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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.

***

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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“Hi! I’m a female junior in high school who asked a girl to prom last week (she said yes!) but I am not out as bisexual to my parents. My parents are both conservative and neither pro-gay nor anti-gay (at least, I think!) They believe I’m going to prom alone, and I’m struggling with whether I should come out before prom or afterwards. If I tell them before, I risk them flipping out and disallowing me from going; if I tell them after, they might think I was lying/being dishonest about prom. Help!”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

Lie!

OKAY OKAY SORRY THAT WAS MY FIRST IMPULSE, LET’S TALK THROUGH THIS LIKE TWO ADULTS.

The reason that I shouted “lie!” at your face is because I cannot bear to think about you not getting to go to your prom with this wonderful girl that you’ve asked and who has said yes! This is a wonderful thing! I am so excited! I want to go to prom again! AHHH!

The reason that I hesitated with my initial impulse is because, like you, I don’t want your parents to think you are being dishonest. However, I don’t think this is as simple as plain ol’ “dishonesty.” It isn’t like you are telling your parents that you are sleeping at a friend’s house so you can go to a party and get drunk and they won’t know. That’s a lie that could put you in SERIOUS hot water because you are directly disobeying them, you are potentially putting yourself in a dangerous situation, and a million other things. Maybe this is also one of your prom plans, if it is I DID NOT OKAY IT, PARENTS.

The lie you are potentially going to tell (that you are going alone instead of with your lovely date), is being told because you want to have the experience of going to prom. The feeling nervous about what to expect, the wondering what you should wear, the hoping you’ll make out before the night ends, the dancing together to a song that you’ll hear on the radio 15 years from now and still feel those same glittery, stomach-squeezy feelings you had on prom night. You deserve that, and if you think that it might be taken from you, I think I am going to stick with my gut on this one: lie.

Then, when you do come out to your parents, include those feelings and that decision. Tell them that it killed you to be dishonest with them, because you want them to know that they can always trust you, but that you were so afraid that an important memory and experience might be taken away from you. They should be able to understand that, and, even if they are upset with you at first… I think it is something that they will be able to wrap their minds around over time.

I wasn’t out to my parents or myself when I went to my junior prom, and I took a girl as my date. I told my parents we were going as friends, and I really thought we were… even though somewhere deep down I knew I would love to spoon with this girl and probably kiss a whole bunch. Coming out – whether to yourself, your parents, or anyone else – is a tricky business, and it means making decisions when and how they make the most sense for you.

Oh, and two more things:
1.  If your parents are upset after you tell them, let them read this post. I think it will help.

2.  If you want to know what it looked like to go to prom with a girl before being out to yourself or your parents in 1997, here you go:

***
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"I’m in high school and one of my teachers is prone to making rather queerphobic / heteronormative jokes and comments. As a queer person myself do you think I should call her out on it or just stick it out?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Sara Kost as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Sara Says:

First, I just want to say that no student should have a teacher who makes comments like those. And I hope that you have other teachers who are respectful, positive role models for you and your peers.

As I see it, you have a few different options, depending on your specific circumstances. It’s going to be easier for you to address these issues if you are supported by other students, your family, other teachers, school administration, and your community. If there is a GSA at your school or an out, queer teacher, you could go to them first and ask for advice or help dealing with the teacher making comments.

If you feel comfortable, absolutely bring it up with the teacher. Any good teacher should be open to hearing from students if the student approaches them in a calm and constructive way. Perhaps your teacher doesn’t even realize she is saying something offensive. Perhaps your teacher didn’t realize her comments were affecting students. You could say something in class right when she makes a joke or comment, or wait until after class to say something. If it helps, you could ask a friend to speak up with you. Power in numbers!

Another option, if you don’t want to directly confront your teacher, or if your teacher blew you off after you confronted her, would be to bring the matter up with your school administration. Document the comments that your teacher makes, and try to enlist some friends or other students in other classes to document them as well. Note the date, time, and quote what was said for a few weeks. Once you and other students get enough evidence, go to the school administration and demand they do something about that teacher.

You deserve to feel safe and supported at school. I hope your teacher will learn from her mistakes and realize that queer people exist in your school and in the world.

***

Click through to read more about Sara and our other Second Opinions panelists!

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“So I was talking with a girl in my theatre class the other day, and she’s interested in starting a GSA (or something similar) at our school. She’s a senior and I’m a freshman. I’m totally interested, and I even know a teacher who I’m pretty sure would be willing to be involved. But A) we live in a fairly conservative rural community and B) I’m only out to a couple friends. Help?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Anna Livia Chen as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Anna Livia Says:

I think in these types of situations, it’s really important to think about what your goals and vision are, and then proceed from there.

A lot of times, the activism community hammers in this idea that you have to go whole hog and completely revolutionize your school–or circle of friends or family or church or whatever group you are trying to impact. And while I think this is a powerful idea, it can be pretty hard to achieve, and, in my opinion, isn’t always the best way to go about things. It takes so much courage and gumption to take any kind of action in your situation (by the way, major, major props and snaps for that), I don’t want you to ever think that you aren’t doing enough by starting small.

