Spring! Cleaning! the You Need Help! Inbox!
Now on week three.
Here’s another great follow-up message from a past You-Need-Helper!
Hi autostraddle! I wanted to briefly follow up on an issue I had asked you about on YNH #14. I wanted to change jobs because the money wasn’t good enough and needed an encouragement. After careful consideration and some happy news I was given in the past few months, this week I started a new job that I am very happy about and have amicably left my previous job. So, thank you for the “yes” answer, one never knows how far a simple answer can go. All the love, a queer engineer ready to take over the world.
And now on with the showcase showdown. There are 18 questions and answers below, and since I am but one woman with a Vitamin Water and nothing to eat in this house, your help is greatly appreciated! Each set is numbered for easy reference, so let’s get down to it.
Q 1: I forgot how to come out?
I just started a new job in a new city and it seems I’ve forgotten how to come out. I was at my old job for over three years and we kept the same core team for the whole time so I haven’t had to come out for a while. (Plus two of my best friends at work were bi so safety in numbers is fun). My first day of work at the new job one of the guys was saying no one takes a straight path to get in our industry and I was about to say a corny joke about my lack of straightness when my brain was like “don’t say that, no one knows you’re gay.” Like at my old job people would be expecting me to make a gay joke after a comment like that but now I low key panicked. And I have no idea why. I’m pretty much 100% out and the company I’m working for is really open and supportive of LGBT people so there is no reason for me to not be out. I’m just awkward. What’s a casual way to come out at work?
What if, instead of seeing this as you being afraid/weird about coming out (and the feeling-avalanche that sets off re: being true to yourself, ‘bravery’/’integrity’ surrounding the idea of being in or out of a closet, etc.), you simplified this wayyyyyy way down to what it actually is: you don’t know these people and being your 100% comfortable self in front of literal total strangers isn’t something that comes naturally to you, or to most people, and that’s completely normal! You probably also didn’t find a good opportunity to let everyone know what kind of desserts you dislike, your favorite movie genre, the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in 6th grade, whether or not you drink alcohol, which of your family members have died, how you feel about birds kept as pets or while you’re at it how you feel about zoos on the whole, your top three Girl Scout cookies, if you’re the type of person that will go in on a combo appetizer platter at Applebee’s and if yes, what’s your stance on mozzarella sticks, ET CETERA. But guess what, all of those things will probably come up at some point, eventually, and when that time comes I doubt you’ll hesitate to stand right up and declare, in front of god and everybody, that you sometimes do feel like zoos border on unethical or that mozzarella sticks are the parsley of appetizers! BUT THAT’S JUST ME.
I think the reason you would’ve chimed in with a gay pun in front of your old coworkers is because they already knew you were gay, so the joke would land without any necessary backstory. That’s how the best puns work! If you have to explain them after you say them, everyone is embarrassed and feels sad. I bet that somewhere in your sense of humor’s subconscious, you knew this, and that’s why you stopped yourself, and then panicked because you couldn’t immediately pinpoint why you didn’t take the opportunity, and then labeled that as you being weird about coming out to new people.
There will be other opportunities to come out and be out with these people — ones that won’t make everyone sad about a pun that didn’t land. You’ll see them and recognize them and utilize them and it will be GREAT.
Q 2: What if you just suck at therapy?
Like many queer women, I have a lot of mental health issues, including long-term depression that I don’t expect to ever go away. And like many queer women who grew up in restrictive religious communities, I learned early on to hide my feelings and trust no one. I’m now a high-functioning and responsible adult still dealing with massive unresolved issues that have, in the past, almost destroyed my physical health and various other aspects of my life. But I’m not writing in about those problems—I’m writing in because, typically, the recommendation for taking care of your mental health is to go to therapy, and it turns out I suck at therapy. This is not something you can really say–if you do, people say, “you can’t suck at therapy, because there is no wrong way to do therapy!” They are right, kind of, but what I mean is that I have wasted probably hundreds of hours and more hundreds of dollars on this attempt to take care of myself, when it has never really been effective because I am not able to talk about things that truly bother me, out loud, to a person.
