Y’All Need Help #23: Spring Cleaning Part 2

It’s the second weekend of spring cleaning the You Need Help inbox and BOY ARE MY ARMS TIRED. Just like Part 1, I’ve numbered each question and answer to make it easier for you to talk about them in the comments! Please feel free to do any/all of the following:

-disagree with my advice
-talk about yourself as it relates to the question
-make a perfect graphic
-attach links to better advice
-share your favorite cookie recipes for the heartbroken

Here’s an update from a previous advice seeker and I’m sorry to say, it’s not a happy one. It sucks and I wish I could send them a brontosaurus balloon and a bag of pineapples. ? But! How great is it that we all have each other during shit like this? PRETTY FCKING GREAT.

You printed my question in December in which I asked, “Is it normal or ok for my girlfriend to keep reminding me that she doesn’t know if she wants to be with me in the future?” [Y’All Need Help #17 Q3] and I just want to follow up. Despite everyone’s advice, I kept dating said girl (also despite constant fear that she would break up with me), and probably to no one else’s surprise, she just broke up with me. In the future, I plan to take the autostraddle community’s advice more seriously. Thank you all for your warnings though!
-naive and heartbroken


Q 1:

I thought my girlfriend and I would get married and we would have kids with her pretty curly hair and I would watch the lines around her eyes get all cute and wrinkly. But instead she broke up with me unexpectedly and I’m past the point of caring if I cry in public. So, like, what should I do? Any advice would be very much appreciated as my cat doesn’t have the emotional intelligence I thought she had.

A 1:

There’s a pretty comprehensive list of breakup advice down there in A8, but I reached out to a writer who’s recently gone through the very same thing, and here’s what she says:

all i can say is when we decide to love someone, to make the decision to go all in, we open ourselves up to the possibility of this very thing, the opposite of what we’d planned. you have to accept that grief is part of the process, give yourself some time, be gentle with yourself, and know deep down that their leaving isn’t a reflection on you, it’s them.

Time time time, is the thing. It takes a lot of time. Keep talking to your cat and going out in public. You’re more resilient than you think.


Q 2:

I’m an out lesbian in my early 20s with a very straight best friend whose enthusiasm for my gayness is becoming grating, verging on offensive. For example, when she introduces me to new people, the fact that I’m “the huge lesbian one” comes up almost immediately, whether it’s relevant or not — so I become one-dimensionally just The Big Homo to mutual friends. I can’t make passing eye contact with a woman on the train without her saying “omg you should fuck her.”

Recently, I was visiting her in the major European capital where she’s studying, and when I mentioned wanting to go to the gay district/bars, she jumped at the chance to “be my wingman” so I could “fuck so many girls.” Notwithstanding the fact that I don’t particularly want an obnoxious, unsubtle, boy-crazy wingman, I didn’t know how to politely tell her that the few gay bars that are left are temporary places of refuge from straight people, I would feel uncomfortable with her there, and I would rather go alone.

Lately I feel like a zoo animal on display, like being a lesbian makes me a crazy wild child who she can carry around for cool edgy social cred. (FWIW, almost everyone else in our friend group is bi or pan, and they don’t seem to get this treatment.) She’s anxious and easily wounded, and I’m worried that if I bring this up it’ll end with her sobbing that she’s an awful friend and I should just never speak to her again. I know she thinks that she’s being super accepting by acting like this and showing off how “okay” she is with same-sex relationships, but it makes me feel like a porn category, not a person. How to I tell her to piss off and let me be gay in peace without sounding like a mean, bitter dyke?

A 2:

She’s projectinggggg !!!

Practical advice-wise, if she really is your best friend, you have to tell her that the way she acts re: you being gay is embarrassing to everyone involved, mostly her, and it’s not OK. You’re well within your rights as a not-mean, not-bitter dyke to let someone know when they’re being incredibly rude, and you should do that! Your best friend would want to know if they were making you this uncomfortable, and moreover they’d want to FIX IT. Try to come up with an analogy that contextualizes your point through her own experiences, and if she protests that you’re being too [whatever], she’s not your best friend.

Also she reallllly wants to sleep with you byeeeeee!


Q 3:

Me and my girlfriend are each others first and only partners (we’re in our early 20’s). Everything has been great so far, except for one thing that bothers me a little. We have very different fingers! My hands and fingers are very small, and hers are quite a bit bigger than average. She doesn’t feel any discomfort during sex even with her hymen being intact. As for me, our first sex did hurt, then it was much better, but even two fingers sometimes seemed like too much, and now when we haven’t done it for quite a while (we’re in LDR), I fear it’s going to start all over again in terms of pain and trying to figure out how to make things better. So, my point is: I love being penetrated, and I want to make it easier, even if it means letting go of my hymen (unfortunately, it didn’t break yet). I don’t have enough guts to break it by myself, so maybe I could ask my girlfriend to do that for me… but what exactly should I ask her to do? I don’t want to resort to sex toys yet. Thank you so much for your help :)

A 3:

I reached out to a real lesbian gynecologist and here’s what she had to say:

The hymen isn’t really something that you need to break. It’s a stretchy membrane that sort of separates the vulva from the vagina and runs circumferentially around the vaginal opening. In the vast majority of women this membrane stretches. Occasionally this membrane covers more or less of the vagina. If it’s more, sometimes you might start having pain when you first have sex. On a small percent of women there are bands of tissue connecting one side to the opposite side. This is called a septate hymen. An even smaller percent have hymens that totally cover the vagina except for a few holes. This is called a cribform hymen. And an even tinier percent have a hymen that completely covers the vaginal opening. This is called an imperforate hymen. Except for an imperforate hymen (which will cause menstrual blood to backflow into the uterus and body) none of these will harm your health, but they will make sex more uncomfortable.

