Y’All Need Help: Quick and Unprofessional Advice for Queers Who Need It

Welcome to Y’All Need Help, a weeklyish (maybe?) advice column in which I pluck out a handful of questions from the You Need Help inbox and answer them right here, round-up style! You can chime in with your own advice in the comments and before you know it, we’ll be on our way to a kinder, gentler world full of people we’ve helped.


Here at Autostraddle we have a lovely and thorough advice series called You Need Help, where people just like you send in detailed, complicated and delicate questions, and various team members get to work writing full posts’ worth of advice for you. But recently I thought to myself, what of the shorter questions? The ones that just need some quick and dirty advice; things that maybe wouldn’t fill an entire post? And so Y’all Need Help got born!

Remember the early days of You Need Help and Formspring Friday? Well Y’all Need Help is kinda like those two things, except guess what? We obvs don’t use Formspring anymore and it’s not even called Formspring now, so get over it. If you want this column to be weeklyish, you’ll need to send your shortish/quick and dirty questions to youneedhelp@autostraddle.com. Otherwise it’ll just be published whenever I can accumulate a pile of quick and dirty questions to reply to. The future is in your hands, is what I’m saying. Oh and if y’all want to sign your questions with little situation-specific pseudonyms for yourself that would be so great! I love it when you do that.

Let’s get crackin’!


I recently made a great group of lesbian friends who live pretty close to me. We go out almost every weekend and have a blast together. Two of the friends are engaged (let’s call them Shane and Carmen). I’ve had a huge crush on Shane since I met them, but I’ve kept my feelings to myself, hoping they would eventually pass. Fast forward a few months and Shane and I are making out in a bathroom stall after getting drunk at a concert after Carmen left early.

I felt guilty, and eventually told Shane I had feelings for her, hoping that would help me get over them and help hold us accountable for any future bad behavior. Well, she told me she has feelings for me, too, and the bad behavior continued. No more making out, but more touching, cuddling, and holding hands when her fiancé wasn’t present. I told her she needed to tell Carmen we kissed. I feel like a terrible friend for keeping it from her, but Shane insists that she’s “doing what’s best for her” by keeping it a secret. I disagree, and don’t know what I should do.

Carmen wonders why I haven’t wanted to hang out with them as much, my heart is aching over Shane, and I’m pissed that she’s trying to convince herself that covering her own ass is the best thing to do for Carmen’s sake. She doesn’t want to break up with Carmen, and I’m not expecting her to. I just don’t know where to go from here.

Do you have any wisdom you can impart about this sticky mess?

Sincerely,
Homewrecker

Oh damn, kitten. Mistakes were made. I believe you should get the entire fuck away from Shane as quickly as possible. Don’t even pause to look around at the rubble, don’t think whimsically about what could’ve been, don’t wonder if you should intervene and come clean to Carmen — just get away from this situation. Your top priority right now is making sure that nothing else happens between you and Shane, which should be very easy if you literally have nothing to do with her.

Unfortunately for Carmen, you’re not actually a home wrecker — Shane is. You definitely played an active role in it, but Shane probably would’ve done this with anyone (and perhaps already has with other people), because the home that Shane’s wrecking is one she doesn’t want to begin with. She isn’t completely happy with her life and instead of taking appropriate steps towards fixing anything, she’s making out with people in bathroom stalls. That’s sad for Shane, for Carmen, and for you!

Here is an excerpt from a conversation I had with Rachel and Riese about your life and the lives of your anonymous friends:

Riese: i hope, much like the l word’s shane and carmen
that shane and carmen do not get married
because carmen should not marry shane
that is a bad idea
very bad idea

Rachel: no
they should not
no one should touch shane with a ten foot pole, basically

Riese: nope
and also i mean like, if shane thinks that she can still marry carmen under these conditions then that is bad news
like if shane was like, look, i am not into carmen and i want to be with you, then i might give her like one more chance to do something good and prove herself, b/c that does happen, even though most people besides me would advise “run”
BUT if shane is like “no this is fine, and i’m still getting married”
then
nope

Riese and Rachel are right. Also, in general, it’s probably never a good idea to tell someone you have feelings for them in an effort to stop having feelings for them. I just don’t think the world works that way.

