Y’All Need Help #28: Being Careful With Your Sex Eyes

Hello it’s time for us to help some people live happier and more fulfilled lives! Throughout this post you’ll see some updates from past needers of help! I LOVE UPDATES.

"HI i'm the person who had the graduation outfit question in Y'All Need Help #17 and after some back and forth where I made it clear I wasn't going to wear a dress, me and my mum went shopping together and found some clothes I really liked and it went really well! She was super supportive on the day and all my fears about what might happen didn't come to fruition. Some people in the comments wanted to see pics of what I eventually wore so here it is. Thank you so much for the advice + support!

You looked so great!!! Congratulations on graduating! // YNH #17


Q: I’m a cowardly lesbian

Hello; I am 32 years old and about a year ago, I partially came out as a lesbian (out to friends, not to family).
I want to embrace my identity and my sexuality as I have been hiding for a very long time. (I have been with women before but not for a long time as I was stuck in an abusive marriage which resulted in him going to jail, yay!) And me being a single, solo mom.

I entered into that relationship at 18, trying to turn myself straight bc I was too scared to tell anyone what I was going through and it truly was the worst mistake of my life. I’ve been in therapy for years now and am dealing with the trauma, my sexuality, all of it, but I still can’t bring myself to talk to my parents about it.

I wonder if it’s too late for me. If I’m too old, and if having a child will mean other lesbians won’t believe me or want to date me anyway.

Please help me. I really don’t know what to do to move forward.

Sincerely,
-Isolated

A:

Buddy, have I got some EXCELLENT news for YOU. You’re definitely not too old, it’s not too late, and other lesbians will be super chill and possibly even excited that you have a kid. I’ve written a lot about this! In fact, I think it’s the thing I’ve written the most about! Take a look at Q18 in Y’All Need Help #24

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.

Q8 in YNH #25 was in a similar situation. Q2 from YNH #4 had three kids and a husband when she wrote in —

I used to think that no one my age (25 at the time) would want anything to do with a newly out lesbian who had two kids and an ex-husband, so I kept them all a secret for months, years.

Coming out is hard. Divorcing your children’s parent is hard. Potentially disappointing your mother is hard. But being silent and miserable is harder. Being scared and fake is harder. Being anyone other than who you are or who you want to be, is shit. Your kids need to see hope and honesty in action, even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard. Your kids deserve the entirety of you. You deserve the entirety of you.

And these are just the first three that came to mind! I keep including questions like yours in these advice posts because people keep needing the reassurance and I LOVE TO REASSURE. I LIVE FOR IT. Now you can search our archives for dating and coming out advice! Get a babysitter and get out there!


"Hi this is a message for Laneia! This is “Lorna”, you answered a question last month in Y’all Need Help about me not wanting to ruin my friend’s lesbian wedding. I just wanted to write you back and thank you for your advice, because the wedding went PERFECTLY. The only tears I shed were out of joy for my friend’s happiness. No sad tears, no drama, and no glaring at any exes. I looked great, I felt great, the wedding was great, but more importantly, I was so focused on being happy for my friends that I didn’t even care about myself. Your advice totally changed my perspective. I was able to not only avoid ruining the wedding, but actually have a wonderful time celebrating with the people I love. I just wanted to say thank you!!"

Lorna! Thank YOU! // YNH #25

Q: Not Feeling Pride

I was dumped by my girlfriend 6 months ago, for a few reasons. Suffice to say, we were doomed from the start since we were in very different phases of life. Before we dated and during our relationship, I was very into gay culture and full of pride and happiness about queerness. She was pretty closeted and conflicted about her sexuality when we were together, so I made a pretty active effort to get her to feel the excitement about being in a new world. But since our breakup, the tables have turned and now all gay things make me sad- even Autostraddle pieces just bum me out. I’ve tried reintegrating with the community by going to queer events, but it just makes me feel lonely. How can I get out of this funk and be myself again?

A:

Oh yes yes yes, I am familiar with this. On the bright side, this Autostraddle piece can’t bum you out because it has YOU in it! I think full immersion is probably the quickest way to get out of this funk, or you could try ‘more time’ which isn’t quick at all, but will still work. Have you asked some friends to go with you to the queer events? Who did you go with before you met her?

It could also be that you’re actually just missing the feeling of introducing someone else to the queer things you love. Are there other people in your life who could use an introduction to the big queer world? Or maybe a better approach would be to find new aspects of queer culture that you haven’t fully explored yet. There’s so much to learn and try! I feel like a children’s television show but it’s true!


"I just wanted to follow up on Straight Girl Strikes Again from YNH #26. I asked her! She isn't straight! Thank you!"

Y E S !! //  YNH #26

Q: Platonic female friendships ??

