Welcome to You Need Help! Where you seek advice and we try our very best to give it.
This has traditionally been done by way of individual Formspring accounts, Autostraddle’s Tumblr and a Formspring Friday column, which has all been very fun and insightful. But, because Formspring has a character limit and we’re wildly optimistic w/r/t our time-management skills, we thought we’d go one further and let you use our ASS private messaging to share advice-related feelings, too.
For more info on sending in questions, see the bottom of this post. Now let’s get down to bossing people around on the internet! Today Gaby’s gonna respond to a reader inquiry we’re gonna talk about girls who are gay until they are straight, or confusing, or something.
Issue: This girl likes you. She’s let it be known to her friends and you. Hooking up may already be happening. Every time you get to the “almost point” – sex, love, feelings, relationship – suddenly she either has a boyfriend or brings up men/boys in some way. She drops you, then comes back, then runs away again. You need help.
A: If she’s new to dating in general (perhaps because she’s young) and/or has never ever been with a same sex partner before, then here is one set of guidelines:
First, breathe. Her feelings in no way reflect anything you’ve done wrong nor should they make you feel inadequate. Shit is complicated. That’s one of the things about love and relationships with humans that will never change. This person is probably super scared about the level of attraction felt and the rush of feelings that flood their body when you enter the room. Mostly this is because you are unlike anyone they have ever met before. Who knows what Linds and SamRo went through before their love thang got going.
Fear is totally 100% okay especially when navigating new attractions and/or feelings, all of the feelings. We all know that women in this fucked up world (that I am still learning to navigate) are trained to want some knight in shining armor. We’re socialized into fantasizing about walking down a glittery aisle with the most perfect of cis male life partners waiting for us at the end of it. Maybe you never wanted anything to do with that fantasy but she probably has. It’s frightening to shift one solid heteronormative image of your life/future for even the most magical person, let alone for yourself. Her throwing up the “I still like boys” signs could be the way that she holds on to the part of herself she knows best and with which she feels most comfortable.
Now if she actually has a boyfriend and is messing around with you then she is unfortunately both a liar and a cheater. These two qualities are way more important than whether or not she’s committed to liking women. Judging liars and cheaters is not my bag, specifically because I’ve been both and shit happens. However, I know for a fact that it’s best not to engage in any kind of relationship with someone who is either of those things. They’re in some world of shit and you don’t want to be the one left to clean it up. Also, her boyfriend is probably clueless and/or awesome; the best thing you can do is step away. Step away without ultimatums. Step away with dignity and respect. Do not make it something dramatic or hateful. Tell her or write to her (totally sober) your reasons for stepping away. Express how important honesty is to you through example. Don’t allow the situation to become a back and forth “be with me” bit of plea-bargaining. When you step away, mean it. Backpedaling is for Philistines and politicians. You are better than both of those things. Also, don’t hold it against her because carrying around that energy is a waste of your awesomeness.
If the boyfriend is fake and she is constantly running back and forth to you, hug the girl tight and know that you still might have to let her go, maybe. Remember that not all relationships happen in an overnight explosion of unicorn glitter and Tegan & Sara sing-a-longs. Connections should be allowed to marinate and develop on their own; it’s ok if she needs time to figure out her feelings. You should be taking that time too. If she fesses up to not having a boyfriend and just being scared, then know that she’s a good girl and is trying her best. Don’t constantly ask if she’s figured out her whole lifelong sexuality. Don’t throw the fake boyfriend thing in her face when you argue. Be a gentleperson at all times. It’s not your job to coerce, coax or convince anyone to be a full-time lady-lover. Not ever. Not even a little bit. Also, her process is hers, and you have to find a balance between that and the way you feel. Understand her feelings without absorbing them. You have your own life stuff to deal with too. But if you both have the sweet butterflies for each other, then taking time to adjust is the most solid plan of action. If you see that she’s running away less and less, then some kind of love thing might be brewing. If the running happens for longer periods of time every time, then see above for information on the art of Stepping Away.
