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“Hi! I’m a (very gay) sophomore in high school. However, I’m not out to anyone other than a few friends in my close circle as I live in a homophobic town. I’ve noticed a very cute girl (that I’m interested in) in the the grade below me, and I am 99% sure she is queer (we’ve only talked twice) but I’m not certain. How do I find out for sure that she likes girls without being invasive and awkward? Also how do I get to know her while dealing with the intense urge to want to mash our faces together.”

-Question Submitted by Anonymous

Carrie Wade Says:

Okay, friend—pull up a chair and let’s pick apart your situation a little, shall we? I actually think you have a lot to be hopeful and happy about here, even if it doesn’t feel that way now.

The first thing that jumped out at me in your question is that you’ve only spoken to this girl twice. I can say without reservation that, regardless of whatever else you decide to do, you need to talk to her more in order to figure any of this out. I’m sure she’s the coolest and gives off an awesome vibe—you wouldn’t be submitting this question otherwise—but there’s only so much you can know about a person from two conversations. How did those come up? Do you have classes or activities together? Did one of you just stroll on up and start chatting? Whatever the case may be, you’ve talked before, so you can talk again. It doesn’t have to be about anything heavy, including whether she likes girls or not. Just get to know her! To me, that strategy is a win-win-win: either the information you’re looking for comes up organically, you learn a lot about a new terrific person, OR it turns out maybe she’s not the best fit for you and these frustrating feelings will just burn themselves right out. That third option is not a loss; even if that’s all that happens, you talked to a girl you thought was cute and got to know more about what you’re looking for in your next person, even if she isn’t it. That’s an invaluable skill you can bring to all the delightful things and people in your future.

Talking to her is also the only way to know for sure whether she is also Very Gay. You can only get the real answer straight (ha) from her. You could theoretically try to find out from other sources, but none of those can ever be trusted as much as the lady in question. Only she knows her feelings for you and for girls in general. So if, in the course of talking (and maybe spending more time together), you feel comfortable enough to start discussing your personal lives, I think it’s okay to do a little detective work. Be respectful of boundaries—don’t push her into a conversation she isn’t on board with—but you can also keep your ears out for things like whether she specifies a pronoun when talking about who she’s interested in. And if you definitively want to turn the conversation in that direction, you could come out to her, even just by mentioning it casually. I wouldn’t recommend that until and unless you build a friendship first—but if you’re 99% sure she’s queer, it seems like you can be reasonably confident that she won’t freak out if you tell her that you are. If you’re right and she is queerly inclined, now she knows that you might be an option; if she’s not, at least it’s acknowledged and you can move forward in a different way.

Build on what you already have while getting to know her: if you have a class together, talk about that. If you’re in a club together, sit near her during the next meeting, and make even just a little small talk before or after. She knows who you are and that’s a huge advantage. And in terms of the face-mashing urge, getting to know her better will either build up those feelings or not (but you can’t know which yet, either way). If you do find your feelings for her growing, it is okay to tell her and see what happens. I know that probably sounds like the most terrifying thing in the world, and that’s because it is; you’re putting yourself out there and hoping for the best. No one knows how to do that gracefully. But as someone who crushed HARD on a straight friend while living in a homophobic town, I can say that even if the prospect of a relationship is a lost cause, telling her can take some weight off your shoulders and help you start to move on. Again, if you’re that sure she’s queer, she probably won’t be bothered knowing that you think she’s very cute. My person was definitely NOT queer, and I knew that, and I had to tell her anyway because I couldn’t let the feelings fester in my gut anymore. Despite being the straightest person I’ve ever met, she took it exceptionally well and it’s still something we laugh about and bond over today, ten years later. It is possible.

Now, I give you all this advice under the assumption that you will feel safe following it. “Homophobic town” can mean many things, and since I don’t know what yours looks like, I want to make clear that if you feel like disclosing any of this will put you in danger, it is also okay not to say anything. No crush, regardless of how awesome, is worth jeopardizing your wellbeing or life over. Obviously I hope that isn’t the case (for so many reasons). But if the danger is too great, you can turn to the awesome friends you already have and talk your way through it with them. They can either help you work up the courage to talk to this girl or give you a safe place to process your feelings with less risk. Lean on your support system—that’s what they’re for!

But of course, personally, I hope you talk to this girl a third, fourth, and fiftieth time and you either end up with another rock solid friend or an adorable girlfriend. You are going to learn a lot about yourself regardless and take some brave steps. That’s a huge win no matter what.

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Carrie’s body is weird and she’s making that work for her. She lives in Los Angeles, where she does a lot of crossword puzzles and longs for a squished-faced dog. Help her get better at Twitter.

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