Y’All Need Help #8: Cross That Bridge When You Come to It!

I identify as a queer cisgender 17 year-old female and I am not out yet, but I want to be by the time I go to university. My friends are a mix of: homophobic Christians ( I am a Christian but I don’t believe being LGBT+ is a sin), some people who don’t care about LGBT+ issues, and people who joke about gays. Besides that fact, they are mostly good to me since they don’t know I like girls. Am I obligated to tell them in due time — when they often have secrets from me as a group — (even though I know I’m not obligated to come out to anyone) or, since we’ll probably lose touch, should I be ok with them finding out eventually through mutual friends or Facebook in the future (and having to answer their questions and face their gossip at that time)? As you can see I’m unfortunately too concerned with what people think (especially those who might mean or have meant something to me) so my question is perhaps how do I distinguish when to care and when not to care what people close to me think of my sexuality? I don’t want my sexuality to define me but most of the time I just want to talk to someone queer about how hot Kristen Stewart is and discuss the L Word coming back.

If you want to be out by the time you leave for university, you should absolutely do that! But you should do it because you want to, not because you’re worried these people will be even more gossipy if they find out a few years from now. For the most part — barring any sort of life-altering personal growth — people who’d be gossipy and nasty about your queerness in five years will probably be gossipy and nasty about it tomorrow, too. And maybe even 10 years from now. And that brings us to this important point: it doesn’t fucking matter what they think about you.

You are NOT obligated to come out to anyone, ever! Not in a million years! You get to decide who knows what about you, and when, and how. What you don’t get to decide is how they react, and that goes for everything. Like literally everything. You can’t control people’s reactions and they can’t control your queerness. That’s not to say it’s easy to stop caring what people think about you! It can be really hard actually, but! I’m 36 and I can tell you, I give fewer and fewer fucks about what anyone thinks of me with each passing day.

For what it’s worth, coming out or being out to new people is generally easier than walking up to the people who’ve known you since you were coloring in pictures of the alphabet and saying LISTEN UP, BUDDY, GOT SOME NEW INFO FOR YOU RE: ME. Because yes, absorbing new info about an old subject can be hard! But also! Everyone on the planet will be asked to update their existing knowledge of a thing, several times in fact. All different kinds of things! How they choose to integrate that information will be on them, regardless of how long they’ve been working with the old information.

To thoroughly answer your last question — how do you distinguish when to care and when not to care? Never care. You just never care. To the best of your abilities, just decide not to care. Not because not caring is easy — it’s not — but because you deserve to be you, period. Everybody all over the place is just trying to figure out who they are and how to be, and we all deserve that space. You deserve queer friends who’ll talk about KStew with you and what a clusterfuck the new L Word will be. YOU DESERVE TO BE YOURSELF. So if you want to come out, come out! And if you want to let those turkeys find out in their own damn time, fine. If you want to wear a space helmet that says OUTTA THIS WORLD QUEER GIRL and never talk about anything heterosexual again for the rest of your dang life, COOL. Everything’s on your terms. Take up that space.

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So I’ve been seen this amazing woman for some time, she’s pretty much everything I ever thought I needed in a partner and I’m crazy for her. She has a kid, though. A kid that she’d been wanting to have for a long time -she wasn’t married or dating-, she went through IVF because she felt the time to be a mother was right. I, on the other hand, have never wanted kids. When I met her the baby had just been born and I still decided that I wanted to get to know her better and somehow I ended up so, so in love with her.

I know I can be her girlfriend but I don’t know if I can be a co-parent to anyone. She’s not exactly asking me to, but I don’t wanna get too caught up in my love for her to end up co-parenting the baby anyway (and my friends have pointed out that I’m already doing it a bit).

I don’t know what to do or what to think because I wanna be with her, I just don’t know if I want to be with a baby and I don’t want to break her heart either. I need help!