I recommend anyone who is having pain with sex to see their gynecologist. If she has a septate or cribform hymen she will be able to tell right away. She may even be able to tell if there is just more hymen in one area making sex uncomfortable. We often resection these hymens in a very small procedure/surgery called a hymenectomy. I did one just two days ago. A hymenectomy isn’t for everyone, but if the opening is so small someone can’t fit tampons in or have sex the way they want to, it might be a good idea for some women. Other women find that slow dilation of the openings they do have with either good quality silicone dilatory (or even bigger and bigger tampons) is more their style.

The most important thing is that you are having pain with sex to see your gynecologist. Most of the time this isn’t from the hymen but from the muscles. Pelvic floor spasm (aka vaginismus) comes in varying degrees and from various causes. Often one of the ways that vaginismus occurs is by continuing to have sex when you have pain. The body learns to tighten up to brace for pain… which just makes pain worse.

ARE LESBIAN GYNECOLOGISTS THE BEST OR WHAT.


Q 4:

I’ve been in a relationship with my S.O. for six years. We’re polyam, and over the past few months I’ve started to have sex with other people in a non-group setting (ie, my S. O. was not there) for the first time. I always thought that I had a low sex drive or was somewhere on the ace spectrum, but after starting to have sex with women (trans and cis), I realized that I’m just not attracted to men. I was on the verge of breaking up with my partner when they came out to me as nonbinary. It still doesn’t change my lack of physical attraction to them, but I’m afraid that if I tell them, it will come off like I’m not respecting their gender identity. Am I being transphobic? Do I need to re-evaluate my internalized perceptions and prejudices? What do I do???

A 4:

I hesitate to give you really quick advice about this, especially because six years is a pretty long time and I can only imagine how tangled up your lives are in each other’s, but! Here’s some hasty advice from someone who doesn’t know you: you should break up with your partner! Not because you’re not attracted to men, but because you’re not attracted to them.

Breaking up with someone is GARBAGE even when you want to do it — it’s garbage all the way around! It’s not easy and it’s stupid and painful and fucked up and just exactly like being dropped onto a brand new planet where everyone else is acting like things are extremely normal and fine but you know that they aren’t. Breaking up is also part of being together, the same way dying is part of living LISTEN I’M NOT EVEN ON MY PERIOD THIS IS JUST HOW DARK THIS ADVICE POST IS GONNA BE.

You’re not being transphobic, this isn’t about internalized prejudices or a lack of respect. This is about you being honest about what you want, and it sounds like what you want is a woman. AND THAT’S FINE. It’s legal and fine.


Q 5:

I am going to A-Camp for the first time ever!!! I am so excited and I have been reading all the re-camps, looking at all the pics, and just looking at the A-Camp website in general a LOT. Every day is passing too slowly and I don’t know how to speed it up to just be at the camp already! All of my straight friends are tired of me talking about it and my queer friends are at A-Camp in the future waiting for me to meet them because I don’t have any yet! What do you guys do to pass the time while waiting for the time to come?

A 5:

!!! I am so excited for you and everyone else coming to A-Camp for the first time ever this year!!! When we were packing up and leaving the mountain after our very first A-Camp in 2012, I was sobbing — not because I thought I’d never see my friends and coworkers again, and not because I thought there wouldn’t be another one, but because I knew there’d never ever be another one like that one. And I’ve cried every single year since then! For the same reason! We get to live in a world that we make for ourselves there, and it’s not perfect but damn it, it’s ours.

Which is a long way of saying — to you and all new A-Campers and queers going on first dates and people making their first strawberry rhubarb pie and and and and — that it’s already yours and I hope you have SO MUCH FUN.

I think I speak for everyone at Autostraddle when I say that we pass the time by panicking about what we’ll wear and which snacks we’ll need to buy on the way.


Q 6:

Hey, I live in a communal situation. Can I use antimicrobial gel to clean my silicone sex toys in my room, or will the alcohol fuck with the silicone? Will antimicrobial gel get them clean enough? Any other suggestions short of, like, bringing a bucket of water to my room and washing them in it?

A 6:

Carolyn Yates, our Sex Editor who has ridiculously good hair, says that alcohol-based antimicrobial cleaners are safe for silicone toys! Also though if you just want to keep buying things in this world LOOK WHAT I FOUND FOR YOU.


Q 7:

Oh boy here we go… So. I’ve identified as queer/bisexual forever, but I’ve only dated one woman and the relationship was abusive and deeply traumatic. It kind of scared me off of dating women for a couple years, so three years later here I am engaged to a cis man. Except now I’m questioning whether I want to be with a cis man at all. I can’t stop thinking about women, I fantasize about women during sex, I daydream about a “someday” in the future when I’ll get to be with a woman, even though in reality I’m supposed to be marrying this man. But I still love him, deeply, and wish that I had no doubts about spending the rest of my life with him. But these feelings have been here for a year, and I don’t think they’re going to go away no matter how hard I try to suppress them. What the fuck do I do?

A 7:

Do not marry this man. You don’t want to and you shouldn’t make a commitment that you don’t want to make. When I was married to a man and thinking I was straight but fantasizing about women during sex and daydreaming about a “someday,” that daydream relied on him eventually leaving me. Think about that for a second.

Do not marry this man.


Q 8:

I’m a baby queer going through my first breakup. What are your best queer breakup tips? We are friends and everything is ostensibly fine but, you know, ouch.

