Lesbianing with AE! It’s the holidays, and you’re out but she’s not.

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Dear Lindsey,

My girlfriend and I are each heading home for Thanksgiving. We live in different suburbs of a smallish city, and we’re both 19. I’m out at home and at college, and she’s out at school but she’s not out at all at home. She wants to see me over the weekend but she’s nervous about going anywhere where anyone she knows might see us and suspect something. I came out of the closet at 15 so I wouldn’t have to deal with this level of secrecy, and I don’t want to go back in the closet any time we’re in our hometowns/city. I’ve invited her to come chill at my parents’ place where no one will know her, but she’s too scared to do that — not ready to meet my folks, which I understand. I’m just not sure what to do other than not see her at all while we’re home so she won’t have a panic attack. I’m not trying to pressure her to come out, I understand she needs to do that when she’s ready but right now I feel like I’m being punished for being who I am.   

– Caught in the Middle

Hi Caught,

So sorry for your struggles. It is difficult to be the more out one in a relationship, because you need to be patient and compassionate with where your less out partner is at. It sounds like you’ve got the compassion and empathy down—again, great, some lesbians would be more pushy here, which is counterproductive—and are just trying to strategize the logistics.

Since your girlfriend doesn’t like the ideas you suggested, why not put it back on her? I’m not sure whether she was gay and closeted in high school or only realized she was a lesbian when she saw your sweet face, but if she was gay in high school she might feel safer going to some of the places she used to go then. Perhaps there’s a cute cafe in a hip neighborhood, where she used to go and stealthily peep the ladies; if so, go there.

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If your college is the only place she’s been out, then she might be nervous about simply being in the world and being perceived as a gay lady. I’d suggest you broaden her horizons at school. Go explore your college town together, or take a day trip to a different city. Save up for a romantic weekend away, and then go have fun. The more she’s able to be out in the world without being harassed, the more her inner resistance will fall away. It can push her toward being ready to come out.

If your college is the only place she’s been out, then she might be nervous about simply being in the world and being perceived as a gay lady. I’d suggest you broaden her horizons at school. Go explore your college town together, or take a day trip to a different city. Save up for a romantic weekend away, and then go have fun. The more she’s able to be out in the world without being harassed, the more her inner resistance will fall away. It can push her toward being ready to come out.

You’ll have a couple bites at this apple with the winter break coming up. Why not start with something super small for Thanksgiving break? If there’s a hobby you both enjoy — say, running — meet up and go for a jog. No one will mistake two leggings-clad ladies jogging around the local reservoir for lesbians, I promise.

If there’s a cool exhibit at your city’s art museum, go there. You can lean in close and contemplate the paintings and no one will suspect your sapphic tendencies. Movies are another great stealth date idea, because no one will see you’re holding hands once the lights go out. Aim for a small win this time around, then find ways to be bolder and braver over winter break (i.e. ice skating, because who the hell can balance on skates and why not hold hands for support?).

Aim for a small win this time around, then find ways to be bolder and braver over winter break (i.e. ice skating, because who the hell can balance on skates and why not hold hands for support?).

If you think it would help your girlfriend’s mental health to start the coming out process — like, if she’s agonizing over how/when to do it, if she’s asking for your coming out story, if she’s acting at all like she’s preparing to dive into the “out and proud” pool and is gathering up the courage to dip a big toe in to the waters to test the temperature — perhaps you should encourage her to think about coming out to her high school bestie/supportive older sis/former track coach while she’s in her hometown. Thanksgiving is good for that because if it goes poorly (and it probably won’t, but that’s where her mind is gonna go) she’s only at home for a couple days, whereas the longer winter break means more chances to run into that person in her tiny suburb.  

Need Lindsey’s advice? Write our editor at memoree@afterellen.com with “Q for Lindsey” in the subject line and see your question answered in an upcoming feature.

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