I’ve seen several different therapists off and on over the past several years. Some were bad to the point of being offensive. Then there were the ones that were actually good. But it didn’t matter how good they were, because as soon as I consider talking about anything real, it becomes impossible to speak. Like, physically impossible, like I would choke rather than get a single honest word out, and my instinct kicks in and I deflect to protect myself. And then I’m locked in this echo chamber of my head while my face does small talk. I end up spending the whole time talking about my career and letting my high-functioning outer shell speak for me, like she always does because that’s her job. I substitute minor, safe, problems for what is really happening internally. I nod politely. This will go on to happen session after session, and I wind up increasingly frustrated with myself to no effect. I’ve tried, with minimal success, to describe this issue itself. I’ve also tried writing out things about my life instead of talking. Unfortunately therapists always lead it back to the conversational interface because that’s their job. And when I’m not able to talk about anything I wrote, or I feel the need to downplay it, it’s almost like it never happened. I really have tried and it seems like in general, therapy doesn’t work very well for me, or maybe I don’t work very well for therapy. I’m not able to give therapists the tools they need to do their work. But I’m also not sure what my alternatives are. I don’t want to emotionally burden my close and trusted friends who have their own mental health struggles. And I don’t want to just resign myself to spending the rest of my life feeling fucked up. So what now?
Yikes I relate so much to this!!! My most recent attempt at therapy started off honest enough — comfortable clothes, insulated thermos full of room temperature water, panic, depression and anxiety plastered across my face — but after crying in her office for the entire hour and still not feeling like I really articulated what I was trying to say, I shut down. For the rest of my visits, I got way too dressed up (like, literally a new outfit each time, full makeup, iced coffee in hand like 2005 Mary-Kate Olsen) and picked the most mundane topic to discuss each week, never cried again, and stopped going after about a month. I didn’t trust her with any of my actual problems and I didn’t trust what little concrete advice she did manage to give me. I’d spend the days leading up to the appointment in full-tilt panic and depression, and seeing her actually made things worse because of the internal frustration of knowing I was wasting everyone’s time. It was terrible wheeee! All of which is to say, you are not alone hello nice to meet you.
The thing that’s helped me get to the bottom of myself/my bullshit over and over again has been journaling. Not journaling for the sake of gratitude or so someone can read it later and feel like they finally know the real me. I’m talking about stopping in the middle of the day and dumping out the ugliest, most half-baked frustrations and fears, going out of order, not elaborating on my backstory, making lists instead of sentences, being mean and selfish and honest and terrified — the kind of shit you hope to burn in a large stone fireplace someday. I can sift through myself and find my own patterns. I can practice saying the truth out loud (by, you know, writing it down first) and interrogate the veracity of my own declarations before someone else does. This helps me get to the main actual thing, whatever it is, and then at the very least, I can go out and find books about this thing, or I can talk with a friend about a specific idea instead of dragging them through 30+ years of baggage while we look for the thing together.
Ugly-journaling makes me feel tidier about my bullshit. I recommend it. Therapy is great for lots of reasons, but there isn’t a single thing out there that works for everyone, so please don’t feel like a failure or permanently broken just because what you’ve done so far hasn’t worked for you. Some people find help in religion/spiritualism, self-help books, retreats, meditation, exercise, journaling, hanging upside down in a doorway, running to the top of a mountain or hill and screaming. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go ’round! That’s what my mom always says and usually it’s annoying when she does but listen, this time it’s true.
I brought your question to my very greatest and smartest friend, Riese, who runs this website and juggles all sorts of mental/physical health situations and is also a total weirdo whomst I love and trust with my life! She recommended online therapy, like Talkspace. Another person with boatloads of experience recommended seeing a psychiatrist instead of a therapist, as they use different approaches and methods.
The most important thing is that you don’t give up on your mental health. Keep trying every single new and different thing forever until something works. And if it stops working, try something else!
Q 3: Where to find found family?
My girlfriend and I (ages 31 and 34 respectively) have been together for 11 years. We’ve been through a lot of ‘life challenges’ (chronic illness, court cases, creating distance from abusive families, isolation from living in a small town, tackling mental health) together and are now finally in a place where everything is pretty much fine and we can concentrate on living instead of just surviving. Six months ago we moved to a new city for work and have been trying to get involved as much as possible by attending various social groups. But I’m sad and starting to lose hope of finding ‘my people/tribe’. I’m really struggling to make connections with folks and turn acquaintances into friends. I’ve worked super-hard on mental health and feel like I’ve got the balance right between ‘friendly open to new relationships’ and ‘terrifying and desperate tryhard’.
It’s almost like we’re behind on things as most folks in their early thirties seem to have friends from their twenties, have actual families, or are having kids and building their lives around being parents. I’ve been regularly to classes based on my interests, such as martial arts (full of blokes), dancing (full of straights), supper/book clubs (full of the socially awkward) etc. Even the queer meets I’ve been to seem to be extraordinarily unfriendly and impenetrably clique-ey (or all of the above). I’ve heard talk of the mythical ‘found family’ but how the heck do you get yourself adopted by a group of new people? I know the advice to make new friends is usually along the lines of ‘put yourself out there more, increase opportunity to make connections, have patience because it takes ages…’ etc. So do I just suck it up and keep engaging in activities where I’m not having fun, with people I’ve no interest in being around in the hope that eventually some people with which I can connect show up? Do we go ‘couple dating’ on the internet (which sounds like a total faff)? Or do I just accept that social isolation and co-dependence is my inevitable future, get some cats and a Netflix subscription and embrace my fate?
