Surprise! I was Wrong.

Posted by Michael Dale Kimmel in lgbt 13 Dec 2019

When I wrote the initial proposal for my book, it was called “The Queer Person’s Guide to Love, Monogamy and Open Relationships” and it addressed monogamy and open relationships in the LGBTQ community).

After reading the proposal, my agent said, “You need to focus more specifically on gay men or I can’t sell it.” So, I took her advice, rewrote the book proposal and she promptly sold it to a major publisher. I’ve always regretted, however, that I had to delete all the parts of the book that addressed monogamy and open relationships among lesbians, bisexual and transgender women.

Did you know that the author doesn’t get to decide the title of their own book? Neither did I. When the book came out, the title was so gender-specific (e.g., “The Gay Man’s Guide to Open and Monogamous Marriage”) that I thought women never would read it. Surprise! I was wrong and I’m happy to be wrong. Since the book was published, I’ve gotten many emails/Facebook messages from queer women. Have are three examples:

Dear Michael:

We are a happy, healthy lesbian couple. We read your book because there’s nothing like it for women. It has been really helpful for us, especially the exercises for couples to do together. We wonder if you would consider writing a book specifically for female couples?

Dear Dr. Kimmel:

My wife and I just finished your book and thought it was awesome. We were surprised how useful it is for female couples. One question: are there major differences between monogamous female couples and monogamous male couples?

Dear Michael:

I am in a monogamous lesbian relationship and my girlfriend and I are reading your book. She wants to keep our relationship monogamous, but I would like to explore being more sexual with other women. Any other books you might suggest?

As a psychotherapist in the queer San Diego community for about twenty years’ now, I find these questions fascinating. I have been working with LGBTQ couples long before I wrote my book (in 2017).

Most of the ways that a good psychotherapist helps couples are pretty universal, regardless of gender: communications aren’t so good; there’s jealousy or insecurity; family of origin issues raise their ugly heads; the same arguments happen over-and-over; unfulfilling sexual lives get worse; boredom rears its ugly head, someone has an affair… etc., etc., etc.

That said, as queer people, our lives and relationships are played out in a predominantly straight world. Straight psychotherapists often don’t really “get” us. No matter how well-intentioned, they don’t know what it’s like to be us, to have our relationships and to live in a world whose movies, films and music are basically NOT for us.

When I talk with heterosexual colleagues who tell me that working with Queer clients is one of their “specialties”, it makes me wonder: “Really? How can they know what our lives are actually like?” I used to have heterosexual therapists, and while they were helpful, there was always a part of me that they couldn’t relate to. At this point in my life, I want a queer therapist who is familiar with being LGBTQ in a mostly straight world…

Let me close by responding to the above 3 queries from queer women:

To writer #1: I’m glad you find the exercises in the book helpful (they work well for any couple and I use them in my practice). I wouldn’t write a book specifically for queer women because I’m not one and there are already a lot of good books out there specifically for lesbians. I Googled “great books for lesbian relationships” and found more good books than I can mention here.

To writer #2: In general (please don’t kill me for this): male couples – with all that testosterone – usually place more importance on sex (frequency and variety) than female couples do. I talk about that in detail in my book.

To writer #3: My book addresses issues – like jealousy and insecurity – that are typical when any two (or more) people in a relationship consider non-monogamy. If you’re considering opening up your relationship, you might check out “The Ethical Slut”, an excellent book written by two amazing queer women.