Hello. I have a question about an ongoing issue in my life that is directly related to being gay, and I’m hoping you can shed some light on it: I’m constantly worried that being “too friendly” with platonic female friends and acquaintances will be perceived as flirtatious. As a result, I often feel awkward around women, like I’m constantly editing myself. For example, I’m not sure how to buy someone a coffee, or ask them to join me at a concert, without a ton of anxiety about how those actions could be misinterpreted. So, I avoid those types of gestures, even though I know they’re part of normal friendships. I come across as emotionally distant and “cold”, which is ironic because the whole thing is…a cover for my fear that it might appear as though I care about a friend “too much”.

Am I the only one with this anxiety? How can I reframe my thoughts to get over this so I can just be myself and be kind to people?

A:

You sure as heck are NOT the only one!! This has plagued our people since the dawn of time. I think, especially when you’re thinking about straight women (or even “straight” women, ok), one of the markers of being hit on is when someone tries to pay for things — drinks, coffee, tickets to a concert, dinner, etc. Try not paying for anything. Invite them to do things with you! Just don’t pay! Then, later on when you’re quite good friends and everything is chill and nice, you can be like “hey I got this” and instead of looking flirty, it’ll look like a nice chill gesture from a quite good friend.

Oh and be careful with your eyes. Some people have extremely sexish sex eyes by nature, and it can seem like they’re flirting when they’re not, they just have sexish eyes. Don’t lean in, don’t touch them unnecessarily, let them get the door, don’t pay, and keep your eyes decidedly unsexy.


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 864 articles for us.

41 Comments

    • Indeed, there are so many of us! I realized I wasn’t straight at 34. Came out at 35. Got divorced at 36. And am now dating and making wonderful queer friends and loving the life I’m building. It is so beautiful on the other side of this.

  1. Does anyone not have anxiety about platonic friendship with straight women?! I have basically not made any close straight female friends since coming out. Which may sound problematic but I have queer female friends. My friendship needs are met.

    I have made some casual friendships with straight women via an online group, but I only see them in person once or twice a year. I am probably slightly reserved but also think they’re probably not vain enough to think that I am attracted to them (which I’m not).

    • My best friend is a straight woman, and I don’t have any anxiety about our friendship. We call ourselves ‘platonic life partners’. We’re so close that people sometimes assume we’re dating, which we just find funny, because she is super straight.

  2. I have been accused of making “bedroom eyes” at someone in college and in my defense, I was totally in love with them at the time…
    But I am by nature a very flirty person, and because of that, I try to be casual but clear about boundaries that I’m not going to cross with my friends.
    Also straight women are physically affectionate with each other all the time and it’s not supposed to mean anything and I will never get used to it! So much baby queer discomfort, I feel ya

  3. I just want to tell Q1 that I was on OKCupid a few months back and there are a lot of single moms on that site and no, they aren’t all super young. There are also a lot of women on there that really want kids and say it’s okay if their future partner has kids. So I’d at least try online dating if it doesn’t work at least you tried. I’m not in your same situation as I’m not divorced or have kids but I will say it sucks when you feel like you’re too old and it’s too late for you. I’ve had young women tell me it’s “too late for me” and “I’ll never find a woman to date” and I’m 33, sometimes people can really be hurtful. Anyways, best of luck to you!

  4. Dear #1:

    Let me describe a Tinder profile I encountered last night: The profile picture was a selfie of a woman with a beautiful smile, photobombed by a toddler diving face-first into the folded laundry in the background.

    She’d written, “If we can’t be real, then why are we here?”.

    I swiped right. 🙂

  5. Re Platonic female friendships :

    It helps if you don’t make any eye contact.

    That’s my personal downfall. I seem to have no control over my “let me gaze upon your tender soul” eyes. At least I’ve learned not to waggle my eyebrows at the same time (oh crap, maybe that would actually help break the spell…)

    Good luck !

  6. Last question, there are some good tricks to use at the beginning of a friendship that will establish your lack of interest in a woman!
    No, we shouldn’t have to do this, because straight women shouldn’t assume we’re after them, but the world is what it is. In a culture where the term ‘friend zone’ exists, many straight women take time to get used the idea that someone who is attracted to women is capable of only pursuing friendship, and many do get over their assumptions. I often find that after a short period of putting a straight woman at ease we can transition into a real friendship.

    -make references to straight friends and their boyfriends/husbands so she gets used to the idea of you being capable of having straight female friends
    -if the woman talks about a husband, boyfriend or crush, make a point of asking her about him
    -talk about your own girlfriend, tinder dates or crushes on other women; let her see the look you get in your eyes when talking about someone your’e actually attracted to so she can differentiate it from the look you get in your eyes when you talk to her
    -invite her out to do stuff with other people before you invite her out by yourselves
    -allow her to observe you doing things for/with other obviously platonic friends so she can see your baseline of platonic friendliness (personally I’m a lesbian so I let straight women absorb the fact that I treat male friends/coworkers the same way)
    -let her initiate all physical contact

      • I actually prefer the straight friends I have to most queer people I meet in my town, because they are all uptight and really PC and kind of pretentiously queer, whereas my straight friends are much easier to hang out with. I don’t know why that is.