Ok but how do you not already have a Netflix subscription? Ummmmmmm I believe the answer here is “a little bit of all of those things!” PLUS — and maybe this is just me, but! — I think it’s a lot harder to make new friends together as a couple than it is to meet/befriend new people alone.
To be fair, six months is not a super long time and it would be incredibly unusual if you were able to find a whole group of awesome friends only a few months after moving to a new city! Don’t give up on things just yet. Keep having fun together as a couple but also do things separately. Be friendly and kind and open to new experiences and weird people (like if you’re invited to go to a thing that sounds like it will be miserable and awkward, just gooooooooo). Unless you’re living in a queer mecca — LA, Portland, Minneapolis, um, other places I don’t know of off the top of my head — it’s going to be harder to find a) queer people and b) queer people you have things in common with, which means you may be forced to befriend some straight people.
There are two readers with similar problems below (Q7 and Q10) who could also benefit from some ideas for finding queer community after 25! Here are some posts we’ve published about this but clearly we need to do more:
Making Friends as a Queer Adult
I’m an Adult and I Have No Idea How to Make Friends – lots of commiserating in the comments here
I Don’t Know How to Make Friends: The Tinder Blues
Q 4: Coming out?
I’m a 28, almost 29, year old cis woman who is a lesbian. I know I’m gay. I’ve had crushes on girls my entire life, but I’ve only ever dated men. My relationships with men never worked out and never lasted more than 6 months. Things never felt right…duh.
I know I’m gay and need to start dating women. But, I’m scared to make that leap. I’m scared that my inexperience will turn people off. I’m scared to come out to my friends and family, even though they have never said or done anything that would lead me to believe they wouldn’t be supportive.
Coming out and finding a woman that I can fall in love with is my next step. But I can’t seem to do it. Help!
You CAN seem to do it, though! It seems to me that you can do it. I know that you can actually, because so many other people have! I have! I realized I was gay about two years before it looks like you did, and I was fully married to a man and no one on earth (besides that man, actually, FUNNILY ENOUGH) had ever guessed I could be even a lil’ gay. AND THEN I WAS and I came out. It was liberating and weird and horrific and hilarious and everything! It was life. You coming out and beginning to date women will also be life — no more or less bizarre or difficult than all the other life things. You probably will come across someone who’s turned off by your inexperience. You’ll definitely come across someone who isn’t! You’ll say everything out loud to someone without blushing or crying, and then you’ll tell someone else and turn into a puddle on the ground. Everything is bonkers and weird and perfect and simple and confusing! YOU CAN DO THIS.
You just, you know, do it. You just live your life.
Q 5: Defending my gay/non-binaryness to straight people?
I’m studying abroad right now, and have been introducing myself to and/or coming out to an obscene amount of people (a side effect of moving to a place where you knew zero people to begin). However, despite the formal coming-outs, I’m having a lot of trouble getting the other students in my program to respect my sexuality and pronouns, because I present pretty femininely and did in fact kiss a male human (the first, only, and hopefully last of my life) my first weekend here. I don’t want to be an asshole who’s constantly correcting everyone and has no friends as a result, but I’m also miserable being thought of as a straight cis girl by all these people. What do I do?
Ooooh ho hooooo guess WHAT. You will NOT be the asshole who’s constantly correcting everyone — you will be the person who’s reminding these lazy motherfuckers, yet again, that they should show you the basic respect you show them by fucking using your pronouns and acknowledging your queerness ffs. And if you have no friends as a result of this very basic request, it’ll be because those people are the assholes.
Q 6: Potentially queer friends?
I’m in high school and pretty openly out to my peers (I never officially came out to everyone, but I did to the people that are important and I’m open about being queer to anyone who asks or if it comes up) and I have a couple of friends who as far as I know are straight or at least haven’t explored the possibility of being anything other than straight. I have a strict no-crushing-on-people-who-can’t-like-you-back rule for people other than celebrities, and I never have crushes on those girls in my friend groups. However, a lot of time when they are around me, those straight-identifying girls (there are two separate cases) act in ways or say things that I read as super queer, specifically talking about dating in a non-heteronormative way and/or being flirtatious and casually physical. It’s not anything uncomfortable or weird, but if I just met them and they said/did the things they do, I would totally think they were queer.