Hello here I am to help you! The short and quick answer is that you should probably break it off with this woman. But let’s keep talking because it wouldn’t be an advice post if I just gave one-sentence answers now would it. So basically if you really truly do not want a child, then you really truly do not want this woman, because this woman comes with a child and there’s absolutely no getting around that.

I’ve been trying to think of an analogy to express the degree to which this woman’s life is altered and informed by her motherhood, and how much that’s never changing, but to be honest I’m struggling. Like ok, how do you feel about your head being attached to the rest of your body? It’s pretty much non-negotiable, right? Your head’s gonna stay right on your body ’til you die. Just head and body, forever and ever until death. Not going anywhere. That’s how having a child is! And it just keeps being that way, even when they move away and don’t call for weeks. Just like if you never washed your hair or looked in a mirror or rested your head on your hand, your head would still right there, perched on top of your spine. Not going anywhere. And if someone wanted to date a person who didn’t have a head, that sure would eliminate you as a possibility, no matter how much of an otherwise perfect match you might be.

Some people — maybe even your own self — might try to convince you that you could continue dating this woman and still not be involved in this child’s life, but in my experience that is incorrect. Even if you somehow managed to devise a way to never see this baby, its mother is still gonna talk about it. She’ll still have availability based on the baby. She’ll still make every life decision with this baby in mind. She’s still someone’s mother. Just like if you put a large box over your head, it would still be there. Your head, I mean. You’d still need to put food into your body via it. Your head would come up in conversation, likely often. Thoughts would come from it, it would keep existing right there. No getting around it. You have a head. She has a baby.

The thing is, you’re dating a mother but you don’t want to be dating a mother. And that doesn’t make you a bad person! Just want to get that all the way out there: not wanting a child is A-OK. Cool cool. But she did want a child, to the extent that she went out there and made one. So even though this woman is pretty much everything you ever thought you needed in a partner and you’re crazy for her — and I’m really not making light of those feelings! — she can’t be the person for you because the person for you is all of those things (more or less) but with NO child.

Speaking as a mother who’s dated people who didn’t want kids, it’s just not going to work. At all. Not in the least. Kids are an all-in situation and you can’t be lukewarm about the prospect of helping a small human become a large human. It’s just too important. Unless she wants to keep dating you in a hella casual way that doesn’t involve you being part of the baby’s life at all, which is a possibility and maybe even a doable one. But you have to have an honest talk with this woman about how you feel, what you want, what you don’t, what you’re afraid of. Give her all the information so she can also make an informed decision about who you are and how your hopes and dreams fit in with hers.


I’ve been seeing this girl for three weeks, and things are going REALLY well. This is SUPER unusual for me. I haven’t been this into anyone in a LONG time, and I’m pretty sure she’s just as into me. Problem: We had “the talk” the other night, and she kind of surprised me by saying she wasn’t looking for anything serious. Specifically, she said that since she’d just moved to this city (our first date was 6 days after she’d moved here), she wanted to build her own life and friend group and community before getting into a serious relationship with someone who already had a life and a community and a friend group that she would inevitably end up subsumed into. I got the impression, though she didn’t go into detail, that this situation happened with the last girl she dated (they broke 6 months ago after 3 years together).

Now, I think this sounds super healthy, and I’m fine taking things slow, and I’m definitely not ready to uHaul any time soon. But she’s giving me a lot of mixed signals. She also said that she hadn’t PLANNED to get into a serious relationship, but that that was before she’d met me, and she hadn’t counted on meeting me or liking me as much as she does. I’ve been trying to text her less, but she’s usually the one to text me first, and she says things like she doesn’t want to wait to see me again, and sending me heart emojis and stuff.

I REALLY like this girl, I want this to work, I’m willing to wait and go slow, but I’m just not sure what to do now. Help!?

Listen I’m not judging or anything, but I don’t think you had THE “the talk.” I think you had one of those preliminary talks that pretty much only serve to concede the fact that you are, indeed, enjoying each other’s company. “The talk” is supposed to lay bare exactly where you both want to go from here and how you plan on getting there. This prelim talk just made you both admit that you really like each other even though you didn’t plan to, which honestly, congrats! That’s a fun weird talk to have AND how fucking great that you found a person in your radius who’s cool and cute and fun and sexy and neat! AND she likes you, too! Damn that is lucky.

