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

Q 21:

I just started a relationship with a girl who I am head over heels for. The only thing is it’s bringing up a lot of emotions. Like a lot. Sometimes I have to step away from my desk and cry. Other times I start smiling uncontrollably for no specific reason. She has the ability to lift me up and to bring me down. To make me feel invincible and then to make me feel like a failure. I know it’s not her who’s doing this…it’s how much I’m letting her affect me. I struggle to accept that she actually likes me, since we have very different ways of communicating affection (hello Love Languages). She says she wants me to be open with her, but I fear that bringing up my low confidence in certain areas will tear her away from me. How can I learn to believe her? How can I work on practicing honesty when I feel like there’s a lot at stake? How can I support her while also supporting myself? Does everything that starts in chaos really end in chaos?

A 21:

This is what being in a relationship is! There’s always a lot at stake and it’s never easy to believe that someone could actually really like you as much as they say they do, and it’s always a weird balance of supporting her while supporting yourself. It’s wild! If you don’t trust her and you can’t be open with her about things, this will super duper not work out.

I’m not sure what you mean about chaos because I don’t see any external chaos in your letter, but yes that is a true statement about starting in chaos and ending in chaos.


Q 22:

I’m in my late 20s and have never been in a relationship. I’ve been out for over a decade, but for reasons my therapist and I have discussed at length, nothing’s ever worked out romantically. Many of my friends (queer & straight) are getting married and having kids, and I’m realizing how much I want that. I think monogamy is super sexy, and I would love to move to the suburbs with a wife and white picket fence. I’m in a good place in my career, and while I’m not ready to have kids this minute, I want to meet someone and get the ball rolling in my adult relationship/family life. I’m finding it hard to meet people who are willing to date someone inexperienced, especially for something serious. I realize I’m U-Hauling in my head…but I feel like with every day, more queer monogamous ladies are becoming unavailable, and I’m going to end up alone. I have an amazing soul and passion and love and life, and I want to share it with someone, and then create small someones. What do I do?

A 22:

Be patient and keep your eyes peeled but also make sure you’re doing all the other things you want to do with your life! I always tell y’all that the person comes when you’re doing literally anything besides looking for them, but that should come with the caveat that you do have to put yourself out there somehow or another. Go on dates and meet new people and meet their friends and meet their friend’s friends and have fun and be a good person.

I’ve never heard anyone describe monogamy as super sexy and I just want to take a moment to appreciate this stance because, without fully realizing it until now, it’s also my stance? Anyway this is neither her nor there but thank you for this phrase!


Q 23:

Basically my girlfriend wanted to break up with me and I asked her if we could talk about it and try to work on some things that were bothering her and she agreed. She gave me a list of several things she wanted me to change about myself. These weren’t things that I was doing “to her” but things that she didn’t like about me. I’m not really sure how to feel about the situation. I really love her, and I will try anything. But am I selling myself short in some way by agreeing to change who I am? Or is this just part of the compromise and work that goes into a relationship? Help!

A 23:

I see where you’re coming from here. Ask her to please take the list back and explain briefly how each item has a negative affect on her life and wellbeing, so you can kind of gauge how valid each thing is with regard to your personhood vs her needs. Does that make sense? My cat is climbing the curtains and I’m struggling to put this into words! I’m also getting stuck on wanting to say that when someone wants to break up with you, usually you should let them. I know that’s a fucking terrible thing to say but I really feel that it’s true!

I think you should trust your instincts as you go down the list and if something is standing out as The Way You Are and not something you should or could change, be honest about that. You can’t change yourself for other people — any positive changing has to be done for yourself! Otherwise it doesn’t stick and everyone gets fucked over, mostly you.


Q 24:

I have a crush on this girl and I recently asked her out. She told me she thought I was great and she found me attractive, but she felt that she had a whole lot of personal shit to work through that she needed to prioritize. Now, some people would say this as a “kind” let-down, but in her case I think it’s legit. I’d like to stay friends with her, and am working on letting go of the crush-feelings.