Today is when you stop having achy heart feelings for this person! Right now Shane is a shell of herself. She’s not living her best life and she’s not even trying to. You’re not having achy heart feelings for a whole real person — you’re having achy heart feelings for the idea of a person you’ve imagined up in your own head. Don’t do that! Think of Shane as a character in a book that you could write if you wanted to — you’ve probably done a great job with the details and some swoon-worthy traits. But even if you wrote a million books, that character would still be made-up, and you wouldn’t be any closer to dating them. Shane is not real.

Seek out and surround yourself with people who are whole and real and building happiness with their free time. Better yet, BE a person who is whole and real and building happiness for yourself. You deserve friends who would never ever make-out with you in a bathroom stall while their fiancées were home in bed.


I identify as bisexual and have since I was 14. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’m currently in a straight relationship (my longest ever, almost two years now) and I can’t help but think about women all the time. This is how it’s been in every relationship I’ve had. I always question it, and I’ve even talked to past boyfriends about how I think I’m really gay.

I fantasize about women while I’m having sex with my boyfriend. This has been going on for the last year (maybe longer). We live together and we have been making all these plans to stay together and settle down, but I can’t help question it. I am awake in the middle of the night crying right now. I really love him and want him in my life, I don’t want things to change, but I feel like I’m lying to myself.

I wanted to scream “I’m gay” during sex last night because that’s how much I just wasn’t feeling it. I could care less about my feelings and my happiness. It breaks my heart to think that I’ve done this to another man in my life. Maybe I am overthinking everything. I enjoy having sex with men, but something never feels right. I’ve never been able to orgasm during sex. I get that this shouldn’t be the goal of sex, but I want to be able to orgasm from sex because masturbation makes me come hard and I want to be able to experience that with another person. Maybe that’s selfish or asking for too much. I don’t know.

I just really need advice. I don’t have any friends to ask. I don’t have anyone to talk to about this. I don’t know what to do.

I’m going to write a song for you titled, “It Is OK To Break Up With This Person” and I’m gonna stand outside on your street at night and sing it over and over and over again. The chorus will be like, “It’s ok to break up with this person, dear heart! / You have the answers inside of yourself and wanting to be happy is reason enough!” It won’t rhyme because it’ll be a progrock experimental thing and I’ll make up for the lack of rhyming with laser sounds and cat noises.

Here’s a true thing about this life: you deserve to be excited about it. You deserve to come hard with another person. You deserve to care about your feelings and your happiness. When you think about the impact you’re making on another person’s life, you deserve an unbroken heart. You deserve your fantasies. You deserve your truth, whatever it is.

Maybe it seems easier to just keep dating men because that’s what you’ve been doing forever. But what you’re going through right now isn’t actually easy. Crying in the middle of the night, questioning your life, things never feeling quite right — that’s not easy at all, that’s torture. Just because you know how to live a lie doesn’t make the lie any easier to live. You can be practiced at a specific type of torture, you can even be very good at it, but that doesn’t mean you should have to keep doing it. Do something you might be terrible at: date a woman. Break up with this person who seems easy enough to settle down with and try on some other people who might not fit.

It might feel incredibly selfish to break up with someone who hasn’t really done anything ‘wrong,’ and in a way it is — you’ll be looking out primarily for yourself and your own well-being. Your well-being is a thing worth looking out for, though. Your life is a thing worth being excited about. Letting someone go when it’s not working for you is also beneficial for them, because they deserve to be with a person for whom it does work.

Here’s a playlist for you from an earlier post: It Was Time to Go.



