Y’All Need Help #21: You’ll All Be Painters


I’ve known that I’m queer since I was maybe 14. I dated a couple of girls briefly in high school, but then was busy being too busy dealing with mental illness, neurodivergence, a whole bunch of chronic health problems, etc, to really get involved in the queer community back then. I had horrible self esteem and ended up dating whatever men would ask me out, because at least someone acted like they cared about me (although they mostly seemed to care about my boobs). So at this point, everyone just assumes I’m straight.

I’m 27, I’ve had genuinely enjoyable sex with a person I was genuinely attracted to exactly once in my life – which was, of course, the only time I’ve ever had sex with a woman. But I’m still dealing with a lot of chronic health issues, and I’m such an introvert that whenever I start to maybe make some queer friends, I pretty much ignore their texts and hide under my bed. I feel really awkward and uncomfortable about having to be “new” to the queer community, and about having to basically come out all over again, when I’ve felt queer forever. I know this is all normal shit that you’ve probably answered 100 times before, but… it feels like I’m too old and too shy? And I’m so afraid of not being accepted.


Forgive me but at 27, the only thing you’re too old for is like, ordering off the kid’s menu at O’Charley’s or getting your mom to do your laundry. You’re certainly and absolutely not too old to break into a queer community and make friends. It will be so awkward and feel so weird and you will be so out of your element! The emotional equivalent of wearing a wet wool sweater filled with sand! An exciting time!

The only way on earth to have a different life is to do things differently. I understand that your neurodivergence, mental illness and health problems have limited your social engagement, and that’s extremely valid. Working with your limitations in mind, try to figure out how you can safely start baby stepping outside of your comfort zone and take life by the twisty horns and turn it in the direction you want it to go in.

If you had been painting since you were 14 but had never shown anyone and never really talked about it, you’d still be a painter. If, at 27, you wanted to go to an art museum opening and talk to some other painters, you’d all be painters, in a room, talking. Some painters there will have been painting since they were 14, too, and maybe they even talked about it to other people. Cool. Some painters just picked up some brushes at Goodwill LAST NIGHT and have never even actually painted anything with them. Still cool! Some painters there will get paid money to paint, and they’ll go home and paint that very night and then again the next morning. Some painters there will be latent painters who aren’t yet aware that they are, in fact, painters. They’ll just know they like being around other painters, for some reason, and will be at the opening feeling somewhat like an outsider looking in. Also cool. One day they’ll pick up a brush and paint something amazing, and they’ll look back on this opening and laugh to themselves. YOU’LL ALL BE PAINTERS.

You’re queer. You’re exactly just as queer as the rest of us. You’re so queer that you wrote into a queer advice column on a queer website, and a queer person replied to it, and other queer people will relate to it. You couldn’t be any queerer if you hosed yourself down with local organic honey, rolled around in biodegradable glitter and showed up on Jodi Foster’s doorstep holding a signed copy of Swamp Ophelia. Go out there and be yourself all over the place.


I am an avid swing dancer, in my second year of uni. There is a dance studio close by my campus that hosts a swing dance every Saturday. Problem is, the operators of the business love to use male and female instead of saying lead and follow (meaning that they think a man is always a lead, never a follow, and a woman is always a follow, never a lead). This bothers me, as I am a female lead, so I don’t really want to pay the price of admission to dance there.

BUT, on the other hand it is the only swing dance place in my area and I love swing dance. What should I do? Confront the operators and explain why their language choice is piss-poor? Never patronize the business again? Go and keep quiet? If I confront them how should I best go about it?


Swing dance! I’d give it a shot, at least, just to know in your own heart that you did all you could. Wait until they definitely have time to talk to you — this is obvious but people are always more receptive when you’ve signaled that you respect their time and are willing to be on their schedule. It might be chill to start with a genuine compliment about the class, your excitement to have found it, etc. Then maybe just say that you’re a female lead and noticed they used Men/Women instead of Lead/Follow, and would they consider using the more widely accepted neutral phrasing to encourage more dancers like you to participate. Reiterate that it’s a small change, really, but one that you know would have a positive effect on how people engage with the dances and the business. Leads are always leads, but leads aren’t always men, and look you’re living proof of that, so using “men” is just inaccurate and don’t they want to be accurate? People love being accurate!

And then you will have done all you could, which is a great amount.


