Lesbianing with AE: Dating a kinda closeted girl


Getty Images

After being single for a while I just started seeing a new woman, well imagine my surprise when she told me after a few dates that she does not want to be public about where things are going. I wasn’t too sure what she meant so we talked about it and she is afraid of what could happen with her professional life if people realize she is gay and her family is traditional so she has a sort of don’t ask don’t tell policy with them. She made it clear she wants to keep seeing me but does not want me to post pictures on social media, do any PDAs, or otherwise make it clear in public that we are a couple. I asked if this was for a while or for forever and she said she didn’t know for sure. I told her I needed to think about it, I really like this girl but can I change her mind on this? I came out 12 years ago and it was a struggle at times but I know I am stronger for being a lesbian and I wish my new girl could feel it too. I can’t decide if it would be better to end things and find a woman who is comfortable with who she is or to be with this woman and hope I can help her feel more comfortable being out. 

– Stuck Lesbian 

Hey Stuck, 

I can’t tell you whether or not to date this woman, only you can decide what’s right for you. So let’s talk it out. 

You came out over a decade ago. You are out and proud. Dating someone who is not willing to be visibly lesbian puts you back in the closet a little bit. Since this woman couldn’t give you a firm answer on whether being discreet was short-term, you can assume it’s probably “as long as I can get away with.” If you keep seeing her, you may chafe at her limitations. There’s no guarantee that dating her will give you influence to help her feel more comfortable being out.  

There is no shame in walking away from this with your head high. You do not need to go back in the closet for this girl. You’ve created and affirmed your lesbian identity for the past 12 years by being open about who you are and who you love. You have (I hope) a supportive community of fellow lesbians who are open about who they are, and it may be difficult to add a kinda-sorta out girlfriend to the mix without upsetting the balance. Your friends may give you pushback or tell you that you deserve better because they’re “just looking out for your best interests.” Your girl may not want to hang out with your lesbian posse because they’re acting really gay in public and a straight coworker might see her and get scared, where someone could see.

You deserve to have a happy fulfilling relationship with someone who doesn’t want you to change yourself, someone who lets you be you. Can this closeted woman do that?

You deserve to have a happy fulfilling relationship with someone who doesn’t want you to change yourself, someone who lets you be you. Can this closeted woman do that?

But you like her! And maybe it’s been a while! You can certainly date her and have fun with her. Having a fulfilling relationship with a somewhat closeted girl will look different from dating a gay-since-forever woman so you’ll need to be clear on what’s ok, what’s not ok, and when her ground rules get revisited. The best way to make this sort of relationship work is to understand is this probably has nothing at all to do with you, and not take it personally when her boundaries mean you can’t do something you’ve done in other relationships. 

 If you can date a woman without Instagramming selfies of your whole evening, or holding hands at the dinner table this can work. If you need the social media validation or if you want to be able to kiss her in public, this probably won’t work. There may be spaces of compromise (Snapchat ok, Facebook no) or areas where she’s willing to loosen the rules with a push from you, but ultimately your best chance for a successful and fulfilling relationship is if she is willing to move toward being more out at a pace you can both live with. This might mean faster than her current creep, but slower than you’d like. She has to be willing to talk about, using concrete language and not vague, someday terms.

You could be the supportive rockstar girlfriend that helps her work through the last of that internalized homophobia and come fully out. If she comes from a conservative culture, she may worry that coming out will mean losing her family. She may be a late-in-life lesbian just like Jay-Z’s mom, and this may all be very new to her.

Some women come tearing out of the closet and some take their sweet ass time about it for all sorts of reasons. You probably remember how scary it was for you to come out. She’s where you were 12 years ago, and she needs to get there in her own time.

If she’s interesting enough that you don’t mind not “being public” then go for it. Show up and be in her life in the ways she will let you… and be nice to the people in her life so when she does *finally* come out, they already know and love you.    

Zergnet Code