Okay, so I met this incredibly adorable queer woman a little over a year ago. We started dating long-distance (about a 3 hour drive), fell in love, and eventually became a couple. We have now decided to move in together. I’m leaving the big city to join her small town life, to try to make a life there of my own.
I identify as a non-binary dyke, I’m very much into queerness — it’s where I feel at home, it’s what I’m attracted to, and it’s an integral part of who I am. My girlfriend looks queer af and is decently versed in queer culture and theory. However, she doesn’t have a single queer friend in her home town. I’ve felt an unease about this fact throughout our relationship. Mainly because I believe that queer people need each other, for support and community and a sense of belonging. My girlfriend says that she has gotten all that from her bio-family and straight friends. She hasn’t felt a sense of queer lack (which I felt pretty much immediately upon meeting them all). Now that we’ve decided to move in together, in her town, I’m scrambling to try and meet other queers, especially as we are also thinking about becoming parents together. She has said, after I’ve asked her about it, that she does want to find other queer parents for the sake of a future child to have some other families to look to, that looks like ours, so that ours wouldn’t feel so different. But I find it baffling that she hasn’t felt this need in regards to herself.
I’ve tried talking to her about it, but she gets very defensive and feels like I’m saying she isn’t queer enough. Of course she is queer enough! I just want to understand why she hasn’t seen the need to build queer relationships, other than a singular romantic/sexual one. Am I supposed to be the only queer person she is close to and can talk about navigating a cis hetero normative society with? I feel pretty alone in this, in my need for queer friends and community. And I’m scared that me voicing my concerns doesn’t inspire her to reach out to other queers, but simply makes her feel inadequate and ashamed.
Please Autostraddle, I need some solid advice on how to deal with this issue! We are both open to couples therapy, (though of course my concern is that there won’t even be an lgbtq friendly therapist to talk to in her town) but it would also be so incredibly appreciated to get help with some good talking points, from which we could begin to understand one another, and not dig ourselves deeper into our own defensive trenches.
I want to validate your feelings: you are moving to a new, unknown phase in life and lifestyle. You have anxiety about the differences in the ways you and your partner move through the world. You’ve been in a place that’s felt safe — a big city surrounded by queer community — and may be losing some of that soon. That is scary!
I also want to say, though, that if my girlfriend consistently pressed me to change the way that I live despite my very clear messages that I am happy exactly as I am, I would break up with her. This is very clearly your problem, not your girlfriend’s problem, and resolving it will be your work, not hers.
Queer community is very important to you. That’s fine! What isn’t is imposing this belief, that “queer people need each other, for support and community and a sense of belonging,” on your girlfriend. That’s your valid opinion, not a fact. You insist that she feels a “queer lack” despite the fact that she clearly doesn’t, and are “baffled” that someone could have a different experience of the world than you, could have different needs than you, could be perfectly fine living their life their way instead of yours. This is where the problem lies: you don’t appear to even be making an effort to understand or respect her perspective.
The fact that you mentioned that she “looks queer” and is “decently versed” in queer theory and culture, as positive things seemingly in her favor, indicates to me that being queer is a, maybe the, defining aspect of your identity. I personally don’t feel like that’s a good thing, but if that works for you, fine. For many of us, being queer is one aspect of who we are among many. That’s a perfectly reasonable way to be, and it’s obvious to me why you’re making her feel like she’s “not queer enough.”
Her lack of queer friends does potentially impact you, and that’s a legitimate concern. That’s where you need to put your focus. You’ve given some hints about these fears — you’re going to want to parent and have other queer families for your child to interact with, and it’s definitely legitimate to worry about being overburdened with emotional labor when it comes to queer issues. But she answered the parenting question, and you’ve been together for a year and the emotional labor issue doesn’t seem like it’s been a problem so far. If it actually has, talk with her about that. But if not, it likely won’t be in the future either. It’s going to be crucial for you to dig into why this is causing you distress and making you feel “alone.”
