Ask a Queer Chick: Should I Shave My Legs So My Husband Is Attracted to Me?

Also: Am I gay, or do I stay with my boyfriend; and, how do I know when I'm bi?

[Photo: A person holds a razor far away from them]
Please do not grow out your hair or shave your legs just to make your husband happy. Shutterstock

Happy Pride Month! I hope your June is full of sunshine and rainbows, and also sunscreen, and that you’re remembering to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage, because getting drunk in 95-degree weather is no joke. Put the “Gay” in Gatorade! Stay hydrated! And now for some more advice:

I’m a queer woman married to a straight man and I could use some help.

Recently I felt my husband wasn’t as attracted to me as he had been before and asked him if that were true. He initially denied it, but then a few weeks later, during a conversation about sex, he admitted that he has felt less attracted to me lately for two reasons: because I grew out my leg hair over the winter and haven’t shaved it now that it’s summer, and because I’ve been tending more toward an androgynous look than my usual hard femme style in the last few months. Neither is out of the ordinary for me.

I appreciate his honesty in saying that as a straight man he’s “not that attracted to a boyish look.” But I still feel kind of hurt because, while I understand that he’s attracted to what he’s attracted to (although I really don’t get why leg hair is a problem), I feel like he wants me to tone down my queerness. My queerness is routinely erased by the world at large because I’m in an opposite-sex marriage, and while of course I want to be attractive to him, this is something I find it emotionally difficult to compromise on. 

What should I do?

You should start by having an extremely honest talk with your husband about what exactly you both agreed to when you got married. Did he think you were going to look more or less the same forever? One does not make a lifelong, legal commitment to someone because they have great hair. You and your husband—I deeply hope—got married in the full, shared understanding of the fact that people change. They gain or lose weight, they get a job with a different dress code, they get pregnant, they grow facial hair, they get sick or they go bald or they get really into CrossFit, and you’re there for all of it. Unless an aesthetic change represents an underlying shift in values that threatens your compatibility on a fundamental level, when the person you’ve chosen as your life partner looks different than they did when you met, you fucking deal with it.

Sure, physical preference and attraction play a big part in the beginning of a relationship, but by the time you’re getting legally entangled, one hopes you’ve developed a deeper connection than that. This is not some mysterious process beyond the realm of human understanding. You can cultivate attraction if it’s worth your while to do so. I’m not saying you consciously choose whether to be attracted to a random person you see in the grocery store, but in a long-term relationship, you should be able to draw from the deep well of emotional intimacy and shared experiences to water the delicate blossoms of horniness.

Your husband is being shitty. Whether or not he’s doing this consciously, he’s effectively policing your presentation and trying to keep your queerness invisible. “I’m not attracted to a boyish look” is a dumb argument: You’re a woman and this is how you look. If he (or his boner) believes that there are correct and incorrect ways for women to look, he needs to interrogate that shit, not put it on you to deal with. This is all stuff that the two of you need to talk through at some length. I’m also wondering why you initially suspected that he was less attracted to you, but if it’s because he was withholding affection or being distant without explaining why, that’s also worth talking about (and hopefully shutting down).

Please do not grow out your hair or shave your legs just to make your husband happy. To remind you of something you probably already know, SHAVING SUCKS. It’s inconvenient, time-consuming, and occasionally injurious. It is not worth doing unless YOU want to. Growing out short hair is actual hell on earth and should never be done for any reason except an authentic heartfelt desire for longer hair. This is not a garden-variety compromise—such as, say, not listening to Bikini Kill before breakfast—that people in cohabiting relationships have to make. It might seem like a small thing to alter your appearance for someone once, but as a relationship model, it’s totally untenable. I wish you the absolute best of luck helping your husband understand this.

So I’m from an incredibly conservative culture. My parents were never together, so I’ve never really had any examples of living relationships, and don’t know what that even means. I fantasize about girls, and sometimes about guys, but any time I watch porn it’s always girl-on-girl. I only like incredibly effeminate guys, and I’ve slept with a bunch of guys, but only ever kissed girls for things like truth or dare. I came out to my mom when I was 11, and she told me it was just a phase. I told my best friend a couple years later, and she reacted so negatively that I said it was a joke, and we’ve never spoken about it since then. I’m in a committed relationship with a really wonderful, sweet, generous guy. I’m happy in the relationship, and don’t want to mess things up for nothing. I came out to him, as a bisexual woman, and he understood and was super understanding.

