The “Queerosphere,” Letting Terrible Dog Owners Lie, And Smelly Business
by Lindsay Miller
I’m 25 and recently started to own the fact that I’m bi. I’ve never dated a lady, but have really really wanted to push a few up against a wall and kiss them (with their consent, of course). The only people who know about those urges are a couple of dudes I’ve dated. One thought it was hilarious and liked to laugh at these delusions of my younger self (and we were together four years — hoo boy). Another helped me accept those feelings as legitimate. I’m really excited to explore the queerosphere but still figuring out how. Online dating? Hang around in the local lesbian ‘hood with a conversation-starting book and welcoming demeanor? How upfront do I have to be about having never dated a woman before?
But my biggest dilemma is how to tell people. A large part of me feels like I need to have the “proof” by dating a woman when I come out to my family, because I’m not sure they’ll “believe me” without it. They try to be really open about these things. They are totally happy for and act natural around my lesbian cousin and her partner, but the way they talk about her worries me — phrases like “They’re gay but really happy” have been uttered. They mean well but I know it would be hard for them to understand — I’m not sure bisexuality is in their vocabulary. Am I lying by omission if I carry on letting them think I’m 100% straight until I can present “proof” (I’m pretty selective with the people I date so that could be a while)? Or is it better for all of us if I wait until it’s easier for them to see and accept?
There’s no wrong time to come out. If being out to your family is important to you and you want to do it today via mass text, go for it. It might require some follow-up explanations, but that’s a them problem, not a you problem. You don’t have to provide annotations to your life if you don’t feel like it. On the other hand, if you think their struggle to accept your bisexuality despite the lack of a partner would stress you out more than staying in the closet, feel free to keep it to yourself. Coming out is morally neutral; the important thing is to find the option that’s most comfortable and safe for you. Sometimes it can help to lay some groundwork before you announce your orientation — maybe you could bring up Anna Paquin or Alan Cumming, and use that as a jumping-off point for a discussion about the validity of bisexual identities, regardless of the gender (or nonexistence) of one’s partner? There’s no guarantee that will work, but there’s also no guarantee that if you bring a girl home they won’t just go “Oh, so you’re gay” and then be confused the next time you date a guy. I mean, not that I don’t have faith in your future with your hypothetical girlfriend; I’m sure if anyone can make it work, it’s you two.
Basically, there is no surefire way to convince people to respect your bisexuality; the best thing you can do for yourself is manage your own expectations. If your future happiness depends on them handling things flawlessly, hold off on telling them. If, however, you believe you’ll be fine no matter what they say, and that their opinions are a reflection of them, not you, you can come out whenever you want because you’re an invincible badass. (Even if you’re an invincible badass, it’s okay to have a friend on call in case things don’t go well, to buy you a beer and remind you that you’re amazing.)
As for finding ladies to date, the Internet is always a good place to start, as are gay bars, open mics, roller derby meets, and your local woman-owned indie coffeeshop. Wear your Tegan and Sara concert tee and look friendly, but don’t count on books the start the conversation for you — if you do, the only girls you’ll meet are the ones rude enough to interrupt someone who’s clearly reading. The more willing you are to go over and talk to someone who looks cute and single, the more likely you are to get a date. You don’t need to provide an all-caps disclaimer that you’ve never dated a lady before, although of course feel free to mention it if it comes up — it’s not a drawback, just one of the many interesting facts she’ll learn as she gets to know you.
Oh, and it sounds like you’ve already learned not to date bi-phobic dudes, but unfortunately bi-phobic gay ladies also exist, and you shouldn’t date them either. Being bi is not a flaw your future love will have to overlook; it’s a legitimate queer identity, and if she gives you grief about it she’s unworthy of your time.
My girlfriend and I (I’m a lady) lived in a LGBTQ friendly housing co-op over the summer with a few straight folks, another gay man, and a trans woman. One straight/cis woman we lived with was 28, came from a small town, and had a strong religious background. She was really nice, but frequently told my girlfriend and I — in private, of course — that she hated living there (because it was messy, as co-ops tend to be) and was really unhappy and was just there for the cheap rent. We let this slide, but as the summer wore on, she would frequently take advantage of other housemates by leaving her dog unattended for days while she was out of town with just a note for someone to please feed and walk her dog. She would also start making racist, trans- and homophobic comments. Nothing too out there, but like, she couldn’t say the word gay, she would say “like that”, she would mention that she couldn’t remember any “black names” when talking about the neighborhood kids, and she pretty much said time and time again she was uncomfortable around trans people. I don’t think she was actively racist or trans/homophobic, I think she was just really really ignorant.
I would usually just bite my tongue and try to ignore her, but the final straw came when she said rape kits were handouts from the government (she was telling us why she supported Palin). I spoke to my other housemates about asking her to leave the house and they said I couldn’t kick her out just b/c she was politically different, so I tried to ignore her. The final final final straw came when she tried to leave for 6 days and left a single note about taking her dog out! I confronted her and told her she should stop abusing the house and taking advantage of people and that she didn’t belong here. I told her she was homophobic, transphobic, racist, etc etc. and she really needed to just find another place to live. She didn’t think she was taking advantage of anyone and she didn’t see how her comments were harmful, but I really just went off on her!
My girlfriend and I were in the process of moving out that weekend and just left without resolving anything. I feel bad for yelling at her, and apparently she’s never mentioned our argument with any of the other housemates, but everyone tells me I shouldn’t feel bad. Should I try and contact her and apologize? Or should I write her a letter explaining why I was so upset? Or was I in the right? I know as an adult I should be able to handle these things, but I feel as if it was 7 months of holding my tongue triggered by the rape kit comment and it all just came out!
