Lesbianing With AE! Finding Love in the Conservative, Christian South

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I’m 32 years old, I realized I had an attraction to women at 18 but kept quiet about it because I’m from a conservative Christian family. I have never left my hometown. My hometown is a very conservative, religious city in the south that’s not very gay friendly. Right now it’s even worse for me because I’m a caregiver for my grandma who has Alzheimer’s, so I can’t leave home. I don’t know any lesbian or bi women in my area. I’ve been putting myself out there to meet other women from online forums to dating sites and I’m met with nothing. I put my current situation in my profile because I wanted to be honest and asked them not to judge me over this. I get zero messages and every time I like a woman’s profile she blocks me. I feel like they are judging me over this. I have never dated ever and I have no experience. I know I should probably focus on other things in my life but I’m incredibly lonely and I’d just like to meet someone. I know it’s stupid but I feel like because I stayed so long in the closet I’m being punished. I feel like things are never going to take a better turn and I’ve just really lost hope and I just feel like giving up.

– Closeted Conservative Christian

Hey CCC,

You are not being punished by the world. Not for coming out late, or for coming from a conservative Christian family, or for not having past experience. Punishing yourself, perhaps. 

I have faith there are out, proud gay ladies near you—and near might be 60 to 100 miles, depending on where you live—who would be more generous with giving you a chance.

I wonder if it isn’t what you’re saying but how (and how much) you’re sharing it. I used to live in San Francisco where it wasn’t uncommon for someone to deep-dive all their shit with you within 10 minutes of meeting. For someone from the buttoned-up East Coast, that mindset took a LOT of getting used to. It meant sometimes I’d get to know way the hell more about someone’s marital problems than I really wanted to know but it also meant I’d share a spontaneous connection on a true human level with someone, even if I never saw them again. The rewards made it worth the occasional unpleasantness.

That said, you aren’t in San Francisco. If you’re spilling the beans in a way that puts the hopeless, victim-of-circumstances part of your story front and center, those women may be blocking you not cause you’re an inexperienced baby dyke but cause they think you’re a hot mess!

If you’re spilling the beans in a way that puts the hopeless, victim-of-circumstances part of your story front and center, those women may be blocking you not cause you’re an inexperienced baby dyke but cause they think you’re a hot mess!

Try editing down your version of the truth to something like, “Just another Southern gay girl from a conservative, Christian family” or “Proud lesbian stuck in the deep South caring for my grannie with Alzheimer’s” which, by the way, is a generous gift of your time because caregiving is exhausting and often unacknowledged work. That will convey just enough of your truth. 

Ask a trusted friend to review your online dating profile or the messages you send to ladies. The ideal person will tell you straight that you seem too desperate; better yet, they’ll help you reboot your profile and come up with what to say to ladies.

I hope you are proud of yourself, by the way. You may not have dated other women yet, but you’re trying, you’re putting yourself out there, and you didn’t let a conservative religious upbringing scare you straight. You’re still working through some stuff, and we all are. Even those women who blocked you.

I hope you are proud of yourself, by the way. You may not have dated other women yet, but you’re trying, you’re putting yourself out there, and you didn’t let a conservative religious upbringing scare you straight. You’re still working through some stuff, and we all are. Even those women who blocked you.

You might not know any gay people near you, but that doesn’t mean you’re alone. Check out LGBTQ organizations like HRC, which launched Project One America to improve equality in Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, or Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality. You may be able to get involved with their campaigns to get to know some lesbians IRL, find the social and emotional support you need, and feel more comfortable.

If you have some extra cash and someone to go watch grannie for a weekend, take yourself out of where you live and visit a gay-friendly city (Asheville, Atlanta, New Orleans …. somewhere you can get to easily and cheaply where there’s a gayborhood to visit).

Soak up the out and proud people you come across. Allow yourself to feel uplifted. Then get to the lesbian parties and put yourself out there. Buy a cute girl a drink. Ask a foxy lady to dance. Throw yourself in the mix and celebrate your own coming out party, whether you get a phone number or a kiss or a smile from a stranger.

You’ve denied yourself community and connection for a long time, and you’re going to that place of feeling guilty about it, but that isn’t serving you. So choose to feel empowered instead. You may not live in Asheville-Atlanta-New Orleans but you could (you know, once grannie dies). The first step toward that is to stop seeing yourself as the victim of your circumstances and recognize the power you do have – the power to change, and the power to hope.

This isn’t easy, I KNOW. You have to unlearn a lot of toxic bullshit and claw your way through so much in a place where you don’t have a ton of support and validation, and I can’t pretend to know what it’s like in your community. But I can cheer you on and promise you that you have options, you can find love, but first you need to love yourself and the self-flagellation bullshit Christians are so great at is NOT what you need to rise up.

Send Lindsey your questions: memoree@afterellen.com 

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