A 8:

Ok are you ready? Get ready.

The Best Break-Up Advice You’ll Ever Get
Where Does the Good Go? A Break-Up Open Thread
The Lifespan of a Lesbian Heartbreak
A Playlist for When You Break Up in Autumn
Top 10 Special Weirdo Things I’ve Done Since My Very First Break-Up
Playlist: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
So Your First Girlfriend Broke Your Heart — Now What?
Playlist: It Was Time to Go

? ? ? ?


Q 9:

Any advice on how to make space to have friends/try to date while super overwhelmed? Like everyone else I’m working all 158 hours a week trying to change the world, learn new things, build a resume that will get me a job, but I’m absolutely miserable because I have no friends, and I’m not dating, and sometimes I’m not sure why I’m doing all of this because I am just so miserable, but it doesn’t feel like I can stop doing anything that I’m doing. How do I have time for a life when I have no time for anything?

A 9:

You are burning out and you have to stop or something terrible will happen! It’ll probably mean giving up something you’re working on/towards to make time for other things — like rest, relaxation, interacting with the rest of the world — but you have to do it. I SAY THIS BECAUSE I CARE ABOUT YOU. Make the time for yourself because if you don’t literally no one else can or will.


Q 10:

I’m nearly 30 and only came out a few years ago. I am coping with depression, I struggle with alcohol dependency, and I’m still undecided on what I want my career to look like. I don’t really know how to date or be in a relationship. (Longest I’ve been in was a few months, and it was pretty aloof.)

Obviously I’m not just a bundle of negative traits. I have a good job, it’s just not something I want to do forever; I have passions, and I’m pretty good at following through on fulfilling them; I’m in therapy for my drinking and depression and it’s going pretty well; I’m mature, thoughtful, kind, funny, creative, supportive, enthusiastic, and humble enough to feel weird listing my good qualities like this. I really want someone in my life who can joke with me and support me, who I can touch and tell them I love them and hear it back. I want someone who I look forward to seeing every day, who I want to hear stories from, whose opinions I trust, who would be willing to build a life with me. I’m lonely and this all seems so nice.

But I also feel like I’m not there yet. I’m sure I could bring something to a relationship, but would I be enough, or would I be dragging some wonderful person down? And I’m not sure if these feelings of insecurity are me being down on myself (yay depression), or just me being realistic about my current situation and the real struggles I am going through.

I was pursing dating/relationships basically as a part-time job from June-Nov 2017, but I cooled it off after the last person I dated because, in addition to us not being a good fit at all, I also felt incomplete, unfinished, like I wouldn’t compliment anyone so long as I had my main hang-ups (drinking and self-hate) still so prominent in my life. This is also when I started therapy. I don’t think it’s fair to drag some innocent person into my shit when I haven’t dealt with it. But also: everyone has shit in their lives, so am I being too self- critical? And, if I am being realistic about my depression/drinking and if I don’t ever get over these issues, do I really have to stay alone forever? At what point do I actually get to feel like I’ll be someone that another someone would want to be with?

A 10:

Today! Today is the point when you actually get to feel like you’re someone that another someone would want to be with. TODAY. Even if you don’t start dating someone by this afternoon, today is still the day when you say OUT LOUD “I am someone that another someone would want to be with!!!!” because it is true.

I know that one of the deals of AA — which you have not said you’re participating in, but I’m using their guidelines as my guidelines because I don’t have any other ones to go by — is that you don’t start dating until you’ve been sober for a year. You take that whole year to focus on yourself and your recovery. So ok I just want to acknowledge this before I say what I’m gonna say next, which is that every single person, no matter how not-depressed or not-alcohol-dependent they are, has baggage that they bring to the relationship. Don’t be afraid of that. You’ll bring your depression and your drinking issues with you even if you have them under control because it’s your life! It’s what you’ve lived through and it shapes how you live now, and that’s cool and normal.

I’m so happy — I want to say proud but it always sounds so infantilizing to put it that way, but! — that you’re seeing a therapist and working on things! That is SUCH a huge fucking step in the right direction, massive. I hope you keep reminding yourself how much strength it takes to even schedule an appointment, much less go to the appointment and then make more and keep going and going! You are out here doing the damn work. Be impressed with yourself.

I brought your question up to my wife because we both also deal with depression and go back and forth between having it under control and super not having it under control, and I thought she’d have some wisdom. She did. She said you should get a dog.

I was alone for YEARS and so lonely. I was miserable. Everyone told me not to get a dog but I knew I needed one, so I went to the shelter and started taking some of the dogs out on walks. When I met Emily [her dog], she’d been in the shelter for weeks and was labeled Aggressive On Impound — she was a couple of days away from being euthanized and it was clear no one was coming to adopt her. When we went out for a walk, a guy came by and said, “Is that your dog?” and I said, “Not yet, maybe though.” He said, “You two look good together. She looks like your dog.” I used the money my grandmother had left me to adopt her that day. She ate everything in my house — the couch, my shoes, the miniblinds, the doors, the carpet. Bringing her home was the best decision I’ve ever made. I mean you were also a good decision but I love Emily so much.

From the mouths of babes, dear reader.

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Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here.

Laneia has written 919 articles for us.

46 Comments

  1. Q10 I am pretty sure you are me five years ago and I love you. You got this. That is all <3

    (also q3, just….just buy a damn dildo ok. If it's not vaginismus, I mean. Start with a small one – it's not 'resorting,' it's doing yourself a stretchy favor when you can't be with your Person more often. If Dr Lesbian Gynecologist hasn't convinced you, listen to Folksy Elder Wisdom, 'breaking' is not what happens. Gotta stretch things somehow, and if fingers aren't your thing [I, uh, feel you?? on this one*], a synthetic third party is gonna be your best pal.)

