Y’All Need Help #24: Spring Cleaning Part 3

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?

A 1:

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?

A 2:

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?

A 3:

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!

A 4:

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?

A 5:

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.

A 6:

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?

A 7:

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?

A 8:

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?

A 9:

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??????????

A 10:

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?

A 11:

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!

A 12:

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?

A 13:

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.

A 14:

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.


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!

A 15:

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!

A 16:

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???

A 17:

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.

A 18:

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!

Don’t. Panic.

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

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

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  1. Q2: I‘d recommend broadening the field of therapy.
    There‘s things like dance therapy and even art therapy that operate on a non-verbal, or mostly non-verbal level.
    Group therapy, self help groups,etc. offer a different approach,too.
    When I was lucky enough to get a spot in a clinic offering therapy in a in hospital/patient setting,we‘d get a schedule with several items a day, that kept us busy throughout the week, and only two hours of that were the traditional one on one.
    I stuck with dance therapy for a couple of years after that, because as wordy as I am, I also manage to talk myself out of corners, and the body work experience proved a good fit.
    Honestly, though, while there were definite likes and dislikes (gestalt therapy still freaks me out a bit) I have to say, it was not just the kind of therapy I responded to, but the person or group instructing it.
    Maybe try a couple of things and see if you gel with the therapist/group.

    • THIS! I did some Gestalt therapy for a while that included Traumatic Release Exercises (mostly a lot of directed shaking) and I also did EMDR. Neither required you to be particularly chatty about your issues – they’re active and often abstracted and you can be as quiet as you want.

    • Yes! I was going to say something similar – I’ve had the most luck with more body centered therapeutic approaches instead of talk centered therapy – I’ve done art therapy, focusing, internal family systems (IFS) and hakomi. I’ve done group and individual work. I also found that my connection to the therapist and/or the people in the group seems to be as important, if not more important, as the modality. Here are a few misc thoughts based on what I’ve learned in the 28 years since I was diagnosed and started treatment for PTSD / depression / anxiety.

      The biggest break through for me was to discover trauma-informed therapists – I’m a survivor of CSA and all of my mental health issues seem to be trauma / PTSD related. As far as I can tell, trauma-informed is an umbrella term for various approaches that are based on current neuroscience about how trauma impacts the brain and the body (The Body Keeps the Score is a book that describes the neuroscience for a lay audience). The approach involves learning how to resource yourself – how to stay in the present moment, how to get and stay grounded – and eventually involves processing and releasing the trauma. But it’s like Creatrix Tiara describes – it doesn’t have to involve directly talking about the trauma (in fact that can be re-traumatizing).

      Both IFS and focusing work with “parts” and might invite the LW to sense into the part that doesn’t want to talk, that feels tight in the throat, etc, and might gradually invite that part to share about its purpose – maybe it’s a protector part, trying to keep the LW from sharing things that seem scary or overwhelming. Maybe it’s a young part that developed out of a very real need to keep the LW safe by not talking about certain things. This is all conjecture of course and is based on my own experiences with my throat closing up and barely being able to talk about some topics – the LW’s experience may be very different. I’ve had pretty remarkable progress doing similar work with similar felt senses – sometimes resulting in immediate changes and sometimes with no noticeable change until much later.

      Audition therapists. This can be hard because it can take so much emotional energy to just make that first appointment. I’ve had pretty good luck going to centers or private practices that have several therapists – they do an initial intake appointment and then assign you to someone that seems like a good fit. And if you don’t like them, you can ask for someone else.

      I found one of my favorite therapists at a women’s health center – she was a queer, trauma-informed art therapist and she was really helpful. One session I just made huge angry scribbles on a giant sheet of paper until I was ready to talk.

      Good luck LW.

  2. “I personally went into a deep depression that left me just functional enough that nobody else really noticed and I didn’t kill myself.”

    laneia regularly writes sentences that leave me absolutely destroyed.
    i’d never thought that i was missing the description of that feeling but then there it was on the page.

  3. Q2: I am in therapy and I supplement with a DBT workbook I bought online and it’s been great! I think it would be a great option for you. There are even workbooks in pdf form available online. It’s been very helpful for me, and filling out worksheets is a lot easier than trying to work all this out with a therapist in person, especially with long stretches between sessions.

    • DBT is amazing. I did it as a class type thing (while also doing individual therapy with the therapist who ran the class). So helpful. A lot more helpful than regular therapy to me because while I liked talking to my therapist, that was more like venting.. DBT actually taught me skills to be a more functional human being. There are so many skills that it’s almost guaranteed that at least some will be helpful for anyone. Totally recommend.

