Y’All Need Help #27: But Back to YOU

WE’RE BACK!

After a short summer break, Y’All Need Help is back and ready to boss you around town. Just a quick content note for you: the last question in this batch deals directly with sexual assault in detail. There’s another note above the actual question and I’m asking that anyone responding to that question in their comment please preface that portion of your comment with “Q4” so everyone can take the best care of their mental health on this gorgeous Saturday. Thank you!


Q: Moving on after ruining a friendship

I recently had a falling out with my best friend months ago which has probably left our relationship irreparable. It turns out that I was the friend who was constantly confiding in a friend about mental health problems when I should have just seen a therapist. Along with that I always said and did some bad things that made her think I didn’t respect her. She was my best friend in the whole world and now we hardly even talk to each other.

She blames some of this on her not communicating with me which is partly true. But I can’t help but feeling I ruined this relationship. I feel incredibly guilty all the time and the initial split really sent me spiraling. I’m not sure if there is anything left to save? And I don’t know how to prevent this from happening in future relationships. I’m seeing a therapist now but how do I know when sharing is too much?

A:

This is such a tough and sad and lonely position to be in, and I’m so sorry! I really related to you constantly being the one confiding in her — I had a similar relationship dynamic with my best friend in my early 20s and it wasn’t great. Every single time we’d be in the same room together, I’d need to tell her about whatever my most recent issue was, and she’d kindly try to process with me, only to have to do it all over again the next time she saw me! HOW AWFUL. I’m squirmy right now just remembering it aaaahhhhh!

But back to YOU. Try not to be too super hard on yourself — we are imperfect and we will absolutely fuck things up, several times over the course of our lives! You’ll do or say so many things that you’ll need to learn from and actively forgive yourself for, and this is for sure one of those things. Obviously I can’t speak to whether or not this particular friendship is salvageable, but! It’s so great that you’re seeing a therapist! Hopefully it’s one you like and you’re having a hell of a useful time when you’re there, and talking with them is helping you parse out if there’s anything left to save with this person.

When you’re thinking about how to avoid this in future relationships, maybe focus less on ‘not sharing too much’ and more on balancing your own concerns about yourself and your problems with the concerns and interests you have for the other person and their life. Show your genuine interest in them frequently, especially when you won’t immediately be asking for anything in return.

Another thoughtful thing I try to do is ask the other person if they actually have the time or emotional bandwidth to help me with something, before I tell them anything about it. This is just a little heads up that I hope shows them that I don’t take them or their own mental health for granted, and that they shouldn’t feel obligated to be my emotional support at the drop of a hat. Life isn’t a neat little series of steps though, so sometimes I definitely offload my worries without checking in first. Again, we are imperfect angel beasts!

I bet the readers will also have some tips for practicing good boundaries and being a good friend!


Q: Working this body hair at work

Hello Autostraddle! I’m a femme queer who works a desk job at a university. My office is very liberal, I’m out at work, and even though it’s a pretty small office, I’m not even the only queer! Now that it’s getting warmer out, I’ve started wearing my spring/summer dresses, which I love and make me very happy. Here’s the thing, though–I don’t love shaving my legs. This isn’t an issue in the winter, since tights exist, but now it’s the season of bare legs. My supervisor, though very cool, is a sharp, professional, and feminine dresser (she’s also super-straight). Nobody has ever said anything when I wear dresses and am a little fuzzy, but I’m not sure what is “work appropriate”. I realize that most masc-presenting folks and people who don’t often shave usually stick to pants at work, but that’s just not my style. So what do I do? What is professional? And just how hairy can I get without crossing the “work appropriate” line?

A:

BOY HOWDY you wear the dang dresses, is what you do! Your legs being hairy or shaved has zippity doo dah to do with whether or not you should wear those dresses. You can braid that leg hair right at your damn desk if you want to. If the dress itself is work appropriate, that’s all that matters.

If any men in your office are asked to shave their arms or legs before they’re allowed to wear certain clothing, call me.


Q: Is it even worth coming out?

