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

Q 11:

I want to hit on girls on Instagram, but for moral reasons I can’t. I’m in a live-in relationship that I plan on ending as soon as my lease ends for financial reasons bc this is real life and I support more people than myself. I have expressed how fucking much this is not working to my current partner. If the message is not across and shit fixed by August, I’m out. So this is not a sneaky surprise

But I’m horny and over it and I want to be a happy fat slut with a twinkie in each hand and a girl in my lap. but I’m here??? Until August??? It is unethical to see other people, right???? I quit smoking (cigs) I can’t do everything / am not a machine.

A 11:

This is a truly terrible and miserable predicament. You have around four months left until your lease is up, and while you’re correct that you’re not a machine, I do believe that you can still live through the next four months and come out being the person you want to be — the one who doesn’t see other people just yet.

Also my other advice which you didn’t ask for is, don’t have a second option for if shit is fixed by August. Whatever the shit is, based on the overall vibe of this letter, I believe it cannot be fixed. You’re leaving in August. August! You’re definitely leaving in August! I’m so excited for your incredibly slutty future!

Q 12:

I am a lesbian in my mid twenties, and I am happily married. Genuinely, my spouse is amazing and I love our marriage. The only problem, really, is how others perceive our relationship. My spouse is a trans guy, and so everyone thinks we’re straight when we’re together (nobody perceives me as straight literally any other time, but heterosexism is strong).

When it’s just the two of us, things are wonderful. He knows about my sexuality, and he is fine with it and so supportive. Our relationship may not always make sense to other people, but we’re happy. We have a beautiful, healthy, strong marriage that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

But, 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 put him, and he prefers to be stealth. I feel like I’m in the closet because of our marriage and like I’m keeping important parts of myself hidden. I’m not sure how carry this tension in my life.

A 12:

Hi ok so I took your question to a friend of mine who is a queer woman in a longterm relationship with a trans man, because there some nuances to this situation that I didn’t think I could handle on my own. And I was right! Her situation is different from yours in a major way, which is that her partner isn’t stealth at all — he doesn’t pass, identifies as queer, and is out to his friends and coworkers — and because of these relative privileges, she’s able to express her queerness all over the place. She recommended the thing that nearly every advice question/answer comes down to: you’re gonna have to talk to him about this and find a healthy, safe compromise for both of you.

Unless the reason your partner prefers to be stealth is strictly for safety, we’re both left wondering why the visibility of his gender identity takes precedence over the visibility of your sexual identity. His preference to be read as a cis man relies heavily on you being read as a straight woman, and this isn’t working for you. It sounds like you have a great relationship and that’s something worth haggling over, so get in there and T A L K. Here’s my friend’s advice in her own words:

She should talk to her partner about what it is about passing that he desires (safety? identity validation? ……… privilege?), are there areas he’d be willing to compromise? It sounds like the current situation feels lacking for her and she needs something more. Does she want to be out to everybody, or will the affirmation of a couple of people do? If so, maybe they could look for specifically queer activities or meet-ups, even something out of town if he’s afraid of running into someone. The only thing she can do is talk to her partner and try to find common ground. Identity is tough!! Everything would be so much easier without straight ppl! But short of an alien abduction or a straight rapture where all the straight ppl disappear from earth, leaving behind a queer paradise, I don’t see that happening.

Q 13:

Right now I’m in a relationship that matters a great deal to me. It’s not brand-new but it’s still only about half a year old, so there’s still lots to discuss and find out. During one of those conversations a few days ago, through a series of events, I ended up telling my sweetheart that I felt like they didn’t like my body. And they responded that they didn’t, that I wasn’t their type. I asked if they at least thought I was pretty, and they didn’t respond. They just reassured me that, “It hasn’t stopped the sex from being wonderful.”

This is one of those things where I feel like it shouldn’t matter to me but it obviously has, because I’ve been poking at it and poking at it for days now. It really does hurt miserably, even though “being pretty” is a silly social construct and culturally specific and marketed to women from birth and oughtn’t to be a big deal. I feel rejected, and uncertain, and self-loathing, not to mention really weirded-out and uncomfortable thinking about having sex with them again. If they don’t even find me attractive, why do they want to use my body that way? At the same time, I feel like I shouldn’t bring it up to them, because it’s not like they can help their tastes. Maybe asking about it would just be slapping them in the face with something that’s unfixable.

I suppose I am asking for advice on what to do that is constructive and isn’t just feeling small and snubbed. Do you think talking would really help, if I phrased it right?

