“Too Many” Straight Friends, Hiding Your Sex Tools, and Life in the Queer Lane

by Lindsay Miller


I had a breakup recently from a relationship that meant a lot to me. It was quick and intense, but I feel absolutely hurt and broken-hearted. During our breakup fight, she accused me of having too many straight friends (her exact words: “all your friends are straight!”). Even though I’m pained from the breakup as a whole, this one statement has really stuck with me.

I’m a gold-star lesbian (in my mid-twenties), and I do count some awesome queer ladies and dudes and gender-neutrals as my friends. But my ex is right: the majority of my friends I have met through work and college, which means that most of them are straight and cis-gendered. I really haven’t ever cared that much, since I love these people like they’re my family.

There are definitely things that I get out of my relationships with my queer friends that are missing from my straight friendships. There are experiences that my straight friends will never understand, just like there are girl-crushes they don’t understand, and they aren’t ever up for explaining Lesbian Undertones In Everything. Instead, we can talk about music, or go to the opera, or talk about each other’s relationships and still relate to each other that way. It isn’t often that I feel like “the gay friend,” I’m just me, even if sometimes I feel left out.

I am actually worried about this. Am I a bad lesbian for having mostly straight friends? Am I not being a good part of the queer community by removing myself from it to a bigger extent than, say, my ex did? Is it possible to be 100% gay and still not gay enough?

Sometimes, the things your ex says during a breakup fight are painful truths they weren’t brave enough to share while you were together, and if you can find them strength to take them to heart, they genuinely help you grow as a person and have more success in your future relationships. I would estimate the prevalence of this at about 3% of all total breakup revelations. The other 97% is just shit your soon-to-be-ex is throwing at you to make you feel bad. Was the comment about your straight friends part of a longer diatribe laced with insults regarding your personal appearance and sexual prowess? If so, she probably didn’t have your best interests at heart.

But even if she meant well, that doesn’t mean you’re wrong for having straight friends. The fact of the matter is that lots of people are straight. If we assume that you’re equally likely to become friends with straight and queer folks, you’ll probably meet more straight than queer people that fit your hangout parameters over the course of a lifetime. I have plenty of straight friends that I love dearly (no hetero), so I’m about the last person to say you’re betraying The Cause by not socializing exclusively with queers.

I want to stress that it’s also okay to, as it sounds like your ex has done, prioritize friendships with queer people and actively seek them out. It’s okay to be uninterested in pursuing friendships with straight people. Members of marginalized communities always have the right to put intra-community relationships first, and to have no truck with people who treat them like Diversity Tokens or simply aren’t interested in understanding their experiences. For some people, the occasional left-out feeling you get around your straight besties would be a dealbreaker. I certainly only associate with straight people who are open to discussing Lesbian Undertones in Everything (they exist and they’re great!). But only you know whether your friendships with straight people are healthy and supportive or tokenizing and belittling, and I trust you to make that judgment call yourself.

Here’s another judgment call you have to make: Why — — really — — are most of your friends straight people? Is it because, as you said early in your letter, those just happen to be the majority of the people you’ve encountered in your life? Or is it because, as your ex-girlfriend seems to have implied, you have some kind of internalized homophobia situation that makes you want to distance yourself from other LGBTQ folks? When you mentioned “removing yourself” from the queer community, I wondered if that was her phrase or yours. Is your dearth of lesbros a choice you’re making? And if so, why?

If you’re consciously or subconsciously steering yourself toward straight friends because you think you’re somehow too good for all the queers you know — — the gay equivalent of those girls who don’t have any female friends because “guys are so much less drama” — — then yeah, maybe you do have some shit to look at within yourself. It’s also possible you’re trying to protect yourself from discrimination by presenting yourself as “the lesbian all the straight people like.” Either way, if your distance from the LGBTQ community is your own choice, you’re doing yourself a disservice, because getting to hang out with queer people is one of the best things about being queer!