I’m a lady in my early thirties finally coming around to the notion that I’m probably (definitely) queer, or at least sexually fluid, after years of everybody telling me I’m probably (definitely) queer, which for the record was extraordinarily unhelpful. I’m about to get married – yay! – to a man who would fully support my queerness. It’s a hetero appearing relationship, and we’re monogamous, so… is there any point to the coming out? What does it mean to come out and “explore” your sexuality if you’re, you know, not sleeping with other people? Also, as a bonus, is there a way to prevent folks from harping on with the likely combination of many unhelpful “I told you sos,” and handful of “I don’t believe yous” if I do come out???

A:

I wish people would stop doing that! Everyone reading this has to promise me that you’ll never tell someone who identifies as straight that they’re actually probably queer! It’s so obnoxious. Gaydar gossip amongst queer friends is one thing, but presenting your unsolicited gaydar findings directly to the person in question is just tacky. TACKY.

Sorry, thank you for letting soapbox in your answer! A, congratulations on your upcoming marriage! B, only you can decide if there’s a point in coming out! But also consider, does everything you do have to have a point per se? I meannnnn. Realizing you’re queer is a pretty exciting development in a person’s life — lots of things click into place, lots of things are relearned, lots to think about! If you decided to share this personal development with other people, it would be well within your rights as a human and totally legal and cool. Sharing things about yourself with the people in your life who care about you is never pointless, in my extremely unhumble opinion.

There are lots and lots of ways to explore your sexuality if you’re not sleeping with other people! Look into queer history because you definitely weren’t taught any in school. Get to know the local, state, and national policies that affect the queer community, and find out how you can leverage any of your personal privilege to help move the needle forward for other LGBTQ people. Join in on the local queer happenings, because you’re queer! Play around with your look — heteronormativity’s #1 job is to put everyone in tight boxes determined by genitals and relationship status, and one of the best thing about being queer is smashing all those boxes to hell and building your own life and sense of self in a way that actually works for you.

If learning about discrimination laws isn’t sexy enough for you, you can also bring some queerness into your actual sex life by ummmmm (sex advice isn’t my forte, so) letting your fantasies get really really gay, reading queer erotica, pegging your fiancé, buying yourself a lap dance, etc!

And finally, I’m afraid there’s no way to prevent people from being total douchebags, so if you think someone will likely respond with “I told you so!” your options are to not tell them at all, or to tell them clean off when they say that to you. People who don’t believe you’re queer are really just saying they don’t care what you say about yourself, thereby making them useless assholes who are stupid to boot, and they also cannot be helped. Pay them no attention. Surround yourself with the people in your life who respect you, care about what you say, and would never be obtuse or tacky enough to say “I told you so!”

Oh and just for the record, you do not have to wear a cage bra to get into queer girl events. It’ll seem like you do, but trust me on this.


This is the final question today and it deals with sexual assault in detail. If you’re not in a mental place where you can safely read about this topic, just know that you can scroll right past it now to get to the comments and discuss the other three topics.
If you do choose to read this portion and include a response to it in your comment, please preface that portion of your response with “Q4” to give other readers a heads up. Thank you!

Q4: Was it sexual assault?

When I was 18, not out, and completely denying the fact that I was gay, I wanted to fit in. All my friends had boyfriends. I grew up in a smallish town with no access to gay friends, either. I started dating a boy (man) who was about 5 years older than me at the time. We’d spend time at his house together and one day I was laying on his bed and he started to take off my pants. I said “no” and tried to pull them back up. He insisted that he just wanted to make me feel good. I still said “no,” but he continued to pull down my pants. He performed oral sex on me. I was a virgin at the time and had no experience with anything even remotely sexual. I’ve struggled with the idea of justifying this as rape afterward, because there was a part of me who liked it. It did ‘feel good’ to have someone touch me in that area. But I’ve always felt sick about it. About liking it. About saying no and feeling like my voice didn’t matter. About not wanting to be a victim of something that seemed like a very minor case of sexual assault when so many other people have had it so much worse. But now, over 10 years later, I still think about it. I feel upset at myself for putting myself in that position. And for letting him feel as if that was ok. For not having any backbone. And yet, I still find myself not thinking about this incident as rape. Am I wrong in thinking that this incident doesn’t belong in that category because it didn’t cause me physical harm?

