Lesbianing With AE! Coming Out on Your Semester Overseas

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Hello Lindsey

I am doing an exchange at the moment. The first three months were really cool and I feel good here but often I don’t feel like myself. I am only out to my host parents. When I am in school I don’t feel comfortable when I speak with friends about dating or something like that. I am out and proud in my home country and I can speak there about anything with my friends.I am not afraid of coming out to them, and I think it would not change anything when I am out, but not feeling comfortable bothers me. What can I do to feel comfortable and like myself in this whole new world? 

Sorry for mistakes in the text. English is not my native language. 

-Rägebogezwärg 

Hi Rägebogezwärg,

I’m so sorry to hear you don’t feel comfortable on your exchange. I assume you’re in the U.S. so I wonder where. If you’re in, say, a conservative state, your concerns about coming out to your friends might be more founded than if you’re in a liberal state.

It sounds like you want to come out to your school friends so you can speak honestly about things like dating and your life back home, but you’re uncomfortable perhaps with coming out again or coming out in a language that isn’t your native tongue.

If your university has an LGBT group for students, go and check it out. You might feel more comfortable — and more like your full self —  being around  other gay people and talking about your identity. You’ll also know who else is out on campus, and that can make a big difference in how you feel just walking around, going to class, and so on, because all of a sudden you won’t be alone, you’ll be part of a network of gay students. 

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Once you’ve got this extended support network, tell your friends that you’re a lesbian. They might suspect this — say, if you always use gender neutral pronouns when you talk about people you’ve dated. They might be totally surprised, because they just assumed you were straight. But they shouldn’t react negatively.

74 percent of Millennials support gay marriage. Unless you’re studying in a deeply conservative state, most (if not all) of your friend group should be comfortable with gay people.

74 percent of Millennials support gay marriage. Unless you’re studying in a deeply conservative state, most (if not all) of your friend group should be comfortable with gay people.

If you’re super nervous, you might test the waters by bringing up lesbian and gay issues or topics with your friends. If there’s a local LGBT issue wherever you’re studying, get their opinion on it.

If they aren’t comfortable and this creates distance — well, it’s better you know now, so you can get to know other people and make the most of your remaining time studying overseas. Think of how great your host family was when you told them, and draw strength from their acceptance as you prepare to tell your school friends.

Everything that’s coming up for you now point to an important life lesson. Lesbians need to come out and come out and come out, again and again and again, throughout our lives, unless you’re more masculine presenting and your clothing and appearance do the work for you most of the time (but not always! I’m always thrown for a loop when people assume I’m straight).

Everything that’s coming up for you now point to an important life lesson. Lesbians need to come out and come out and come out, again and again and again, throughout our lives, unless you’re more masculine presenting and your clothing and appearance do the work for you most of the time.

Part of being a lesbian is doing the work or coming out, whether or not you want to in the moment, whether or not you feel ready. It’s coming out at school, coming out at work, coming out to casual acquaintances on your soccer team, coming out on vacation when you and your future girlfriend need a hotel room with one bed, not two singles, coming out at a restaurant when you want to hold hands because you’re celebrating your anniversary.

You’ll need to push through similar discomfort at other points in your life. And maybe this discomfort is only there because you’re in a new place and you don’t speak the language, in which case, great, the rest of your life is going to be smoother because you’re innately more comfortable.

This is kind of like ripping a bandage off. The more you procrastinate out of fear it’s going to hurt, the worse it will feel. Do it, get it over with, and celebrate getting to be your authentic self. It’s gonna be fine.

Do you need Lindsey’s advice? Write to our editor: [email protected] with “Q for Lindsey” in the subject line! 

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