To get right into it, I’m having confusing and exhausting feelings re: my ex. She was my first girlfriend, she broke my heart, and she has been in a happy relationship with the girl she left me for ever since. After months of therapy and crying myself to sleep, I too am in a happy relationship! With someone wonderful who makes my heart glow! But for some reason (masochism? Lack of closure?) I can’t stop checking in on my ex via social media.

I almost feel like we’re locked in a competition. I’ve noticed myself posting pictures with the express hope that she will see and notice how well I’m doing. But I strongly suspect that I’m the only one playing this game and that she is not thinking about me at all. This makes me feel dumb. It also makes me feel that I’m being unfair to my current partner. What do I do?


Yikes, this is a terrible way to spend your time. You’re right that it’s unfair to your current partner — it’s unfair to both of you. You’re dragging this broken, actually-non-existent relationship around like a muddy duffle bag full of raw unwrapped steaks. Stop it! You should’ve thrown this duffle bag away six months ago, but instead you’re bringing it with you to the nice restaurant with your partner, and putting it up on the sofa while the two of you cuddle up to watch a movie, and every time you pose for a picture that you know you’ll put on social media, you’re hauling this dripping, foul-smelling, likely maggot-filled bag right up next to your cute smiling faces. It’s gross! Throw it out! You have a better duffle bag now, you don’t need this one anymore! Look at your new cute duffle! It’s clean, smells great, the zipper still works, it’s full of organized pouches and that one journal you love to write in, people compliment it when you walk by even if only to themselves. This bag deserves to be taken care of by someone who’s genuinely excited about it. You have a really cute great new duffle bag that isn’t full of rotting meat and THAT’S THE BAG YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO.


I’ve been friends with a girl for over two years now, and realized that I had some more-than friends feelings for her at least a year ago. However, she had been in a long-term relationship the ENTIRE time we were friends. Then, I moved (I live in the Bay Area & she lives in LA) about 6 months ago. We still text & comment on each others instagrams a lot. She also wrote a poem kinda about me & later called it a “cheesy love poem) Almost every message we send includes a red heart emoji. About a month ago she started posting a lot of sapphic content (pics of titties, saying she was “so in love w/ ___ actress) & so I did a little social media investigating & am now 95% sure her & the aforementioned long-term boyfriend have called it quits.

I’m visiting LA in about a month & I want to tell her how I feel, but I’m worried that it might fuck up our friendship & does it even matter when we live 400 miles apart?? We are often on the same wavelength, we read the same books & watch the same movies. Her friendship is important to me and I’d rather she was in my life in some capacity.


Well you only live once! Does it even matter when you live 400 miles apart? Who can say! There’s truly just the one way to find out, and that’s by talking to her. Most of us have lived through some version of having to tell a friend that you have more-than-friend feelings for them, it’s like the price you pay for being a person with a heart. She’s clearly not squicked out by you being gay or she wouldn’t have been friends with you all this time. It might be awkward and she might not be into it, but at least you got that fun harmless secret off your chest!

I feel like a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but I’m standing my ground. Tell her.

(Please note that the Tell her advice in this answer DOES NOT apply to friends you know are straight. For straight friends, please see YNH 10: Q1.)


Hello Queer Friends! As I approach my late 20’s I’m starting to have set in panic about finding “the one”. For the majority of my mid 20’s I was with someone who I thought I would be married to by now. Sadly, that did not work out after their transition. I thought I have given myself enough time to work through it when I met someone who absolutely dazzled me. I thought it was the universe telling me all the crap I had gone through was worth it. Cut to three months in and they lost complete interest in me and I broke it off. Not too much later they are dating someone they claim is the one and I’m still sobbing into my Ben and Jerry’s at night. I can’t seem to let either of them go. Every time I meet someone new I immediately compare the experience to the butterflies partners 1 and 2 gave me. Nothing comes close to the connection I felt with these two people. I’m terrified that those were my chances and I’ve some how fucked it up. Help?


You have not fucked it up! Stop looking backward. If you are listening and looking out for the universe to give you signs and send things your way — and I’m not knocking that, I do it myself — then you have to see and hear all of the things, including the stuff that’s hardest to take in: these two people were beautiful parts of your life for a time, and then they had to go. And you have to let them.