    *AND I DEEPLY REGRET THIS PUN

  2. #12 – maybe I’m missing some nuances here, but I think it’s totally possible for you to be out as queer without outing your partner as trans. Just be an out queer woman with a male partner.

    I’m a queer woman married to a cis straight man. I definitely get read as / assumed straight when I’m with him. In the last few years, I’ve experimented with being more openly bi /queer and it’s made a big difference for me. The biggest change is that as I’ve become more secure in and more comfortable with my identity as a queer woman with a male partner, it’s mattered a little less to me if a few people still read me as straight.

    For me, wearing my pride pins and getting involved in my local queer community, especially with other bi and pan folks, has really helped. And it’s not always easy – not everyone in my life took me seriously the first couple times I came out to them as bi, but the more publicly involved I am in misc queer activities, the more they accept it (or remember it).

    In my case, there’s pretty much nothing my wonderful partner could do to make himself read as less straight. But even so, he comes with me to queer spaces and we have fun. And yeah, maybe some people assume we’re a random straight couple that got lost, despite my cargo pants and bi pride pins, but because I’m out enough in those spaces, I’m not worrying about it.

    • Yeah that was my reaction to that question too! You can totally be a queer woman in a relationship with a man! And honestly it read as transphobic to me that everyone is taking it for granted that this person can’t come out without also outing her partner? If the question were “I’m a queer woman in a relationship with a straight man and our relationship gets read as straight which I hate because it makes me feel invisible”, then the answer is clearly, “Your sexuality exists separately from your husband’s sexuality and gender. You get to be out and proud because that’s about who you are.” (Rebecca Sugar talks about this in her episode on Cameron Esposito’s Queery podcast and I love it so much.)

      I wonder though if this is more nuanced because the question asker identified as a lesbian in her first sentence? If she wants to be out as a lesbian specifically (not as bi or queer), then that could come across as invalidating her husband’s gender. Identity labels are complicated so I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s transphobic for her to continue to identify as a lesbian while dating a trans man. Like, I’ve read things on this very site from women who identify as a lesbian even though they’re dating a man they’re in love with and attracted to because they are attracted to women the vast majority of the time and feel their partner is the exception to the rule, or for any number of other reasons. Identities can be complex. (If this person’s partner *does* feel misgendered by the question asker continuing to identify as a lesbian, then that is definitely something they need to talk about.) I still think it’s possible for the letter writer to be out as a lesbian, but I think that would require a lot more care and nuance so as not to invalidate her husband’s identity or out him as trans. If someone asked “So how come you’re with your husband if you’re a lesbian?” the letter writer couldn’t bluntly respond “Oh because we fell in love when he thought he was a lesbian too and we stayed together after transition” or whatever their story is. And I can see how the letter writer might also not feel comfortable responding “Because he’s the exception” because that could contribute to cis men’s feeling of entitlement toward lesbians. I think in this case Laneia’s friend’s answer is particularly relevant.

      If I’m reading into that first sentence correctly (and ignore me if I’m not), then I would also advise the letter writer to consider being out publicly as queer or gay. That’s a lot more vague and can be used as an umbrella term to include lesbian. Or as bi, which she can define as “attracted to woman and this one man” if she wants. That might give her a little more wiggle room to be out as the gay woman she is without making it about her husband at all. Because the bottom line is, there has to be room for her to exist too even if her husband is trans. And her sexuality isn’t just about him.

      • This sentence in my first paragraph was supposed to be: If the question were “I’m a queer woman in a relationship with a cis straight man and our relationship gets read as straight which I hate because it makes me feel invisible”…

  3. I asked Question 28.
    Thank you for answering my question and I appreciate your suggestions but I left out a big issue with my situation. I am living at home being a caregiver to my grandma and financially it’s tough. I have a little help but not a lot. Believe me I would love to move or even go away for the weekend but it’s just not something I can do right now. I’ve been joining online dating sites and forums and communities to meet other women and I’m constantly ignored. To top it off I’m incredibly lonely and sometimes I just want someone to talk to. I’m not trying to get anyone to feel sorry for me and I’m hoping people won’t reply to this telling me I need to grow up and stop wanting to meet people because there are more important issues in my life. I just was hoping for suggestions to meet other women.

    Anyway thanks again for answering my question.
    Have a nice day.

    • Hey, I’m sorry you’re not having a lot of luck. I don’t want to insult your profile-writing skills but maybe if you feel ignored on dating sites you can have another look? You could ask a friend to read your profile and see if your best qualities shine out. Maybe you’re too shy to present your best self to potential loves/buddies?

      Also, I guess if you’re getting interest from people far away you have your settings quite open, but consider approaching more people than you generally would? For a while I decided to answer every genuine message I got on okcupid, whether I thought the person seemed interesting or not, and I’m glad I did because I chatted with a broader range of people. A broader range of people sounds like it’d be great for you to just get yourself out there and be part of a queer world. You might not find a great love this way, but that’s okay, these are steps towards that.

      Good luck!

      • You didn’t offend me and you aren’t the first person to tell me this.
        I deleted a ton of things in my profile and have left it aside from 2 short paragraphs empty.
        I’ve liked a lot of profiles and I only wrote to one who ended up deleting her profile. I tend to get blocked after liking profiles so I changed some things up in my profile and still nothing. Maybe it is me, maybe they think I’m too desperate.
        Thanks anyway.

