Coming Out / To Friends

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"Hi so I am a lesbian who is still mostly in the closet I am just not ready to come out just yet but there is a guy in my class who has a big crush on me. I don't like him at all but I don't want to be rude he keep's asking me out on date's and I keep saying no. How can I get the message to him nicely that it's nothing personal I just don't like him without coming out as gay?"

-Question Submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

HOW ABOUT DON’T GET THE MESSAGE TO HIM NICELY ANYMORE, HUH?!

Oooooooooh, Anonymous, I am sorry for yelling, but your question fired up all of my feminist gears and pistons and engines and superpowers and whatever else comes in this box labeled “Feminist Powers, Open With Care.” Let’s just take a moment to go over what you said here:

– A boy asked you out on a date

– You politely said no

– A boy asked you out on a date again

– You politely said no

– A boy. Asked you out. On a date. AGAIN.

Now, and I understand where you are coming from, I DO, you are asking how else to fucking politely say no again but GUESS WHAT… this boy isn’t getting the message. Guess what else? Your sexuality doesn’t need to have anything to do with this exchange, because who you choose to go out with isn’t anyone’s business but your own.

I am mad, Anonymous, not because of this one boy in your class who has a crush and who might just reaaallly think that you saying “no,” means “maybe.” However, read that last sentence again and you’ll get where this kind of behavior is super fucking dangerous. When people think “no” means “maybe,” other people – and especially women – are put in really shitty, dangerous, fucked up situations. This boy in your class, and lots of other boys (and other people, not just boys!) need to be taught to listen to what others say, and not assume that they know what others might want despite what they say.

Does this mean you have to walk into class, open up your own box of feminist-power and smash this boy over the head with it?? You certainly CAN, but that isn’t the only solution here.

If I were you, the first step I’d take would be to speak directly and clearly (which is still polite!), letting this boy know that I’d like him to stop asking me out. I’d say something like, “Listen. I don’t want to go out on a date with you, and I would appreciate it if you didn’t as me any more. It’s important to me that we have the ability to be friends, and the more you ask, the less that becomes possible!”

Now, you’ve drawn your line. Clearly.

If this boy asks you out again after you say these words to him, I don’t know that he even deserves an answer, and that much is up to you. If you’re feeling it as much as I am feeling it though, turn to him and say, “I didn’t have interest in going on a date in the first place, but I can tell you very clearly that I would never, ever want to date a person who doesn’t trust the words that I share with them. I’ve repeatedly told you I wasn’t interested in dating you, and I also tried to be polite. You have disrespected me by ignoring what I’ve said and what I’ve asked for, and I think that if you are looking to date anyone in the future, you should really think about being more respectful to start with. THANK YOU AND GOOD DAY, SIR.”

Then, blast a Beyonce song in your mind and go back to your work.

*flips all the furniture in the room*

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Hey, my name is Virginia and I'm 14. I'm not sure of my sexuality, but I know I'm not straight, which I'm very open with at school and with all my friends. However, I'm not out to my parents. I sort of decided I wouldn't tell them until I was 100% sure, but I feel like they should know since so many of my peers do. I know you're not supposed to come out until you're ready, but can I be out to my school and not my family?

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

Hellooooo Virginia!

The short answer here is: you can absolutely be out to your friends at school before being out to your family, and there is nothing wrong with making that choice if it is what feels best to you right now.

However, there is a little more to this dilemma, which I am going to take in two parts. First, let’s talk about waiting until you are “100% sure.” I get it, I reallllllyyy get it, but I don’t know that there is a guarantee that you will ever get to 100% on the SURE-ABOUT-IT meter, you know? Some of us do get there, but not all of us, and as someone who hasn’t ever felt SURE about one word lasting for my lifetime, I can tell you it is okay to never make it to 100%! I’ve been talking about this a bunch lately, but I think it bears repeating – our desires and identities and sexualities can change over time, and that doesn’t make any identity on our life’s continuum any less valid than any other identity! Meaning, if you come out to your parents today as ‘not straight,’ that is enough of a descriptor, and you don’t have to stay inside of those particular words forever.