Is there a graceful way to live in the closet without losing your mind? I have it easier than many — I’m only closeted to my family. But how do I navigate familial relationships even while feeling they are completely built on a lie and might not exist if they knew the truth? I’m in my late 20s and it’s stupid that I’m even still in the closet with them but trust me, at this time, I just can’t. This is the south and things are different and I just can’t, I don’t want to lose them. I get pressure from the LGBTQ community to come out to them, advance the cause, shake up their heteronormativity etc. But I’m not trying to start a revolution, I’m just gay and want to keep my family. SO I am closeted. I’m not sure what I’m really even asking, I guess just affirmation that I will not lose my mind and that it’s okay with the queer community if I take this one step at a time and live in that grey area of lies and love. Gay South is not the regular gay. It’s more complicated than anyone not in the South could ever imagine. Thanks for any advice

Hello fellow southern person! I’m sorry that you can’t be completely honest with your family and that it feels like your relationships are built on lies. That is genuinely fucking terrible. They’re missing out on knowing who you really are, and you’re missing out on so much by having to close yourself off to them.

The South has a second language of weighted contradictions and deep secrets we’re expected to take to our graves, and you learn this language right alongside English and how to cross a street. We’re taught to be humble and to keep our private lives to ourselves — if people find out something about us, they’d rather hear it from a third party, and then they’d like to pretend they didn’t hear it at all. Coming out in the South isn’t just about bucking heterocentric norms and religious teachings, it’s about bucking the entire system of prudence and no, not everyone wants to do that. Plenty of people don’t. I know of several closeted queer people living in my hometown — young and old — who will very likely never come out. Nearly all of them have longtime partners that they live with, and most everyone knows about them being gay, but it’s just not discussed in broad daylight. There are definitely hellraisers in the South who don’t give a single fuck about norms and systems, but if your grandmother wasn’t a hellraiser and you want her to let you in the house on Sundays, you don’t do what hellraisers do. I get that.

I honestly don’t know how to tell you to navigate those relationships in a healthy way, but I do know that humans do this a lot, for different reasons and with varying degrees of success. We lie by omission and we guard ourselves against threats and we decide what’s best for us based on the information we have about a situation. You’ve appraised your situation and decided that coming out would be very detrimental to your family relationships at this time, and your queer peers will need to honor that. Having a closeted friend or partner can be frustrating, sure — and possibly even a dealbreaker for some, and you’ll have to respect that — but their frustration probably pales in comparison to what you think you’ll be faced with if you tell your family the truth. And since it’s your family and not theirs, you get to call the shots! It’s an imperfect situation with no real winners, unfortunately.

If you ever do decide to talk to your family, we have a whole collection of coming out stories, including this gem that I found last night. I can’t change your family and I can’t wave a magic wand to make the whole world a more accepting place, but I did make these inspirational posters for you using pictures from my Instagram feed!

penny 1

penny 4

penny 3

i10 desert

sunflowers


I wish you all the very very best! Do you have advice for these advice seekers? Drop your thoughts in the comments! Need some quick advice for yourself? Email youneedhelp@autostraddle.com!

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 908 articles for us.

37 Comments

  1. wowowowow all of these are perfect. Some of these queries related directly to things I’ve been through in my past (that second one… Oh, my dear heart, I’ve been there and felt that and had to do that and TRUST ME EVERYTHING LANEIA SAID IS TRUE AND YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY AND ALL OF YOUR FANTASIES CAN ACTUALLY COME TRUE SOMETIMES AND THIS IS ONE OF THOSE TIMES) and I felt like I reprocessed a lot by reading your advice! You words so well! I definitely want this to be a weekly thing. Can’t wait to send you delightfully psuedonymed feelings about my mom xoxoxo

  2. Great advice! And for the person who isn’t coming out to their Southern family – you will come out when the time is right, and the RIGHT friends will respect your choice. I live in the South and have many friends who haven’t come out to their families yet, and it doesn’t matter to me one bit. They’ll do it when the time is right. I hope you have surrounded yourself with a great group of friends, and the pressure is coming from acquaintances who need to simply mind their own business. Best of luck!

  3. #2, you are not happy. Time to go. I, too, once left a gentleman I loved very much when I knew I needed to try being with a woman. He is still a dear friend, and I still have a lot of love for him, and breaking up was the right thing to do.

    Maybe you’re really gay, maybe you are bisexual, maybe there’s another identity that fits you better. Right now, you want to be with women. Go do that.