        • Yeah, the queer community in my town is very small and I don’t have a lot in common with most of them. Not everyone has a vast pool of cool queers to choose their friends from unfortunately.

          But I do agree with the person below that it isn’t our responsibility to make straight women comfortable with our gayness. Personally I wouldn’t want to befriend anyone who seemed like they would be weirded out by the mere idea of another woman potentially being attracted to them, or who would assume that I might try to transgress their boundaries just because I’m queer.

        • Emma I totally agree. Plus it’s good to have straight friends who are removed from a queer social circle and won’t get drawn into gossip/dating drama. I am tired of losing friends because they’re mad at me for being friends with their ex etc. Straight people never pull that with me.

      • I have to do this with all coworkers and all random acquaintances anyway, many of whom end up becoming closer friends. I learned to do it after years of being warned by straight women that they weren’t into me or accused of crushing on them (always by the woman I wouldn’t even want as a friend, let alone a date).

        Do I wish I didn’t have to do it at all? Yes, obviously. Is homophobia usually a major factor in their assumptions? Yes, obviously. Over the years I have also come to see how straight women are just conditioned to believe that anyone who is attracted to women is a threat to them, because straight men so often are. They don’t think we have self control because they don’t think straight men have it. (I also know a lot of straight women who rarely interact with *openly* queer women, and I am willing to be patient with that learning curve, but that’s just me.)

        I used these tricks with my current best friend, because I met her at work and didn’t know what to expect from her. She quickly demonstrated that she didn’t need me to prove I’m not threatening and now we just relate like normal people. I think most people who are seen as threatening have a default setting of putting people at ease/proving we are ‘safe’ and then we get to be our real selves with people we get to know really well. In a perfect world these skills wouldn’t be necessary, but we don’t live there yet…

  7. in response to the last question: rather than saying “avoid paying for everything” and “try not having sex eyes”, i would tell the person asking that the main thing to realise is that when lesbians feel this sort of paranoia it has to do with internalized homophobia. the predatory lesbian is a myth. we’re not actually doing anything wrong when we want to be friends with other women. we should be allowed to relax in platonic situations and not act according to the idea that we actually *should* make an effort to seem, effectively, less gay.

  8. I love my straight friends!
    And honestly, I feel like it is my duty to ensure them repeatedly what amazing,stellar and fantastic rockstars they are and that they,and any woman in fact deserves to be treated like a queen.
    Things they need to hear, and be told, preferably repeatedly!
    I think that Carina is right and that the whole „I hope no one thinks I’m flirting with them“ thing is a part of internalized homophobia, however, don‘t we all suffer from it to some degree and measure?
    My advice would be to be absolutely sure (and honest) about where you stand:
    Is there sexual tension on your part? Do you feel uncomfortable? In which situations and why?
    It’s absolutely fine to be a little in love with your friends. It’s also ok to be attracted to them, occasionally.
    You are not a Neanderthal and capable of making conscious choices and not objectifying people based on your sexuality and their outward appearance. If down along the line attraction and crushes don’t resolve and instead develop into something more, you’ll be absolutely capable of talking it over and out with that person, your friend.
    Personally, I love women. I enjoy their company, the way they think and I strongly feel that we need to lift each other up where we can.
    Maybe I don’t have sex eyes, or maybe I exude an overwhelming amount of friendly nerd vibes, but that is because I choose to.
    And I choose to because I am genuinely interested in getting to know you and being your friend, no matter your sexual orientation.

  9. How do I be sure to avoid making sex eyes while still making eye contact?

    I’ve been told I didn’t make enough eye contact in a previous professional setting where I was very concerned with making sure I didn’t come across as flirtatious, since that would probably have been even worse. I’m now in a much happier situation career-wise where my queerness doesn’t constantly feel like a problem, but I still would like to improve myself in this regard.

  10. I relate a bit to the last question although in my case it’s specifically around cis white feminine women (both straight and lesbian) because I’ve had bad racist/transphobic/butchphobic experiences with these women as well as some indirect bullying growing up, and now I get kinda scared around them when they try to be friendly with me because I’m worried if I act friendly in return my actions will be misinterpreted as predatory. Come to think of it, all my close cis straight women friends are POC, because when I’m around cis white women I get so scared I come off as either socially awkward or cold.

    • The irony behind the bullying is that before I moved to California I was so terrified of potential pc pretentious queers, only to end up in a red county of CA and experience the complete opposite. Learned the hard way that Bay Area culture doesn’t apply to all of CA.

    • Same, when I’m the only woman in the room who’s not both cis & femme I get very self-conscious (and afraid they think I’m a creep). But like I’ve had bad experiences both in straight girl spaces and spaces dominated by cis femme gay/bi women because I clearly wasn’t one of them. Looking back on those queer spaces though, I don’t think it was a coincidence that there were basically no trans people there either.

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