Your parents likely don’t expect that you will only talk to them at the ‘end points’ of your life journeys. For starters, most of these journeys don’t have clean ‘end points,’ and I’d imagine most parents would want to be a part of the experience, the questions, and the beautiful parts that come in the in-betweens. If you think that your parents will be accepting of your sexuality overall, then telling them you don’t know exactly who you are yet, but that you know you aren’t straight, is a damn fine way to come out!

Second, I want to talk about the conflict you might be feeling in keeping something about yourself from your parents. This kind of decision is a really hard one to make, because you are negotiating between wanting to feel ready, and also wanting to feel like you can be open about who you are with people that you probably interact with a lot, and who also probably mean a whole bunch to you. It really is a tough call to make, which is why it is so personal to each person’s experience, and why it is so important to check in with yourself often about how you’re feeling.

The way I view it, you are weighing the feelings against each other to see which is the best decision for your heart and your wellbeing at the moment. If the weight of keeping something from your parents starts to be the bigger, more cumbersome feeling, then I think it is good to consider coming out (even if, as we talked about up there, you aren’t 100% certain of your identity just yet). Now, of course, if you are afraid that your parents will be very upset, or take extreme measures, this becomes a very different conversation (and one that involves having a clear plan in place before taking action), but your message doesn’t seem to suggest that this is part of your fear, Virginia. It seems, rather, that this is about timing what is right for you, what’s right for them, and when you should shift to a place of conversation with your family.

If you can, journal about it, or even just spend a few minutes before you fall asleep each night checking in on how you’re feeling. Make a system, even! Maybe you keep a notebook by your bed and you rank your “I want to tell my parents” feelings next to your “I’m not ready” feelings using a numbered scale or by putting a tally in the column that feels stronger to you. Then, over time, you’ll be able to see if those feelings change or if, perhaps, you really are more ready than you’d initially thought.

The bottom line is that there is no “wrong” answer here. This is your process, first and foremost. Your parents will have a process, too, but for now you have to do what makes you feel most comfortable, most safe, and most balanced.

<3

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“So I’m a nonbinary trans man and I’m starting college next year. At college I want to start going by my preferred name and pronouns, maybe presenting a bit more masculine, etc. BUT. I’m confused on one thing… Should I tell people I’m trans when I meet them? Like, I don’t want to like, have to explain what being trans is or stuff right when I meet people, especially since I have trouble with social anxiety already. But I’m worried they might assume I’m a girl if I don’t explain.”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Liam Lowery Says:

Hi there, Anonymous. As a non-binary trans man who started going by my preferred name and pronouns in college, I’m glad you reached out with this question. The fact that you’re reaching out at all indicates you have your stuff far more together than I did as an incoming freshman, but I will tell you the top three things I wish I had known when I started undergrad.

The first and most important thing I can tell you is to let people pleasantly surprise you.

When I rolled into my all-girls dorm and met my lady roommate, I stutteringly told her I was trans Actually, I may have said, “I’m a dude, kind of like inside?” I braced for impact, assuming she would ask to change rooms. Instead, she said “cool” and asked me if I wanted to order pizza. Don’t discount that you can get lucky.

What’s more, all the women in my dorm who I feared would shun me were friendly and generally disinterested in my gender identity. That’s because from the first week on, we had papers to write, philosophy texts to read, passages in Russian to translate (maybe that was just me). On top of that, people were hooking up, fighting, and going to Taco Night at the cafeteria. Which is to say that once you are in school and dealing with the day-to-day, it will likely not be as challenging as it seems in the abstract.

My advice is to practice your script for when you meet people initially. Maybe you want to say you’re non-binary, maybe you just want to say your name and preferred pronouns. It will probably change, but the important thing is that you set boundaries for your everyday interactions and introductions that are comfortable for you. Once you do this a few times, you will get used to it and feel out how much you want to say and when.

Now, to the second big thing I wish I’d realized sooner. There is a major pitfall to be wary of, especially as a trans person: you will feel pressure to do the unpaid work of educating people when there are others who are tasked with that responsibility. Try not to fall into this role.

Early in my time in undergrad, when I did happen upon some poor unfortunate soul who had no clue what gender identity was and had never heard the word trans before, I would talk with them at length about gender identity and why it mattered. I had at least thirty of these conversations in my first month of school, I kid you not. It left me feeling burnt out and unsatisfied.