A 13:

EXCUSE ME, but no. This is an unacceptable response to either of those very easy, very basic questions! Someone’s body not being your “type” DOES NOT preclude that body from being likable and also pretty! Jesus what the entire fuck is wrong with this person.

Being pretty is as much a social fucking construct as having a fucking “type” and just as broad and open to fucking interpretation. “If they don’t even find me attractive, why do they want to use my body that way?” You already know the answer to this and I’m so fucking sorry. This person is a shit and apparently stupid to boot because only a complete idiot would’ve responded the way they did. I’M SORRY FOR NAME-CALLING BUT I’M LIVID ON YOUR BEHALF.

This person is cancelled. Send me the bill for the enormous platter of nachos you order after you break up with them.

Q 14:

I’ve been out as bisexual for 18 years, but that identity has been shifting recently and I’m now seriously confused. I’ve dated both men and women but only had long term relationships with men, not for want of trying with women, but I’m a bit uncomfortable outside my niche scene so end up dating “straight” girls I meet there. My relationship with men is terrible – my father was a violent narcissist, and two of my adult relationships with men have been abusive, one leaving me with permanent injuries from sexual abuse. I finally invested in therapy which helped me work through a lot of trauma and learn how to be on my own, but I couldn’t afford to continue. I’ve slept with a couple of men since therapy, but after a while lapse into revulsion and dissociation (with women I feel completely at ease).

What I can’t figure out is whether this is nature (I’m really gay af and my attraction to men is an unhealthy eroticization of a power dynamic I’m trying to resolve) or nurture (I’m really bi but so traumatised I can’t stand being with men anymore). Both these stories ring so potentially true that I don’t know what to think. I’m getting mixed messages from friends too: some think I should write off men and focus on women, others think I should go with the flow. But the flow, for women under heteropatriarchy, often leads towards men, and I don’t think that’s what I want anymore, as flattered as I am by their attention at first. Is it wrong to decide against a sexual identity I’d held for my entire adult life and make the concerted effort required to date more queerly?

A 14:

Oh friend friend FRIEND let me tell you about a woman whose story could be your story. Her name is Riese and she once wrote this piece of truth that came full-speed out of whatever screen it was read on and crashed like a train into the hearts of many, including mine. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About My Sexual Orientation And Were(n’t) Afraid To Ask:

So, what am I? I identify as bisexual because my relationships with men were not lies and I think that’s what bisexuality means. I loved them/sex. I never felt I was repressing lesbian urges. I didn’t have secret crushes on my female friends. “Lesbian” seems like what I am but “bisexual” honors who I was, too — it wasn’t just a filling station from there to here, it was another highway altogether. I didn’t evolve, I changed. But that girl was real, too.

Because isn’t it murky, back there? My brain is a dark swamp of memory and nomenclature is a heavy book of abstractions. When you ask me to label you I tell you “you do you” because that’s what I tell myself. I’m just me. I have so many stories, so many little lives, that I can throw together a narrative to prove I’m just about anything in the world.

It isn’t wrong AT ALL to decide which things you’ll act on and which things you’ll stop doing. Riese likes to say she’s “bisexual by birth, lesbian by choice,” and maybe you would like to say that, too.

“i think i am biologically wired to be bisexual, but i choose to be a lesbian because i identify with lesbian culture and lesbian history and want to be in a world that is heavy on the ladies.” -riese bernard

Q 15:

I’m a 24-year-old grad student and after spending literally all of undergrad single and coming to terms with being bi, I finally feel ready to start dating. The issue is I’m not out to my (super religious, non-affirming) family and because I’m in school again, I’m sort of financially dependent on them. I am terrified of either being rejected by a potential partner because of this, or ending up in a relationship and burdening someone with my semi out the closet problems :( Part of me thinks it would be wiser to wait til I have it all figured out (i.e. after grad school), but a bigger part of me knows there’s no such thing as having it all figured out, plus I really want to date. I guess my question is, should I just wait? Has anyone ever dated someone/been in a relationship where one partner was out but not the other? How do you bring this up with a potential boo?

A 15:

You can totally date and still be in the closet with your family! It’s such a pain in the ass, but you can do it and have fun and be a person and make another person happy, yes. There are so many reasons to stay in the closet for X amount of time and being financially dependent is one of the biggest ones. Practically speaking, I wouldn’t bring this up on like, the first date or even the fourth one? I just mean that it’s not the most important thing about you, so don’t make it out to be.

To reiterate what I’ve already said up there somewhere, you will always ALWAYS burden your person with something. There’s no getting out of that. I burden my person with my crushinggggg social anxiety and body issues, and she loves it! She burdens me with not putting the lid back on the orange juice all the way so that when I shake it in the morning it goes all over the place, and man alive I can’t get enough of it! Being with a person is necessarily burdening them with the full reality of you! Hahaha we have fun!

