My Friend Needs Help

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by Ireland, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. Ireland

    Ireland Active Member

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    I don't know if this is the correct place to ask this but here goes.

    I have a best friend who I have long suspected as being gay. I have asked her numerous times if she was and she had always avoided the answer.

    Everyone suspects her of being gay, even her family and there are always jokes about it being made at her expense. She was a tomboy growing up and I guess she never grew out of it. She doesn't wear make-up and dresses, only when she is forced into it and she is obsessed with sport. I know these don't necessarily mean that she is gay but it just adds to the suspicion. And when anybody says anything negative about the gay people she is he first to defend them. You just don't make homophobic jokes around her.

    She's nineteen, she has never had a boyfriend. A few months ago she did get with a guy on a night out. She says there are more but he is the only guy that I know that she has got with. She only made out him though, nothing further and she is still a virgin.

    Anyway, one night, a couple of weeks ago we were alone at her house and I asked her again. She tried to avoid the topic but I was more persistent this time as she looked like she was going to crack. And she did. She said that she didn't know. All she knew was that she wasn't straight. She didn't know yet if she was gay or bisexual. She said to me that she is nineteen and she doesn't have to figure it out yet. That she has the rest of her life to do that. But shouldn't she figure it out sooner rather than later? Surely she could be happier with being honest with herself. In my opinion she is gay because she told me that she felt physically sick after making out the guy. Her theory is that it was because he was a smoker but could it be more? Do gay people get that kind of reaction from making out with someone of the opposite sex?

    I told her that being gay won't change how we view her but she disagreed. She said it will change everything. I just don't get get it. I tell her it seems hypocritical of her that she is so passionate about gay rights but won't admit that she is gay herself. She disagrees and says that it only makes her a hypocrite if she was homophobic. She says shes not hurting anyone but shes hurting anyone but she is hurting herself. Shes not happy I know she isn't, I can see it but she pretends she is. I'm her best friend. I know her.

    So what do I say? How do I get her to come out? I'm not gay so I don't know what its like so is her behavior normal?
     
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  2. lorienczhiu

    lorienczhiu Well-Known Member

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    Here's what you do: respect her and stop trying to "make her come out." That phrase, as well as your description of the conversation in which you made her "crack," makes me really uncomfortable for personal and political reasons, and as an out queer person strongly believe that you should step back and rethink how you are supporting your friend.

    I understand that you are trying to do this out of love - so that she can be free! And live her life! And take advantage of every gay minute she has! But outing someone who is not ready to come out, who does not feel secure in her identity and safe in her community, is not a caring thing to do. Sure, you're not rejecting her or disowning her, but you ARE telling her that who she is comfortable being right now - that her questioning, careful, undeclared self - is not okay, and that you know her better than she knows herself. No matter how much you are motivated by "her best interest," her best interest is her own sovereignty and control over her identity. Even if that means that she's checking the "prefer not to say" box just now, she gets to pick.

    Right now, her world sucks. She is grappling with an identity that will result in a massive loss of privilege and permanently affect her life. (Open-minded straight people only kind of get this. My family and friends are super accepting, and I live in a liberal area, and I've never dealt with housing or job or healthcare discrimination; relatively, I've won the queer lottery. But every time I start a new job or meet a new person or visit an open house, I get ready for rejection and ugliness. Straight men heckle me and my fiancee on the street. Strangers comment on my relationship, and usually not kindly. There are 29 US states where I currently will not live, because I could be fired for being gay. So my friends and family are only the tip of the iceberg.) Your friend is absolutely right that people will treat her differently, even if it doesn't happen right away, and this is just part of the reality that queer people live. She gets to decide if she's ready for the vigilance, courage, and tough skin that it sometimes takes, and that if she wants to address external pressure and ugliness by keeping it to herself, that can be a good choice. The only reason to come out is if her desire for honesty and openness - and ease of dating - trumps her desire for safety. If she really is gay, I am sure that she will get there when she is ready to be, and that she will ask for your help and support then.

    Her desire for time and privacy is not hurting anyone. Yes, she is unhappy; it's possible that the exposure and vulnerability that she would feel if she came out would hurt her more. And no queer person is politically obligated to come out at the expense of their happiness and safety. Privacy and nondisclosure does not make her a hypocrite. It sounds like she's doing her best to be a queer ally and to live her ideals politically, even if she's not ready to make them personal yet. Let me speak for my queer self and say: I am fine with that, and so are most queer people I know.

    And, let me also say: she might NOT BE GAY. You, a straight person, think you know - maybe she's on the genderqueer spectrum and coming to terms with that. Maybe she's asexual, and struggling with not wanting the kinds of relationships that she's "supposed" to. Maybe she has some unresolved trauma that makes relationships with men OR women really hard. Don't tell her what's going on with her, because you might not know. She gets to take the time it takes to explore her feelings, and those feelings may change throughout her life - what she "decides" at 19 might change with more and varied experience, and in getting to know more and varied people.

