Does Sexual Orientation Affect Gender?

Question: My boyfriend and I moved in together because we got along so well. At first things were great but lately he’s not acting like a man. He doesn’t handle stress well, he refuses to pay bills or do chores (but when I call him on it, he denies it), and I can’t rely on him even to do simple things like feed the dog or pick me up at work. My friends say he’s acting more like a woman. I was recently going through his phone and found out that he’s bisexual. I’m confused. Can his behavior be affected by his sexual orientation?

Answer: When you start getting into questions of gender and sexual orientation, things can get really tricky. For example, you seem to believe that all women behave in one way while all men act in another. This is called an essentialist view of gender. People who hold this perspective believe that gendered traits (like men being rational or women being emotional) are innate characteristics versus social constructions. Although many people want to believe that women are biologically destined to act one way while men are genetically ‘pre-programmed’ to act another way, these behaviors aren’t biological imperatives.  

It would be easier to know exactly how people will behave based solely on their gender but that isn’t the case. In fact, research directly contradicts the essentialist view showing instead that there is a greater difference between groups of individual women (or men) than there is between women and men in general. While it would be easier to believe that women are one way and men are another (and popular opinion seems to lean in this direction), it just isn’t correct. Thus, a more accurate statement would be to say that some men are unreliable while some women handle stress well.

The same thing is true of sexual orientation. Is your partner’s behavior affected by his bisexuality? No. I imagine that he would be just as emotionally reactive, irresponsible and unreliable whether he was straight, gay or bisexual. Although you want to understand the reasons for his behavior, I’m guessing that the more important questions are what happened to the relationship and should you stay.

It sounds like in the “honeymoon” stage of your relationship, things were great and your partner seemed like the perfect man. However, once you two moved in together and the flaws could no longer be hidden or smoothed over, he looked different. This knowledge of people often can be gained only by extremely close contact and it is one reason why many people believe living together is so beneficial. As to whether you stay in the relationship, only you can decide whether his irresponsible and unreliable behavior can be tolerated or whether they are deal breakers. Whatever you decide, just make certain that you blame the individual and not social categories because he alone is to blame for what he does.

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