(I’ve respectfully stepped away from chicas in similar situations. You gotta let chicks breathe and process without being all up in their bizzness. 7 times out of 10, the ladies have come and found me and magic has been made. )
Now if she’s been in the dating world for a while and has been with women before and still throws the “I need to date/fuck/be with men” thing at you in a way that is solely to dodge you and not in a way that expresses any honest alternative sexual expression like individuals who are in open polyamorous relationships or sister-wife relationships or any other relationship in which all parties are down for all of the things, then drop that her like a bad habit. Splzat. Feel free to not leave any explanation.
After a certain point in life and level of relationship experience, a woman should ideally know what she wants and who she is or at least know better than to put her issues on you while she’s figuring it out.
She shouldn’t disrespect you by projecting the opposite of what you are in your face to express something she decides she is lacking. Also, don’t assume it’s because she’s bisexual that she’s treating you this way. Assume that she kinda sucks. From my understanding, bisexual women are honest about their needs and are with a person based on who they are not what they’ve got in their pants. (S/N – here’s a little Anna Paquin on her bisexuality.) Lesbians should never be afraid to date badass bisexual ladies, polyamorous ones and women who are involved in relationships outside of your comfort zone or expertise. Be afraid to pursue a woman who uses aspects of her sexuality to manipulate your emotions. Your affection, feelings and self should be valued and appreciated at all times by everyone in your life. If some chick can’t give you at least that, then she just isn’t worth it.
Remember, when the girl you like keeps bringing up other people or genders, she’s putting up a barrier. Your focus shouldn’t be ‘Is she straight or gay?’. Wondering about that leads to madness, drunk phone calls and other forms of hot messery. Ask yourself, is she worth getting behind the barrier and figuring out what’s really going on in her head and heart? It’s ok to stop along the way and decide it’s not emotionally safe or valuable for you to continue the relationship. It’s also ok to trudge carefully onward and find love in a very human place.
I got you and want you to feel so loved that love is the only experience you share/give/behold at all times.
PS- Note that this article has been altered to reflect more inclusive language because I did not have the wherewithal to check my cisgender privilege. I would like to thank Kayla for her 100% right on comment that took this piece head on with the very spirit that I believe Autostraddle encourages in all its readers.
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I need help to be as awesome as Gabby. So well written.
Aaaaaaaagh. Thank you
“Also, her boyfriend is probably clueless and/or awesome; the best thing you can do is step away. Step away without ultimatums. Step away with dignity and respect.”
lalala, I don’t wanna hear this.
i, myself, am new to the world of dating. so this is totes helpful dude.
“Your focus shouldn’t be ‘Is she straight or gay?’. Wondering about that leads to madness, drunk phone calls and other forms of hot messery. Ask yourself, is she worth getting behind the barrier and figuring out what’s really going on in her head and heart? ”
This is SUCH good advice… wow.
Omg! I was that girl, the ‘straight’ girl with a crush, who kept freaking out! and my friend was crushing back! And we took our time and things developed, and it was awesome! And then she had a lil freak out and pushed me away! And since then, theres been weird tension! And we’ve chatted about it! And shes going through some crazy stuff, and im fresh out of the closet, and a few months have past, but everytime we hang out we fight! About stupid shit! Like we decided that now isnt a good time to persue relationship vibes! But i still have mad feelings for her… But we’ve gone from having this amazing friendship, to nothing, i told her i couldnt talk with her until she knows what she wants or starts treating me a little better, instead of just losing it with me over the most ridiculous stuff! And now im heartbroken! And i want her back in my life! As my friend! Im sad i guess, because im startin over, and i have no game(well atleast i have no idea what my game is like with women) and ive now lost my friend that had my back while i was making all these new self discoveries! Eek! Anyway, i can relate to this article, up until the girl loving girl that i love got ‘cold feet’ :(
I have totally also been this person. I feel like it’s a stage in accepting your sexuality…the “OMG I’m telling everyone how much I like boys! Especially the person that I really want to be with!”