    If you want to be a friend to her, apologize for pressuring her to talk about something she did not want to talk about. Tell her that you love her just as she is, and you're there to talk if and when she wants to. Tell her that it doesn't matter if she comes out tomorrow or never does and that you respect her choices and her sovereignty. And then be her best friend by letting her be something OTHER than a closeted lesbian when she's with you - let her be an artist, a student, a stressed-out daughter, and aspiring scientist. Be her friend, not the person starts avoiding because of constant pressure to take a step she doesn't want to take. Be the person who accepts her and meets her exactly where she is right now, not where you think she should be. THAT is how to love your queer best friend who isn't out yet.
     
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  3. Ireland

    Ireland Active Member

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    Thanks for your reply, it seems I did come to the right place and I really appreciate the time you put into your answer.

    I'm not trying to make her uncomfortable. Maybe making her 'crack was the wrong word, I just felt that as I was her best friend I had a right to know this detail about her and I told her that all the times I asked her. I guess this time she realized maybe that I was right.

    It's not just my opinion that she is gay. There an 'out' girl in our town and within minutes of meeting S (my friend) she asked if she was gay. When S said no, the girl replied no way, I'm sorry but there is no way that you're straight.

    And, I mean, she's always on this site, lesbian blogs, watches this show that is just about lesbians (she shares her netflix account with me). What am I supposed to think?

    I asked her how often she thinks about her sexuality and she says nearly every day. I think if she just came out it would be so much easier. All our friends joke like 'you're such a lesbian' and 'just come out already'. Even her family. I point out to her that the jokes should make it easier but she says that they are just jokes and they make it harder because she doesn't actually think that they are serious.

    She really is the best person I know, she is smart (she is the first person in her whole family to go to college, the second person in our town), she is funny and she goes out of her way to help other people (shes given me money countless times and has never asked for it back even though she doesn't have a lot of it cause she only works weekends) and shes gives great advice.

    The only problems with her are that she is shy and her unwillingness to come out.
     
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  4. greylin

    greylin Well-Known Member

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    If I were S and I was getting such flack from everyone including my best friend about my own business I would be leaving town the first chance I get. You are not being supportive at all and you are being controlling. Why is this so important to you and everyone in the town? Everyone has to have a label to satisfy everyone else? Seriously, this is depressing just to read, and I can't imagine what this poor girl is going through everyday. Leave her the eff alone!
     
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  5. Ireland

    Ireland Active Member

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    Nah guys you're picking me up the wrong way the teasing doesn't bother her she told me herself she's use to it. Shes always being poked fun, her whole life (shes clumsiest person I've ever met)

    I had to create an account here to ask for some advice that speaks for itself that I'm just trying to help her.
     
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  6. lorienczhiu

    lorienczhiu Well-Known Member

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    I had a whole long reply, which just got deleted (damn keyboard shortcuts!). I don't really think that your attitude is a-okay with your friend, and what you describe raises my gay lady hackles pretty high. But I'll sum it up to this:

    Yes, you came for advice from real live queer people; you get about 2.5 brownie points for that. You get another million for actually listening. The advice we have is: back off! Don't out her! Stop calling attention to her sexuality through jokes and forced heartfelt conversations, because she's not ready to put her identity on display! Please listen - to what we are saying, and to what your friend is saying (because we're saying the same thing). She will come out in her own time. She will ask for the support that she needs. And she will feel safer and happier if she believes that her friends and family respect her enough to let HER decide if and when and how she makes this choice.

    p.s. Just because she's always been made fun of doesn't mean she LIKES it, just that she's conditioned to believe that she deserves it and that it's an acceptable form of affection. Maybe this constant calling out is a source of her shyness?
     
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  7. MakeMeLaugh

    MakeMeLaugh Well-Known Member

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    You absolutely came to the right place to get some advice. People have given you great advice. You seem to think your behavior or attitude towards your best is acceptable or appropriate. LAY OFF! You're lucky she still considers you a friend. If I had my friends harassing me as you have done to her I would of long said "BYEEEE". As a best friend its not your "RIGHT" to know this "DETAIL" about her life. This isn't like knowing her favorite color or food. She has to come to terms with her own sexuality in HER time. Its HER life, not yours. What a supportive friend does is say "Hey ______ you know that if you have anything on your mind I am always here to listen without judgement", when she is ready she will come to you. Think of it this way ....if you are constantly telling her that being gay is "not a big deal" yet you harass her by asking multiple times if she is and try to make her face it or try to crack her relentlessly and over a long period of time....it doesn't sound like its "not a big deal" to her. Trust me. Your friend is 19, who cares if she was a virgin at 19? It does not imply her sexual orientation. I know plenty of sporty girls, who were virgins passed 19, support gay rights and get very offended when someone makes a joke in poor taste, who are in very healthy and happy heterosexual relationships. Give her time to figure it out all and be a quiet cheerleader for her.
     
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  8. Ireland

    Ireland Active Member

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    Whoa, I was never going to out her. She made me swear that I wouldn't tell another soul about it and that she thinks our friendship wouldn't survive that kind of betrayal.

    So, I'm keeping shut. I want to because I think its the right thing to do for her but I'm not gonna tell anybody. I'm the closest friend shes got. I'm the only person she can be totally herself (except that part) and not withdrawn. Is that so bad? That I want to know 100% of my friend?