    • Being a caretaker, do you have the option to go out locally? Seeing that it’s hard to find anything specifically LGBT, I’d suggest looking for a hobby/events that have a decent percentage of women. I know it’s not the same as finding a gay tribe, but you write you are lonely. I believe it would be nice to meet some people right now, even if they are not gay.
      And by meeting IRL people you have a higher chance to network your way to accidentally meeting someone you click with (though to take off the pressure I suggest going to events to have fun, not with specific friend/partner meeting objectives.)

      • Thank you for your suggestion, at the moment I’m her full-time caregiver and can’t leave her. I am trying to find help but the search is slim. That’s why I’m solely looking online. I’m starting to believe this was pointless in posting my question and I should’ve stayed quiet.
        Thanks anyway.

    • I agree with boots… consider any local events that would be appealing to only or mostly women – book clubs, craft meetups, poetry readings, concerts of female performers? Or even if there’s a traditionally male pursuit that you’re interested in locally give it a chance, the no.1 client might be men but maybe queer women come in no.2 before straight women (eg I hang out at a local makerspace and climbing gym a lot, these support my hypothesis)

      I was feeling pretty isolated living in a new, more conservative place lately and making queer friends here has boosted my happiness no end, so don’t give up! I bet there is someone out there feeling the same as you, I hope you find them! good luck!

    • Is it feasible for you to set up a social group? I did that with my ex-wife when we lived in a town/county with nothing for queer women, we started our own social group. The first few meetings were pretty quiet but it got more popular.

      There are probably other women near you also feeling as isolated as you are.

      • I don’t know I haven’t looked into it. I’m not really comfortable setting up things like that in a conservative city where in the Sunday Editorials boast how Gays Are Ruining America.

    • Obviously I don’t know anything about your unique situation, so forgive me if this ends up sounding out-there or condescending. But looking over the things you’ve written, I get the sense that you’re feeling very trapped. You said you “can’t leave” your grandmother, even for a weekend or to be part of a casual hobby group. Does full-time in this instance mean the care has to be 24/7? And you are the sole caregiver? If that’s the case, that may be the bigger issue, not just in terms of dating but overall mental health. You need time for yourself. Everyone does. Nurses, doctors, and hired caregivers have time for themselves after work—your care of your grandmother is work, and it sounds so much like you need a break from it. That’s obviously easier said than done, but you need and deserve time for yourself. Again, don’t know anything about your life, but for example, is it possible to ask your parent/other relative/friend/hire someone to care for your grandmother for X hours a week so you can go out to a hobby/date? (I know you said you were just looking for ways to meet women, but my question back is, if you did meet a wonderful person you clicked with online, would you have the opportunity to actually *go out* with them? It sounds like you wouldn’t, and resolving that might be what you need to focus on at the moment.)

      Also, and sorry to be blunt, but as someone who has struggled with depression for years, there’s some things you say that sound like they’re veering into depressive territory — like assuming people who don’t respond to your profile must think you’re “desperate.” Those read to me as red flags, and with depression among caregivers at twice the rate of the regular population… I don’t want to armchair diagnose, but maybe look into whether you might fall into that category. If you don’t, fantastic! But if you do, knowing about it can help to manage it.

      A few random links that might be handy:
      https://www.caregiver.org/depression-and-caregiving
      https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-depression-silent-health-crisis
      https://www.agingcare.com/articles/caregivers-and-dating-relationships-142878.htm
      https://thecaregiverspace.org/dating-as-a-caregiver/

      Also, in general, online dating kinda sucks, it sucks for a lot of people, it’s not you AT ALL so please try not to internalize bad reception to online profiles as invalidation of your self-worth. I’m sure you’re great! Best of luck!

    • Well there are two social spheres that you can explore: local and the internet

      As far as local goes, I think there are some good suggestions here. I think a big thing in not feeling lonely is letting yourself be familiar to other people and for them to be familiar to you. If you don’t get out much because it sounds like you have limitations, you can even take baby steps. Instead of getting a coffee to go, sit down with a book for a bit. Have a favourite local spot. Pursue hobbies and interests where you can out in the community. Join clubs. Participate in workshops. Go to shows. Show face. Connect with people in a way that feels authentic to you. Trust me, you’re not alone in your loneliness. Maybe you’ll find a romantic connection (you aren’t the only gay in the conservative South that feels like you’re only the Gay in the Village), maybe you won’t–but it will build confidence.

      And then as far as the internet goes–this might be an opportunity for you to strike up some more emotional connections. Find forums or chatrooms that are catered to your interests or your demographic. Make a tumblr account. Yes, being in the same physical space is dreamy and nice. But sometimes connections fostered online allows to take the pressure off and they can still be really powerful and authentic. Those people in South Korea and Thailand? As long as you’re all honest about what you want out of the online conversation, it can be really emotionally fulfilling.

      Your situation will change and I hope you get to settle into a super-queer-friendly space sooner rather than later.

  4. In response to Q22, while it might seem like there’s a finite pool of available queer monogamous women that’s dwindling right now, people move, people come out later, and relationships don’t always last. So many things can change over time! And as for the concerns about people being less willing to date someone less experienced, someone worth your time won’t let that stop them if they’re into you. Good luck!

  5. @20 I think you should give tinder a fair try. It has a bad reputation, especially among straight people. But (in my experience) it has the largest pool of gay/bi women and some of that pool is interested in dating/relationships. Especially if you’re looking for someone around the same age as you. I feel like the OKCupid population skews a little older in addition to it being much smaller. For what it’s worth, I’ve met many of the women I’ve dated (or even just gone on one date with) on Tinder.

