Editor’s Note: The following includes mentions of suicidal thoughts.
I’m 14, afab, and a nonbinary asexual lesbian, and she’s 16, a cis lesbian. I’m going to call her T. She’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met, and I get butterflies when I think of her.
We’ve been friends for a little over 2 years. We bonded over gay fanfiction before either of us were out of the closet. We’ve come out to each other as lesbian and bisexual many times as we’ve each struggled with our identity. I came out to her as nonbinary, and then as asexual. She’s incredibly accepting and kind and amazing. I’ve never wanted to date anyone before I met her (but that’s probably because I’m a teenager). I really, really like her. I figured out I had a crush on her about a month after we became friends. A few months later, we confessed our feelings to each other, but she said she wasn’t ready to date. At the time, I was really sad, but in hindsight, at 12 years old, suicidal, and completely in the closet about gender, I was definitely not ready to date anyone. (As of now, I’m out as nonbinary to pretty much everyone I know, including her. She’s the first person I told about my gender, actually.) We’ve since had conversations about this, and she’s told me that the reason she didn’t want to date me was because I was suicidal, not nonbinary.
Since then, I’ve been in therapy, I’m a year clean of self harm, and I know with absolute certainty I’m not going to kill myself. We discuss our mental health all the time (we both have OCD and anxiety), and she knows all of this. She doesn’t worry about me anymore. Recently, a friend was joking that T and I were dating, and she got upset. She then told me that I was the first person she liked, and that she “really, really liked” me.
Aside from all that history, the friend I’ve told about all this thinks that T likes me back. T and I are really good friends, and we text each other at least 20 times a day. We see each other once every couple of weeks when we go out for ice cream, and we sit and talk for hours. We say “I love you” all the time. She calls me pet names (honey, darling, sweetie, angel, etc) very often, even in serious conversations. We’ll be having a 100% serious conversation about gender or mental health or identity and she’ll call me “love”. She also teases me in a way that makes me think she might at least suspect that I like her; she’ll say “do I fluster you, angel?” Or demonstrate at me how to flirt with your eyes (for, like, a whole two freaking minutes) and then tell me she was just doing it because “you’re adorable when you blush”. But how am I to know wether she’s just joking around? I hate that the line between platonic and romantic is so hard to place when neither one of you is a guy. She calls me pet names even in front of people; she’ll shout “angel” to get my attention at marching band.
As for the reasons I think she doesn’t like me back. First of all, she’s wayyyyy out of my league. A really popular boy asked her out last year. She’s pretty and smart and talented and she could probably have any teenage lesbian in the city if she wanted. She’s a whole grade older than me. Also, she’s told me she has a thing for blondes, and I’m most definitely not blonde. I’m Mexican-American (she’s white) and my hair is really dark. Also, she’s allosexual while I’m ace. I don’t think that would be a problem in the near future, I mean, I’m 14, but it’s still a thing that exists and might factor into her decision. Also, I know what celebrities she has crushes on, and most of them are skinny, white, and relatively feminine. I’m not any of those things. I’m chubby and latina and nervous to wear a skirt in public. Also, I’ve recently changed my name to a boy’s name (I know names don’t have gender but like you get what I mean) and I’m worried she’ll see me as too masculine. I have short hair and I don’t wear a lot of fem clothes (though I’d like to). I don’t plan to ever have surgeries or go on HRT (though that could change, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about my body in relation to gender), and for the time being at least I have a female, feminine body so I don’t think that’s an issue, it’s just the name thing.
I’m thinking of telling her how I feel soon. I’ve never confessed to a girl before, and I don’t want to make her uncomfortable. I love her and being her friend is my Number One priority, not some possibly unrequited crush. I’m not too worried about losing her entirely, we’re way too close for that, but I’m scared I’ll make everything awkward and tense for the next few months.
You said that you’re going to tell her how you feel soon, which means this advice is not going to be that relevant to you since I’m responding over a month later. I apologize. But maybe you decided to put it off for a while? Or maybe this could help other people in a similar situation.