  4. I totally identify with the being in the closet thing. For many reasons, I have decided not to tell my family about my sexual orientation (mainly because I still live at home) and while it pains me to have to hide this major part of who I am, I know that at this point in my life it is the right choice. In a perfect world, coming out would be easy and risk free, but, unfortunately, thats not always the case. Anyone who gives you a hard time needs to realize that coming out is very personal and can be hard and life changing. So, come out to your family if and when you are ready. Trust yourself to know whats right for you.

  5. To #1 and others with achey hearts over various People Not Living Their Best Lives- I encourage you to especially focus on one tidbit near the end of Laneia’s advice that is just so great:

    recognize that you are not in love with Shane, you are in love with Your Idea Of Shane.

    This is something I have had to confront in my relationships over and over again (though I’ve never dated a cheater, I have dated people who for various reasons were not what I’d hoped they’d be)… it is too easy to get excited over “what might be” or who I’m hoping this person will be to me. Push yourself to meet people, yes with starry eyes, because people are amazing and attractive and intelligent and dazzling, but also with a hunger to figure out what makes them really tick, and a profound self-respect.

    Go into things without expectations. Ask people a lot of questions. See if your values match up as well as your drunken lips. Try to make them laugh. What trajectory are they on? Pretend that hypothetically you weren’t attracted to them and ask yourself, “would I want to be their close friend?” Open yourself up and tell them something vulnerable. Challenge them to do better or think further or be bigger – and see how they react. Don’t stand for a single lie, about anything, to anyone, without a deep and really compelling reason. Work on projects together. Ask more questions. Abandon your more-recently formed expectations. Take heart – most people, if given the chance, will defy expectations in positive ways you can’t even imagine now.

    This is how you find someone to date/ spend time with/ build a relationship with. And if it starts with an accidental drunken makeout, no judgment at all, but if it starts and continues as a lie… remember you’re lying to yourself, too, about who this person is and whether they’re worth your time.

  6. #2: Same same same. Except, I was married to him. We were together for 6 years. We were best friends. Then we got divorced. We are now, truly, still very close friends. It’s not possible for everyone but just know that you don’t have to necessarily lose this person who is very important to you just because you end your romantic relationship. Especially if that is the only part of the relationship that isn’t working.

  7. The gay and Southern question is very close to my heart, and I did a double-take when I read it because I thought for a second I sent it in! My parents know I’m gay, and they’re really not happy about it, but I haven’t told my (very Catholic, Southern/Midwestern) family members. The ones I’m friends with on Facebook can see my relationship status, but it’s not talked about at all. One of my aunts recently asked me if I’m dating anyone and I definitely lied.
    I’m currently wondering if I should bring my girlfriend of four years to our family Thanksgiving, but that would probably cause a lot of tension. I don’t know. I don’t like not being able to share this part of my life with my family, but I also don’t want to cause any problems.

    • I feel you, friend. I haven’t had this exact experience, but a similar one. My only advice — not knowing your situation — is don’t bring another person into your outing with your family. It makes it awkward for your partner when your family will want to just address you. If they address your partner it will be with shock, hate and blame, and that’s no way for them to meet each other.

      Give them time to accept the relationship exists and time to essentially steel themselves to act cordial upon meeting her (you’re Southern too so you know what I mean). It’ll be kinder for your partner.

  8. I have to comment. The second question: This! You are not alone. Both the question and the response made me cry, because I feel/felt exactly this, and divorced my husband of 10 years who I spent years having sex with while thinking of women, and here I am in my late 30s and single but that’s ok. I want to print out your response and read it every day and extra times on days when I feel guilty for wanting to be happy. Thank you.

  9. Sometimes telling someone about your feelings can work out. But I think it’s only if they *don’t* reciprocate. So it’s kind of a dangerous question, you know?

    If they do reciprocate and they tell you that, it’s time to get the fuck out of Dodge.