  6. @Laneia thanks for the post and all your advice! Just wondering, do you order all the questions/advice in the order that you read and respond to them? Or does it get all mixed up? As I was reading through (in order) I found myself wondering that.

    • hi abby! it’s a little bit of both — so some of these are in the order they were received and then a few are jumping forward in time bc i wanted to answer that one for whatever reason.

  7. It feels less lonely to read that there are many other people in their 20s who haven’t been in a relationship yet. I have lots in common with a number of those questions, stressed, anxious, busy, in grad school, not sure how to meet people. I’ve gone on four first dates in the last four months, and even having first dates is new to me but it isn’t as scary as I thought. Getting coffee or tea with a cute stranger and having a short conversation is kind of nice actually. Even if they never text me back or talk to me again :/

  8. (Last one, I promise)
    I’m curious what advice or anecdotes everyone has for PDA fears & same sex relationships. I’m really comfortable with my sexuality and not ashamed in anyway, but I still find that I’m generally afraid of PDA on NYC sidewalks. Even a kiss or holding hands as you walk with someone.
    I want to get over it, but I feel like it stems from real homophobic events and glares that I was subject to with an ex in the midwest- like really small things too: holding hands, her touching my shoulder for 2 seconds affectionately. I’m not in a relationship, but it’s not a great mindset for going on dates.

    Any experiences (positive or negative) or advice welcome :)

    • In my experience the only way to get over that discomfort is just to get used to it, which unfortunately means just doing the PDA and being uncomfortable about it until you’re not anymore. I can’t say that smirks, comments etc. will stop happening, but in my experience you eventually get to a point where you have no more fucks to give about it. It also helps if you can feel condescending and disdainful of homophobes rather than worried about their judgement, but that’s a process too (and totally understandable if you’ve been in situations that were unsafe). Best of luck!

  9. Q26: How many heterosexual girls/women do you know who question their heterosexuality just because they haven’t ever dated or kissed a boy/man? This shouldn’t be a thing for anyone. Lack of sexual experience doesn’t mean you don’t know or have a right to claim your sexuality.

  10. I was also wondering about q12. Mainly, the premise that if the question asker wants to explain that she is a lesbian in a relationship with a man, then she defends her relationship with this man by outing him, which is essentially saying “it’s okay he’s not a *real* man.”

    I just want to point out, not even necessarily to the question writer but for general reference, this is not an ok attitude. This is transphobic. Transmen are real men, regardless of their bodies or the people they are with’s orientations. Their bodies are men’s bodies because they are men and they are living in them. I don’t think that the question asker should validate her sexuality by invalidating her partner’s gender.

    Question asker, I don’t mean this as an attack. Like homophobia, transphobia is insidious and it creeps into our thoughts even if we desperately don’t want it there or think that we don’t have it at all. I am positive you love your partner and are not intentionally doing this. (And, jsyk, I am a lifelong trans ally who is just now realizing that I am trans myself and also that I have HEAPS of internalized transphobia that I guess I thought I was exempt from because…. Lifelong ally?)

    This reminds me of something I read recently about disclosing trans status. The quote was “LGB people come out so that they can be seen for who they are, trans people who disclose risk NOT being seen for who they are.” In A12, the quoted person questions why the husband does not want to disclose, safety is a good reason, but so is moving thru the world being recognized for who you are. For many transfolks (those who have the ability to” pass”) this means choosing not to disclose. Or at least choosing not to disclose all the time to everyone.

    I agree with the advise above, question asker can totally be out as queer or something more neutral easily, without having to say anything about her partner. But she can also be out as a lesbian who is with a man. I did this when I was dating a guy after a pretty traumatic break up. This was how I explained myself, and very few people pushed back. I would get: “so are you bi now?” But I would just say “no, I’m just dating this guy.”

    What will likely be hard for the question asker is that people will assume she’s not really a lesbian because of her relationship. It is unfortunate that explaining that her partner is trans would “convince” these people of her true lesbian status. Because regardless of her partner’s previous identity, he is a man and she is a lesbian and so just stating those facts is the most true way to honor everyone in the relationship.

  11. 12 is bizarre. Trans men are not ‘men lite’. Trans men are men. Asking him not to express his gender so that you can express your sexuality seems transphobic and not super viable or healthy long-term. If you’re not happy in a relationship with a man, that’s something you need to re-evaluate for yourself.

    • I don’t think it’s “bizarre” to want to express your identity and the reality of your relationship. Trans men are obviously men, and her question doesn’t read that she’s asking him not to be himself. Her question is how to express and validate her identity when straight people think she’s straight and people’s responses in the queer community are frankly usually along the lines of this comment. I could have written this question myself and it’s really hard, especially when you get accused of transphobia for wanting to be a person who gets to express an equally valid identity to that of your partner in a relationship!

      In response to the actual question, I think one thing that helped me, a little at least, was to realize that my identity was just as important as his. I think it’s easy (and sometimes necessary, especially when your partner first starts to transition), to sort of let your own identity and needs recede because you want to validate their identity. But that’s not fair to you, and putting someone else’s needs in front of your own forever does not a good relationship make. It sounds like your husband realizes this and is supportive of your identifying as a lesbian, which is great! I think the tension will always exist in your life, but I think you can make the choice be open about your life and experiences and identity without outing him. A while ago I realized that I was censoring the things I said or did because I was so worried about inadvertently outing him by talking about, like, gay things or who I’ve dated in the past or whatever. But — this is my life too, and I am who I am! He is allowed to be himself and I am allowed to be myself! I can say true things about my life without it being a referendum on his gender. I can be a lesbian in a relationship with a man and when straight people don’t get it (they do not ever) or queer people give you shit or tell you you’re transphobic (they will), I try to remember that their opinion does not matter literally at all. I would be lying if I said it was easy to do this in actual practice, but it is helpful to remember — other people’s opinions do not matter *at all* make it a mantra. All that said, this is a hard thing, and I don’t know if it gets easier, and I wish there was more support, especially in queer spaces, for people in this situation!