Is it just because they are around me (because they both know I’m queer and I openly talk about Gay Things™️ with them) or that I’m reading things wrong? Are those things that all straight girls do with one another? They’re both great allies so is it just because they don’t think heteronormatively even though they are heterosexual? If they aren’t straight, I want to be there for them while they figure it out but also not force anything on them, and at the same time they are making me confused because when I meet someone I genuinely like (which I do with these two, they’re good friends) and they are queer, I tend to like them. Basically, I don’t know if I should say anything or if I should just keep categorizing them as straight in my head and act like nothing is happening.
Ok this is going to sound blunt and generalizing but listen, it’s true: straight girls and women are enthralled by queer women. We’re as confusing and enchanting as cephalopods — we move through the world differently, we don’t need the same things they do to survive, we look amazing and, best of all, we don’t seem to pose the same threats as other beasts. We’re mysterious and safe all at the same time. Can you imagine a more appealing situation than mysterious and safe? No you cannot. And neither can they.
If you feel like they’re being flirtations, it’s most likely because they’re being flirtatious. This doesn’t make them gay and it doesn’t make them assholes (I know you didn’t insinuate they were assholes, I’m just compelled to clarify) — they’re just engaging with you and your space in a way that they can’t engage with guys (for a variety of reasons both imagined and real). Straight girls do have a way of acting with each other that can look a little gay, especially to the queer girl eye, but usually there’s just enough of a veneer to set it apart from being actually gay. That doesn’t matter one way or another in your case though because these are straight girls interacting with you, a queer girl, which does in fact make it a slightly different situation. THAT IS MY HOT TAKE.
In conclusion, don’t say anything unless it makes you uncomfortable and you want it to stop, and keep categorizing them as whatever they identify as. In your own head, just know that this is how a lot of straight girls tend to be and stick to your strict rule of no crushing!
Q 7: Want to fit in the lesbian community!
Please excuse my ignorance I am new to all this as I recently discovered I’m a lesbian also I’m in my 30s. I feel like I don’t fit in or belong to the lesbian community. I even felt weird asking for advice here. It seems like every community I find is geared to the teens and 20-somethings and I feel so out of place. And if I do find something it’s mostly gay men and I really feel lost. I’m trying really hard to meet other women but it seems like the under 25 crowd is only interested in me. I’m assuming it’s because I don’t look my age, I look younger. To be honest I’m not really comfortable hanging out with the younger crowd. I want to find women who understand my situation and I can talk to them about it. I hate to sound rude and I hope I don’t make these members here mad but I feel like a girl in her teens or early 20s and is out doesn’t understand what it’s been like for me. I don’t know where to go. Do you have any advice for me?
I don’t think you’re being ignorant or rude! It’s completely normal to want to find people who’ll understand all of your cultural references and immediately know where you’re coming from. A neat thing about the lesbian/queer women community is that we do share a lot of the same cultural touchstones, so where it might not be where you’ll meet your soulmate or your best friend, you could still find friends and community with people in their twenties. Younger people are also usually more open to new group members and have more free time than older people who might already be settled into family life. But I definitely understand wanting friends and community your own age — I feel the same way — I just wanted to say that intergenerational friendships can also be an important part of finding community!
A-Camp is a great way to hang out with queers of every age! But you probably already know that. I’m sending this to the readers: if you’re in your late 20s – 30s, where are you going to find friends??
Q 8: My therapist keeps pushing me to have relationships.
So, I’m 40 years old and recently had to move in with my parents because I had a health emergency in which I almost died, and hello constant anxiety and PTSD. I’m in therapy and trying to work on my past-and-current issues. My therapist is also gay. Thing is… she thinks the key to my loneliness, to trying to work through my fear re: medical emergency, and social anxiety is to date. She keeps pressuring me to try to find a date, to go on apps like Bumble or others, and I know I’m not ready for that. I haven’t had a relationship for 8 years, and I gotta work my shit out. But the other thing is that I’m also isolating myself a lot. I basically work, come home, that’s it. So I can’t date because I have anxiety, and I’m never going to get over my anxiety if I don’t get out of the house.
What do I do?
