Y’All Need Help #9: You Don’t Owe Anyone a F*cking Explanation

So, up until a few months ago, I identified as a lesbian. Cut-and-dry into-women-and-exclusively-women lesbian. But then I met this guy and we got to know each other, had lots of fun, flirted a bit and now we’re dating. It’s pretty casual but I’m really enjoying myself and I don’t really have a problem with the idea that my sexuality might have changed or that I’ve just met a great human who I really enjoy dating and their gender doesn’t matter. The real issue comes when telling my friends that I’m dating a guy. Some of them are great about it, but some respond with ‘oh, so you were straight all along?’ and others ask ‘why did you come out as gay if you were actually bisexual?’. It’s especially difficult because I haven’t found a new label that really resonates with me and am just sticking with ‘queer’ for now, so I can’t even really *come out* as anything. So, any advice on (re) coming out to people, or just how to politely tell people to mind their own business regarding my sexuality?

Congratulations on being with a person you enjoy! I’m glad some of your friends are great about it — that’s how all of your friends should be, because they’re supposed to be your friends.

Unfortunately, the friends who aren’t great about it are turds. I get that some people just can’t fathom a world where others are free to change and grow and shift around without it having a single thing to do with them, but damn. Who you’re dating has shit to do with your friends and their lives, unless they’re like, allergic to his fabric softener or something? In which case, fine. But this itching scratching burning desire to organize every personal thing about you — their friend — into a shape and form they can easily ‘define’ and ‘understand’ is some tedious bullshit. There’s no need to clarify anything to these amoebas. What and who you were “all along” was YOU. The decisions you made, including the sexuality you declared to them, were yours to make, and you fucking made them. Now here you are, INCONCEIVABLY, I GUESS?, making EVEN MORE DECISIONS about yourself! End of story!

This would be like if you always ordered waffles for brunch and one day you ordered an omelette and these friends flipped a table and demanded that explain yourself. Your brunch order has nothing to do with them. Neither does this.

As far as how you label now, labels should only be used when they’re useful! Being queer is a thing, so it can be a thing to come out as, but not if you don’t want to. If trying to pin a label to yourself is causing more harm than good, that probably means you don’t need one right now. Maybe there isn’t a perfect one for the specific shape of you today. That’s cool. You’re still you! You’re still a person who’s done all the things you’ve done, and who’ll go on to do all the other things you’ll do. Still you!

In conclusion, do what you want! Be who you want to be! Floss twice daily! You’re doing great!

It’s been nine years since I’ve been in a relationship. During that time I’ve slept around, dated a couple people casually, fallen in unrequited love with a friend, come out as bisexual, and activated and deleted my okcupid/tinder/etc accounts more times than I can count. I’m educated, employed, independent, have lots of good friends, go out frequently, and am working on a master’s degree! I genuinely love my life, I just wish I had a significant other to share it with. I’m not sure why it is so hard for me to find a person that I click with who is also attracted to me. Dates are either your typical online dating horror stories, or else I like the person okay and then one of us loses interest after a few weeks. I’ve only been dating women for 2 years, so maybe these are just growing pains? I turned 30 this year and I’m still repeating the same tired story of getting ghosted by girls after 2 weeks or having my flirting mistaken for “let’s be friends.”

My question is this: When do I stop trying? When do I quit talking to cute people or scrolling through the depressing abyss of gay okcupid? Is this it? Nine years is a long time to be single. Is it usually this hard?

I think you know what I’m gonna say but GUESS WHAT, I’m gonna say it anyway! If you want something for your life, you don’t stop trying to get it. That includes finding a person you love who also loves you. Boom the end. But let’s dive on down there, into the weird pond where nothing you’re trying seems to be working, and maybe try to figure out why.

A of all, if gay OkCupid is a depressing abyss, get the whole hell out of there. Just stop scrolling as soon as you start. In fact, look around you. What else can you identify as a depressing abyss? Detach from those things, too.* No More Depressing Abysses Than Absolutely Necessary 2017.

Second of all, I forced everyone on Autostraddle’s staff to tell me the longest they’d gone without being in a serious/committed relationship and here’s a smattering of their responses:

5 years
6 years
8 years
2.5 years
5 years
4 years
“I stopped keeping track”
4 years
3.5 years “and counting”
6 years
3.5 weeks (self-identified as Team Slutty Go-Getter)
1 month (see above)
3.5 years “it’s going great” (I believe this was sarcasm based on the respondent, but still)

Maybe this doesn’t make you feel any better, but I found it interesting because I’m nosey. But also! I do think it shows that we’re all in this together and there’s no set amount of time that’s more acceptable or normal than another amount of time when it comes to being single.