      • Thank you SO MUCH for your response. The other responses make me really sad. They didn’t even carefully read the actual question, or the context that the advice-giver was coming from, before piling on. I was also in this situation and I completely agree with your advice.

  12. Dear Q29, are you familiar with the term “emotional flashback”? I have felt it when something current reminded me about a former bad situation and I felt exactly as bad and desperate and trapped as I felt then.
    Remembering that emotional flashbacks exist and understanding that this is happening to me helps me get back on my feet.
    You do *feel* as though you were back, but you are *not* back. Your life and your flat and your friends and everything else in your life still belong to you. It might feel as if your ex still controlled you, but today or tomorrow or in a week, you will break through this feeling. Your ex does not control you.

    In your case, the situation still might be too fresh and panic-inducing to be helped by this knowledge alone in which case I’ll second the above strategies to deal with panic and anxiety.

    An additional strategy that I’ve cherished because it does really help: If you associate bad feelings with a specific place/situation (namely being outside, right now), go there as soon as possible. Going and NOT experiencing anything terrible will help reset your brain.
    If it’s too terrifying right now to take a stroll around the neighborhood, make it easier: Go get the mail (if it’s outside), or stretch your legs for a little distance on the sidewalk and then come back in. Build on that and go further next time.

    On the (really) off chance that you see her, know that this is an exception, a rare occasion, know that you are still free and still loved and that everyone you allowed to stay in your life is save and start from the top of this comment.

    • I think that person is living in a situation (like a dorm) where the bathrooms aren’t single-person. Even if they had a private way to transport sex toys to the bathroom, there’s still a high chance that someone else will be in there and see them washing sex toys at the sink.

  13. It didn’t even occur to me to be worried about what gay snacks I should bring to A-Camp until I read Q/A5, so now I guess I have to go work on my homemade granola formula for the next six weeks.

  14. #14, I cannot thank you enough. I had an actual breakdown on Insta stories this morning (go me!) because I didn’t feel like my queerness was valid, seeing as I have only been in long term relationships with cis/het men. But right now also I am kinda done with cis/het men in general (despite my queerness looking like attraction to all genders), I would really just like to date someone not of the cis/het variety. And that’s terrifying, because what if I’m not queer enough to whomever I’m interested in?
    Sooo. I can’t even tell you how much I needed to read this question and answer today.

  15. So much here! This must have been a really intense outpouring! Thank you for this incredible work.

    #12, I have been in this situation. I think the advice is good. Talk, talk talk.

    I feel like there’s part of this discussion that is missed sometimes- not that #12 asked about this. I really don’t have good language to talk about this but I’m going to try. If anyone replies please be patient with me because I am struggling to figure out how to talk about this the right way.

    I agree that trans men are men, all around. And ALSO partners can be attracted to a certain kind of body. I think completely erasing the nuances of attraction can be invalidating to partners, and sometimes brings us into a full circle of erasing GLB existence if it’s seen in a certain way. Like, if you like having sex with someone with a certain body, is there some way to BOTH see your partner as fully the sex/gender they are, AND be attracted to their particular body (without fetishizing of course)?

    My relationship with a trans guy was a long time ago. A different era. But when he came out, I said, you are a man and when we get together I’m having sex with a man. I identified as a lesbian before that and I was committed to him and the relationship, and I couldn’t personally handle the cognitive dissonance of calling myself a lesbian for whatever reason so I began identifying as queer instead. I’m not going to lie, it was HARD. Identity has always been a really sticky thing for me, since I was a kid, due to coming from a mixed ethnic background, and this was just… I had a hard time understanding how to meet his needs for identity validation as well as my own. We separated after a while, and have remained friends ever since; we talk fairly frequently and our kids have playdates.

    Now I’ve been with a cis guy for a decade. Part of what helped me open up to having relationships with cis men was that I had conceptualized in my head that bodies are not important, that attraction to bodies is not important. I do love my husband but I also know what is missing. I’m back in therapy, after 15 years of not going, to deal with being gay and married to a cis guy. And I feel like the way I shifted the way I thought about gender/bodies/sex just weirdly brought me full circle into “gayness isn’t real” territory. Not that I ever thought that about other people, it just made me believe I could be more flexible than maybe I should have tried to be.

    Some people can deal with mixed-orientation marriage and tepid sex and being homo-flexible or whatever for a long time. People have been doing this throughout history. But I am dealing with some real guilt over it; my husband is really a decent person and doesn’t deserve anything bad. Maybe we can make it work. And I understand that conceptualizing things this way, and maybe not going to therapy earlier, and a million other things could have prevented us from getting into such a hairy feeling situation- there’s so much that goes into it. And maybe the relationship has been what we both have needed in other ways. But I do want to share my experience with this hard-lined, black and white way of feeling like any inkling of validating attraction to a certain body is transphobic isn’t always healthy. Also not every trans person thinks of things that way, like the partner of the advice giver.

    Like I said- I’m open to talking but please be patient with me. Thanks.