If you end up getting serious with someone, chances are huge and great that they’ll want you to come out to your family at some point, and to be honest you’ll want to come out to them too! And when you can, you should. And as long as you financially cannot, then you shannot. You’re not doing anything wrong here and you deserve to have fun and make weird faces at someone who cares about you. Get out there!

Q 16:

Hey Autostraddle! I’m a femme lesbian who has identified as such for the past 6 years. I’m confident in my orientation and am not interested in men, however before I came out there was one guy I had a serious relationship with. I was very much romantically in love with him, even if the physical component wasn’t satisfying. After having a series of casual relationships with women since coming out, I’m finally in a relationship with a woman I deeply love. However, I’ve really been missing the PDA component that I was able to have with my ex boyfriend. My current girlfriend and I live in a liberal city, but we’ve been harassed at restaurants and on the street when we’ve tried to do things like hold hands. Neither of us feel comfortable showing affection in public anymore (though I really admire those of you that do!). I know this is all because of the screwed up society we live in, but–and I know how messed up this is, trust me–there’s a part of me that sometimes feels like we’re not madly in love because we only really show it in private, and when we’re in public we just act like friends. I’d love having any help unpacking this. Thank you very much!

A 16:

We’re all out here making adjustments in how we present ourselves in order to get across a specific story that we want the world to see, so don’t go thinking you’re doing something weird or bad or that what you’re doing is taking away from how much you and your person love each other. You’re making a lot of adjustments all over the place that you never even recognize because they don’t involve her and her heart. Your fear that this adjustment means you aren’t as in love is nothing but straight up HETERONORMATIVE PATRIARCHAL BULLSHIT, which you know. When you think that way, what you’re really saying is, “we’re not as in love as straight people” and just nope. Straight people don’t own being in love just because people leave them alone when they hold hands outside. Straight people just happen to live in a world that was made specifically and exclusively for them but listen, you live here too and so do I and we’re MADLY FUCKING IN LOVE. And we don’t have to do any of the same shit that straight people do in order for our love to mean something.

Think about all the things you do between yourselves when you’re out in public, like inside jokes, your own language, holding open the door, refilling her water bottle before you left AND PUTTING ICE IN IT, making eye contact when that song comes on, knowing you’re going to stop by that one place on your way home for that one thing without even talking about it. Who gives a shimmering self-righteous fuck what other people think they’re looking at when they see you together? You’re two girls in love and I see you.

Q 17:

I’ve been dating my current girlfriend for 3 years! I am SO in love with her. She is kind, funny, cute and makes me feel safe, supported and loved unconditionally!

However, before we dated I had never been a serious and committed relationship. I had always been one to form deep friendships (most of them with women). Do you ever feel like the world is conspiring to bring people in to your life? Like there are people you were simply made for and when you find them it gives you little butterflies? I love flirting with friends and falling in love with someone in deeply intimate but platonic ways.

This being said, since I’ve been in a relationship I find myself feeling guilty about new friendships with women. Because of this guilt I find myself drawn in to a lot of friendships with gay men because I don’t feel like I’m in danger of crossing any lines. We can talk intimately and it doesn’t feel like flirting. Or it is flirting, but we all know nothing will come out of it. BUT I really really miss women. I want to feel comfortable holding hands with my female friends and kissing their cheeks and resting my head on their shoulders and not feel like I’m crossing a boundary. Is this weird?? What is happening here?? Please help!!

A 17:

This is not weird! You’re an affectionate person with a whole lotta love to give and you’ve been bottling it up for a few years and you want to set it free and that’s GREAT. Talk to your girlfriend! Talk talk talk it out. Talk about how you like being physically affectionate, why you need it, what kind of boundaries you would both be comfortable with. It may be that she doesn’t feel comfortable with any of this, and then you’ll go to a couple’s therapist so that someone else can hear both of you out and be like “oh I see what’s happening here.” Don’t go to just one therapist, though. Try out a few of them. I know a person who went to a couple’s therapist with her gaslighting abusive girlfriend and that girlfriend was SO GOOD at manipulating people she even managed to manipulate the therapist, which supremely fucked with my dear friend’s whole sense of reality. That therapist was shit. Make sure you find someone who is fair to both of you and doesn’t put all of the blame/change/work on one person in the relationship.

I feel like some advice-givers would tell you to look deep within yourself and figure out why you need this kind of flirty physical connection to so many people, but I’m not gonna do that because that’s what the therapist is for.