Another thing that is universally true and real is that really great opportunities present themselves when you’re busy focusing on pretty much anything else. This is especially true if your focus is on enriching your life and being a good person. It sounds like you’re enriching the living daylights out of your life already, so that is cool and great. Is there anything else you’ve been interested in but have put off getting into for whatever reason? Maybe get into it. Maybe that’s a step in the direction of a path that includes a place to find something or someone else you’ll love. I mean, don’t do it for that reason, but do it! Do it because you want to.

Can I make another suggestion? (I can.) What if you swung on by a therapist’s office to just sort of check in with yourself, shake off some of the pond weirdness and see what you see? I feel like it can’t hurt!

*This is said with the understanding that not ALL depressing abysses can be immediately evacuated, but by all means please do try.

Hi! I’m a relatively baby gay that’s still trying to find their community. I’m at the point where I’m out of school and finding out people in high school/college are also queer. Question: is it okay to talk about these people I knew that came out, to other people that may/may not know these people are out? By talk about, I don’t mean maliciously, simply mention their existence as fellow LGBTQ+ people. (Of note: I am also not fully out at this point.)

It’s my understanding that if you’re finding out certain people are queer because they’re out, somehow or another, that means you can discuss them as being part of the worldwide LGBTQ+ community with impunity. Obviously use your best judgment in each situation, but yeah I think it’s ok to include them in your non-malicious conversations!

Coming out is usually a lifelong process, in that you’ll come out to this group of people and they’ll tell some friends and wow so many people know now, but then here’s this other group of people you’re also involved in, so you come out to one or a few of them, too. Then they tell some friends. Then you go somewhere else — maybe the dressing room at Nordstrom Rack — with your butchy wife and the attendant tries to stop you both from going into the women’s dressing rooms, so you have to turn on your heels and look her right in the eyes while she shouts SIR! to your wife over and over again, and you say, over her shouting, (so you shout), “SHE’S A WOMAN. WE’RE WIVES. TWO WOMEN.” and turn back around and keep walking to your dressing room where you’ll try on the stupidest dress you’ve ever seen and it’ll have all been a big waste of time anyway but LOOK you still had to come out to another person today!

Which is to say that in these cases, you would be one of the friends who told a friend who told a friend. And that’s how it goes.

I think unless you were specifically told that X person is expressly NOT out and that this knowledge is confidential, you can assume it’s not confidential. Some people won’t agree with me on this, so you should hear their arguments, too (they’ll be here in the comments, or maybe on Twitter if we’re very lucky), and then make your own call!

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.

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  1. OH MY GOD THANK YOU. I’ve been struggling for so so long because I used to ID as a lesbian before I figured out that I’m nonbinary, and now it turns out even though I’m still massively into ladies it’s not exclusive to ladies. I’ve been calling myself a lesbian for so long so I felt like I needed to explain myself on both fronts. But like… I don’t! Thank you so much for validating everything I’ve been feeling. I hope this helped the person who submitted the question as much as it helped me. :3

    (Also, I’ve been single for six years and super committed to never ever using Tinder or OK Cupid again. I only want to date people I meet through shared interests at this point.)

  2. I am all about this advice on all fronts. Especially the first one; lots of us can’t really package ourselves into a single word (at least not in a way that’s legible to others) but who cares. Just be your own wonderful marvellous fairy and that’s enough!

  3. wow these first 2 questions really resonate with me as a lesbian-cum-pansexual who spent 10 years being painfully single. when i was younger, people definitely gave me a bit of shit for being into men after years of knowing me as a lesbian– i didn’t have the wherewithal to stand up to them then, but if i were responding now i’d probably just shrug “sexuality can surprise you!” or “sometimes you fall for someone you didn’t expect!” Who can argue with that?

    as to the being single part, man, is the endless okcupid cycle ever the worst. i used to do it for as long as i could stand it, then cut it out when it felt too shitty, rinse and repeat. so from my own experience and anecdata from other longtime-single friends, yes it is always this hard (meaning there’s not something like, wrong with you personally) and i agree with Laneia’s advice, focus on yourself rn, take some of the pressure off.