Do you believe that all of y’all’s friends need to be mutual, and fear that if she has straight friends, you’re stuck with them too? Are you realizing this is lessening your attraction to her, given that you’re attracted to queerness? Are you actually externally processing your anxiety about moving to a small town and projecting it onto this issue, when it’s really about your own fears about being able to find enough queer community there? Do you have an unspoken, maybe unanalyzed desire to have her support in making friends in your new town, and feel let down that she’s not interested in supporting you in this way (by the way, it’s unfair to be disappointed when people don’t do things you haven’t asked them to do)?
It’s not often acknowledged, but queer issues are, at their core, universal. Two of my best friends and my girlfriend are cis, and I’ve never had a problem talking about trans issues with them. I’ve never had a problem talking about queer and trans issues with straight friends. Sure, they don’t fully understand the depth of certain things, but good friends can commiserate, empathize, and even offer advice because they love and care about you, not because they’ve been through the exact same thing. It’s fine to seek affinity groups, but it’s not necessary for everyone. Why do you feel like you can only connect deeply with people who have had a very similar lived experience to you? Have you struggled to make deep, loving, intimate friendships in the past? Is this actually your insecurity?
I wonder if you have trauma related to your own biological family and/or straight, cis friends rejecting you, abandoning you, or letting you down? If the only way you’ve been able to find safety is in creating a queer chosen family, giving up having them in proximity would seem scary, and unsafe, and might lead you to fear that your girlfriend’s straight/cis circle is going to eventually reject/abandon her like they did you. You may even have potentially subconscious envy that your girlfriend has the kind of community that you deserve but were denied. It’s totally reasonable to have these feelings (if you do) and to have created safety in the best way you’ve been able. But it’s possible that her definition of safety is different from yours and is also valid.
You want to understand “why she hasn’t seen the need to build queer relationships.” But she has very clearly explained that she has her friendship needs met already; you just don’t accept her answer. Are you sure you respect her? You’re coming across as believing she’s deluded, or naive, or an idiot. Why can’t you accept her worldview as legitimate? Why is her friends’ identities so important to you? Isn’t it more important that her friends are kind, supportive, and loving than whether they’re queer? Isn’t it more important that they share values than sexuality?
You’ve made it clear that, despite the fact that you’re making your life partner, future spouse(?) and co-parent feel “not queer enough,” “inadequate,” and “ashamed,” you still believe that you are right and she is wrong. You seemingly wrote this expecting a response like Em’s recent guide on making queer friends and some extra talking points to help you convince your partner to do your bidding. If she decides for herself that she wants to make queer friends, great! But I don’t think she does, and I think you’re wrong for essentially believing that you know the correct way to be a queer person and your partner doesn’t. She feels inadequate because you are communicating to her clearly that you believe she is inadequate.
You are the one who needs to fill in your defensive trench, not her. You need to do some empathetic introspection. Have you really considered her position? It doesn’t sound like you respect, understand, or appreciate her. To be honest, at least based on the small amount of information given in your letter, it doesn’t sound like you actually love her. Now, that’s unlikely to be true, but love is when you accept someone as they are, not as you desire them to be. It sounds like you’re projecting your insecurity onto her instead of processing it yourself. You need to do some work journaling, in therapy, and/or otherwise thinking deeply about what makes you feel safe, the degree to which this move is raising your anxiety, and if there’s a way your partner can support you emotionally through the process. You also need to think deeply about what you believe about how queer people should move through the world, and why you feel the need to control how your girlfriend does.
Until you figure out why her not having queer friends bothers you so much and what you’re actually afraid of, and give up on controlling her and being the architect of how she lives her life, you’re going to remain baffled and unhappy. Resentment will likely build, and you’re potentially setting yourself up for failure. Instead of telling your girlfriend what you think she should do, share with her what you’re afraid of and why, and why you’re the one who needs support in navigating this change in life — not her.
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.