Are you on any anti-anxiety medication? I sure am! And wow does it help with anxiety. You’re right about needing to push yourself to work through things, but I also really sympathize with not being ready to date just yet. The thing about anxiety is that it doesn’t go away so much as you learn how to sit with it and live despite it. So in the way that going on 100 job interviews isn’t a waste of time because you’re learning valuable job interviewing skills (!!), going on 100 dates, no matter how awkward or forced or whatever, won’t be a waste of time because each one will give you the opportunity to practice sitting with your anxiety and living through it. Is your therapist giving you tools and practices for dealing with your anxiety when it flares up? Can you put them into action during some low-stakes social situations, like going to a book club meeting at your local bookstore or even grocery shopping? (Grocery shopping nearly kills me, like I need days to build up the courage to go and that absolutely involves doing specific laundry and timing my hair-washing days just right. It’s fine.)
You’ll need an action plan for dealing with your anxiety (medication, breathing, mantras) and then you’ll need places to practice that plan (group outings, shopping, dates). Be honest with your therapist about what you’re ready for and ask for help to get to the level you want to be at before you take the next big step!
Q 9: Gay panic at the disco!
My girlfriend’s friend from college is getting married in a couple months and we’ll probably be the only LGBT people at their very straight wedding. Her friends are lovely and I’m not worried about what the other guests think, but I’ve realized that when I’m the “plus one” to fancy events, I get very self-conscious about being one of two non-heterosexuals. I’m normally fine and used to presenting gay in straight spaces, but there’s something about dressing up and being the guest at these things that makes my brain go YOU’RE GAY AND THEY’RE ALL STRAIGHT YOU’RE GAYYYY (and not in the fun “rewatching Carol for the millionth time you’re so gay” way). I’m used to being a WOC in mostly white spaces so this isn’t an unfamiliar situation but I don’t know why being gay hits me like this. Most of the time I need a couple minutes to escape and try to calm down in the bathroom but I hate how this effects me. Any tips on how to not feel so Other and to not gay panic when I know it’s ridiculous?
I wonder if this panic is coming from something as simple as having to dress up for these fancy events as a queer person. Because each of these heterosexual functions exist to celebrate heterosexual customs, and they have dress codes based on those heterosexual customs, it would make sense that you’d feel anxious about dressing up and presenting in a way that’s meant to honor and uphold those heterosexual customs while still trying to maintain your individuality and queerness. Right? Am I out on a ledge here?
I think, especially after today and this particular round of questions, that when we feel anxious about something and the anxiety seems to connected to our queerness in one way or another, we’re seeing it as a specifically queer anxiety, and one that we shouldn’t have because if we were the kind of queer we think we should be (out! proud! not intimidated by straight bullshit!), we wouldn’t have those anxieties. But that’s not necessarily true! What if this is just you being nervous about going to fancy events where you’re surrounded by straight people, because their fancy events are inherently very straight-centric and weird, and as a queer person your customs and the things you want to honor don’t necessarily line up with theirs? And that’s OK and doesn’t make you ridiculous at all! Straight people throw weird parties and they act weird at them and they uphold heterosexual norms that we reject and it’s all very off-putting. But sometimes we do have to go to their straight events and clap along and smile because even though the custom is weird or their norms are fucked, this one particular group of straight people are mostly OK in your book.
Like maybe that’s your mantra.
Q 10: A shitstorm of emotions, honestly.
So I need friends. I don’t have a ton of friends in my current small-ish city and it’s kind of killing me. I’ve lived here for four years and have made friends in fits and starts many times over in that time. Every time I think I’m reaching the “oh I think we could be really close friends!” something happens. They either get a significant other and that becomes the priority or they have other friendships that hold more weight than mine. When it comes to partnerships, it’s maybe unrealistic for me to not expect that relationship to become the top priority (romantic relationships are foreign concepts to me) . With friendships, I don’t need to be The Most Important Friendship in someones life, I just kind of want to feel like we’re both playing the same game, ya know? I just kind of feel like I’m being left behind. and don’t have a tone of close friends in my current city and I get sad when I feel like I’m reminded where I actually stand with the few friends I do have! How do I make friends that last and I feel like I have a real connection with? Is this making any sense?! Should I just move??? (probably) Tl;DR: all my friends are maybe more of acquaintances and I don’t know how to form genuine connections??????????
WE HAVE TO WRITE MORE POSTS ABOUT THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (See Q3, Q7, and, hopefully, the comments!)
Q 11: Dating while I’m stuck in limbo?
Hi, I feel like I am stuck in limbo and waiting for my life to start, and I’m not sure how to date while stuck in limbo. For context, I’m in my mid 20s, went to university for 5 years and graduated with a professional degree, but can’t find work yet in my field. Because I haven’t been able to start my career, I’m pretty broke (work minimum wage at a coffee shop), so I still live at home with my parents. I want to date people, but I’m really embarrassed that I’m not working in my field and that I don’t have my own place. I feel like anyone who has a cool job and a cool apartment isn’t going to want to date someone like me. I feel like I have to wait until I have my own cool job and own cool apartment before I can date anyone again. I’m stuck between feeling ashamed about my situation, but also feeling bored without any cute girls in my life. Any ideas?