My advice to the person on the receiving end of this craziness…I don’t know. Don’t give up. She’s probably in love with you. Speaking from personal experience. :(
oh this was supposed to be a general reply but I guess it relates to what you were saying!
(and hi, i get what you are going through and I really hope it works out for you!)
OH HAYYYYY ANNAAAA
Gabby, your words. I can’t even. <3
And don’t assume that a) she’s a lesbian and b) she will always be available. If you do that you run the risk of having to find out (via Facebook) that she has a boyfriend now right before you finally decide to put the moves on her. This will likely not go well, and will lead you to conclude that your timing royally sucks.
And yes, I speak from experience.
“Mostly this is because both of you have vaginas.”
This is cissexist. It’s not a harmless joke or generalization. It is the perpetuation of cisnormative ideas about bodies, sex, and attraction and reduces so much of being a woman and being a queer woman to “OMG we have vaginas!”
The discussion of liking boys invariably leads to a reference of “maybe you don’t like penises, but she does.”
Not all boys have penises.
Not all woman have vaginas.
A vagina is not required for magical lesbian feelings.
Saying two lesbians like each other because they both have vaginas is like saying Usher is a good dancer because of his skin color. It’s incongruent with reality and it’s absurdly bigoted.
Trans people are people, too. Trans women are women, too.
Stop erasing us. Stop being part of the problem by fixating on genitals and equating everything about female gender and sexuality with them. It displays a lack of understanding of biological sex and gender, shits directly onto the movement for transgender equality, and feeds the machine of transmisogyny which results in violence and marginalization of trans-women, not to mention all of the women who are uncomfortable with trans-women because people like you have helped to reinforce their conditioning that “penis = man.”
Be an ally or start putting disclaimers at the top of responses that say: “The following promotes the idea of biological essentialism when it comes to gender because even pretending to be sensitive to trans people would require changing a couple of sentences and that would be too much work for our apparently nonexistent editors.”
If I sound upset, it’s because I am. Having your gender and fundamental identity dismissed because of cissexist shit like this on a day-to-day basis tends not to make you feel anything resembling accepted.
If you automatically assume a hypothetical woman has a vagina, then you are part of the problem and you need to check your cisgender privilege.
As a cigender person, I cannot even get defensive because you are right Kayla. With empathy and having similar feelings but in different intersectional lenses, I will take note on my assumptions about biology, sex and gender and always check my cis privilege.
Also just plain sexist. Like do boys not get rushes of hormones and feelings when they’re attracted to someone?!
It totally wouldn’t detract from an otherwise great article with good advice to remove that one line. Autostraddle I am disappoint.
you are one hundred percent right, kayla. i don’t want to be part of any cissexism or unintentionally promote violence against trans people. the root of this question came to me in three different ways from three different people all specifically referring to ciswomen in reference to their real/assumed relationships with cismen. that is the only reason i referred to vaginas when speaking about the women in this “hypothetical situation.” but i’m going to end any explanation there because i don’t want to back track or try to put up some crap-tastic defense against all of the very important points you have made. i’m still learning to navigate the complex world of all of our representations of gender, biology, sexual expressions and levels/degrees of queerness. i whole heartedly and truly truly apologize for the carelessness of not using one hundred percent inclusive language in this piece. in my effort to be lighthearted, i fell into easy statements and really just didn’t think and that’s my own stupid fault cuz i’ve got my self and my life situation on the brain and apparently forgot about all the other individuals who read this site and who live in this world that aren’t like me. my response mainly came from remembering how strange it was for me to admit a same sex attraction and how much specific body parts had to do with that for me. i should have definitely been specific in that respect and not spoke in generalized language, assuming like an asshole, that everyone would understand how that feels cuz obviously we all have the same feelings. which we definitely don’t. i forget that i do have certain privileges in this world cuz i’m used to being a minority in so many other situations in my life. i’m also not going to ask you to forgive me. you don’t have to forgive shit. i’m the one that has to check that cisgender privilege and work everyday to always be one hundred percent aware of all the things. however, i do truly apologize and hope that this won’t keep you from feeling safe here at autostraddle. we are editing this piece right now to reflect all of the needs of all of the people we love and value so much. you shouldn’t have had to say any of this to me. i should know better and it will not happen again, kayla and everyone who was/is offended.