  4. I’m single, and I feel question number 2.
    Great life, wanting to share it, yadayada.
    But honestly, do I really want to share it? Devote time and headspace to another person?
    Forge compromises,where now, I’m free to do whatever, be vulnerable, etc.?
    Maybe not for just anyone.
    I would actually have to be in love for that one, I guess.
    With, like, not a straight girl.

    • This is exactly how I feel about it. I love my life how it is now, and I *think* I would love to be in love and share it with another person (but how do I stop falling for all the straight girls?!)

  5. I wonder if there’s any data on how long queer women stay single, on average, vs. hetero women? I’ve only been single for a couple of years (or really just over a year, if you count the technically-broken-up-but-still-dysfunctionally-enmeshed period) and I’m already feeling like I’m reaching that “what’s the point” headspace. I have a good life and I would like to find someone to share it with, at least some of the time, but it’s so hard to stay motivated when it seems like the likelihood of finding someone I’m attracted to, near my age, who both reciprocates and is also available, is next to nil.

    • I definitely relate to this – I’ve been single for about 1.5 yrs and half the time wish I were at least casually dating someone/the other half of the time want to relish my solitude and continue to not have to worry about another human. But I’m also in a place right now (geographically) where I don’t really have any romantic options so the internal struggle is rendered null anyway.

      • Yes. It’s so hard to actually try and find someone to date when half the time, I’m not even sure that I really want to be dating anyone because I love being by myself. But it’s that other half of the time that makes me hold out hope that I’ll meet someone.

  6. Such great advice.

    I’ll keep my eye out for depressing abysses. 2017 is a mine field. Thank goodness for Autostraddle, Buffering podcast, Nancy podcast, One Mississippi, the solar eclipse, RuPaul, Wonder Woman, chocolate, beer, purple sweet potatoes and lots of other good things in the universe.

    I love the sentiment: if you want something, don’t give up.

  7. RE: Question #2

    As someone who was also single for a very, very long time, I have to say… it might be best to take a break from those online dating sites for a bit when you’re framing it as ‘Should I stop trying?’ or ‘When do I give up?’ in your mind.

    I was on OkCupid since its inception (back when it was still an online quiz maker) and scrolling through people is the Most Depressing Thing Ever. You go through hundreds if not thousands of people, and not being able to find someone you mutually mesh with is hella demoralising.

    While it sounds like you’re leading a fulfilling life in all other areas, if you approach dating with (understandably, considering your experiences) a negative outlook, it can affect the people you choose to contact, the way you interact with them, the way they see you, and so on.

    I was pretty depressed with the whole dating thing for ages, but when I forced myself to look at things in a more positive light, within a month I had messaged someone I probably wouldn’t have messaged before, went on several dates with her, and somehow ended up in a relationship with my girlfriend who I’ve been with for the last two years.

    So, you know. I’m not sure if it’ll be applicable in your situation, but I think you should do a bit of introspection and get at the root of what makes you feel so glum about it. Are you insecure about your attractiveness or appeal to people you think are cute or interesting? Are you demoralised by rejection without explanation? Do you feel the situation is hopeless because…? Are you worried about being alone as you get older? Why is it important to you to share your life with someone? If you can get to the root of the issue and address it, you’ll be a much happier person when it comes to dating, and I think it’ll show.

    Good luck!

  8. Ugh, I love this. Honestly, as a long-term single lady, I’ve just decided that what’s gonna happen is gonna happen; if I’m into someone, I’ll ask them out, and if there’s no one, I’m just gonna do me.

  9. I disagree about question #3
    If this person isn’t out to everybody then why are you bringing it up to the people who don’t know? Maybe they didnt get the memo for a reason.

    • Likewise… I always make it a point to avoid outing anyone if I haven’t received explicit permission, and even then I’ll ask them to specify who it’s okay to tell. It’s a complicated system. What if you’re not out at work, and whoever you say this to knows one of your co-workers? Similar situation with family.

      Or maybe they know so and so is really homophobic and don’t have the energy to deal with the shitfest that would result.

      Or maybe they’re 100% comfortable with being out, but they are a private person and like to choose who gets to know this information about them.

      Better safe than sorry — the worst that’ll happen is that your queer friend/acquaintance will laugh it off and tell you that you’re worrying too much.