If your mostly-straight social circle bugs you, there’s always the option of going out of your way to spend more time with gay people — — while also, of course, maintaining the friendships you already have. Like they say: Make new friends, but keep the old; one shares all your inside jokes, and the other will be your wingwoman at the dyke bar.

Also, can we all stop saying “gold-star lesbian” forever please? No one is a worse lesbian than you because they had sex with a dude one time (or multiple times). Either we all get a gold star or no one does.

Let’s talk about complicated genders. Let’s also talk about the fact that my mother is a snoop. Let’s talk about the fact that I was so happy she was helping me move that I forgot to hide some of my sex equipment (I refuse to call them toys; they’re tools, damnit). Let’s talk about the fact that one of my cocks have the word “daddy” inscribed at the base. And now let’s talk about the fact that my mother thinks I’m either a horrible human being or has irreconcilable Issues and can’t look me in the eye. Help. Please, please, help.

Oh, yikes. Obviously this first piece of advice comes too late to help you, but hopefully someone else can learn from your mistakes: If anyone who is not an active participant in your sex life is helping you move, make sure all your sexy paraphernalia is in a carefully sealed box and labeled something boring. “Desk supplies” or something.

Since the moment for that strategy has already come and gone, you’re going to have to do at least one of the following two things — — both, ideally. You need to confront the issue head-on with your mom, and/or, you need to come to terms with the fact that you can’t control your mother’s unreasonable reactions.

If you want to talk to her about it, your best bet is to get together in a neutral location (not your house in case she’s too distracted by thoughts of all the weird sex you’ve been having there; not her house so she can’t throw you out if the conversation goes badly; probably not anywhere that serves alcohol) and calmly, maturely explain that your sex life is none of her goddamn business. (You can also have this conversation over the phone or via email, if she genuinely refuses to engage with you face-to-face.)

A key factor of most parent/child relationships — — most familial relationships of any kind, actually — — is a two-way willful ignorance of the fact that the other person even has a sex life, much less any details regarding their sexual activities. We all know that our parents have had sex, and that our children either have or one day will, but we block that knowledge out because we feel kind of weird thinking of people with whom we have exclusively non-sexual relationships as sexual beings. We can talk about whether this demonstrates an unhealthy cultural attitude about sex another time (spoiler alert: it probably does!). For now, let’s just acknowledge it and move on.

By looking through your possessions and finding incontrovertible evidence that you have a sex life — — a somewhat unorthodox one at that — — your mom has upset the delicate balance of mutual denial. She violated your privacy; her inability to deal with the consequences of that action is her problem, not yours. Tell her that you expect her to avoid prying in the future, and that you hope she can stop dwelling on what she found. You might also mention, if you feel like it or she asks, that your complicated gender is something you’ll discuss with her when the time is right — — for instance, after she’s demonstrated an ability to respect your boundaries and earn your trust. You don’t need to explain anything to her; your private life is private, and as someone who cares about and wants an ongoing relationship with you, she needs to leave it at that.

If she doesn’t leave it at that — — or if you feel like the direct confrontation is really not an option because come on that would be so fucking awkward — — you’re going to need to take a moment, breathe deeply, and recite the following affirmation: “Other people’s shit is other people’s shit.”

A lot of the time, letters to advice columnists boil down to “How can I convince another human person to behave exactly the way I want them to?” Unfortunately, people are not programmable and sometimes they do things you don’t like. I’m not saying you’re not in the right here — you definitely are — but there is simply no foolproof way to make other people stop being wrong. Sometimes you just have to live with it, or cut off contact if dealing with the wrongness becomes too unbearable. I hope that your situation doesn’t come to that. Good luck!