A:

I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’m sorry you’ve carried the shame and guilt for over a decade when you did absolutely nothing wrong. You didn’t put yourself in any position, you didn’t let him feel as if it was ok, the existence of your backbone is not in question.

A culture of rape and violence against women put you in that position on the day you were born, and it let him feel as if what he was doing was ok. His own moral shortcomings and sense of entitlement let him tell himself, and you, that he was doing you a favor that day. A society that devalues women and discourages women’s bodily autonomy created an environment that lets all this shit happen every motherfucking day with impunity.

The definition of rape is “sexual activity carried out forcibly against a person’s will.” It doesn’t have to be physically violent, it doesn’t have to hurt, it doesn’t have to involve screaming, it doesn’t have to result in bodily injury. But listen, if you don’t want to put what happened to you in the category of rape, you don’t have to. Maybe using the term “sexual assault” would be easier for you; it would certainly still be true. You could even just call it the worst fucking sex of your entire life, if you’d rather. Whatever words you use to describe it to yourself or to other people won’t change the fact that it was traumatizing, not your fault, and 100% not ok.

I know this is way easier said than done, but really try to give yourself permission to let go of the shame you’re carrying for liking the way it felt. Genitals are designed to feel good when touched. That’s it. Erectile tissue responds to stimulation. One of the most insidious elements of abuse is the fact that it can and sometimes does feel objectively ‘good’, and the shame and anger and confusion that comes with this can be overwhelming. It’s like your body betrayed you, or like something is seriously wrong with you. It can even make you question whether or not you really didn’t want it to happen after all. But your body just did what it will do, and nothing is wrong with you. You can trust yourself.

RAINN has both a hotline and a live chat, if you think you might find it helpful to talk to someone, especially someone specifically trained to have that conversation. (I think you might.) (I did.)

I’m sorry.


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.

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, and some personal essays.

Laneia has written 889 articles for us.

31 Comments

  1. 1: Thank you for that warning, you’re the best!

    2: I’ve been struggling with the body hair at work situation as well, and I’ve noticed that I’m much more comfortable showing leg hair when I’m working in my office and only seeing colleagues / my boss than when I’m working with families who come to the lab with their small kids to take part in our research. I don’t dress up for them, but I also wouldn’t wear my most chill workclothes when I see them, so it does feel like I am more likely to hide my leg hair when I feel my presentability matters more.

    I don’t think having hairy legs make me less able to perform my actual tasks, but it could make me less able to form a rapport with the parents and make them feel at ease in the lab? And that’s much more important than making, for example, customers feel comfortable, because our families are volunteering to help us do our research, and it’s not always easy for them to do so (we ask a lot from the kids, some of whom are autistic). Do other people who work with research participants or patients have thoughts about this?

    • Can I give you my perspective as a participant in medical research? It would make me *so happy* to meet a researcher with visibly hairy legs.

      That said, you know your workplace. Accordingly, you are the best judge of what feels best for you when interacting with your research participants and their families.

      • As a scientist myself, I’d much prefer a workplace where fellow researchers were not freaked out about leg hair (their own or mine). If I ever have a research assistant worried about body hair, whatever their gender, I will say to them, bodies make hair; that does not make them less competent or less professional. It’s just you doing you. Go forth and hirsutify!

        As a participant myself, or as a parent who occasionally takes her kid in to participate in research, if I ever meet a female-presenting research assistant with visibly hairy legs, I will smile at her and feel like the world is a slightly better place than I knew.

        As someone who hasn’t shaved her legs in 20+ years and only shaves armpits sometimes due to lingering residue of internalized misogyny that I can’t always be arsed to fight, I want as many others as possible to join me in the “body hair DGAF” brigade.