All that being said, you don’t have to start small!! You can start at whatever scope you want to—but really take some time to think about what you want to accomplish or create through starting this club. Do you want to start a big, radical movement to make your campus the most progressive high school in the state and make it onto GLSEN’s front page? Do you want to form a club that acts as a support and community group that is a resource for people who feel marginalized by the heteronormativity of high school?  Do you want to create a group that raises some queer issues to the greater campus community, but isn’t necessarily demanding systemic reforms like gender-neutral bathrooms and changes to curricula? This question about vision is the thing that I think is most important to contemplate and consider before moving forward.

But don’t forget!! Your answer doesn’t have to be fully formed or permanent. It, like everything, can be fluid. You can have one vision today and then change it in a year or a semester or a month or even a week. You can have a general inkling of what you want and begin to move forward on that, then further flesh out your vision once you start the actual process. You might want to start small but once you actually do start, you realize you want to achieve more. Or, you might have a huge vision but then realize it is too overwhelming to do all at once. Your goals and your vision can totally change over time, but it is important to think about them before and while you begin this process–and to keep checking in with them once your club is up and running.

Thinking about what you want your club to look like will help you with the other parts of your question. It sounds like you are a little nervous about involving yourself  because you aren’t out to very many people and are afraid of what people will think of you and the club because of the conservative nature of your area. These concerns are totally valid and I think they will be very useful for helping you decide what you want your vision to be. In addition, if you don’t want starting this club to have a big impact on how others see you, you can get creative and think of some ways to circumvent that. FOR EXAMPLE:

1. You could enlist some other friends and embark on this club-making party together. That makes it a lot harder for you to be singled out—and some of the people in the group will probably be straight, meaning your personal identity won’t be automatically implicated by your involvement.

2. You can start a club that is more under the radar. Rather than making a huge deal out of it in the school bulletin or with posters around the school, tell some of your friends, have the information diffuse, and the people who want to be there will find their way to your meetings—the haters probably won’t actually know your name is connected to it, so they can’t hurt you that way. This would work better if you want your club to be a support/community group, but you could still use this strategy to get the ball rolling with an advocacy group, then make it more public as you start doing events and have some more people behind you.

3. You can always go the whole “DIVERSITY CLUB OF HAPPINESS” route. Maybe not that exact title… but the point is that you don’t have to advertise your safe space as a GAYGAYGAY-Straight Alliance. A lot of clubs, even in progressive areas, will use other names to diffuse the notion that you have to be gay to be in the club. You can do something gay/rainbow related (Spectrum, Prism, and Rainbow Club are some that I have heard), or you can make it even more broad/vague. The space is still serving the role of a GSA, but this frames it in a little more discrete for you—and for other people who may want to be members but are nervous about the title.

The last thing I want you to think about is to remember your resources. No matter where you live, you will always have some resources to use to your advantage in making your vision a reality. Whether it is a few supportive teachers that will advocate for you against hesitant administrators; some friends to help spread the word and attend meetings; or even your legal rights (WHICH ARE REALLY IMPORTANT, GUYS), don’t forget that you are not alone in this.

***

Click through to read more about Anna Livia and our other Second Opinions panelists!

 

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“I NEED TO LEARN HOW TO DANCE FOR HOMECOMING?!?!?!?!?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

OH GOD. ISN’T THAT SORT OF SOON? WHEN IS HOMECOMING.

*googles darren’s dance grooves video*

You can do a few things.

1) Get a friend and learn a few swing/shag dance moves (from the internet?)… Those are ALWAYS fun to pull out at a dance, and you look really professional, but all you do is hook your arms together twice… it rules
2) Jump Dancing – for fast songs, just jump up and down and close your eyes and bob your head… if you’re having fun, no one cares what you look like.
3) Funny Dancing – this includes moves like the Robot, the Cabbage Patch, the Running Man, Crypt Walking (poorly), the Lawn Mower, the Sprinkler, the Shopping Cart, etc.
4) Shy Dancing – standing in a group of friends and not really moving your feed, but swaying your shoulders and head back and forth very gently.
5) Don’t thrust your pelvis and you’ll probably be fine.

Kristin Says:

Does anyone actually ever learn how to dance? Besides professional dancers and Natalie Portman for that movie with the dead swans?

If you meant dancing to fast songs, I think the key here is not in learning actual DANCE moves, but just slowly working up the nerve to move as you want to move and not caring what other people think. It’s like… I just jump around and bop my head and mostly look hilariously funny and ridiculous, but SO DOES EVERYONE ELSE.My friends and I used to play a game where we would all impersonate our friends’ dance moves, AND IT WAS SO FUNNY BC WE ALL HAD VERY SPECIFIC RIDICULOUS THINGS WE DID. WHO CARES. YOLO. ETC.

If you mean slow dancing, that is a cakewalk. Just get really close to and wrap your arms around a consenting person and then sway until the song is over.

Moral of the story: The less you THINK the better you’ll DANCE.

Also, I do agree that when all else fails you can just do the Robot and the Sprinkler, get some punch, repeat…

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