You do not have to wait before you can date! Go on some fun dates!! Don’t bring anyone back to your house! Do you have any idea how much of the world isn’t at your parents’ house? Like, practically all of it. Go to any of the places that aren’t your parents’ house. YOU ARE DOING GREAT.
Q 12: Conform, consume, obey.
I’m bi and in a LTR with a cishet man. I love him deeply and want to stay together for the foreseeable future. We got a domestic partnership a few years ago so we could see each other in the hospital, etc. However, I have deep philosophical/political reservations about marriage, the short version of which is that the state has no business exercising its coercive power to define what is and is not an acceptable relationship. He recently found out that he is about to lose his job (for reasons beyond his control). He won’t qualify for Medicaid and the ACA exchange plans are upwards of $400/month. The financially prudent (and probably only affordable) option is to get married and put him on my insurance for free. I’ll probably do it, because my partner’s health and safety is more important to me than an abstract principle, but I’m struggling with a) feeling like a sellout whose values stop when the rubber hits the road, b) feeling like this is an undesirable step towards heteronormative conformity, and c) worrying that I’ll end up resenting my partner over this even though it’s not his fault. Part of this is definitely related to being quasi-closeted at work and with my family and being in an opposite-sex relationship, which already makes me feel like I’m scratching and clawing to maintain a hold on my queer identity. I’d appreciate any advice on dealing with these feelings (bonus points for creative insurance solutions but I’m not hopeful on that front). Thanks!
Have you checked to see if your employer considers domestic partnerships to be equal to marriage when it comes to insurance coverage? I ask because my wife’s employer did count domestic partners as dependents and I could’ve been on her insurance before same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide — we only needed to show the documentation. I would check on that first!
But then regardless of how that goes, please know that filing specific paperwork to secure health insurance coverage for someone you love does not make you a sellout or a conformist. You’re simply playing by the rules that were laid out by other motherfuckers, and sometimes those rules include signing a document or getting something stamped by someone or reciting the last four digits of your social security number. You already signed into a domestic partnership in order to comply with another rule someone else made up about hospital visitations, and you did that to secure your futures, not because you were seeking the approval of millions of straight people or our insane government. Signing some other paperwork to comply with some other rule is just that. It’s just an action, it means nothing unless you say it does. WE imbue our actions with meanings, period — not the state, not the federal government, not your parents, not a book. YOU get to decide what it means to file that paperwork.
Q 13: Confessing a crush?
I’ve been harboring a serious crush on a friend who is unavailable (in a committed, monogamous relationship) for a while now. Do I tell them or not? I’ve leaned towards not telling them because I’m not trying to impact their current relationship. Are there good reasons for confessing?
N E V E R.
Q 14: Lonely queer seeks hot professor.
Listen, I think we need to talk about student/professor relationships. I hate to be in the clique “should I or shouldn’t I” scenario, but this time I really feel unsure. Here is the situation – I had this professor who I just LOVE. She’s no longer my professor anymore, and she doesn’t even teach at my university. I went to college a little late in life, so we’re pretty similar in age and while I can’t be positive, I think she’s queer. I’d love to ask her out, but I’m not sure if that’s appropriate or if this is even something I should be thinking about. Also, because I don’t see her anymore, it would have to be over email. I don’t know if having a text trail of a possible rejection is really something I want, or something my usual “I would do anything for love” attitude can handle without a huge drop in self-esteem. WHAT DO I DO.
I think you know what to do here but I’m going to say this anyway: if she’s not your professor anymore, then her being your erstwhile professor shouldn’t have anything to do with this. That’s just how you met — it was how this acquaintanceship began. Being nervous about the possible rejection is normal and super easy to plow right through. Asking someone out via email is probably not weird at all.
DO WHAT YOU WANT IN THIS LIFE.
Q 15: Is it normal to question my relationship, or are we doomed?
I want to preface this by saying that I have issues in general with decision making; I literally question every decision I make and I have a major “the grass is always greener” complex where I constantly compare myself to others. It often inhibits me from enjoying my own life.