Here is the thing, Anonymous: you are at school to learn, just like everyone else. And hopefully, have a blast and make a lot of friends. But you are not there to be anyone’s personal gender identity educator, even if you happen to be an expert in the subject area.

Looking back, I realize that those people who had burning questions about what gender pronouns are should have just googled it. I mean, give me a break here—gender pronouns are what they sound like!

Asking me those simplistic questions just because they knew I was trans was disrespectful of my time. If nobody is paying you to do that educational work and there are a lot of great resources available to people who want to be allies, you do not need to be that resource. Stepping into that role instills an expectation that trans people exist to educate cis people. If you want to get involved on your campus, advocate for your school to include a transgender 101 training at orientation so that all students will get some info on trans identities—that would reach more people than a one-on-one chat with you.

The other important pitfall to side-step is one I never realized until I was done with school, and it might be even more important than the whole “you are not everyone’s gender professor” thing.

My RA didn’t really get it when I told her it was important that she take the sign with my given name off the door. Instead of complaining to the building manager, I ripped it off and put up on that said Liam in big, honking block letters. I did that, more or less, all through college: I would email professors at the beginning of the semester and ask them to change my name on their class rosters. Usually they would, sometimes they wouldn’t. I would get called by my given name in class, be embarrassed, and stop participating. Or if I felt brave that day, I would clear my throat and say, “Actually, I’m Liam.”

Those moments were far from personal triumphs. What I should have realized is that there were salaried staff members at my university tasked with helping students—including me—deal with administrative issues. By making my problems and myself invisible, I was giving them a free pass not to engage with the issues transgender students often face at colleges.

Look for opportunities to lessen your load so you can take full advantage of being a college student. For instance, contact a dean at your school and ask them to inform professors about your preferred name. Let people do their jobs for you, and by extension you will show them how to do it for other trans students.

There you go, Anonymous—those are the things I wish I knew when I started school that have remained relevant (at times, too relevant) since graduating. Good luck at college, and remember: you’re there to learn and occasionally have fun!

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“I’m in college and just overheard my roommate telling her friend she doesn’t support marriage equality or parents telling their children it’s ok for girls to kiss girls. We’re friends but she doesn’t know I’m bisexual because I have a long term boyfriend, but this really got to me. I want to assert my pride and values but at the same time don’t want to ruin our friendship. Any advice?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Here’s the deal, your friendship is already kinda screwy. You ALREADY feel weird about the situation. Not saying something is only making you feel a little bit worse and it’s not making your friendship any better.

I would say something, but be kind in doing so. These kinds of conversations can go sour pretty fast if you’re trying to tell someone their beliefs are wrong. Being away at college is complicated, too, because you’re finally in an environment where you aren’t completely clouded by the thoughts / opinions of your parents and your parents friends, etc. You finally have a chance to start learning about the world in a different light, you finally get to meet people who are different from you, you finally get to experience life as your own and come to understand the way you truly feel.

Say to your friend, “Hey, I overheard you saying some stuff and I wanted to have a conversation. I do identify as bisexual and I know that you might not be totally okay with that, but we are friends and I do value our relationship. I just kind of wanted to talk to you about those things because what you said hurt my feelings and I just wanted to clear the air a little bit.”

I guess I sounded a little bit like a robot, but like YOU GET THE GIST. Be kind, recognize that people opinions can change, take into account that she was saying a bunch of things back when she had no idea that it would affect one of her close friends.

 

Kristin Says:

Hm. Well, in my opinion the key word in this question is “roommate.”

If this was a friend of yours, period, I would say one MILLION percent follow Dannielle’s advice above and have a respectful conversation with your friend. In that scenario, generally one of two things will happen: 1) Your friend will have a meaningful dialogue with you, both parties will feel mutually respected, and the friendship will deepen, or 2) Your friend will respond poorly to your words and reject your identity or make you feel disrespected in some way, and the friendship will wane. These are both excellent outcomes, because, as Dannielle already stated, you don’t want to deepen a relationship with someone who won’t respect your identity.

However, you have the added complication where, if the latter happens, you still are living with this person for the balance of the year.

With that in mind, I want to say:

It is March, which means you likely only have a couple more months of living in the same space. In this light, I think you should have that conversation as soon as you feel comfortable and ready.

Also, it issss March, so if you want to wait until the end of the semester and have the conversation when you are legit done living with this person, that is totally cool.