  10. Question 2 is me. Like, down to the last detail. Except I technically turn 30 next calender year, but other than that.
    Wondering if my subconscious actually wrote and submitted this without me knowing…
    I recently started trying dating apps/sites and have had an emotional rollercoaster of a time. But after venting to my friends about it, they actually helped by assuring me that my misgivings/fed-up-ness with them were legitimate things to feel and I should stop using the apps if they were bumming me out. And somehow this managed to change my perspective on it and to approach it more positively? Took the power out of it or something. I also absolutely second the suggestion above to examine a bit why it’s such a priority for you to meet someone. This helped me to acknowledge these things and work with/through them a bit (for me: self-esteem, concerns about age/time, lack of experience of dating etc). Anyway, one thing led to another with these apps and now I’m going on a tinder date, for the first time, this afternoon! Aaaaaagh! (but also a little excited)

  11. You know the thing about Tinder is, that’s it’s actually pretty hilarious, after a while (Sexy exotic vacation pics+severe looks don’t work for everyone.)
    The greatest shame about that particular app, aside from the constant rejection, is, that not a lot of people realize the perfect comic potential Tinder entails.
    I ran across a profile the other day that said, “Please, ask me things.” and seriously, I want to buy that girl a beer so hard, I can’t even.

    • I think the depressing thing there is that you can only enjoy the comedy of it if you have someone to enjoy it with. If almost all of your friends have partners, and no one uses Tinder, it’s not as fun.

  12. 1) I dunno, tone matters and I believe you that you know better than us whether these friends are being sneery about it, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with asking a friend about how they relate to their orientation, it can make for really interesting and emotionally open conversations.

    2) Have you considered asking friends to matchmake for you? They might have insights into your personality and patterns of behaviour that it’s harder to see from the inside, as it were.

    3) If you met these people at an explicitly queer-friendly space, like an LGBTQ+ mixer or the roller derby team, then that absolutely does not mean that they’re out in general life. Just because someone is happy to be identified as LGBTQ in order to talk to fellow gays doesn’t mean they don’t have pockets of their life that they’d rather take the lead on breaking the news to. For example, people who have their families on social media but aren’t out to their gran yet probably shouldn’t be tagged at a Carol screening. If in doubt, I’d check with them about what contexts they’re out in and whether they’re ok with it being common knowledge rather than an in-group thing.

  13. The timing is unreal! I recently stopped trying to use labels. They make my head hurt. What will be will be :). I used to go back and forth as bi but for the last four months, attraction to men has been totally absent, so I’ve just now started accepting that and changing my online profiles to lesbian.

    Still the sexual orientation is a cakewalk for me to navigate compared to gender identity — no idea how to explain that one to others. Hell, I don’t even understand it. So now I try to worry about more important things… like finding the perfect playlist for my morning workouts :)

  14. This may not actually be relevant to LW2 but may be relevant to other people with similar feelings: examine your other relationships with people.

    I’m 25 and have never been in a relationship. I used to get upset about this, wonder why it never happened for me etc. Then – after a break up of a very weird, unhealthy, intense friendship last year – I realised that I’d been getting myself into weird, intense friendships which were essentially relationships without the sex for years. Which is not an uncommon thing in your early twenties, I think, but was not a pattern I recognised until I was out of it.

    So now I think of myself as only having been single – as in, with the emotional space and energy for someone else in my life – for about a year. These things are hard!

    Also, dating apps suck, and I’m very grateful for the recognition here that it’s not compulsory to use them in order to date people.

  15. Hey LW#3 I know you’re not me but you COULD BE ME except for the age thing. I also get the hopeless feeling bc dating apps SUCK SO BAD OMG. But also since I’m a hella rural queer……dating apps are p much the only avenue to meet queer folks without driving 30 minutes to an hour and a half and/or crossing an international border SO THAT’S A FUN PREDICAMENT TO ME IN. I dunno, if you’re not into it right now, then just…take a step back from the dating game. Chill with your friends. Watch all of Star Trek on Netflix. Learn to knit or code or another language. You don’t have to be looking for a partner at ALL POSSIBLE MOMENTS in case for the 3 moments you’re not looking you pass each other and then your chance is gone forever because I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that (that said I am 24 and have dated a whole 1 person for less than three months and we were hilariously incompatible so I am MAYBE NOT TOO REASSURING there). But taking a step back from dating seems logical? Because if you’re not into dating, you’re probably not gonna get a super awesome response from people (or get a super awesome response for the entirely wrong reasons and that person won’t like the not-apathetic-about-dating version of you) because they’ll feel like you’re apathetic about the date/dating thing and maybe I’m only speaking about myself here, but I wouldn’t be super interested in trying to continue things with someone who is lukewarm or apathetic about me, ya dig?

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