    • I think Cleo had a really good answer above. Bi women regularly deal with the problem of other people invalidating their sexual identities when they are in relationships with cis men. This isn’t that different. Without saying that the LW is necessarily transphobic, I do think it’s revealing when she says “when people know I’m married to a man and think I’m straight, it hurts me. In order to be out, I’d have to out him, and he prefers to be stealth.”

      The LW perceives her spouse’s decision to live stealth as the source of others’ perceptions of her identity and her own feelings about that. But the real problem is not that her spouse doesn’t want to come out. It’s that people think any woman in a relationship with a man must be heterosexual. It sounds like she is blaming her spouse instead of heteronormativity itself.

      Is the LW’s spouse stopping her from talking about her sexual identity or participating in lesbian culture? I think that would be a different story. If he doesn’t want to wear her Indigo Girls t-shirt because then people might figure out she’s queer and deduce that he’s actually a trans man, that would be unacceptably controlling on his part. I could be wrong, but I don’t get the sense that he’s discouraging her from identifying the way she wants to, he just doesn’t want her to out him.

      I would also note that the LW isn’t obligated to stay married to this man. If she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with a man, that’s valid. People are allowed to not be attracted to partners who transition. We are allowed to fall out of love, or find ourselves to be no longer on the same page etc. What isn’t reasonable is the expectation that her spouse out himself to suit HER needs. No one should come out as gay or bi or trans to suit a partner’s needs instead of their own. I think she needs to either readjust how she sees this issue or leave him.

    • I really appreciated reading your experience. I think the challenge of questions like this is that from the outside it’s really easy to talk about things like bi-erasure and transphobia etc, but from the inside it’s usually much messier and more personal. And it’s possible to carve out personal answers that don’t really fit into tidy cultural narratives.

      I’ve been thinking about a married couple I know – a queer cis woman and a non-binary person who uses they/them pronouns. The NB partner once told me that they gave their wife permission to refer to them as her wife (even though they usually use gender neutral language to describe themselves) for all the reasons given in Laneia’s answer.

      It really doesn’t matter if I have opinions about why does the cis partner’s need to be out trump the NB’s partner’s need to be read as NB. Because it’s their relationship and their balance of power and not mine, and it seems to be working for both of them. Just like it’s no one’s business how I negotiate how to be out as bi with my cis male partner.

  16. So, re Q: 12

    I think that this question isn’t all that different a situation faced in the queer community all the time–and that’s bi-erasure. Not saying that you have to identify as bisexual, but what’s really happening is that people look at your relationship and have decided what your sexuality is based on perception and heterosexism.

    My closest friend identifies as bisexual and is on a long term monogamous relationship with a cis-dude and walking down the street or with people she doesn’t have relationships pertaining about sexuality with–people think she’s straight. And ya–it sucks. She hates it. And her partner is super supportive of her embracing and projecting her queer identity in different ways. She’s an artist and explores it through her drawings which she posts on social media, she engages with queer content (graphic novels, tv, movies, books, musicians, etc.) and talks about them and how they relate to her within her social circle, she talks about queer news, etc.

    Presumption is frustrating. It’s frustrating that people see you and your male partner and presume your straight. But that has nothing to do with his trans-ness. It has has to do with binaries and heteropresumptiom.

    As much as I’m on board with so much advice, I don’t think its his responsibility to negotiate his gender identity for the sake of how people perceive your sexuality. He is a man. You are what you are. He isn’t the problem, you aren’t the problem–society is. And I wish it wasn’t the case, but if you want to be seen and heard, then I think your identity needs to be projected–and that his gender identity shouldn’t be apart of it.

  17. Dear all Gays that Don’t Think They’re Gay Enough Because They Haven’t Kissed Somebody In A Gay Way (a la Q: 26):

    There is no resume for being gay, there are no pre-requisites. If you’re gay, you’re gay and that’s all there is to being gay.

    When you do kiss somebody, it won’t make you more gay–but it will be super duper amazing, so I highly recommend.

  18. This is fantastic, as always. I appreciate and respect and am super into all of these answers, Laneia, but I’m especially loving A13 right now, because you (and most advice writers) almost always say something sort of soft and gentle and acknowledging that the sitch isn’t black-and-white (because most situations aren’t), but I really love that you just WENT OFF in this one case. Like, um no that is not an acceptable thing, how dare that person. Which is so true!! My heart goes out so much to Q13’s advice-seeker: you deserve and will one day find someone who is not only willing to tell you that you’re pretty but also thinks you’re just the cutest damn person in the whole world. I’m so sorry that you don’t have that right now. But it’s possible! Really. Don’t twist yourself into knots making this current sitch ok. *Hugs if you want them*

  19. #27!!! I feel like I could have written this exact question three years ago. It is terrifying trying to figure out how to date when you’re in your mid-twenties and the rest of the world is already settling down.

    Laneia is right that once you get in there you realize that nobody, no matter how experienced, has any clue what they’re doing. But when you’ve never dated (or even kissed anyone), the how of it can seem completely impossible.

    My advice to you, as someone who did finally manage to take the plunge, it to approach it the same way you would approach any other seemingly insurmountable challenge. Break it down into smaller, more achievable goals.

    You’re already on OKC, so try sending a couple of people messages. Just ask them how their day is. They will either respond or they won’t – neither outcome will kill you. Once you’ve managed to have some conversations, ask someone for coffee.  Again they’ll either say yes or no. Next, can you make it through an hour of polite conversation with a cute girl? Probably!

    It took me a lot of first dates to get to a point where I was comfortable enough to even think about flirting or kissing anyone – but I did eventually and have had some really fun romances since. It’s scary to leave the comfort zone but definitely worth it!

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