I came out as bisexual to my parents last November, shortly after beginning to date the woman I’m still with today. I can’t use the “gay isn’t a choice” card to get them to stop flashing warning signs about homophobia and IVF and all the other downsides of life in the queer lane, as for me it actually is a choice to be with a woman. I admitted to my parents that I wasn’t really trying to meet men at the time I met the woman I love. They found this choice baffling. My very sweet and well-meaning dad said choosing to be with a woman makes him feel like I don’t value his influence on my life as a (really great!) father. The truth is, she reminds me of my dad more than any guy I’ve ever dated, but don’t Freud into that too much. My parents met my girlfriend and made me proud in their interactions with her. But privately, they remind me constantly of what I’ll face if I “choose this life” for myself by marrying her, in a sometimes-successful attempt to get me to question my otherwise completely fulfilling relationship.

I have looked forward to sharing the happiness of finding someone to love and marry with my loving family my entire life. This includes my extended family, with whom I’m very close (though I’m not out to them, yet). How can I turn off the mourning and encourage celebration as I come out to the rest of my family?

Hey, you know how I’m constantly ranting about how much I hate the “born this way” narrative in LGBTQ activism because it undermines the legitimacy of non-monosexuality and implies that same-sex relationships are only acceptable for people who have no other options? (Everyone who’s ever spent time in my physical presence: “YES WE ARE FAMILIAR WITH YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SUBJECT PLEASE LOWER YOUR VOICE.”) This is a pretty impressive illustration of why.

The idea that it’s okay to be gay because you don’t choose it, but not okay to be bisexual and in a same-sex relationship, is really not any more progressive than saying it’s okay to be gay as long as you don’t act on your sinful urges. The reason it’s fine to be in a same-sex relationship is that it’s fine to be in a same-sex relationship, because no loving and consensual relationship is inherently less valid than any other, no matter how many other romantic options the participants had. If your parents can’t grasp this simple concept, they’re biphobic and homophobic as fuuuuhhhhh, and they’re not invited to my birthday party (which is sad for them because my partner makes this killer lemon cheesecake).

Are there certain hardships you’re more likely to face if you marry a woman than a man? Sure. Discrimination sucks, and IVF is pricey. (Although as any lesbian who’s ever braved the intensely heteronormative medical establishment in her journey to conceive can tell you, queer people are NOT the sole consumers of IVF services.) But you know what else sucks? Letting other people’s plans for your life come between you and the person you love.

Would an analogy help your parents? Okay. What if there were two dudes you could marry, one who you loved but he was working-class and saddled with a manageable but challenging student loan debt, and the other who came from old money and could support you in style all your days, but he’s kind of a jerk. Obviously your life would be easier in some tangible ways if you married Richard McJerkington, but you’d be happier with Sexypants Von Poverty. Would your parents pressure you to wed Richie anyway? If so, they just might be Disney villains. Check for adorable but mischievous animal sidekicks.

That analogy got away from me a little, but what I’m trying to say is that finding someone you love and want to spend your life with is fucking hard, and worth pushing through some obstacles (like “the bullshit heteronormativity of a repressive culture”) to accomplish. Anyone who would try to cajole you out of a healthy and happy relationship is neither sweet nor well-meaning. They are not encouraging you to make the best possible choices for your own quality of life. They believe that being straight is better than being bi or gay, and they’re trying to convince you to believe that too.

Again, this is an “other people’s shit” issue at its core. You probably can’t persuade your parents to let go of their heterosexism. What you can do, however, is let go of the belief that your heterosexist parents get a say in your love life. I’m always a fan of a calmly delivered ultimatum — “No more biphobic bullshit, no more trying to get me to break up with my girlfriend, or I’ll stop returning your calls and you’ll never even meet your IVF-conceived grandbabies” — but you can also try just tuning them out, if you’re a non-confrontational type. Either way, don’t allow their misguided advice to make you question something you know is right for you.

You can’t choose your parents, but you can choose to live your own life. In the end, that’s really the only choice that matters.

Previously: Big Lesbian Feelings, Fearful Mothers, and Proper Pronouns

Lindsay King-Miller is also on Twitter, and you can peruse the AAQC archive here. Do you have a question for her?