I’m 29 years old, heading to divorce final hearing in a couple of weeks from being married to the same man I met in high school in 2001. Married for 9 years, never been with a woman nor have I entertained it. Or have I? So now after an 9 year failed marriage of abuse, a 3yr old son, my family who has turned on me due to “speculations” of this new relationship (only to soon find out those speculations are true) there she is. My mother hasn’t spoken to me now in 3 months due to the speculations. Will this affect my son if it comes to him being raised in a same sex home? Would God condemn me to hell for loving another one of his children and still following his will as a Christian? What I have been taught in church my entire life taught out of context and because it was the accepted social norm.
Now my love, she has been open and out since high school, she has been patient and not putting a label on my sexual identity. I’m not even sure 6 months into this relationship. Am I a lesbian, bisexual, or simply a straight woman in a lesbian relationship? What is my label? Does there have to be a label? Am I pushing her back into the closet because I can’t openly be with her yet, until this is final and then until I can get enough courage to tell my family and ex? Am I creating a problem that will damage her and me in the long run? She will jokingly say “Yes, baby, I know you’re (well, were) straight but you’re straight in a lesbian relationship, but it’s ok if you don’t put a label on yourself,” Is it really?
Oh sweetheart babygirl I just wanna buy you an ice cream sandwich but first let’s talk. Let’s be real, there are at least 6 questions in here, and so let’s take them one by one.
Will this affect my son?
I mean, yes. Our parents are the major figures of our early lives, and most of what they do affects us in some way. The changes your family is going through will become part of his life story. But you know what else affects your son? Your ex’s abuse, and your mom not talking to you, and a million other things will also affect your son, and they deserve at least as much accountability as you, if not more. It seems from your question that what you’re concerned about are the effects of having two coparents of the same sex somehow being negative, but the research doesn’t support that! Studies show that same-sex parents are at least as good for kids as different-sex ones!
As a child of divorce myself (hi Mom!), I feel like sometimes parents worry about negative effects of divorce without seeing that there can be positive ones, too. I’m still incredibly grateful to my mother for showing me by example that you don’t have to stay in unhealthy relationships, that you can make it on your own and even take care of others without a male partner, and that if you’re unhappy or unsafe you have the power to change it. Your son will be affected by the knowledge that his mom is brave and honest, that she was strong enough to get out of an abusive marriage even though it was scary, and that queer people can be a loving and supportive family. If your son does live with you and your girlfriend, it might be rocky at times, but you won’t be ruining his life — you’ll be providing him with a safe and loving home away from an abuser.
Will God condemn me to Hell?
I don’t know! I mean no one knows really; there are some people who would say that I’m condemned to hell because I’m wearing a wool blend sweater with jeans. It seems like what you’re maybe asking is what your relationship means for your personal relationship with God and your faith and your religious community. The good news is that if your faith is important to you, and it seems like it is, you don’t have to walk away from it or be rejected by it. You can find a religious community that affirms your identity and your relationship, and once you’re there it might be easier to talk through what this means for you and God. You could start with something like this LGBT-affirming church finder! If you can’t find a real-world community near you, you might benefit from finding queer Christian blogs or online circles, which are many and various.
I’m not sure from your question whether your girlfriend shares your faith, but it might be good to talk this through with her, too — it’s an important part of your life, and hopefully she can support you and confirm that you are still a good and worthy person!
What is my label? Does there have to be a label?
This is a great question! You are not the only one with this question, if that is affirming at all — even if it sometimes feels like everyone else has figured out exactly which Dewey Decimal classification they fall under, that’s not true, and you’re not behind the curve. Your ladyfriend is right; you don’t need a label right now, and maybe not ever. In the same way that you have probably never felt pressure to choose a single definitive label for your sandwich preferences (“I’m a Ham and Cheese and I was born this way,”) it’s ok not to choose a single definitive label for your sexual orientation or your relationships. Sometimes when our lives feel generally chaotic — say, we’re in the middle of a divorce and also in a new relationship — we fantasize that coming up with the exact right name for our situation will somehow make the situation less complicated and scary. Usually, this isn’t the case; if you think that you’re worrying about a label as a way of distilling your general worrying into a single thing, then it’s okay to take a deep breath and let it go. You would be far from the only amorphous weirdo in the world. So, to answer your question succinctly: Yes, it really is okay.