  10. I was once #2… And girl, you GOTTA go. I made an account on this website just to tell you that. Seriously, staying with someone out of guilt or obligation when part of you wants to be elsewhere.. THAT’S selfish. You’re trying to avoid feeling like a bad person at someone else’s expense. Sure, he’s gonna hurt a lot in the short term when you leave. But you’ll both heal and find new people… and right now you’re depriving him of the opportunity to be with someone who is enthusiastic about the relationship and loves every minute of riding that dick. Also, no one is THAT good of an actor. Your guy, no matter how dense or in denial he may be, can surely sense that you aren’t all in, even if he hasn’t said anything. So you’re already hurting him! Not saying you’re a bad person, like I said, I’ve been there. And I needlessly hurt the fuck out of someone I cared about by being wishy washy and guilt laden and self-absorbed (“how could he ever live without me??”) and not doing what I knew I wanted to do in the end… Well, the moral of the story is that he’s living life without me just fine now and I’m a year into a relationship with a girl who I’m crazy about and I never am awake crying at night thinking about how I’d kinda rather be in a different relationship… Instead I am calm and happy and confident in the relationship and the sex is great, yay! (Also, fyi, I still ID as bi but just realized I’m too far on the gay side to really be happy monogamous with a dude. Which I kinda knew all along, I just wasn’t being honest with myself. So be honest with yourself and be brave, you can do it!)

  11. Amen to the coming out advice! No one, literally NO ONE, gets to tell you when or if to come out any more than they can tell you when or if to have sex. I mean obviously if the potential sexual partner is not enthusiastically consenting then the answer is “do not have sex with that person,” but if YOU don’t wanna have sex / come out, then don’t let anyone pressure you into doing so. Coming out is one of the most profoundly personal decisions a human can ever make. Don’t listen to people who are like “but you NEED to come out for the GREATER GOOD of the COMMUNITY!” You need to do what you feel is the right thing for YOU.

  12. #2, keep in mind that just because you’re not happy with this dude doesn’t mean that you’re not happy with *all* dudes. I spent a lot of time when I was a young bi in an identity crisis because when I would get unhappy with a partner, my fantasies would involve people as different as possible from them – and usually that meant people of a different gender. All this ping-ponging around meant that I constantly felt unsettled, indecisive and like a stereotype of a bad bi who cant make up her mind – until I realised that I was just unhappy with these particular people, and fantasy was my escape. This trend still continues for me, by the way. When my boyfriend and I are having problems, I start noticing cute butches in the bus and replaying my encounters with women in my head – and when my ex-wife and I were first broken up I was honestly worried that I might be straight after all. Nope! Still bisexual! Your preferences might fluctuate with your emotions and relationships and that’s okay!

  13. Having a major scale feelings bonanza right now, like my feelings are riding high, and that enormous cup of coffee I drank quickly a few hours ago is like jet fuel as they surf the clouds in the sky of feelings. Oh man. “Your life is a thing worth being excited about” – teared up. This article was brutally relevant to my interests and inspired some honest and good action which I actually just undertook in pursuit of Best Life Living, Self-Overcoming, Own Truth Living and so on. Autostraddle is like a daily care package of wisdom and compassion which just keeps on coming through my internet letterbox wrapped up in glitter. <3

  14. Closeted in the South person, oh buddy, I feel you, even though I’m totally not in the South. I’m that person who’s know I was queer since I was a tiny, and I’m out almost everywhere else but to my family, until very recently.

    I stayed closeted for so long, through several really quite serious relationships, because I was afraid I’d lose my family if I came out to them. I wasn’t worried about my personal safety– I was just afraid that if they knew, my family would be Disappointed and upset and maybe hate me a little. I was afraid that if they knew, they wouldn’t trust me or treat me like I was part of the family, wouldn’t invite me to dinner or tell me how my aunts are doing or do holidays with me. My family is *super* important to me.

    It’s okay, and you’re not the only person doing this incredibly awkward dance. <3 It's okay to have this be part of how you do relationships– just make sure you talk to your partner about it and make sure that they're okay and understand. It might be a dealbreaker for them, and that's okay too.