I wish all misunderstandings on the Internet ended like this.
I really really love all of you, us, people.
Glad that this sort of thing can happen. Resolution = yay.
Kayla, I totally understand how you feel. It sucks when people make generalizations that end up erasing our identities. It really fucking hurts.
I know Gabby personally and she is an amazing person and definitely a trans* ally- she just fucked up without even realizing it. So thank you for calling her out on her privilege. We need people to do this (and not just about trans* issues) in order to make Autostraddle a better, more-inclusive space for everyone.
Please feel free to PM me if you’re still upset, ok?
I’m going to get seriously flamed for this, but oh well. I understand where you’re coming from, but I think you’re taking this too personally. Gabby had a slip up. It’s no reason to accuse her of being “part of the problem”. Autostraddle is not a website targeted specifically at trans* people, so you can’t honestly expect every article to use inclusive language, although I agree that they should. The majority of AS’s audience is cisgender and lesbian. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Ever heard the phrase “Write what you know”? That’s what the author of this article was doing. Writing what SHE knows as a cisgender person. It wasn’t privilege nor was it intentional erasure of the trans* community. It’s upsetting for me to read aggressive comments like yours denouncing this entire article as “cissexist shit” over one line.
As for your last sentence, I completely disagree. But I’ll leave it at that.
I’m by no means trying to invalidate your points, but you have to try to see it from the other side, too.
We all have a long way to go when it comes to sensitively navigating the complexities of sexuality. But AS is doing better than a lot of other sites I’ve seen.
I expect every article on Autostraddle to use inclusive language because Autostraddle is freaking awesome. That shouldn’t be a big thing to ask of anyone and it’s sad that we settle for ‘trying’ so often.
Obviously this was a slip up and Gabby was being flip in a funny article and I don’t think anyone thinks that one line was representation of her views or Autostraddle’s stance or whatever – AS is massively trans* inclusive. But I don’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced constant cissexism and transmisogyny on a daily basis can possibly understand how it feels to live that and she has every right to be upset when an awesome and supposedly trans-inclusive space makes a flip comment implying that you have to have a vagina to be female. That is ‘the problem’ and that one line propped it up to whatever small extent and it is right that is has now been changed.
I don’t think Kayla was aggressive and I don’t think anyone is attacking anyone and I really don’t see how anyone is disadvantaged from making Autostraddle as inclusive as possible.
Like Alice K up there said, the only problem with what you said is Autostraddle usually IS the one place where everyone female-identified who love female-identified people don’t have to feel excluded. Autostraddle articles should be held to a high standard, because Autostraddle is the shit, period. (No, I don’t have a more articulate way to make this argument.) Kayla was right to point it out, and Gabby was awesome, for the article and for her response to Kayla.
First, Kayla, thank you for highlighting and explaining why the unedited piece was traumatizing and exclusionary for many of us in the AS community.
Gabby, thank you for your understanding and apology.
I echo the sentiments of a poster above who applauds AS for responding so quickly and correcting exclusionary mistakes. I ain’t gonna lie: recognizing and coming to terms with my genderqueer-ness was much more difficult for me than understanding and coming to terms with my sexuality. I ascribe that primarily to the fact that I am a bit older than many AS members and the dialogue that existed in the days of those personal struggles was limited and exclusionary, even if unintentionally so.