  4. Some people who don’t like/do well in one-on-one therapy to do better in group/small group therapy.

    Also, the question asker could show their question to their therapist, and then they could work on that! There’s nothing wrong with writing a note to your therapist in order to express something you can’t say out loud.

  5. yeah the comments this week about therapy, and the previous Spring Cleaning or so about Megan’s rescue dog Emily and depression are really helpful. I’ve never managed to get to therapy, I really don’t think it’s for me, and hearing support for that on here and some welcome and thoughtful alternatives / additions is really great. <3

  6. Q12: If you decide to get married, it is YOUR marriage. Sure, the government will recognize it and that carries benefits, but that doesn’t mean they own it. You don’t like the patriarchal/heteronormative underpinnings of marriage as historically practiced? Queer it right up. Make a commitment to each other that you are not having all that. Talk to each other about what commitment and support and whatever else you think an ideal marriage should have and not have would look like for you. I mean, sure, there are some systems that you can’t reform through participation no matter how noble your intentions (Trump administration, anyone?). But I’ve seen good marriages and I’m in one myself (also bi with a cishet man) that are loving, supportive, mutually respectful and frankly awesome.

    If you choose to, you can treat it as resentfully jumping through hoops, but even in that instance, I think you’re selling yourself short if you look at it as “my partner’s health and safety is more important to me than an abstract principle.” You aren’t selling out your principles; you are making an adult, moral choice to weigh the principle that your loved one should be able to access medical care over your distaste for the hoops you have to jump through to get it. Nothing to be ashamed of there.

    Or you could decide to construct, together, the nonpatriarchal, nonheteronormative marriage of your dreams, which will be totally awesome on its own merits, and will have the spiffy side benefits of getting him on your insurance and sticking one in the eye of anyone who thinks marriage can’t be done without oppression.

    And whatever you decide, I feel you about trying to hold onto your queer identity in such a relationship. (Does he know you have this struggle? Does he help?) I am so glad I found the community here for help with that! Best of luck and health to you both.

  7. Q17: Hello! It’s great to meet another high-school-attending, queer, anxious, probably-asexual-but-not-really-sure human person who has never been in a relationship before! I thought maybe it would help to know you’re not alone, and that there really, truly are other people out there who feel what you feel.

  8. Q17: My girlfriend in high school was gay and ace, so I’ve had versions of this conversation before…
    It’s easy for me to say ‘don’t worry’ about finding a girl who’s okay with a romantic asexual relationship, but hey, we are actually out there! In case that’s something you need to hear. Have hope.
    If your anxiety might be contributing, don’t take that part of the problem into account when self-analysing. Work on the anxiety. Take it as a separate project in its own right. Because while it continues to affect you so much, it’s hard to separate ‘general anxiety’-anxiety from ‘I don’t want to do this’-anxiety. If your emotional response to the idea is negative, that’s a good enough reason right off not to try it at the moment. You don’t necessarily need to attribute that reaction, though, to one definite source, in order to understand how you feel and what you do or don’t want. Which, often enough, is the more important thing.
    I completely agree with that team member’s response re. huge sweeping announcements. I think, to an extent, there is a bit of an expectation that people pick a label at one point in their life, and then stay obliged to stick with it. That expectation seems a bit off to me. If *at the moment*, ‘ace’ fits pretty well with where you feel you’re at, embrace it for the moment, and let the future mind its own business for a while. If it helps, there is also acceptance of the idea of a grey *scale*, you know, with degrees of asexuality – if you’d really like to place your identity with a sense of finality, there’s more room for movement if you just go, whatever, I know I’m under that umbrella, I’ll leave it at that. Less room for doubt, maybe.
    It’s a bit of a worry to hear that you don’t know whether you’d be able to say when you didn’t want sex with a partner… if you don’t want to go there, that’s a good enough reason on its own, always. It’s the most important thing to be able to say no. I hope at least by the time you start seeing someone you’ll be more confident in that…
    — long comment here but anyway. Hope it begins to seem more manageable for you.

    • I identified as ace from the time I heard of it around 22 until 28, when I started to think hey, I want to try being with someone. And my wife was so patient and respectful. We’ve been together 6.5 years. We have an open relationship. She’s had several other partners, which works well for her getting her wants met.

  9. Q12: I was in a similar situation but there was no domestic partner option so I got married more or less for the hospital/next of kin reason and also because I was too cheap and lazy to do all the legal stuff I’d have had to do instead (we have kids so stuff to establish equal parenting rights, for instance). I felt kind of weird about it for the reason you describe and also because I think marriage is kinda bs. but it wasn’t a big deal, just an administrative formality. Went and signed my name on the line wearing jeans, went for lunch, no wedding, nbd. Lots of people don’t even know, not because it’s a secret but they just assume! You can do it how you want to!