  15. #2 – I’m you, but several years later, after 5 years of marriage, and a divorce, and another relationship with a man that resulted in having a son. Right now is the perfect time for you to be honest with yourself and the man you care about. It took a lot to call it quits with the father of my son, the guilt was nearly unbearable, because he is a great person, just not my person. We’re now good friends, but it definitely could have gone very poorly. We have bbqs with his fiancé her son, and my girlfriend who makes me happy in the way I knew was missing, and my wonderful son who is on his way to having three mommies… Made for TV sickeningly happy times, all because I finally had the guts to care about my own happiness and it turned out to be the best for everyone.

  16. Great article and great advice. Thanks for this.

    I, too, am a Southerner. I, too, literally just cannot go there with my family right now.
    They mean the world to me. Although parents are always supposed to love their children no matter what, love doesn’t exclude being angry and frustrated, and frankly embarrassed. I guess the more you love someone, the more you have invested and the easier it is to get upset. I don’t want to lose my family, especially not now.

    I’m in my very late 20’s and it feels really stupid to “hide.” I’m not currently living in the South with my family, but my girlfriend of almost 1 year is going to want to be involved sooner than later.

    I’m in love. My friends all know her. Her friends know me. My parents are all that is missing from this modern love story.

    When I’m ready for the consequences, I will tell them.

    1 day. But not 2 day.

  17. This is the first time I have left a comment ever and it is because #2 made me cry. It was way too relatable. I realized that I was attracted to girls in college, but just hoped that I was bisexual. Dating guys is easy and safe, but the last couple of dates I have been on I felt like a liar. I could go on and on about my sexual confusion, instead I’ll just say thanks for the article.

  18. Dear second questioner, I was you a year and a half ago. I could have written that letter. I broke up with that man and I’m now in my first queer relationship and it’s the best one of my life. It far surpasses anything I’ve ever had with a cis dude. (Also because this person is amazing, of course). Follow your desires. You will not regret it. If you stay with him, you’ll wonder forever. Trust me. Love, Raye.

  19. Oh, Laneia… if only you were there to write me that letter about leaving a man ten years ago… It’s so painful to have tried to make a life with a guy, when you aren’t even into them.

    I thought it seemed easy too, but then when I shook it all off and stopped pretending permanently, I felt such a weight lifted off my shoulders.

  20. I really, really loved the responses to the second two letters – they are so loving and kind.

    The first one rubbed me the wrong way, a little though. Like, it seems odd to pathologize Shane? Idk if being a cheater means someone is broken. Maybe that person isn’t built for monogamy and hasn’t figured that out yet, maybe they’re really unhappy in the relationship and don’t know how to get out. That’s not really “broken” – it’s just a thing.

  21. Thank-you Laneia! And thank-you Autostraddle!

    I really missed Formspring Fridays, and all your Formspring advice.

    The way I stumbled across you all, and this, was via DeAnne Smith’s Formspring, where Laneia had written something hilarious or there was some connection there (can’t remember quite how Formspring works!), and then found Laneia, and you all, and Auto. And so, for me, this is really just very special.

  22. So with regards to coming out in the south. It’s pretty easy these days to identify unsafe people and safe people. It doesn’t make sense to me to come out to the unsafe people if you don’t have a reason to. Having no girlfriend, I feel no need to tell conservative people (my parents included) that I like girls. When you think about it, the nature of your sexual attractions isn’t really a lot of people’s business. Now when you have that serious relationship I think it makes sense to share that with conservative people who are important to you. It seems like it would be easier for me to explain how I have fallen in love with this particular woman than it would be to explain that I am planning to fall in love with a woman. Of course this leaves you open to the complexities of promising her you will come out and fighting over when. Who knows, maybe it’s better to just get it over with and tattoo “I’m gay” on your forehead. But I have this fear that I will come out to my friends and family and they’ll reject me and then I’ll end up never meeting the right woman. At the end of my life I’ll have severed all those relationships and still be completely and forever alone.

  23. Hi, I know this is out of blue but what to do if you’re lesbian but stuck in a homophobic country . I feel like driving sometimes . Don’t know how long I have to be like this . But moving out of my country isn’t that easy ,it costs a lot of bucks .What can I do ?
    Thanks , have a nice day you all 🙂

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