Like many, when I found AS I finally felt I had found a community built of like-minded souls: cis and trans, of many different backgrounds and facing many different challenges. I am aware that I hold AS to the highest of standards because it’s one of the few sites that’s “doing it right.” That makes the burden of the AS staff more onerous, and I never forget that they’re human. (And doing a fucking awesome job, because, again, they’re HUMAN.)
We are all learning about each other. I understand Gabby writing from her perspective. I applaud Kayla for bringing to her attention experiences foreign to her and others.
And I feel there’s hope for the world and humanity when Gabby apologizes & AS does quick work to rectify the situation.
What more should we ask? Understanding ourselves and others will always rely on dialogue and action on the part of those of good faith and good intentions. No one can understand every experience foreign to their lives. But everyone can be open, undefensive and willing to learn from all of the voices of our world.
I think Kayla’s post and the discourse it stimulated was an awesome example of healthy and profitable discourse: both educating and speaking up for those of us who do not live a cis-gendered reality. I thank all who participated and, by doing so, provided an excellent example of the manner and tone of discourse that makes me grateful for AS and the AS community.
“Now if she’s over the age of 25 and has been with women before and still throws the “I need to date/fuck/be with men” thing at you, then drop that like a pigeon deuce on the sidewalk. Splzat. Feel free to not leave any explanation.”
Hold up, what is this? Maybe she’s just talking about what her needs are.
There are people who are polyamorous or non-monogamous. It may not be what some people are looking for in a relationship. But. There are also a lot of people who have alternative lifestyles and they might have more than one partner or play with other people in some kind of way, and this could involve men.
If you meet someone with an alternative sexuality and you don’t think the two of you are compatible, it’s as simple as that and that’s all you need to explain. “We have needs that aren’t compatible.” There’s no need to throw pigeon shit metaphors at polyamorous people.
there is no mention of polyamory in the question, and in the case of poly i think it’s SUPER important for everybody to be as up front and open about their needs as possible. because there is no indication that the person in question has said anything about dating/being with multiple people, it would be relatively safe to assume that this person is looking for a monogamous situation, or at least something less complex… otherwise that would be an entirely different article (which i have a LOT of feelings about).
as someone who has hooked up with [too many] chicks with boyfriends…
this seems like it’s really an issue of whether or not the person is new to this and maybe scared, or playing you and being a manipulative douchebag. the same way sometimes when i meet a girl who is cute and might be into girls, i start dropping things like “my ex girlfriend” and “that time i was at autostraddle camp” into conversation, this chick might just be weirdly testing the waters and scared.
also she might just be awful. i made out with lots of those.
I’m so glad that that part of the article was revised to respect poly people. Gabby, and all other AS staff/contributors, thank you for taking the time and sincerely caring about inclusiveness. As everyone says when mistakes and misunderstandings like this happen, it’s wonderful to see that at least on this website, it can be handled with sincere caring and grace. As a queer woman who has been in the situation discussed more times than I care to think about (ugh), I appreciate the commentary and certainly appreciate the inclusiveness for trans* people and those of us who have had relations with women with boyfriends who have known/watched/participated/etc. Even if all of my experiences with female/male couples have been significantly negative in one or more aspects, I say party on and best of wishes for those that make it work.
“After a certain point in life and level of relationship experience, a woman should ideally know what she wants and who she is”
I suspect the cut off for this is not actually 25…a lot of people don’t have things figured out at 25
you’re right which is why I also included:
or at least know better than to put her issues on you while she’s figuring it out.
i feel like anything that happens in your life before 25, before your quarter century mark on this earth, is all just a very severe series of growing pains/fuckups/awesomeness/playing/all of the things and shouldn’t be used against you in a law court of love.
and after that of course we’re all still figuring it out but you shouldn’t put your figuring shit out issues onto someone else
true. i hope at 26 i know better than to dump my issues on someone else. i didn’t mean to sound nitpicky.
i totally disagree with this. people shouldnt put their shit on others regardless of their age. yeah, your teens and early twenties are a massive learning curve, but that doesnt give you any excuse to be a dick, ever.
not to say that you/i wont make fuck ups and do all the stupid things, but blaming it on your ‘youth’ is frustrating ageist crap.