Ok, re: her mixed signals, it’s 100% likely that she’s sending herself mixed signals, too. Neither of you expected to actually connect with each other, and here you’ve gone and done just that. But you both have these logical minds that are trying super hard to be heard because, last they knew, they’d laid out a perfectly reasonable and sound plan for you to follow and now you’re clearly deviating from The Plan. That’s Mixed Signals City, population 2, come on in, etc. What a confusing fun time for both of you!

What does taking it slow mean to you? Not moving in together, not saying I love you? Not meeting each other’s families or being the person the other one calls when she has the stomach flu? You can totally prevent yourself from doing all of those things! Like, it would take more effort to do those things than to keep yourself from doing them — except for maybe the I love you part. That might be tricky. If you find yourself slipping and saying “I love—” just stop yourself right there and stuff the words “your hair today!!” into your mouth before before the “you” can fall out. EASY FIX. “I love the way you’ve got this room decorated!” “I love knowing what you think about global trade!” “I love that we can all agree on gravity, you know??!”

Keep sending those heart emojis and being excited to see each other again! Keep having separate friend groups and making your own lives! You’re doing GREAT this is SO FUN. And when/if you find yourself throwing up in the bathroom floor this winter and wishing you could ask her to come over with soup and Theraflu, well you’ll just cross that bridge when you get to it, ok? Now go live it up!


Y’All Need Help is a now-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.

Laneia has written 927 articles for us.

28 Comments

      • There was a half naked vet and campground host that ranted about “curing my vegetarianism with some good ol’ fashioned BACON”. Or the border officer who held me for three hours because I “must have a firearm because all Alaskans like to hunt”… but no lesbian related fun sadly.

          • Oh no, this was the American officials giving me crap trying to cross from Canada back into Idaho. So stereotypes that we have about ourselves? Or that Americans have about Alaska?

            Anyway, when they didn’t find anything, and after tearing apart my nicely packed U-Haul, they asked one last time:
            “Are you SURE you don’t have any weapons?”
            Then, I pull out a tiny Swiss army pocket knife out of my cup holder and get all snarky:
            “Yeah, I hunt all my game with this, because I’m a badass”. That seem to satisfy them, and I was on my way.

          • WTF? I guess I never thought about that being the stereotype of Alaska(hunters). Then again Jim Gaffigan has a joke that say the only reason Alaska isn’t part of Canada is they saw the people there eating whale blubber and thought the Americans were already there. Years ago I was speaking to another Straddler who lived in both Canada and Montana/Idaho area, and she said people still hunt for food there(the American side), more so people under the poverty line.

  1. I love your advice for the kid question! I don’t have kids nor do I think I’m in a place in life that I could date someone with a kid. The person asking is definitely expressing some “I love them… but not sure about the kid” feels. The kid is a whole other very/most important person in their datemate’s life. It’s not like “I love them… but they don’t like cheese”. You can still date someone and maintain your own cheese needs. You only think of cheese when you want cheese, when eating cheese, otherwise its chilling in your fridge, no other commitments to this cheese. Kids are not like cheese, I love the head metaphor cause that’s a perfect way to describe it! You are in or not. You can temporarily leave cheese out of your life or keep it separate; you can’t do that with children and it’s not fair to anyone to have those expectations or to grow resentment about the situation. (sorry idk if this made any sense)

  2. I had a two year relationship with a woman who had a child. I love kids, and was happy to babysit, play with the kid, etc., but I didn’t want to be a co-parent or be responsible for the cold any more than, say, an aunt would be. It worked out, at least in regards to her kid!

    There were two (separated) parents on the scene, so that may be a difference, and of course it may not work for a lot of people, but just wanted to add my two cents – but there might be a middle ground for you.