I’ve been with my girlfriend whom I live with for 3 years. I love her very much. We have been through a lot together, including the death of her mother, and I sometimes fear that we are trauma bonded. I question the stability and overall health/longevity of our relationship quite a bit. The issue for me is I don’t know if this is a symptom of my own mental health issues (as outlined above), or if this is a warning sign that our relationship is doomed. In past relationships, I never worried too much about this because I felt like I could always change my mind and move on if I needed to (I was kind of a lone wolf). This relationship is different because my girlfriend is fully committed to me, I never question that. I know she wants to spend the rest of her life with me. She has had a remarkably difficult life causing her to be the kind of person who takes everything very seriously and doesn’t really have time for what she considers to be games.
I on the other hand (while I’ve had my own struggles) have enjoyed a more privileged existence and so I see things more fluidly; I’m not as much in survival mode. And while I am committed to her and love her, I worry that by even questioning the relationship I am being “dishonest” with her or leading her on EVEN THOUGH I do not have any intention of breaking up with her. I basically just have a lot of anxiety around committing to anyone for the absolute rest of my life I think? We also do not have sex as much as I’d like to…we are both survivors of sexual assault and have extremely busy lives so it’s hard to come together. But going a long time without sex makes me feel super unstable. We are also from very different economic/cultural backgrounds and while we agree on SO MUCH we also disagree on SO MUCH. So my question is….is that normal??? Is it normal to question your relationship one day, and then the next day feel like you could never be without this person? Or is that volatile and toxic? I don’t want to give this amazing woman up for some idea I have about other options out there that ends up not even being accurate. I’ve dated A LOT and I KNOW it’s actually very difficult to find the kind of connection we have. So am I doing it right? Help!
NORMAL NORMAL NORMAL. Very normal. You’re great. People — especially people who like to know how each decision will play out before actually making it — are susceptible to wondering whether or not they’ve made the right choice, that is very normal! And a lifetime commitment to anything is horrifying. I used to get depressed that this would be my only name fore the rest of my life, and sometimes I still can’t believe that I’ll never look in the mirror and see a different face! Like this is just my face forever??
Anyway the truth of the matter is that you could live without her, and you know that. It doesn’t mean you want to live without her! It just means that you’re aware of your ability to live a life without her. Simple. Not bad. Regarding the sex and handling different economic/cultural backgrounds, you should probably talk about this with DRAMATIC PAUSE a couple’s therapist maybe! Those are extremely normal relationship things that can be navigated using different communication techniques and check-ins. I’ve been to a couple’s therapist for the economic/cultural background thing (because that shit is no joke!) and it helped TREMENDOUSLY.
You aren’t creating a toxic or volatile situation and you’re not being dishonest just because you know that you are capable of independent survival, though. If you don’t have any intention of breaking up with her and you’re not creating problems to fight about so that she’ll break up with you and you’re not treating her like shit because you think you could do better, you’re good. I actually think there’s something really beautiful about knowing you could survive life on your own but deciding every single day that you’d rather do it with her.
Q 16: Friend kissed me unexpectedly, and I liked it?!
I’m a Transman in my mid 20’s, I’m working my way through college and have completed my transition. Earlier this week I was hanging out with someone I consider to be my best friend (who is also a Transman) and seemingly out of nowhere he walked over and kissed me! It was not a mere peck on the cheek, it happened so fast I don’t fell like I had time to react but I definitely didn’t resist. We continued hanging out and he kissed me again later, the next day he texted me asking if he had made things weird and I told him that he hadn’t, and the subject was dropped. A few days later he started texting me in the evening and seemed to be flirting with me and wanting to hang out the next day (that’s “hangout” with a winky face). The next day comes and I hear nothing back from him so we don’t end up hanging out. We were smoking recreationally when the first kiss happened, and he was drunk when he was flirting with me via text. Long story short, I just didn’t expect this from him (and damn he’s a good kisser) I’ve always been attracted to women so this is throwing me for a loop! I think he would like us to be fwb, and I would be down with that too…except now I’m wondering if this is a ‘drunk mistake’ on his part…. I trust this friend and care for him very much, fwb would be fun as hell, but I don’t know how to broach the subject of how him being inebriated plays into the situation. And of course I don’t want to mess up the friendship…I’ve never been in this situation please send help!
Y’all have to talk this out! Just sit down, get real with each other, and don’t be afraid to be honest. This is your BEST FRIEND! Talk about ittttttt.
“Hello you are a good kisser. What’s going on here.”
Q 17: Non-sex sex stuff.