        Disclaimer: I have no idea how much of my consequence-free getting away with it is due to being white and my leg hair being not too blatant. My friends of color police their body hair way more assiduously. I think it sucks that they feel they have to*; it feels like that money, time and extra anxiety is a tax levied on them by racism-plus-misogyny and it’s not fair. But you make whatever decisions you need to make in the context you are making them in. Save your spoons for your important fights! (Like: dryer sheets, boo! 😉 )

        * I mean this interpretation about them specifically; if you shave ’cause you like to, jolly good.

    • re: body hair while working with families, as 1) a parent and 2) a queer parent and 3) a ND/ autistic parent

      1) There is a very good chance that parents of small children will either not notice your leg hair at all, or, if anything, it will make them more relaxed around you. Before I had a kid, I had this mental image of parents being people who are Adult and Conservative and Have Their Shit Together (probably stemming from how they somehow kept us all alive and kind of organised and yelled at us). Now I know that for most parents of small children, any day without puke stains (or similar, but mainly puke) on their clothes is a good day. “This doesn’t seem to have puke stains” is a common and valid criterion to put on an article of clothing in the morning after checking it for two seconds. We don’t shower. We don’t shave. (Ok some of us do, but they are a) a tiny minority and/ or b) probably pay someone to clean their house.) (They honestly do. SO MANY – middle class, white people – do. They don’t talk about it unless you know them a bit, and admire their tidy apartment/ house and then they say they have “someone” to “help once a week”. And most of them *still* don’t shave, because seriously who has the time to deal with this kind of bs.) We wear pants. This is why. We focus on keeping everyone alive, fed, and reasonably happy at the end of the day, which uses 170% of our mental capabilities on average. What’s on our mind when we’re in a lab with our small kids? “Please don’t destroy anything expensive. Oh good she’s happy. Shit I forgot to pay the dentist’s OH GOD IS ANYONE HURT phew ok good. Did I pack – oh dear (comforts crying kid) (checks Facebook)”

      2) As a queer parent in a relationship with a straight guy, I feel incredibly invisible and unhappy because I’m read as straight all. the. time. There’s so many of us. We’re so happy when we see fellow queers. Like SO HAPPY I’m excited and want to wink and jump up and down and high five them and talk about being queer, which, obviously not I know. Also, it makes me happy to practice my gaydar in everyday situations and I do it constantly, because there aren’t any other situations since I never go out because I now have a kid, yay ;P

      3) As a non binary autistic person (I don’t speak for others!) my interest in, and practice of, shaving my legs was already next to zero before having a kid. Uhm – it hasn’t increased since, lol. Many parents of autistic kids are autistic themselves (often without knowing it) (I know you probably know that. Just mentioning it because it’s relevant). Many/ most of us really have other priorities navigating life in general and NT spaces in particular than being interested in other people’s leg hair. If anything, many of us would love for people not to wear strong perfume or deodorant, but I’ve yet to see a “dress” code about that.

      4) (future) queer kids.
      5) (future) straight kids.

      So obviously I don’t know your situation and your workspace and the families you work with, this is just my perspective. Just to say that parents might not be what they seem. – And wishing you good luck <3

  2. You know I’ve struggled a lot with being a femme with leg hair, especially at work, but now I feel like I have a new lease on life because I had never thought to BRAID IT. Thank you for this wisdom ?

  3. So good and tender as always. Thanks Laneia.

    Also, Q3: I am not in your exact situation, but fwiw, there have been many situations in my life where I wondered if it was worth coming out, and even when it made things a little harder, it always was, for me. Always.

    • Q3: I am pretty much in your situation and I stayed closeted to everyone but my husband for a long time due to similar fears. Would coming out just be making it all about me? Would it be inappropriate? Yada yada blah blah internalized biphobia mutter mutter. I’m glad I came out to the people who care about me though: I trusted them with knowing who I really am, I feel like I’m living with more integrity, I feel much more relaxed about casually coming out to others, I feel better living up to my ideal of helping to normalize non-straightness.

      Of course your safety comes first. But if you feel able to/want to come out, enlist your fiance/husband’s help (congrats and may it be a happy marriage!). He can help you practice, suggest which relatives on his side to talk to or avoid, run interference if someone needs to hold your baby nephew so you can talk to your brother in peace and quiet, and stick up for you/comfort you if anyone does react badly. You think he’s worth being your life partner; let him partner you through this. Good luck!