We’re both big fans of a particular TV show featuring a well-loved lesbian couple, and I’m the only person in her friend group who watches the show, hence I’m the one she fangirls with. She has a mega crush one of the queer characters/the actor herself, and every time we talk about the show she gushes about how cute/hot/perfect this celebrity is (“I never thought of someone as breathtaking until I saw Waverly” is an actual quote). It was understandable the first couple of times (I’ve gotten super excited to find out that someone shares the same taste in underappreciated shows), but is starting to wear thin. I own that it bothers me more coming from her than coming from someone I have absolutely no romantic interest in, because it triggers my insecurities about my own attractiveness (added context: I’m Asian and rarely see myself reflected in media), but is it unreasonable for me to think that it would be nice to not have to hear how hot this actor is every single time we talk about the show? Because it’s definitely got lots going for it besides that. Or maybe better question is: what kind of work can I do within myself so that I can keep sharing my appreciation of this show with her and not have her intense adoration for this character/actor affect me?

A 24:

I think contextualizing her intensity might be helpful, so let’s give it a go. It reminds me of the discussion around preteen girls and their obsession with boy bands and other celebrity boys, and I tried finding this one really great essay about it but it looks like the author took it down, but here’s an excerpt from another piece about the same topic on Salon:

A crush on a boy-band star allows a teenage girl to “develop her sexuality in a safe environment she can control.” It’s love without being felt up by a boy when she’s not sure she wants to be, or being pressured to text him naked pictures of herself, which might later be used to humiliate her. Celebrity crushes are a form of what social scientists, since the rise of television, have called “parasocial interaction”: one-sided intimacy, at a distance, with someone famous. However compelling the fantasy, there’s no significant obligation or responsibility.

With this in mind, we can look at some other things we know about her — has a lot of shit she needs to work through — and it makes a little bit more sense that this is how she’s expressing her sexual feelings right now. When I first came out and was actually coming to terms with what that would mean (aka I had no idea what it would mean), I 100% hitched my wagon to Kate Moennig. I read everything I could about her, saved pictures of her on my computer, watched and rewatched her as Shane on The L Word, imagined full conversations and storylines between us where I confessed this or that feeling and she VERY TENDERLY told me that everything would be ok, etc. Admitting this here is only kind of embarrassing because I was a 26 year-old woman at the time, but listen, it was a super safe way for me to interact with these new feelings without it harpooning my entire real life.

Maybe that’s what your friend is doing, to a degree. I understand how this feels like even more of a rejection when you look nothing like the actor she’s fawning over, and I’m sorry. I think you just have to keep reminding yourself that she’s purposely (though subconsciously) chosen to pin her affections onto someone she will literally never, ever actually date.


Q 25:

So basically I have this friend. We talk almost every day, have a lot in common and work in the same general field. There was one point earlier last year when we decided to be more than friends and explore a more physical, no strings attached relationship but it never panned out because we were both super busy and the time we did spend together was among friends/working and we mutually decided it wasn’t working. I was super okay with this agreement for awhile, but recently things have started to feel different again. It’s strange because we can spend tons of time together and I have zero feelings for her, but then we will get super touchy and everything comes back and I just WANT and I think she feels the same way but we are both afraid to act on it? We are both generally rational people so when we talk it out we don’t really consider our feelings, and I know neither of us want a solid relationship, but I feel like we are caught in the middle somewhere. I’m so tired of making the first move with people and I don’t want to mistake friendship for something else and ruin what we have, but I know that we should probably work something out so that we aren’t stuck in this weird limbo.

Also I know she totally reads Autostraddle religiously so this might be dangerous but whatever it’s fine!!!

A 25:

My advice is to make the first move, but keep it tiny and plausibly deniable. What does that look like? I have no idea but I think you do. If she responds positively — even if it’s just the tiniest blip on the radar of Does She Want This — take the next step, which I think, in your case, will be rationally discussing that you’d like to pick up where you left off, maybe with a more specific intentionality, etc. If the tables were turned, you’d probably hope that she’d just fucking bring it up to you! Right? So just do that. Be the person bringing it the fuck up you want to see in this world.