Hi! So, I’m a senior in high school and have never had a relationship with anyone or kissed anyone for that matter, but I’m out as gay to pretty much everyone I know and I would love to have a relationship with a girl. My problem is that I’m like 98% sure I’m either ace or grey-ace (and not very interested/interested at all in having sex) and I’m scared I won’t find a girl that’ll be okay with it or that I’ll be too scared to tell any girls so I’ll just end up avoiding relationships altogether cause I’m scared about having to tell them I don’t want to have sex. I’ve only told one person so far and whilst I’m completely comfortable with the idea of remaining a virgin my whole life, I feel like I’ll end up ostracized from everyone I know because I’ll be the only one not having sex, or end up having sex even if I don’t want to cause I’ll feel to weird telling the girl. I’m also worried about the idea of having sex with a girl just to try it and hating it and then not knowing what to do with the situation. Or also about never having sex cause I’m convinced it’s not something I want to do and then it just turns out that I wasn’t really ace and was to anxious about the idea of sex to even try it, cause I also have anxiety and the thought of having sex makes me really anxious.
But at the same time, a part of me worries that I just haven’t felt sexual attraction to anyone yet or that I’ll want to have sex when I get older, or that, like I said, I’m just scared to have sex but I’m not actually ace, just nervous. And I know, that comes from living in a society where sex is everything and like the only thing we’re all supposed to like and have in common so I guess I have it internalized that I should want it and/or that the only reason I don’t is cause I’m still young, but I’m also pretty sure I’m actually ace cause I have no idea what sexual attraction feels like even though I’ve had lots of crushes (I’ve just never wanted to do anything beyond kissing and cuddling with any of them)
Basically, the question I’m not asking is how do I manage being gay AND ace AND living with that and dating with that and not constantly doubting my asexuality???
My plan was to tell you that our identities are wild beautiful situations with varying degrees of rigidity and fluctuations over the course of our lives, that some things about you will change with time and some things will always stay the same, and how that doesn’t make the fluctuating things any less valid or important as the other things. Then I took your question to a team member who identifies as ace and their response blew mine out of the damn water, so here it is!
Some ace people never want to have sex, some masturbate and their sexuality is a private, personal thing, some only want to when they have a develop a strong emotional bond, some go months or years without wanting to have sex and then just Want To regardless of emotional attachment (like me). It’s okay not to know or to change your mind. You don’t HAVE to make a huge sweeping announcement when you’re still working this out if you’re not sure how this identity fits on you. You’re not lying or being deceitful if you tell your friends or crushes or partners that this is all is new to you and you’d like to take things slow. Just like being gay, being ace isn’t something shameful or wrong. It’s a part of you to be shared. Go easy on yourself. Be gentle and give yourself space to explore.
Re: relationships: lot of navigating any relationship is figuring out what you & your partner want and need in a relationship. If you never want to have sex, is that something that works for your partner? If they want to have sex, is that something that works for you? What does a romantic relationship look like vs a friendship? These are hard questions, but they aren’t impossible. In my weird zone of asexuality, I grapple with these questions all the time. In my experience, it comes down to compatibility. I’ve had relationships end because my asexuality and my partner’s sexuality didn’t vibe and we were both miserable. I’ve also had really beautiful relationships with very sexual people that I wouldn’t trade for anything because they gave me the space I needed to figure out where my boundaries are without taking the process personally. There are endless possibilities for how a relationship can function.
Be honest with yourself and your partners, trust yourself to know what feels good/bad, & don’t beat yourself up if you discover something new about yourself.
Q 18: Am I gay?
Hi, I am almost 33 years old. I have been married to a man for almost 8 years now. I also had a really real awakening about a month ago that told me I was gay, and I don’t think I can un-imagine it. Please help! I am miserable, I have no friends, and I don’t know how to proceed.
First of all, I’m so truly sorry that you’re miserable and have no friends. That’s a terrible situation and you deserve a better one. Second of all, seems like you might be gay! Maybe bisexual? Maybe “somewhere on the scale”! The important thing is that you don’t panic. It’s a real fucking shock to the system when you realize that you’re not straight after 35 years of thinking you were (or at least 35 years of not really thinking about it at all). I personally went into a deep depression that left me just functional enough that nobody else really noticed and I didn’t kill myself. NEAT. Obviously that’s no way to live. I don’t know if your misery is coming from this awakening or if it’s something you’ve been living with for a while, but either way please know that it’s possible to not be miserable in your lifetime! Maybe that means leaving your husband, maybe it doesn’t!
Here’s my story, here’s Katrina’s story, here’s Jeanna’s story, and there are books like Dear John, I Love Jane, and are you familiar with Glennon Doyle Melton? Even if you don’t see yourself in any of these accounts, it’s important that you do see yourself somewhere, so please keep looking. You can live through this because other people have! You can make hard decisions that make you feel like Wile E. Coyote pressing an enormous detonator. You can you can you can!
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.