    I’ve always known I didn’t want kids but I was surprised how much I enjoyed the “aunt” role. It might be worth trying for you too.

  3. LW1 – Laneia is 100% right.

    It is completely ok to wait to come out in college – especially if you’re not sure your high school friends will be supportive. (And that goes double about your family – if you’re at all unsure how they’ll react, wait until you’re not dependent on them to tell them).

    I’ll also say that predicting how people will react isn’t always easy – people are complicated and inconsistent.

    I came out to my closest HS friends in college and they were mostly ok with it – a couple were not as ok as I expected but no one was horrible. And the one friend I was most afraid to tell, because she was the most Christian and boy-crazy of all of my friends, surprised me by coming out to me first (when we both in college).

    And I just came back from my 30th high school reunion (#OlderStraddle) and you know, I’m STILL not out to like 95% of my former classmates – not in a “closeted, no one must know” way, but in a “not really willing to expend the emotional energy to come out in a brief 5 minute conversation with someone that was my best friend from the 4th grade” way.

    • Hell yes, Cleo! Knowing not to invest so much emotional energy is very wise. Also, I literally did not come out to most of my extended family for a similar reason. It was great, because at my Grandpa’s 80th birthday party most of them found out for the first time because I brought my fiancee (who is a woman) and literally just introduced her to my second cousins as my fiancee, and it was GREAT!

  4. I noticed that letter writer #2 never said she definitely does not want a kid. She said “I have never wanted kids [in the past]” and “I don’t know if I can be a co-parent” and “I don’t know if I can be with a baby”. Maybe “don’t know” is a euphemism for “do know but not ready for the consequences”. But if she really means “don’t know,” then I think step 1 for her would be to really think hard about if she wants a kid or not – try to get past the “don’t know”! This feels like a lesbian version of accidental pregnancy – time to do some soul-searching.
    Love this column as always!

  5. I don’t want kids and I’m dating someone with a toddler. I felt like the advice given here was a bit too strongly worded and generalized, because there are a lot of variables that need to be considered– do you dislike being around kids/conversations about parenting, do you not want children of your own but are okay with those of others, is the lifestyle of the parent compatible with your own, what kinds of expectations do you and they have about the role you will play in this child’s life, etc. etc. Anyway indeed sounds like a tough situation, so good luck ✨

  6. To the first letter writer- there are many different factors and we’re two different people so I can’t know 100% what will work for you, but I’d like to vouch for waiting until college. I’m trans and I ended up being fairly out as trans in high school but I didn’t want to deal with with being out (on social media, or with changing names, or anything) until college and I don’t regret that decision.

    The reason I was as out as I was in high school was because the people around me were openly supportive, but with those people who I was unsure of I didn’t come out to. Coming out in college made things so much easier because people were far away and I didn’t have to directly deal with the aftermath as much.

    It might be different if everyone in your high school is going to the same college, but I’ve found that once you get to college you don’t really care as much about what your high school friends think of you. I’m only in my Sophomore year of college and I already don’t really care. In five years your friends might be really gossipy if you come out, but honestly? It won’t matter to you as much. Whereas if you come out right now you’ll have to deal with all of that stuff right now possibly everyday.

    The downside of coming out later is that you have to be in the closet for a long time, and that’s hard. You often have to lie and it can just feel like shit. If you don’t want to continue being in the closet for the rest of high school, if it’s already making you feel miserable, then feel free to come out.

    Honestly it’s your decision and if you’re friends are cruel about it, then the problem is with them and not at all with you. No matter what choice you make there’s absolutely no reason to feel guilty about it.

  7. Thank you for this article. Being 50 something, going through divorce with a man after many years, nearly grown up kids, I am reading everything I can get on how it might be easier to deal with who I am I am slowly coming to the conclusion that it is really my decision what I do. It is just complicated for me because I am struggling with feelings for my soulmate and have NO idea how to tell her because at the moment our relationship/friendship is complicated. But I am happy for advice like this and appreciate it very much.

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