Comparing anyone to someone else is futile and wasting your time. Would you compare every Saturday afternoon to your one and only trip to Disneyland? No, that would be useless and you know it. Also, there’s tiny beauty in every Saturday afternoon — every afternoon at all really — and if you’re always looking for fireworks and confetti and oversized grinning cartoon characters in the places they simply will not be, you’re missing out on literally everything that is there. Give yourself the gift of seeing each new person and every interaction for what it is: the unique experience of right now.

What did you learn about yourself when you were with these people? Or about the world? What new things did you try and fall in love with, and what old things did you decide to release? These relationships, especially in combination with every other human interaction you’ve had in your lifetime, have shaped you. Being with you also shaped them! Instead of focusing solely on how wrong you were about being married by now, find the actual beauty in how it’s all brought you right here, reading this screen today. You are an incredible person with so much more to learn and so much more to teach and give, and you get to do it!

Let go of the expectations you had and the futures you imagined then. Make something brand new and real here.


My girlfriend and I have been together for one year (long long distance- different countries) and I am planning to move to her city. However, she isn’t ready for me to move in so I have to find roommates in a city that is unfamiliar to me (which I find stressful). Is it crazy that I’m making this move and uprooting my life for us to live separately? Another factor is that she works a lot and I am working on my dissertation so I am worried we won’t see each other a lot.


A similar situation was brought up during a panel conversation at A-Camp one time: a person was moving to a new state that she wasn’t thrilled about in order to be with her long-distance girlfriend. She wanted to know if she was making the right decision, given how much she thought she disliked the place she’d be moving to. The overwhelming response was that if she did go (and she did want to go, for the record, she was just nervous), she’d need to make that place her home, instead of just her girlfriend’s city where she also happened to be living — meaning make her own friends, find her own favorite places, live separately for a while if possible, and make her own connections and ties to the city. That’s what you should do, too. If you decide to make this move, living separately and meeting new people and independently familiarizing yourself with the city is the best way to go. You’ll be so much happier in the long run if you establish your own foundation and ties, instead of relying on your girlfriend to be your connection to everything there.

You’ll still each other and you’ll still be together! You’ll just be living a healthy, balanced life outside of each other, too, which is GREAT.


I haven’t talked to my ex in 6 months. It was messy, i’m still attached and post sad song lyrics on twitter; she also posts sad song lyrics on twitter. She loves everyone’s lesbian aunts Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher; I love everyone’s lesbian aunts Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher. DO I GIFT HER SEASON 2 OF TAKE MY WIFE ON ITUNES WITH NO EXPLANATION OR IS THIS THE WORST IDEA.


I love you, do not do this.

Y’All Need Help is a biweekly advice column in which I pluck out a couple of questions from the You Need Help inbox and answer them right here, round-up style, quick and dirty! (Except sometimes it’s not quick, but that’s my prerogative, OK?) You can chime in with your own advice in the comments and submit your own quick and dirty questions any time.

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Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and she thinks you're fucking rad. She's 36, has two kids, two dogs, one Megan, some personal essays and a lot of emails in her inbox. More at LaneiaJones.com.

Laneia has written 755 articles for us.


  1. I haven’t ever asked a question, but I feel better knowing that if need be I could, so thank you Laneia. Also I appreciated the cover image- I always encourage the kids to make good choices. It can be tricky for grownups, too.

  2. Heyyy I know about swing dance! To the person who asked that question, here are some other things you can point out, if you like:

    Last year, almost all major swing events renamed the Jack and Jill to something else (mix and match, luck of the draw, etc) to remove the outdated gender roles. There’s a major effort underway to be more welcoming to non-traditional role dancers and gender-nonconforming people alike, so it would be smart for them to keep up.

    Also, most skilled dancers can do both roles. A room full of women who only follow and men who only lead is much more common among beginners than more advanced folks. By encouraging people to learn both roles and acknowledging those who prefer the nontraditional role, they can help make everyone better dancers.

    Most people who revert to gender tropes don’t mean badly by it, they’re just not thinking very hard. So hopefully they’ll be gracious and amenable to changing.

    Also, you can join the Facebook group LGTBQ+ Swing Dancers for advice and support!

    • This makes me hopeful! I fundamentally like swing dancing (really any dance that has steps etc) but I just feel so suffocated with the gender crap I can’t relax & have a good time. Maybe I can do it in the future!