And if you’re reading this, friend of the person, why not just make the first move, even if it means letting her know that you don’t want to pick up where you left off!

Fun!


Q 26:

Hello! I’m 22 years old, came out two years ago, and still haven’t had any semblance of a relationship (think haven’t even kissed another girl…). I’ve gone on tinder/bumble dates, but haven’t really had much success, and am starting to feel like my gayness is not valid, even though logically I know that is not at all how it works. How do I stop feeling invalidated and “not gay enough”??

A 26:

This is all on you and it’s all on the inside and it’s not always easy but wow, please know that you are SUPER FUCKING GAY. I didn’t kiss another girl until I was 23 and it was my best friend and I didn’t kiss another girl for like four years?? And I was so gay! I also had two children with a man and I’m STILL GAY. We are gay, you and I, and we are very, very good at it.


Q 27:

I feel like you must get a thousand shades of this type of question basically all the time, but I had some things I needed to express so here we go! I’m 25, living independently, working and going to grad school and generally very happy with my life. BUT I’ve never had a girlfriend (or dated or kissed or anything siigh) and that’s starting to feel shitty. I put a very high value on my space and my alone time (and just, like, my SELF, frankly), but I feel like I’m starting to really crave intimacy and romantic-style closeness. I’m just, uh, super freaked by emotional vulnerability and generally clueless about dating.

Adding to this feeling, my best friend just got into her first capital-r Relationship, and she’s known the guy for three months and is already planning to move in with him (which is its own whole Other Thing, because that sounds ridiculous to me but I’m trying to be supportive) but it’s making me feel sort of left behind? Like everyone else has jumped off the high dive and I’m still standing up here in my water wings.

None of that is a question. I guess my question is this: how the hell do you do this? How do I give up the safe and happy bubble of my solo life to let someone else in? I see these interesting ladies on OKC but the thought of actually talking to them is utterly terrifying. I have no idea what to say?? How do I jump in the deep end when I have no idea how to swim?

Thank you guys for all the advice, wisdom, and commiseration you’ve doled out over the years. You are truly doing the lord’s work.

A 27:

You just do! UGH IT’S TERRIFYING AND WEIRD ALL THE TIME! Every morning you wake up like “yeah ok I guess I’m just going to be myself in front of this person and like ask for help when I need it and fucking hope for the best????!” and it’s NUTS and we just keep fucking doing it BECAUSE and this is truly the only reason, it gives us the chance to be the person that someone else lets in, and that is really fucking beautiful.

The secret is that no one knows how to swim and for some crazy reason we jumped anyway. And sometimes you do totally drown or hit your head on a rock and sometimes you frolic around like some dumb sea lion and it’s all insane, all of it all the time. No one knows what to say!!

I’ve talked about this before but I only have so many stories so I’ll regale you once again: I wanted to be a cheerleader in middle school but I never tried out because I didn’t want to admit that I wanted something that I might not get, and I especially didn’t want other people to know what I wanted. Dating is like that. It’s admitting that you want to be a cheerleader or the mayor or a gold medalist. It’s embarrassing! Do it anyway.


Q 28:

I’m sure you get a ton of questions like this, sorry in advance. I currently live in a very conservative city in the south that isn’t very gay friendly. There are no lesbian bars/clubs or even a group/meetup to join. I’ve been trying online dating and the only women who ever seem to be interested in me live in another country, The Philippines and South Korea to be exact. I am 32 and spent most of my life in the closet. I know zero gay people. I know that moving is probably my only option but I’m unable to do that right now. Any tips on how to meet someone?

A 28:

Can you come to A-Camp? Or actually, can you afford to leave your city and go to another place where something supremely gay is happening, like Pride or Dinah Shore, and be there and out and gay as all heck for a brief period of time? Because that kind of situation is ILLUMINATING. It’s life-changing. Going from the closet in your tiny town to a world where everyone is openly queer will change your life. Pride season is coming up — look into it and find the biggest, most diverse Pride situation within reasonable driving or flying distance and go there. See if there’s an Autostraddle meetup happening around it, and if not, START ONE. (Vanessa’s in the process of writing a very specific, action-oriented how-to for planning meetups that will publish in May.) I’m not saying you’re going to find love or even have the time of your life at any of these places, but it will change something in you to be around that many queer people at once.