Oh also you might want to try polyamory wheeeee! I hear that’s a thing. Polyamory doesn’t always have to be about sex I think! Every polyam relationship is unique and wild like a river.

Q 18:

Hi Autostraddle people! I’m honestly drunk rn, but there is this girl that I like that I’ve seen around a bit and chatted with (I go to college) and I want to know how to “make a move” or figure out if she likes me or make anything happen yaknow? I am just trying to embrace 20gayteen but it’s hard to just communicate your feelings and figure this out for the first time. Any advice, esp for college parties would be appreciated.

A 18:

GREETINGS, COLLEGE PERSON. I’m older than you and never went to college parties, so I’m leaving this to the experts: other readers! I will say that I went to many, many drinky house parties and found that a lot of my flirting could be accomplished during a game of cards and I would change the song to something very specific and pointed and then make DIRECT EYE CONTACT with the person and then suggest we go for a smoke break. But to be fair, boys are super easy when it comes to shit like this. So, again! I leave you in the hands of our readers.

Good luck!

Q 19:

My girlfriend and I have been dating for almost 9 months. We are both each other’s first relationship, and we’ve both never had sex. She thought for a long time that she was asexual and is now only realizing that she isn’t and has told me that she is sexually attracted to me. However, she’s told me she’s terrified of the idea of having sex and can’t or won’t articulate why. I, on the other hand, value sex a lot and really want to do it with her. I’ve brought it up a few times, but briefly and vaguely as taking about it makes me uncomfortable. I want to have an honest conversation with her about her feelings and what I can expect, but I don’t want to make her feel pressured. I feel like I’ve brought up the idea too frequently lately and I don’t want to scare her. I really want to have sex, and I’m not sure what’s holding her back, as we’ve been very close to doing it and she is comfortable talking about sex when it comes to other people. The only thing I can think is that she is insecure about her body (as she had an eating disorder in the past) or confused about her changing sexuality? I completely respect her decision, but I want to understand what I can expect from her sex-wise. What should I do?

A 19:

She’s terrified of the idea of having sex and you’re uncomfortable talking about, so both of those things have to be met with some compassion but ultimately the only way to get to the center of this is to talk about the idea of having sex! Just take the bull by the horns here and say the things. Here I have made a script for you using some of your own words:

Hello, impossibly cute and wonderful girlfriend. I feel like I’ve brought this up too frequently lately but it’s very important to me, as is respecting your boundaries and feelings! So you can see where this is touchy and uncomfortable to bring up, but bring it up I must! I’m talking about sex! Specifically the sex I’d like to have with you! You’re sexually attracted to me, and I to you, and we’re both kinda freaked out and we’re bringing our own baggage to this table and I think we should dump that baggage out and go through it and take stock of it all, then let’s be honest about what we’d like to do! I value sex a lot, and I also value YOU a lot and this might be awkward but it’s important to me that we explore it in some way. Look I found this 7 page worksheet on Autostraddle dot com (via here btw). Do you want a smoothie or some crackers while I’m up to go grab some pens for us? COOL.

Q 20:

There are zillions of articles, books, etc. out there telling me it’s okay to be single and I should just be comfortable with myself, by myself. However, I have come to a point in my life (college student in sophomore year) where I want a serious romantic relationship. “Oh, but you should just love yourself, you don’t need anybody else!” … Yeah, I know that. I do love myself. I WANT a romantic relationship, I don’t NEED it. I’ve gotten myself an OkCupid account, but haven’t had any success. All of the queer ladies I know in person are either happily single, taken, or hostile. So that leaves the queer ladies I don’t know I suppose. Any words of wisdom for this lonely lesbian looking for love?

A 20:

Hostile! Ohhhhh bless us all.

My words of wisdom are KEEP LOOKING FOR LOVE. Never fucking ever ever stop until you find it. If anyone tells you you don’t need anyone else and should just love yourself, that person is not on your level. Your level is Looking for Love and I believe in you. I believe you won’t put this search above your own health and sanity and professional goals. I believe you won’t gauge you self-worth based on the outcome of this search. I believe you have the sense of humor and honesty to sustain a person on a search of this caliber.


(Have you tried Bumble, Her, Tinder, Autostraddle meetups, trivia nights [why am I obsessed with sending y’all to trivia nights IDK], volunteering at everyone’s fave pickup spot The Local Animal Shelter, etc?)

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

Laneia has written 916 articles for us.


  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.)


  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.

  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.

    • 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:

      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.

  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.

  13. #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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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*

  18. #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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