  10. Hi, Q4! I was 28 when I came out, and I’m almost 30 now, so I totally dig where you’re coming from. Some stuff I would have liked to hear when I was in that situation:

    1. You’re not alone. There are SO MANY people in your same situation. Like, so many. So so many.
    2. If someone doesn’t like your life experience, they aren’t the right person for you anyway; thank them for saving you time.
    3. Coming out is hard but being out is easy. It’s so freeing. Sure, coming out as an adult can be scary; for me, it felt more like a guilty admission than a culmination of self-discovery. I felt like I was saying, “Hey, that person you thought you knew? I’m actually a totally different person! I’m a fraud!” But that’s not the case. You’re still you, but there’s more of you to share. You know how 90% of an iceberg is underwater? Coming out as an adult is like saying, “Hey, that person you knew? That was 10%-of-the-Iceberg Me. But Below-the-Waterline Me is super gay.” And it feels really nice to tell people. The initial coming out is hard, but it does feel good to have it out. Can I compare it to popping a zit? Whatever, I’m doing it. It’s like popping a huge, decades-spanning, guilt-inducing zit.
    4. You can do it however you feel most comfortable. You can do it in person, by text, by email, in a FB post, whatever. Tell people one at a time, or in groups, or tell one friend and ask her to seed conversations with others for you. Whatever you feel comfortable doing. (For me, the first person I told was my since-high school BFF.)
    5. If you’re coming out to someone you find particularly hard to talk to, it helps to have at least one totally supportive friend who knows what’s happening and can provide emotional backup. Have them be on call for you.

    I wrote an article about coming out recently. Mine is not the universal experience but it might help to hear another person’s story. (TW: some self-harm, depression stuff. Link: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/why-it-took-me-28-years-to-come-out-1.4575584)

    You’re awesome and you got this. B)

  11. I moved to a new city 3 years ago and have made friends here that I like and the two main ways I have done this are through volunteering and work. I’ve taken language classes, joined sports teams, stuff like that, but actually spending time at work/ volunteering with people in a causal way where I can be myself has worked better.

    If you hate everyone you work with, look for another job because holy shit you spend so much time with them. If you need queer friends volunteer with an LGBT organisation or cultural event. If you live in a city chances are there will be a pride event you could help out with.

  12. Q17: I’m 26 and I’ve been asking myself a lot of the same questions for the past year or so. In my experience, it’s been more difficult to define/accept/recognize possibly being ace/demi than it was to do that with being bi/queer because it’s defined by the absence of a feeling/experience rather than the presence of it. But I’m trying to stay open to the reality that it’s a fluid experience and not a one-and-done thing. Just because I say/feel that I’m on the ace spectrum somewhere doesn’t mean that now I’m not allowed to have sex with anyone ever again, or that no one will ever want to be with me because I don’t know if I’ll want to have sex with them!

    I’ve avoided dating and have been known to (almost literally) run away from potential hookups in the past to avoid having to examine my own anxiety around sex, but more recently I’ve been trying to put myself out there more and also sit down and Talk About It with people I’m seeing. It’s absolutely 100% easier said than done, but it’s also been really helpful to realize that with everyone’s individual histories and hang-ups and desires you can find people who can meet you where you need to be. Tbh I feel like I’m a little bit talking out my ass because I feel the words that you wrote more strongly than I feel the words that I wrote. But it’s all a journey and I am on it with you! We got this

  13. Hi Q10! I’m in a really similar situation, because I moved to a small town (technically city, but the only thing that makes it a city is the fact that everyone lives really close together and I can walk to Dunks) after college for a job, and friends still aren’t really a reality three years later. Part of me has accepted that they probably won’t happen, which is sad, but moving isn’t really a possibility with where my career is at.
    Anyway, if you wanna message me then maybe we can chat? Or at least know you’re not alone in your situation.

  14. Whoa, whoa, whoa. It’s NEVER a good idea to tell someone in a relationship you have a crush on them? What if that crush is making you act weird and putting distance between you and the subject of your crush and they keep asking you why you’re being weird? What if they would be open to an open relationship and just have never mentioned?

