that you haven’t planned for or can’t plan for.

      If I were you I would start coming out in ways that made you feel comfortable. Maybe start by telling people you trust and know will be more likely to understand what you’re telling them. You don’t need to take it upon yourself to be the explainer of bisexuality, but some people may be helped by that if you are able to explain it, or even just knowing you or knowing you are bisexual might help them think of it in a better light. Others won’t understand and some people won’t accept or won’t listen if you offer insight. That’s on them, not on you.

      I wouldn’t feel pressured to do it all at once as some great gesture of “and this is who I am.” You can just let it be a part of you, which it already is. When relevant, bring it up. When not relevant, why bother? Is it necessary that your entire social group knows your sexuality? (Maybe it is, for you!) I’m not sure if that makes sense. You can take it at your own pace, I guess is what I’m saying. And you can try to communicate it in ways that make sense to you.

      I don’t know what to say about the negative reactions you may likely receive other than I think it takes a lot of strength to be who you are and to accept and love who you are and that you deserve people and groups of people in your life who feel similarly. Good luck in whatever way you decide to do it, whenever you decide to do it.

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