I recently started coming out to my friends at 32 after exclusively dating men until I was 30. My friends knew me as a straight woman for a long, long time. Hell, I knew me as a straight woman for a long, long time. Across the board, they’ve all reacted strongly when I tell them that I’ve been dating women. They are all straight and don’t have any lesbian or bisexual friends (though we have had gay men in our social circle in the past). I’ve told them in a number of ways — from the big, “I have something to tell you” conversation to just dropping “I went on a date with a crazy chick last night” casually over margaritas. I anticipated that my friends would be surprised or confused. I figured that the initial shock would wear off and things would get back to normal. I didn’t expect things to change and didn’t expect them to be this weirded out.
When I try to tell them about dates or women I’ve met, they clam up or start to blush. When I try to talk to them about how I feel about being attracted to women at such a late stage in life, they quickly change the conversation. I sent an email to my two best friends from college about a recent date, and neither of them responded. I told my friend about going away for a weekend with a woman and she just responded with, “Geez. That’s quite the life you are living.” I wish I hadn’t ever told them. How do I get them over this hump? I can’t just get new friends, though I do know I need to meet some actual gay people to be friends with. But I’ve had most of my friends for 10+ years and we are invested in each other’s lives.
I guess I just wish my friends wanted to be a bit more involved in this new part of my life and it hurts me when they don’t want to be.
Anna says: You touch on an aspect of homophobia that isn’t often addressed — the quazi-socially sanctioned, yet dismissive branch. Your friends aren’t being hostile or openly mean, but they also aren’t enthusiastically embracing your newfound sexual identity. What kind of responses do you expect from them? I want you to really think about that because when you have the next Big Conversation with them, then you’ll have specific examples to draw from which might help your friends get their shit in gear.
Just like coming out is a life long process, so too are people’s reactions to your coming out. If these are good friends, and I imagine they are after 10+ years, then you should have little trouble approaching them with your concerns of being left out and slighted in your conversations. Take heart, though, for things will normalize eventually. Almost all things do. Some people take a windier path to righteousness and acceptance. Some people need to be prodded and dismantled before they reach a place of sincerity.
I had a friend whose leg had to be amputated at the knee. At first, my friends and I didn’t know how to deal with it, especially when we were doing an activity that required him to wear shorts. After a while, he didn’t want our sympathy. He just wanted someone to play beer pong and watch Golden Girls re-runs like we used to. After a while, no one even noticed his leg. It has ceased to be a THING.
I realize your case is different because some people cast a morality-tinged stigma on sexualities that differ from their own. The way to counter it is to keep fighting it, keep challenging people’s assumptions about what’s “normal.” Look at these conversations not as confrontational, but as opportunities. You’re not trying to change someone’s worldview, you are simply trying to allow them to see you in another light.
In the meantime, I do suggest you seek out a gay entourage, or at least one queer person you can confide in. This will not only increase your dating pool a million percent, but it will help you feel less isolated while your straight friends are adapting. To further along their edugaytion, don’t let them off the hook so easily. Friend not returning an email? Send another one, or pick up the phone. Friend giving you a cart-blanche “Geez, that’s quite the life you’re living”? Tell her, “Well, it’s not so different from yours. Remember when you ran off with that Brazilian soap star for a weekend?” (Or whatever relevant example from their life you can come up with.) Don’t tacitly accept their silences. A good friendship involves mutual respect, compassion, loyalty. Remind them of these qualities while you are firmly yet gently tearing down their walls of ignorance and laissez-faire tolerance.
I sometimes hate the blanket word tolerance, because it implies that we must simply “put up with” something, rather than embracing it whole-heartedly: I tolerate my friend’s obsession with Gilmore Girls. I tolerate when a barista accidentally gives me soy milk in my bourgie coffee drink. But sexuality? Something so integral to our lives and happiness? That deserves so much more than terse conversations or brush-offs.
Keep fighting the good fight, my friend. Keep insisting that your stories have merit, even if they are about one-night stands or a girl who wear a poncho to a date. Keep asking for a place at the table. Keep believing in abundance and not scarcity. You deserve it.
Recently I had a drunken hook up with a girl who is in a different point in her life in regards to coming to terms with her sexuality. We’ve been friends for about three years, and I consider her to be one of my good friends, one whom I have many things in common. The hook up was primarily initiated by her (or at least, my drunken memories tell me it was), and I was shocked when she made a move on me. Knowing her so well, I was almost certain this was her first exploratory mission into same-sex relationships, and checked in during the hook up to make sure she wasn’t uncomfortable with what was going on. She responded to this by describing herself as “very confused” and abruptly ending things. She then proceeded to finish off her night with a guy at the party we were at.
While being used as somebody’s sexual guinea pig isn’t my first choice of ways to spend my time, I appreciate and understand why things might have happened the way they did. She seems to be exactly where I was in terms of my sexuality a few years ago, and “very confused” sums it up quite well. That said, I had a Blaine-Kurt moment (for all the Gleeks in the crowd). An “Oh — there you are! I’ve been looking for you” since that night I’ve stopped looking at her as a completely platonic friend and instead I’ve begun examining in my mind how incredibly compatible we might be as a couple.
Anna says: Oof. That sounds like an awful way to end a hook up. Good on you for being so diplomatic in the face of less than stellar circumstances. What’s even more amazing is that despite her less than stellar behavior, your feelings for her somehow increased dramatically. This is, of course, further problematized by your new residence on the other side of the world. In short, I don’t see how any of these ingredients will lead to a happy conclusion, Confused. At least, not right now. While I don’t think you should start a long-distance courtship with this confused friend, I do think you should have a conversation to clear the air.
It’s perfectly understandable for people to freak out the first time they have a same-sex encounter. Not that that happens all the time, just that it’s a distinct possibility. The first time I hooked up with a girl I felt physically ill afterward. It was like my internalized homophobia needed a physical release. Such illness actually catapulted me back into the world of dudes for a few months, that’s how strong of a negative reaction I had. Your gal is probably feeling somewhat embarrassed by the situation, maybe shy, or angry, or just plain baffled. At that juncture in my life, I didn’t have any queer friends to call on, or ask questions, or simply to shoot the shit with, except for one really understanding teacher, who was probably annoyed that I kept asking her what “scissoring” was.
Long story short, I think she could really benefit from your friendship right now. Especially since you can relate to her confusion, as you were down there in the trenches a few years ago, she might really appreciate a friend more than anything else.
So start there — not with a far-flung romance. Focus your energies on being there for someone who is struggling to make sense of this uncharted territory. This is your task at the moment. Though it’s not your main task, by any means. You should obviously be enjoying and living your new life across the world, whatever that may be. Peace Corps? Arctic explorer? Russian spy? It’s fine to think about ways you might be compatible with someone else, fun even, although, truth be told, I don’t think Kurt and Blaine are all that right for each other. (Don’t stab me!) But do so also with the knowledge that you can’t change your present circumstances or geography.
If she’s not ready to hash out what went down, then that’s fine too. She might need some time and space to figure things out on her own. Just reiterate that you’re there for her if she needs someone to talk to. A year from now, whenever you get back from exploring the world, you can revisit the big feelings you’re experiencing now.
Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a professional tweeter/blogger for Mother Jones and a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.