  4. ‘Masc-presenting’ women/folks also wear shorts. 🙂

    One question to ask yourself about body hair and company dress codes: are men at your workplace allowed to wear shorts? Or tank tops? In some places, only women are allowed to wear clothing that exposes the legs and sleeveless tops because exposure of body hair is deemed unhygienic/unprofessional and it is assumed that all women shave and all men don’t. If men at your workplace can’t wear shorts you’ll have a hard time advocating for yourself.

    I had this argument a long time ago with a boss who wouldn’t let me wear shorts. She said that the policy wasn’t discriminatory because if any of the men in the office wanted to wear them, they would have been allowed to on the condition of shaving their legs. (And of course none of them would have, because it wouldn’t be worth all the questioning of their masculinity, but she had me in a corner.)

  5. Q1:If you both still want to be friends try to change the parameters of your relationship and do things together. Go to an exhibit, the fair, movies, don’t have coffee,don’t hang out at home, be active and keep topics light. Friends dating, celebrity gossip, tv shows. You’re more than your problems, and being in that intimate unload space is a literal space sometimes. Good on you for having a therapist. Sometimes you just need to leave the heavy stuff with someone, and someone who gets paid for leaving it in their office is invaluable.
    It helped me to think of the heavy stuff as literally heavy stuff, and that helped me evaluate if I could put that upon a person and whether or not it was the time and place.
    Q3: Coming Out rarely is about other people, it’s mostly about oneself. one undeniable benefit:Queer media. Fan art, vids, fanfiction, the works. Make your know it all friends watch the cheesiest and most horrible romantic comedies and lesbian movies with you in retaliation, the I told you sos will quickly fade into nothingness.
    Q4:
    Trigger warning
    I‘m having trouble finding the rights words, and God knows I’m usually not at a lack for them.
    Look, someone did hurt you. It’s a hurt that reverberates within you ten years later.
    The thing with these things is, that the injury is more to one‘s very being instead of skin and bone, which have the grace to heal over or at least scar with only just enough time.
    There’s a tender,vulnerable trusting place within you that has been injured and everything Laneia has written is true, and you reaching out and her answering are parts of healing that place, at least a little bit.
    Finding the words, your words for what happened, accepting that you had no choice in it, and grieving the loss of trust and so many things are also parts of that healing, and I really do wish you the very best on that difficult journey.

    If I remember correctly, statistically a third of us who are reading this have been survivors of sexual violence.
    So much pain. So many secrets carried in the dark like heavy stones.
    Just know you’re not alone and feel warmly embraced.

  6. *this is a Q4 response*

    Really, I just want to echo what Laneia said. It breaks my heart that you’ve been thinking of yourself as having no backbone for all these years when really you are incredibly strong to have survived something like that. You did nothing wrong. You didn’t let him think it was ok – you said no and he ignored you. Arousal or enjoyment of an act does not equal consent. You are so brave and I hope you can let go of the shame that it seems you feel surrounding this, because you are absolutely not to blame. I’m sorry that you had this experience, and I wish you healing.

  7. Q3: I can relate fairly closely to this! Like everyone has said—this is ultimately up to you, what you feel comfy with. But for me, a bi lady married to a cis guy, who figured out I was bi after being in said relationship for a VERY long time, coming out has made a very meaningful difference to me.
    Recognizing I was bi opened whole new chambers in my brain that heteronormativity bricked off. Being in a queer community has brought me such joy and added new dimensions to my life experience (getting to attend A-Camp probably has a lot to do with this part.)
    You can absolutely navigate some of this without coming out, or selectively coming out (also an option!), but being entirely out has also let me be vocal about not just stuff I’m personally processing, but also advocating for the queer community— which is important to me personally.
    Coming out has been more meaningful to me than I even imagined. I honestly thought it wouldn’t change anything, just maybe upset some family, but it’s been profoundly important to me.