This is very helpful advice and incredibly well written. Hats off to you, Gabrielle
I was the straight girl in this scenario like 2 years ago.
Man I was a real jerk. .___o But at least I’m just gay now. Life is way easier when you just accept all of this gayness and get on with it.
That being said, I have a big gay crush on Gabby and the shaved side of her head. I see you over there with all that girl swag. I see you. <3
Dang. I was almost over The Straight Girl but this brought it all back. Urgh, Like, I do like her, but if she is queer it’s going to take her another year to process that and getting her to talk about Feelings is like pulling teeth and I just need to move on and find someone who is SURE she likes me AND my gender, right? Because I don’t want to have to put Scotch-tape all back up on my woefully damaged self-esteem.
Yeah… I can’t go through that again.
Being able to read this and imagine you actually saying it in your very distinct, bad ass voice makes it 10 times better.
You are the best Gabby!
“Be a gentleperson at all times.” Good lord Gabby, you most certainly are a gentleperson at all times. I love you. <3
so nobody clicked on the link about lying and cheating? because, that’s the good shit right there…
oh no doubt, I did. I’m just at a loss for words over the KStew dopplegänger brandishing a broken bottle.
Loved this. And I also loved your response re: using trans-friendly examples, Gabby. I’m happy that Autostraddle is a place where people a) feel okay and do share their hurt and real feelings about issues of trans visibility/okayness, b) feel okay and do ask for things to be different if they don’t feel included and valued in their identities, and c) can be listened to and respected by those they’re talking to. I thought your response was incredibly mature. I don’t even quite know how to describe how I felt after reading it. Just that seeing someone be so affirming and willing to learn and work towards being better is the kind of stuff that gives me hope. Thanks for being you <3
Also, on an unrelated note, do you (or anyone else) know if there’s a tumblr that discusses race-related things, eg. like racialicious but on tumblr? Or like tumblinfeminist but more focused on race-related things. I would really like a feed that challenges me and from which I could potentially gather some great thought-provoking images too but I’m not sure if such a tumblr exists. (I also wasn’t sure where else to post this question, eep!)
well, there is racialicious.tumblr.com !
here are some that i follow that might be up your alley:
Ah, how did I not notice that! Still, I’m glad that I didn’t and posted this question though, as it has led me to a bunch of new sites, thanks Riese!
Yeah. Two of my friends are hosting and many of my friends are to be attending a ‘Ghetto Fabulous’ party (which might mean something vaguely different in Australia, but also.. not..), and a friend of mine also didn’t understand why America has things like Black History Month or why the GLBT community has things like Pride- he thinks that discrimination against minorities will disappear if we stop reminding everyone that we’re different. Mmm. So I guess I’m looking for the right ways and words to use to discuss these things, whilst also becoming more cluey myself. So thanks for those links to help this happen :)
“Backpedaling is for Philistines and politicians.”
So many reasons to love you Gabby, this is just one of them.
(We still on for red beans and rice? ;-)
I just came in here to tell you this article is the shit. That is all.
Dude, I was the girl asking this question a few years ago, and while it’s ok to step back and breathe and just be there for her for a while, please don’t be as dumb as me and stay involved for almost a YEAR before getting out of that shit. Your poor heart can only take so much, and she still wants to be straight.
That being said, I’d say give it a few months at least. She might turn out to be awesome.
remember all the shit that flared up with the stacyann chin article? i feel like some of this is some of what she was trying to say, she just expressed it with less sensitivity.
but like, the whole “be patient, let her come back, don’t expect too much” thing.