It’ll also make moving easier, which is something you’ll probably need to do in the next couple of years.


Q 29:

I found out yesterday that my terrifyingly manipulative, emotionally abusive ex lives literally down the road from me. I’ve hardly left my bed since. It feels so wretchedly unfair that in such a large city as this we’re literally in the same postcode. I’ve run into her before and each time has sent me into a weeks-long spiral of fear and depression. The knowledge that it’s not only possible but extremely likely that I could run into her any time I leave my house is frankly paralysing me. It feels like she’s in control of my life again. I’ve contemplated moving but that makes me feel like she’s taken two homes away from me instead of one – additionally, I’m tied into a lease until the end of August, and my platonic wife/co-parent to our two cats is not at all keen to move for reasons of her own. How do I survive? How do I step out my front door without literally dying of panic? Mental health services in the UK are literally in tatters, so counselling/therapy isn’t really an option.

A 29:

An Autostraddle editor was in a similar situation and has lived to tell about it! In fact, she told me about it, because I asked, for you. Here’s what she said:

First, think of the likelihood of running into any given person who lives on your street as “possible,” but not “extremely likely.” With the exception of life circumstances to put you on overlapping schedules — like walking the dogs it doesn’t sound like you have on similar routes at similar times, having to go to work at the same time from the same transit stops, or having the same coffee shop habit — it’s surprisingly hard to run into people you want to see, let alone people you don’t. (If life schedules do put you on overlapping schedules, investigate changing them.) I live exactly one block away from a (dear, former) friend, and have run into her accidentally exactly once in almost ten months of proximity and despite really hoping to see her. I also live six blocks from an ex into whom I absolutely do not wish to run accidentally, and have never once run into her, either near our homes or in our neighbourhood. The presence can be nearly crushing, but take a deep breath. You are you, and you have your own space, and she has no right to take it from you.

Second, if counselling isn’t an option, research strategies for panic attacks and distress tolerance, and try out a few. Maybe that means deep breathing or maybe it means getting too tired from exercise to be anxious or maybe it means holding ice cubes in your hands the first few times you go out, but practice ways to reduce the feelings of panic and take care of your mental state.

Finally: Just because you felt something in the past doesn’t mean you’ll feel it now. Just because someone is an ex doesn’t mean you owe her your emotional bandwidth or even a head nod if you don’t want her to have it. Just because someone once controlled your life in a certain way doesn’t mean that running into each other on the street will give her the power to instantly do so again. Practice ways to feel centered in your own life as it is now. Feel your feet in your own shoes on your own floor that she hasn’t seen and never will. Remember that you have the right to your own boundaries, and that if you see her, you don’t have to engage with her or do anything you don’t want to do. You can do this.


Q 30:

Long story short – I’m a typical workaholic Capricorn gay-leaning bisexual who met my Cancer boyfriend fresh into university, we’ve now been together for nearly 6 years and still live separately with our respective parents, the lack of progression has been addressed my me on multiple occasions, and him a) feeling like a project and b) being a man is becoming an issue for me. I really really love him and he is my best friend, we’ve been together through some awful things I’ve been through and he has supported me, but he has no excuse for why we don’t even live together and I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone in the first place to see where being with him would go – my overwhelming preference being for girls. He’s my only significant relationship so far in life (I’m 24) so I have no clue when to call it quits, especially when I still love him. I just really resent the way my life looks right now. HELP.

A 30:

Oh this is easy! You call it quits now. When being with someone feels like a project or more of an obligation than a desire, it’s over. This is over. You can still love him and deeply appreciate all the good things he’s done for you! But that doesn’t mean you should be in a relationship with him. It’s time to break up! It’s going to be unfun, but so many things are, when you think about it. You can also bill me for the nachos. GODSPEED.


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

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Laneia

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.

43 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.

  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:
      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.

  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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