    • I completely agree with Liz’s thoughts on this, especially those last two sentences. I came out publicly as bi/queer a few months ago and I’ve been with the same cis guy for 6 years (married for 2). I can’t express how much relief and freedom I have felt, even though I have no plans to change my relationship status. I’ve processed and reinterpreted a lot of my past behaviors/thoughts (because it turns out I probably have always been this way, so it’s been an enlightening experience!), and have enjoyed recognizing my attraction to women. I may never do anything about it, but not hiding that part of myself anymore has done wonders for my sense of self.

      It has also changed my relationship with the queer community, in that now I feel like I can be part of it, instead of an ally. Although sometimes I still worry that I’m not “queer enough”, I’ve been trying to deliberately contribute more time, money, and energy into supporting queer folk who are doing great things. And that feels really good! Also I’ve been trying to find ways to signal my queerness since I tend to pass as straight, so I’ll probably be getting alllll the merch soon.

      Ultimately, there is no one time to come out – you can totally do so before or after being married, because it doesn’t delegitimize your love and marriage to a man. But as has been rightly stated by everyone, it is your choice! You gotta do what feels right to you.

      • I realized I was bi just a few months ago, at 33 years old and married (to a man) for almost 10. I also initially wondered if I should come out to anyone but my husband since nothing would essentially change. I decided to come out to friends and co-workers (still working up the nerve to tell my parents, but I’m getting there), and for me personally it’s been a supportive, validating, and freeing experience. Like Liz said, after acknowledging to myself that I’m bi a lot of “new chambers of my brain that heteronormativity bricked off” (I love this phrasing!) had opened up. I’m nervous about telling my parents because I know they won’t be supportive (growing up in a socially conservative, evangelical Christian household is a huge reason why it took me so long to figure out my sexuality), but it’s important to me because this is an important aspect of me that I want them to know. It might also help them change their views on queerness ever so slightly. I guess stranger things have happened…

    • Same. I was actually out before I married my male partner but I’m pretty private and after about 10 years of marriage I realized I’d unintentionally let my bi identity be erased.

      It’s been a couple years since I embarked on my 2nd coming out and it’s been surprisingly rewarding.

      And as Jacqui says, I love that I now feel like I belong to the queer community. And I love being involved – I volunteer at my local lgbtq center, I go to meetups etc.

      • My husband had forgotten I was bi! MY HUSBAND. Had FORGOTTEN. He still feels pretty sheepish about that, but tbh it was a wake-up call for me if something that felt fundamental and obvious to me was so invisible even to the person who always pays attention to me.

        • Same. I was really shocked to discover that a couple people I’m close to had forgotten that I’d come out to them – including my favorite cousin and my SIL. My cousin vaguely remembered me telling her that I’m attracted to women and men but it didn’t make a big impression on her – and that was so odd to me, because that conversation is seared in my memory because it was a big deal to me to tell her, but it apparently wasn’t that big of a deal to hear.

          I told a couple people in my bi meet up that I must be really bad at coming out and they both said, no, it’s pretty typical to have to repeatedly come out as bi to the same people.

          • echoing all of these comments! i came out as bi in my mid-twenties, after being married to a cis straight man for several years, and we celebrate our 9-year wedding anniversary next week. and while i struggled for a long time with that question of if it was “worth it” to come out (and had many people, including my in-laws, ask me why i bothered since we were staying monogamous), it’s made an incredible difference in so many ways.

            for me, it’s greatly increased my self-confidence. i spent so many years hiding my orientation and identity, and being able to be proud of who i am without shame has taken a very long time. but being able to honestly own my bisexuality, with the support of my husband, feels incredible.

            it’s also given me a real community that truly understands me. i never felt like i could fully relate to my straight friends, but coming out gave me the courage to join the queer community and find friends that i have so much in common with, that i don’t have to explain myself to. of course you could do this without coming out, but i’ve found so much support and love in this community that i never thought i’d have. and every time i tell my story, i find someone new that has similar experiences.