  15. 17) I went through exactly what you are going through in my early 20s (in my teens, I didn’t know asexuality was a thing so just thought the rest of the world felt just like me and everyone was just faking sexual attraction!). Since I realised I was asexual I’ve had two relationships. One of these was long distance (transatlantic) which meant I could avoid telling my partner about any asexuality. Not talking about it was a terrible decision and made me freak out about the idea of visiting him as I was worried that I would feel pressured into having sex. This relationship ended after 6 months for various reasons (I realised I was homoromantic not biromantic and he began to have feelings for someone who lived much closer to him). My relationship with my current girlfriend is amazing and we talked a lot about how our relationship would work at the beginning of the relationship both because of my asexuality and because neither of us had been in relationships with women before. She is sexual (although does not see sex as a high priority in relationships) and was completely happy to set our boundaries where I was comfortable (kissing and cuddling but nothing more sexual than that). We also said that if either of our needs change is the relationship we can talk about it. Since the start of our relationship I have occasionally reassessed whether I might want to have sex with her and have always come to the conclusion that sex still isn’t something I want or would feel comfortable doing, but I know that if I changed my mind I know I’d be able to talk to her about it.

    Anyway, to summarise, my advise is to talk to your partner/prospective partner about it early in the relationship so you both know what your partner’s expectations of the relationship are. We did this during the conversation that we had about when we both figured out we liked girls and it was pretty easy for me to slot when I figured out I was asexual into that conversation so that might be a good chance to get it out into the open.

    There are definitely both sexual and asexual girls out there who would love to date you!

  16. Q3: I was in a similar situation, and then I joined roller derby. It’s a stereotype for a reason, lmao. I can’t even skate! I joined literally to do the equivalent of live sports admin (look up being an NSO if this appeals to you, and don’t be intimidated by the paperwork because everyone will be so grateful you’re there that they won’t care if you know literally nothing about derby).

    Everyone is so friendly and inclusive and it’s not full of men or straight people (though there are some!) and everyone spends their time in close personal contact with each other so there’s no room for too much awkwardness haha. Also! It’s a thing that meets regularly, which for me was key to making friends. I just can’t make friends if I have to do the organising.

    So yes – took me over a year to do it, but I’m finally starting to make friends. I’m not like besties with anyone yet, but I can definitely see something happening :) but yeah. Even if you completely ignore all of this, good luck! You’ll find your people <3

  17. Q9- I feel this very much. Laneia’s advice also felt right on for me and frames it in a different way. It’s not necessarily going to be comfortable… unfortunately.
    There is one thing that I realized that I can change about my behavior surrounding these events- and probably OP doesn’t have this issue!

    When I know a wedding is looming I fret about my gender presentation MUCH MORE than I do in my day to day life. I’m fine wearing jeans, t-shirt, jacket, sneakers and things that aren’t really femme but still let me be invisible. That middle ground disappears at special events and I immediately feel panicky and awful. In the past, I’ve avoided the question of what to wear until 24 hours before the wedding when I’ll frantically scour Ross for WHAT-THE-FUCK-EVER fits on my feet and on my body. Wake up and do my hair in WHAT-THE-FUCK-EVER way. Then I go, hope there is alcohol, and dissociate for several hours. So…. I feel like the only thing I can really control is that last minute panic by just deciding in advance what I’m going to wear- maybe even getting a couple outfits to choose from well in advance of the event.

  18. Q18 – you are not alone in this! I’m in my mid-30s and realized about two years ago that I was not straight. It was completely unexpected, and it turned my world upside down. It took a while to sort through everything, and I went through a period of depression as I mourned my old life and tried to figure out how to be my authentic self. It took me a year and a lot of therapy and self-reflection to go from saying, “hey, I might not be straight” to saying, “yep, I’m gay.” And it took another year after that to divorce my husband.

    In the middle of that, there were times I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it through, to live my life the way I wanted to live it. But I did, and here I am. I’m happier than I ever thought possible. I’m dating. I’m still friends with my ex. All of the dreams I had for myself that sustained me through the hardest two years of my life, I’ve made them happen. And now I have new dreams, and I’m doing my best to make those happen,

    Your journey is your own. It may look like mine or it may look nothing like mine. But I am excited for you to take this journey! It will be hard, yes, but it will be worth it to do the work to figure out your authentic self and to take steps toward being that person. Because that person is awesome! That’s the person the world deserves to know.

    And whatever your journey looks like, please know that we support you in it. If you want to reach out to me or to Katrina or to any of the other commenters who will chime in with similar experiences, I’m sure any of us would be glad to reach back.

    We’re here for you, we’ve got you, and you can do this!

    • I could have written this, it’s so similar to my own story — I’m just not quite as far along. I’m also in my 30s and married, and I realized a few years ago that I’m gay.

      Just reading through articles and comments on AS alone leads me to believe that there are approximately one bazillion of us going through or who have gone through the same thing. It’s hard, and I can echo Laneia’s statement that “I personally went into a deep depression that left me just functional enough that nobody else really noticed and I didn’t kill myself,” but it gets better. For the first time in my life, I feel like a whole, complete person who’s not hiding.