I still get these crushes on women, and I don’t know what to do. We’ve been fighting a lot lately, and he’s been super possessive and weird, and I had all these dreams that I’m cheating with various women. What if I’m just sabotaging something awesome because I’m afraid of commitment? On the other hand, what if I’m actually queer and miss out on finding who I’m supposed to be with because I’m stubbornly sticking with someone? I also can’t imagine telling my friends. They’ve always said I was gay (but not in a good way). I hate the idea of them thinking they were right. I’m scared my best friend won’t talk to me. I have no idea what to do with these feelings, or whom to tell.

What jumps out at me immediately, here, is the lack of detail about your current relationship. You say you’re happy, but then a few sentences later you mention that you’re fighting a lot and he’s possessive. You also don’t mention whether you’re attracted to your partner, just that he’s “sweet.” I talked in the previous letter about nourishing physical attraction so that it can withstand outward changes in appearance, but there’s not really a good way to do that if it wasn’t there to begin with.

You’ve framed this as “am I gay or do I stay with my boyfriend?” but those aren’t the only two possibilities. Are you genuinely getting what you need from your partner? Are you hoping that I’ll tell you “yep, you’re gay” and instruct you to break up with your boyfriend about it, so the decision will be out of your hands? Even if you’re very bisexual and attracted to men in a general sense, it’s possible that this relationship is no longer—or never was—a good fit for you.

I find it really admirable that you’ve managed to maintain a sense of your own identity in the face of pressure from your family and friends to keep it hidden. But the thing is, you shouldn’t have to. I’ve misplaced my official Yardstick of Queerness, but it definitely sounds like you’re attracted to girls. Even if you’re also attracted to guys, and even if you stay with your boyfriend, you’re going to keep right on being queer (or bisexual or pansexual or whatever word feels like the best fit for you), and you shouldn’t have to pretend you’re not.

I’m not saying you have to call up your BFF and come out to her today, but I think it’s worth re-evaluating whether a friendship that relies on you hiding your queerness is really something you need in your life. You should also try spending time in LGBTQ spaces, in person or online, and actively building friendships with people who accept your queer identity. You need folks who don’t see your being attracted to girls as a character flaw, because it’s not. It’s a facet of who you are, and it’s extremely likely that it always will be, even if you stay with this dude forever.

You can be a proud bi woman who’s happy with her boyfriend, or you can be attracted to guys in a general sense but decide this relationship has run its course. Or you may realize that you’ll never feel fully at home in a relationship with a man, and start dating women instead. I would suggest that if you’re evaluating breaking up with your boyfriend based on how much you want to date girls—if it’s “do I really REALLY want a girlfriend, or only kind of?”—then you’re not thinking about the relationship you have on its own merits, and that probably means it’s time to break up. Weighing your options outside of your current partnership is usually a sign that you’re emotionally checked out and ready to move on.

Whatever ends up being the case for you, I wish you great joy and satisfaction!

I’m a 16-year-old girl, and I’m confused about my sexuality. I’m think I’m heteroromantic, because I’ve had several (brief) crushes on adult men. But I don’t want to have sex; I’m just not turned on by it. I also would not feel comfortable with a man seeing me naked, or with my seeing him naked. In addition to all this, I’m autistic, so I tend to keep other people, even those I love, at arm’s length. Could I say I’m asexual? I’ve never had sex or been in a romantic relationship, so it’s just hard to tell. Can I even declare a sexuality now, or should I wait and then re-evaluate?

I thought I was bisexual when I was 12, and my mom told me that was too young to be sure, and I should wait and re-evaluate. I thought I was bisexual when I was 16, and I told myself to wait and re-evaluate. I’m 30 years old now and guess what? I have only gotten more bisexual. I wasn’t too young to know myself, and neither are you.

You are the expert on your own life. If you are uninterested in sex, and the word “asexual” feels like a good fit to you, I encourage you to trust that instinct. Some people might tell you that your desires could shift over time, and that’s certainly true. But any fluctuations you may experience in the future do not invalidate your sense of yourself now.

Got a question? Send it to me at [email protected]. Questions may be edited for length and clarity.