How important, really, is this woman’s good opinion of you?
I’m tempted to say “not that important at all.” She sounds not just ignorant, but seriously hurtful. You described her as “not actively” racist, homophobic, and transphobic, but there’s no way to be passively any of those things — either you’re fighting them or perpetuating them. You’re part of the solution or part of the problem, and this woman does not sound like she’s part of the solution. Also, your description of her is giving me flashbacks to my Worst Roommate Ever, who not only left his dog behind when he moved out without telling me he was doing so, but who, as I discovered when I went to clean his room, had been allowing his dog to pee in there whenever he was too lazy/stoned to let her out. So, I mean, clearly I am not neutral in this situation, take my advice with a grain of salt.
You can’t kick someone out of her house for being a racist homophobic dog neglecter (which is not the same as simply having a difference of opinion, as I hope everyone understands — this isn’t about preferring mustard to ketchup, it’s about decency and respect), but that doesn’t mean you’re obligated to tolerate or sympathize with her point of view. She’s wrong on rape kits, wrong on responsible pet care, and wrong for America, and it’s fine that you told her so. Of course, it’s also fine that your other roommates preferred to avoid confrontation. Everyone gets to decide what their personal dealbreakers are, and how to cope with clashing personalities.
Should you have yelled at her? In a perfect world, okay, maybe not. In a perfect world you would have kept your voice perfectly modulated at all times and won her over with your compelling insight and clarity. Then birds and small woodland creatures would have poured you both mimosas with which to toast your newfound friendship and understanding. But also, in a perfect world she wouldn’t be scared of trans people or think “black names” are less good than “white names,” so perhaps the world is imperfect and we must use our flawed and mortal abilities to deal with it as best we can. You saved your fight for the end of your cohabitation so it didn’t inconvenience yourselves or your shared roommates for longer than it needed to; that’s pretty much a best-case scenario.
If you feel your relationship with your former housemate is worth salvaging, or that with your good influence she could transcend her upbringing and become a more kind and accepting human being, feel free to reach out to her to apologize for how you handled things and explain your point of view more diplomatically. If, however, you’re perfectly happy with your current plan of never seeing her again, I give you leave to let sleeping terrible dog owners lie. You don’t owe her an apology or an explanation.
I work in a building that is rather large, about 15 floors, and most floors are two large office suites. These suites have two bathroom stalls per gender. Now when I need to do something indelicate, I go down to the conference room in the basement, which belongs to no specific office, and I do whatever may be, say, smelly. But I have discovered that this bathroom in the basement is where several transgender women go to handle their business. I feel terrible for stinking it up!!!! Am I terrible trans ally? Where can I poop? Do I need to find a Starbucks? Am I the worst for stinking up the only non-gendered bathroom in the building?
Bathrooms are going to get stunk up. That’s an unavoidable fact of life. Wherever the trans women in your office go to pee, they almost definitely don’t expect it to smell like a garden full of daffodils. I don’t think wanting a more private place to poop makes you a terrible trans ally (although no one expects the bathroom on your floor to be odor-free, either, so maybe don’t stress so much about using it?).
I do, however, wonder if there are things you could be doing to turn your workplace into one where trans women don’t feel they have to go all the way down to the basement to use the bathroom. Does your HR department have specific trans-inclusive policies? Can you talk to someone about putting up signs declaring that the women’s bathroom is intended for all women, and that gender policing isn’t okay? If people are making trans women feel unsafe in the women’s bathroom, can you push for more/better diversity and sensitivity training? The logistics of these kinds of actions will vary depending on your workplace and may or may not be feasible, but I think they’re worth looking into. Be a trans ally by advocating for trans people’s right to pee upstairs.
Also, buying and occasionally replacing an air freshener for the office restroom is a great way to stay ahead of the karma game in 2015!
I have a close friend who is in a long term polyamorous relationship. She recently broke up with a lover she has been serious with for several years who is not her primary. I really want to be loving and supportive, but am not sure how to support her — because I am not sure how to advise a friend in this type of breakup.
Normally I would be like, take a trip! Cut your hair! Party! Focus on yourself! But this lovely lady still has a primary relationship that requires love and care. How can I help a friend navigate heartbreak when she is still in a relationship requiring companionship? What are the rules in terms of advising a girl through a break up when that break up does not render her single?
I don’t actually think this situation is that different from any other breakup. Most people coming out of romantic relationships still have friends, family members, and loved ones in their lives, and it’s not a good idea (though it does sometimes happen) to abandon or neglect those people while mourning the one that was lost. Loving someone always involves a bit of give and take; it’s fair to assume, however, that your friend will be doing more taking than giving for a little while, because she needs the resources that you and her partner and her other friends can provide while she works on getting over her sweetie.
If you’re close or even just friendly with her partner, talk to that person about how she’s dealing and what she needs. You are an important member of Team Your Friend, but her partner is team captain. Working together and with your friend’s input, come up with a strategy to help her process her feelings and take her mind off things, alternating between the two as needed. Does she need a weekend in the mountains with you, no significant others allowed? Does she need you to come over and babysit so she and her partner can have a romantic night out? Exactly what movies should you watch with her in what order for the perfect cathartic weepathon? Etc. Joining forces with someone else who cares about her also ensures that you have some support when one or the other of you just can’t listen to her cry about her ex for another goddamn second — you need a place to express that irritation with making your friend feel isolated or burdensome.
And no matter how strong the temptation, don’t ever say “At least you still have one partner,” either to comfort your friend or shut her up. People are not interchangeable, and no matter how much she loves her primary sweetie, it will take time to move on from ending things with her ex. Your job isn’t to hurry things along; it’s to be there with her for the journey.