You’re not going to like what I’m about to tell you: you’re very young. You’re experiencing your first crush, maybe even your first love. It feels like the entire world revolves around this person, this experience, this feeling. All of that is super age-appropriate and normal, but the truth is that feelings are fleeting and this relationship doesn’t have to be something you pin all of your hopes and dreams on. If she isn’t interested in you it’s totally fine because she seems like a great friend, and that’s so valuable. It might be awkward for a little while but it’ll eventually blow over and be fine if you’re able to be mature about it.
Note to anyone reading who isn’t 14 and yet highkey relates to the advice-asker: it’s OK! Even if you’re older, sometimes crushes make you feel like you’re 14. But hopefully you also can be mature about it.
Now, what does being “mature about it” mean? Doing what you’re already planning on doing: asking her how she feels about you or if she’d be interested in dating. Girls especially, but all of us to a degree, are taught to create elaborate hypotheticals in our minds and to attempt to read other people’s gestures and words in order to try to figure out what they mean. But the easiest and best way to find out what someone meant by something is just to ask them what they meant by that something. And that’s what you have to do in this situation.
You can’t find out if she wants to date you from her friends, from her behavior, from how frequently you talk, or in any other way than by her telling you whether she wants to date you (I’d recommend specifically asking if she wants to date you, not if she likes you — “Liking” someone can have so many different meanings). If she says yes, then you can figure out what dating means. Does it mean kissing? Does it mean not really changing anything about how you interact, but now knowing that it’s romantic? Does it maybe eventually include sex? (By the way, a lot of people start having sex around your age. It is obviously not necessary for a loving, fulfilling romantic relationship at any age, especially if you’re ace, but it’s also not out of the picture for some people and you can discuss it.) You can only find out through conversation.
The advice is pretty simple, but there’s also a few other things that I wanted to address in your letter.
Whether someone liked you before (or “like, liked” you) is not a promise or a guarantee or necessarily how they feel now or whether they want to date you now. And that’s OK! Feelings can change. Also, using pet names and saying that you love someone also doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to date you. The line between friendship and romantic relationships is very thin, especially for queer people. I love all of my friends deeply, and tell them a lot, and gas them up and tell them how hot they are and call some of them “boo” or “sweetheart,” but I don’t want to date them. We’ve established this, though — if we were both single and were doing that, I’d want us to have a conversation about it! I’m all for more conversations, even if they’re awkward. More clarity and communication is always a net positive in the end.
Note that the reverse is also true! Almost none of the reasons you gave for why you doubt that she likes you matter. Those are just your insecurities talking. For example: the only celebrities I have crushes on are Terry Crews/The Rock types. I have never (and will likely never) actually date anyone like that. You can only find out if she likes you by having her tell you.
That being said, if she was into you when you identified as a girl, but no longer once you identified as non-binary, that would be sad and frustrating but also OK. Some people are “strict” in their sexuality, and it’s not worth trying to convince people into women only to also be into people who aren’t women. It’s not always about bodies, or if they’re “feminine,” or if they have certain body parts, or their names. Sexual attraction is weird and nuanced. It would also be OK if she only wants to date someone she can have sex with. If you don’t want that, but she does, you should not try to force it. Again, this is sad, but it’s OK.
However: you have used a lot of identity labels in this short letter and have described how you see her and yourself in pretty certain terms — but you’ve also recognized that who you are has changed a lot, even just in the past couple years. Please give yourself (and her!) the time and space to change and grow and transform and figure out who you are and what you want in life and in relationships. I don’t think anyone should ever decide 100% with complete security who they are and never allow themselves to change — but definitely not before your brain is even finished developing (this happens around age 25 or so, by the way). It’s OK to change your identities as different situations present themselves. Give yourself the space to keep developing as a person.
All of this is weird and complex and strange and influenced by weird gender ideas that all of us have been socialized into, but sexuality is weird and there’s no really pinning it down.
But here’s the bottom line: whether she wants to date or is attracted to you romantically has absolutely nothing to do with your value, your attractiveness, your dateability, your identity … all it has to do with is her individual desire. Her desire is personal to her, and maybe she doesn’t even fully understand it, but if she doesn’t like you in that way, you are still amazing and awesome and it will be sad but it will definitely be OK.
Good luck, friend!
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.