            there’s a lot more, but i also want to emphasize that coming out has actually strengthened my marriage! being so honest with my husband about who i am was really challenging, and scary, and intense – but the incredible support i get from him honestly blows my mind. he encourages me to attend queer events in my city, supports me when i meet new people, and was the driving force in me attending a-camp for the first time this year, which honestly changed my life. he was a great ally and husband before, but now he can truly give me what i need, even when it’s something i can’t get from him and instead find within the queer community. i feel loved and supported in a way i can’t fully put into words.

            yes, i absolutely have to come out constantly. sometimes when i’m tired or frustrated my husband does it for me! but it’s worth it to be able to be my whole, true self.

            you may feel that coming out isn’t the right move for you, and that’s absolutely okay – but remember that it’s something you would be doing for yourself, and not for a single other person.

  8. Question 1 describes to a T a relationship I had a couple of years ago, except I was on the other side of things. I haven’t spoken to or seen this person in over a year, but if she called me up today and told me that she was sorry for the way she treated me, and that she is now taking better care of herself and seeing a therapist, I would be OVERJOYED and immediately go back to being best friends with her, and maybe even revisit the “something more” we had there too. I still grieve the loss of that relationship and I still miss her and think about her all the time. So my advice is to really try to salvage your friendship- clearly you were friends for a reason to begin with, and I’ll bet that if you’re able to be a better friend to her again she’d be very happy to make up. I really liked the advice given here; for me the problem was less the oversharing and more the jealousy she showed toward my successes and the dimissiveness she showed toward my struggles, as well as the general lack of respect or caring she showed for me and my wellbeing. It’s really nice to see someone who’s had this issue is getting help and healing; as far as I know this person I knew is still really struggling and I still feel super guilty that I can’t help her through it anymore.

  9. Your mileage may vary, but I’d like to add that exploring the sexuality side of your queer orientation is also possible while in a monogamous relationship with a cis man. No, you’re obviously not going to try cunnilingus while having sex with a cis man, but your sexuality is about more than your partner’s genitals.

    While the MF sex I was having before coming out wasn’t super duper heteronormative, my straight identity affected a lot of things… like my inability to detach my own arousal from a man’s arousal and the male gaze. That’s a bit of the patriarchy that’s hard to hang onto if you accept that you want to have sex with women. And there are practical and fantasy things you can explore, both alone and with your male partner. It’s not the same as having sex with a woman, obviously, but if you’re bi/pan/fluid/queer you can be those things in a seemingly straight relationship… your sexual expression isn’t necessarily straight with one partner and gay with another.

    • YES ABSOLUTELY. I’m in a relationship with an agender person (AMAB) and we sure as heck don’t have straight sex. I’m a queer woman with queer desires and that doesn’t change because people assume my partner is a man. It’s not any one particular thing, it’s in what you want out of sex, the gaze you bring to it. My partner and I view each other through the queer gaze and it changes the overlay and perception of each other’s bodies and desires in ways that are difficult to convey. You can have queer sex with any combination of bodies.

  10. Q4 comment:

    I’d recommend reading Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski for more info about sexual nonconcordance. It’s just your body saying “Something is going on here.”

    You have the right to feel your feelings.

  11. Q4 response:

    I wish I had some sage words for you, but all I can do is sympathise. I can’t use the word “rape” about what happened to me either, even though the law now explicitly considers that type of assault “rape”. Why not? Perhaps because he was my boyfriend. Perhaps because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to recount all the times and how can it be rape if the time I remember best was the time I did put a stop to it and he said he thought I was going to kee him in the groin and leave. Surely, if you’ve been raped you remember it all in excruciating detail. Perhaps it’s because I always felt guilty about not being able to break up with him even though I didn’t even like him, so it’s all my fault.

    Regardless of what word you use, though, it happened and he’s the guilty party. You have no logical reason to hold onto your guilt. That doesn’t make it easy to get rid of, but know that it’s not really yours to hold onto.

  12. Q1. I don’t know if your friendship is salvageable but I think it would be very helpful for your former friend if you could tell her you recognise in retrospect the things you were doing that were problematic, tell her all the positives about your friendship (and these should be positives other than you using her as a therapist, like things you did together that were fun, what it was about her you valued). Then, if you want to and think it is okay, say that you would like to try again. But try to do it without making her feel guilty.