But again, it iiiiiisssss March. Just kidding, I don’t have another point that hinges on March …that just started to feel fun.

SO. The long and short of it all is: you have to navigate this situation as you see fit for yourself, and your comfortability. Your question is phrased in a way that makes me think you are worried about your friend’s feelings more than your own While I appreciate your big heart, that should not be your central focus. Your friend has said words and expressed views that invalidate you as a person. Your feelings are hurt, and they matter more than enough to be spoken, regardless of what that means for your friendship.

I agree with Dannielle that you expressing your position doesn’t need to automatically throw her in the “wrong” bin as this will likely make her defensive, but she has to learn that her opinions and words affect other people around her. Maybe you will be the first bisexual person she knows, and maybe hearing how her words affected you will open her eyes to the real, lived experience of so many people around her.

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"Is it bad that I created an imaginary girlfriend to come out to my friends?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

In 6th grade I told everyone that I had three boyfriends. IDK why I did it (I’m sure it made perfect sense at the time), but like you’re doing way better than me, so it’s whatever.

I think you can do what makes you most comfortable and the fact of the matter is… people can be the worst. There are so many people that will be like, “are you sure you’re a gay if you haven’t had gay intercourse” and then you’re like “YEA I AM BECAUSE IT IS MY IDENTITY” and it doesn’t matter because they are still the worst and don’t care unless you can prove it to them… as if…. AS IF IT IS THEIR RIGHT OR YOU HAVE TO…WHEW NO. I just got so much more fired up than I expected.

Do what you need to do to make yourself comfortable. The dumb questions people ask when you come out can be super damaging and really fuck with your self-esteem, self image, and overall self worth. Someone questioning your identity is ALREADY saying that your identity isn’t “right” or “normal,”  and the mere suggestion of HOW DO YOU KNOW / WHY ARE YOU THAT WAY / ARE YOU SURE just makes you feel shitty and like you shouldn’t identify that way.

The point is, I get it, I feel like it was way easier for me to say “hi i’m dating a girl,” than it would have been to say, “i identify this way.” I don’t know how to explain why, but I wasn’t good at talking about how I identify when I first came out. I didn’t know how to answer questions, or express my feelings with the right words. I DON’T KNOW WHY. Do what you need to do to make the coming out process easier for you. I’m throwin out support and respect vibes.

Kristin Says:

Questions like these are always a little tough for me, because on the one hand: everything Dannielle is preachin’ up there is spot on, and if you just need a piece of bullshit information to make people who are going to challenge you back tf off, or if you just needed an easy way to shout “I LIKE GIRLS,” I say hell yea! On the other hand: if this is an ongoing lie that you are maintaining for any reason, it is going to get tangled and tricky and messy.

Since I can’t talk to you and find out what kind of “imaginary girlfriend” you are referring to, let me say two things.

First, I echo Dannielle. If you are just saying, “I had a fling with a lady this summer,” I think that’s fair enough. I would like to counter, though, that you also have the very valid option, though, of now saying to your friends,

“You know what? I didn’t have a girlfriend. I made it up because a) I thought you wouldn’t take me seriously otherwise, or b) I had no idea how to come out to you bc coming out can be scary, but now I realize that I am the only one who needs to take me seriously and that you are an awesome friend and will support me… SO. I am who I am. Byeeeeee.”

Your close friends are supposed to support and stand by you no matter what. That is the definition of a friend. That means they should accept your identity without question, and that also means that they should be understanding when you tell them you were afraid they wouldn’t understand if there wasn’t an actual human in the picture.

Second, if this is an ongoing lie, where you are saying you are still dating this girl — you have to end it. Lies of any kind are generally trouble… but lies that wind into the everyday fabric of your life are a guaranteed disaster.

Did you do something wrong by creating an imaginary boo? No, you didn’t. There are a ton of humans on this planet who have very rigid ideas of how we come to understand our identity, and your fear of not being taken seriously are valid. Should you have to lie, though? Absolutely not. Even if you can’t conquer the fear of their questioning this moment, know that you can, at any point in time, claim your identity without having had a girlfriend. You know who you are, and you will always know that better than anyone else. If and when you feel ready to explain that to your friends, I promise you that the ones you want to keep around are going to hear you loud and clear.

<3

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