      • Yeah, I hope you can give it another shot! Places do vary in how much they care about that sort of thing, so you didn’t love the place you went before, you could try a different one. (Assuming there are multiple venues where you live.)

        Also, blues dance seems to have a more open culture where queerness and gender roles are concerned, so you could try that instead! Things like asking “Would you like to lead or follow?” are more common at the blues dances I’ve been to than at swing. At some events, people even wear color-coded bracelets to signify lead, follow or switch. Good luck!

  3. Hello long-distance mover! The person who asked the panel’s advice about moving to a new city for a partner was me. I want to second Laneia’s advice on making the city your own–it’s really excellent.

    However, I got dumped two weeks after arrival. So I’d add, it’s also okay to ask your partner to help you work through any concerns about this. This isn’t being unreasonable or clingy–it’s like talking through any other relationship concern!

    And if there’s a little uneasy corner in your heart (like, it seems their request to live apart concerned you, even if it’s part of Laneia’s advice), well, maybe listen to it. It might be jitters; for me, it was my body’s foreknowledge.

    I think how your partner handles things will tell you a lot. Like, “Babe, I don’t feel ready to live together but I’m so excited you’re coming here! Thanks for doing this big thing” seems good. “Well, you can move here if you want and we can keep dating, but we can’t live together” might be something to talk through.

    I fell in love, trusted someone and made a big leap for my happiness. It didn’t work out, but ultimately, I’m still proud I did that. At the end of the day, I did it for me, and I think you’re doing it for you, and I think no matter what happens, you’ll be okay. Wishing you all the best!

    • Also, if possible, maybe have a little fallback plan in place.

      That might be staying in the new city, because it’s your city too, dammit! It might mean moving back home, it might mean many things. And vague is totally fine!

      It doesn’t mean you can’t commit to this move, it doesn’t mean you don’t love and trust your partner; it just means you’re equipping yourself to best take care of you in lots of circumstances.

      • Laneia and ebook have very good words here.

        I will add that a friend of mine moved many states away with her girlfriend, several times, for their various advanced degrees. The last time, they ended up breaking up BUT by then my friend was already in love with the place they were living, and ended up marrying someone else and is now expected her second baby and is super-happy with the whole of the experience.

        Sometimes with big moves like that, I find it helpful to do a little test – think about moving to this new place. Imagine you’re on a high diving board. It’s going to be a little scary no matter what, because it’s a good ways down from there. But the key is, when you look down, is the thought of moving to this new city like looking down into nice clean water, or is it toxic sludge? By all means, take the nerve-wracking leap into the water, but if it’s sludge climb down the ladder and stay away from the pool!

  4. Reading this column is indeed so good for the soul.

    Thank you Laneia ! for your great sens of humour and your kind-hearted no-nonsense advice. I learn something important every single time.

    Now, back to the rollicking 9th anniversary comments (if I can get back in…) not to mention the 30 days of Carol high-octane hijinx. Ooh, what a place what a place Autostraddle is

  5. “…if you’re always looking for fireworks and confetti and oversized grinning cartoon characters in the places they simply will not be”

    But imagine if they WERE. What a terrifyingly cute world that would be.

  6. Fellow lindy hopper! Right now my heart is bleeding for you because change can happen at such a snail’s pace in this community. If your club’s administration doesn’t take kindly to the suggestion or implement any changes (or, more likely, give you a halfhearted reassurance that they’ll “work on it,” and then never do a damn thing (hi, can you tell I’m a little salty?)), also remember that your dance scene isn’t only limited to your university club–there are probably one or two workshop weekends being held nearby you could attend. If money is a consideration, a lot of workshops offer student discounts or even scholarships you can apply for.

    If you’re a person who does the Facebook thing, you may want to point your club’s administration to the FB group, “Teaching Swing Dance.” There have been a lot of good posts by longtime and well-established teachers in our community about why changing the language we use around the lead/follow “binary” is utter trash and regressive, and that includes discussions about relegating roles to a gender binary (i.e, we shouldn’t). I also encourage you to join “Safety Dance: Building Safe and Empowered Social Dance Communities” AND joining the LGBTQ+ Swing Dancers Network.

  7. Hey queer who is feeling not up to seeking out queer people because ignorance health stuff going on, don’t be scared!

    Using apps or the internet was how my fantastic chronically ill partner and I met! It was easy to negotiate getting together in a way that was accessible for both of us, and it really helped us not feel awkward!

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