    Sorry, this sounds bossy, it is just a suggestion.

  13. Just my experience but in the 10 years I’ve been hairy legged and unafraid to wear shorts in or out of work, literally not a single person has commented on it except my mother.

    Not friends, not colleagues, not strangers, not housemates, not other family members.

    This has led me to believe that actually most people don’t even notice, or if they do notice they don’t say anything to me.

    I’m aware other people may have had shitty experiences but also sometimes it’s maybe not as big a deal as is feels to us.

    • The only time a co-worker has ever commented on my leg hair was at my previous job, and they said something along the lines of “I’m so jealous of your glorious leg hair!” To be fair, they are also a queer person, but other than that I’ve never gotten any feedback on my body hair at work

  14. To the person about to get married and wondering if there’s even a point to coming out, and not wanting to deal with “I told you so” and “I don’t believe you.” Coming out doesn’t have to be a big declaration. I view sexuality as a fluid thing and if I had an official “coming out” every time I realized something new about my sexuality/who I’m attracted to, I’d probably never talk about anything else.

    It is totally possible to come out without “coming out” at all–just exist as a queer person. People will notice, or they won’t, and if they ask about it, just be honest!

    And if anyone wants to be a snotty “I told you so” person, you can either bluntly tell them they’re rude (because they definitely are). Or, you can be petty and sarcastic and tell them, “What are you talking about? I’ve always been like this. Just because I didn’t trust YOU with the information doesn’t mean it wasn’t true.” I am petty, but you probably are (or should be) a better person than I am and just tell them how incredibly rude and unhelpful it is when they dictate your identity to you before you’re ready to confront it.

  15. With regards to the hairy legs, I feel conflicted over it. The way your hair grows is just such a natural thing, how can anyone tell you to trim/shave/wax it into something different?

    You can’t compare to a man having to shave his legs if he wears a dress/short, because that is not even allowed (ugh working in an office is so boring). I think a better example is: are people allowed to grow whatever kind of mustache they want?

    I wish more people were rocking mustaches, like they did in the 80s, instead of the full-beard trend that is going on. But it is not in style and I feel like men would also be told to trim their facial hair differently if they came in with a pornstache.

    Which is bullshit. I am no longer conflicted over it – grow your hair whatever way you want!

  16. Q4:
    It was validating in a very sad way to see someone else struggling with this. As someone who had this exact situation occur with my high school boyfriend (as my “Valentine’s Day present” despite my saying no) I know it’s hard to marry the idea that what happened felt good and was not even technically “benefitting” the attacker with you having said no. But you did say no! And that should matter. You don’t have to take on any label or feel differently about yourself, but please know you never deserved to be in a situation where people didn’t listen to you about your body. Sending you love <3

  17. Q4 response:

    (for Faustine also) If I’m allowed to still have strong “no tickling without consent” feelings and to almost never consent to being tickled because of actions by people who really did love me, then you are definitely allowed to have all your feelings about your much greater violation, “even though” the person who did it was your boyfriend. (Or “especially because” – untrustworthiness stings way more from someone you’ve trusted.)

    The legitimacy of our reactions or whether we choose to call it “nonconsensual tickling” (me) or “rape” (you) doesn’t depend on how many times it happened, or who did it, or how well we remember any particular instance, or whether we should have somehow magically found a way to make it stop, or whether I giggled at any moment during it because that’s what a little kid’s body does when you tickle them, or whether you felt pleasure because stimulated body parts functioned properly.

    I hope it’s clear already but just to be super-explicit: I’m not arguing that nonconsensual tickling is anywhere near as serious as rape/sexual assault. I’m arguing that it ISN’T as serious, and yet my reaction (in a structural sense, not in degree of trauma/severity) from that experience maps onto what Q4 and Faustine report. So if my reaction is legit, then people who’ve survived far worse can certainly say the same.

    If using the word “rape” would help _you_, then bollocks to anyone who tells you you can’t.

    Hoping for healing for you both.

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