      #18, I hope that you can give yourself time and patience to sort through all this. I hope you can reach out to people who will support you. Please know that you’re not alone.

  19. Q9: Thank you for sharing this. I have been two weddings recently and I felt that exact EXACT same “YOU’RE GAY AND THEY’RE ALL STRAIGHT YOU’RE GAYYYY ” feeling the ENTIRE time.

    I dont’ “read” as queer and am very much a femme so the dressing up wasn’t responsible for it, but I had literally the same exact feeling you described the entire time. What I finally realized is that weddings not being legal for same sex couples when I was growing up combined with a lack of personal experiences or models in my community/cultural narratives/the media about queer marriages/families made me believe on some level, not logically, but deep down inside, that if I wanted to get married and have kids and be happy I could not be with a woman. The wedding just represented all those internalized beliefs about myself and just attending a wedding brought me back to all of those messages I was receiving and believing about myself. It’s just exhausting. Add to that that you’re going as a GUEST and that means meeting/potentially coming out to a HUGE group of people all at once, and maybe being in some sort of religious institution that you know doesn’t support your rights, etc etc- it’s just a LOT.

  20. Q2: I relate to this SO MUCH! Especially this: “letting my high-functioning outer shell speak for me, like she always does because that’s her job.” I’m a huge teacher’s pet/people pleaser, and the couple of times I’ve gone to a first therapist/psychiatrist session, even if I’ve gone in with very specific goals/things I want to convey, I just…can’t. I saw this described really well in the book The Folded Clock: A Diary, where she says that the more she likes a therapist, the more she goes into “wanting them to like me” mode, and it becomes about as deep as cocktail party conversation.

    I enthusiastically second Laneia’s suggestion of a journal. I actually have started keeping something that can function as a journal in every location I might ever be (home, work, and in a giant note in my phone’s notes app for when I’m in transit), and it’s been the #1 most helpful thing for my mental health (I feel like I should put it at #2 below like, exercise or meditation, but honestly I think it really is the #1 most helpful). I know it’s not like…normal to write in a journal at work, but it’s honestly been one of the things that helps me the most. Just jotting down some notes/working through something that’s upset me for a couple of minutes while sitting at my desk can be SO key to stopping a mental spiral before it takes over my whole afternoon. And I’m pretty sure that people think I’m just like, taking notes on some work thing/making a to-do list.

    Ditto for writing stuff in my phone’s notes app — I used to feel like I “should” journal in a proper paper notebook, ideally in the morning or evening, but most often I feel the need for the intervention/processing it provides when I’m on the go. I often find myself writing in it when on the subway, and usually I feel better, or at least clearer on what exactly is bothering me, by the time I’ve reached my stop. Like Laneia says, it’s not a total substitution for talking to other people about your thoughts/feelings, but it really really helps me realize what the core of the issue is in a way that makes me feel more centered and articulate when bringing up whatever bothered me or what I need with a friend/partner/family member. I hope this helps you too!

    • Yes!! For me it’s like 50/50 on work-related/not work-related, like often it is feelings about my career/frustration at my boss/feeling shitty about something that happened at work/needing to vent about something cruel a co-worker said. But writing it out helps SO much. I also used to beat myself up for it too, but then I realized how much other people messily and inappropriately process this stuff out loud (like my boss venting all the time about how much she “just can’t” with the place we work/just sort of spewing negativity and taking out her frustration on her employees — one of the things I often rant about in my work-journal, lol), and how unproductive that often is. People are constantly telling me that I’m so calm and cheerful and never get mad (my office is full of lots of shouting and drama queens), and I’m like “lol if only you saw what I’m writing to myself.” But it became so clear that it’s fulfilling a super necessary and helpful function, so I started feeling less bad about it.

      It’s still so great and validating to hear that someone else does this too, though!

  21. Q15 – you’re not alone! I feel very much the same way – I love my girlfriend, I want to take care of her, and I’m happy she’s in my life – but I’m also 100% clear that I could live without her. That isn’t because I don’t love her, but because I fought long and hard after a deeply-bonded friendship with romantic elements ended brutally. That process forced me to establish that I can live without anyone (not happily per se, but I am capable of rebuilding my life no matter what). My girlfriend is very clear that she wants to spend the rest of her life with me. That feels OK sometimes and sometimes really overwhelming, because I ALSO have a grass is always greener complex (there are things I miss so much about being single). And I have to take a breath and not freak out, and remember that it’s ok – knowing I’m capable of doing life without her doesn’t mean I want to do that and being clear with myself about my capabilities is important for my own mental health.

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