Am I a lesbian, bisexual, a straight woman in a lesbian relationship?
However! A counterpoint! Sometimes we’re not searching for a label because we’re displacing anxiety; sometimes we actually want to know. When people are all “labels are for jars!” they’re not always taking into account that there’s a reason we put labels on jars, which is that it’s USEFUL. It helps you know what’s in them and how to organize and whether you’re using flour or tapioca starch. In the same vein, sometimes labels can have a real purpose in our lives, and really do make things easier, because things are generally less scary if we can name them. It can also be really useful when coming out to others, like you’re preparing to do, both in terms of giving you more confidence in your own identity and making it easier to communicate it to others. I don’t know much about your relationship with your family members, but it may be easier for you to say “I think I’m a [thing]” than “I’m in a relationship with [person]” to your mom or son or ex-husband.
So in the event that you do want to explore what label might fit you, how does one even go about doing that? That’s a great question! There isn’t really an answer. There might be more than one label that feels right; it might be totally confusing and overwhelming to try to figure out whether you “feel” like a certain identity. It might change day to day; one day you might feel like you’ve found a great truth about yourself with your current partner and you could never date men again; other days you might feel like your girl is the only one you’ll ever feel this way about; other days you might not be able to deal with thinking about labels at all and just want some lasagna. All of those are fine.
Some concrete tools that people might use to define or express their sexual orientation might be things like the Kinsey Scale or the Klein Grid. They won’t give you a definitive “answer” — it’s not a Buzzfeed quiz — but they might be helpful in helping you figure out what you like and how you might feel comfortable identifying. Keep in mind also that even within the allegedly more rigid world of labels, there’s a lot of wiggle room and a lot of overlap and diversity in identities. For instance, even within the “bisexual” label, you have a lot of different identities associated with bisexuality to choose from, and even if “bisexual” doesn’t feel right, for instance, one of its related identities might.
And also, please please remember that this isn’t Who Wants To Be A Queer Lady Millionaire and you don’t ever have to give a “final answer.” It’s okay for any label you choose to be subject to revision, or for you to change your mind later. This doesn’t mean that what you identified as before has to now be “wrong” or that you made a mistake. Pay attention to what you’re thinking and feeling and remember that if you do want to choose a label, it will be a valid one — you don’t need anyone else to sign off on it to be real.
Am I pushing her back into the closet and/or damaging our relationship?
Well, it seems like a good sign that your partner is saying things like “it’s okay.” It’s valid to worry that differing levels of out-ness (or sometimes, differing labels) can strain some people’s relationships, but unless you’re actively seeing that happen, you are maybe in the clear. Also, let’s be real, your reasons for not “openly being with her yet” are pretty fucking legit! You’re worried about family rejection and your son and potential custody battles, and for right now I think it’s ok to not be shouting stuff from the rooftops. The choices we make around how we present ourselves and our partners in queer relationships are tricky — I think it’s important to always keep in mind a relative sense of what it’s reasonable for people to do in their lives. Even for people without children and divorce proceedings it may not be feasible to be out all the time to everyone, due to concerns about career, family, education or physical safety. It seems like your girl understands that it’s not reasonable to expect you to be at Pride parades with her right now, and I think you can give yourself permission to agree with her! You’re really concerned overall with your responsibilities to others in your life, and it’s ok to think about your responsibilities to yourself, too, which can include privacy.
Is it really okay?
Oh my lord honey it is the MOST OKAY. Here’s the thing: I know it doesn’t necessarily feel good right now. No one can give you a promise about when this will stop feeling hard and scary and weird. But I can pretty much promise you that you’ll look back on this time as when everything started to change for the better, and be really proud of yourself. You were able to leave an unhealthy situation, be honest with yourself about what you want, and start building a better life for yourself. You are so brave and should be so proud of yourself! In five years, future-you is gonna build a time machine just so they can send past-you an Edible Arrangement. So when the chocolate-covered pineapple flowers show up on your doorstep next week, you’ll know where it came from.
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