    I am the only person that really knows her. She has come out of her shell somewhat since we've gotten closer and I know I am a big part of that. She doesn't have far to go to be like a normal person around people.

    So do you guys, in your opinion, think shes gay?
     
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  9. Maison Clicquot

    Maison Clicquot Well-Known Member

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    Obviously you didn't come here to help her, but to find approval for your suspicions.
     
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  10. Ireland

    Ireland Active Member

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    Ummm no.

    I'm just asking for opinions. It won't change my opinion.
     
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  11. lorienczhiu

    lorienczhiu Well-Known Member

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    She doesn't have far to go to be like a normal person around people. Your queer introverted agony aunt here saying: Ouch. If this is the kind of love and support you give her - that she can just be normal! if she tries! with your help! - then I'm not sure what to say. I love my friends, and I support them however I can, and I believe that each and every one of them is entitled to be exactly who and how they are in the way that feels authentic to them. You also said, The only problems with her are that she is shy and her unwillingness to come out. Nope. Gonna disagree with you again. Her only problem is that she has friends who think that they know what is best for her and how to make her "normal." I think she's probably lovely, low-key, private, introverted - which are are all great ways to be, queer or otherwise. If she asks you for helping coming to terms with her sexuality, that's great. If she asks for help coming out of her shell, that's cool too. If she doesn't, let her do her in the ways that are meaningful, authentic, comfortable, safe.

    I'm not going to speculate on her sexuality, because you've given some weak evidence and it's beside the point. You opened this topic saying she needs help. I really think that she doesn't, that she is probably doing great in dealing with her own self and life, and that you can help her most by respecting her own agency and self-knowledge. If you let her decide and declare in her own time, you will be telling her: "I trust you. You are thoughtful, and strong, and know yourself and your happiness best." Be THAT friend, instead of the one who keeps telling her that YOU know what's best and will make her happy and that her own heart and head can't be trusted to figure it out.

    [And? Incidentally? It is NEVER "the right thing to do" to betray a confidence and out a friend. I have been outed. It makes you feel incredibly unsafe, disrespected, and powerless. Your friend is absolutely right that your friendship would not survive. ]
     
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  12. Ireland

    Ireland Active Member

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    Yeah, she is quiet and low-key and lovely but she has got this awesome personality and she is funny, like really funny, but nobody gets to see it.

    It seems I'm coming off as a bit of an ass but I'm not. S is the good writer, not me so maybe I'm not expressing myself correctly.

    So, basically what I have to do is.......nothing? Just not mention her sexuality at all? That is gonna be pretty hard because I know she is unhappy. Isn't it true that gay people feel that way when they are 'in the closet' but once they come out they feel like free or something? That they feel happy?
     
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  13. MakeMeLaugh

    MakeMeLaugh Well-Known Member

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    Did you ever stop to consider that you are causing some of this "unhappiness" you speak of? No one here will speculate whether she is or isn't especially based on the things you have said here. Coming out is extremely freeing, when someone is ready to come out. If you are forced out or coerced out you can be facing so many more issues that you aren't ready to deal with, especially if you are not sure of your sexuality in the first place. It is a whole process. Perhaps sharing my process would help you understand what your friend might be going through, keep in mind that my experience is just that MY EXPERIENCE and does not reflect the experience of every person who has come out or has questioned their sexuality.

    In HS I knew I was a little different; still interested in guys but girls gave me butterflies too. I chalked it up to a typical girl crush and no big deal. In HS I met my best friend...something about our friendship was just a little different. My freshman year in college we dated, I of course kept this a secret from EVERYONE (as did she) and we gave it a go. We both stated that this had an expiration date as neither of our families would be happy with this and that we would end up in heterosexual relationships in the long run. We broke up. We tried dating other people, men of course. I tried dating men for a couple of years but nothing came of it. I finally went back to the notion of possibly being gay or bisexual. At this point I accepted that I could be bisexual and then started to date a girl...again. We dated for 2 years, still not out to my family but I came out to my friends. We broke up because I was not ready to come out and she was tired of being a secret. I dated around, became more comfortable with my sexuality and realized I enjoyed dating women and made lasting connections with women. I started to date the woman I am dating now. We dated for a year before the issue of me not being out came up, but this time I was ready. Scared shitless, no doubt, but ready. I told my parents. It went better than I expected but by no means was my mother waving a pride flag around. We are still dealing with that process. So for me it started when I was 14, when I very first thought that maybe I may not be exactly straight and it took me years to go through the process of acceptance. I am now 29.

    Thinking you may be gay is very different from knowing you are....and even more different than knowing you are, is accepting you are. So give her time to figure things out. She is 19! And stop trolling on here to figure out if she is gay. Unless you want to date her, who cares if she is gay or not!
     
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  14. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member

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    I've been trying to find the right words but after reading MakeMeLaugh's post all I can do is agree with her. Respect her right to her own feelings. When the time is right for her she will come to you if she feels she wants to put a label on what she's going through. As her friend your job is to be supportive and not push her to a place where she obviously feels uncomfortable and sad.
     
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  15. lorienczhiu

    lorienczhiu Well-Known Member

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    @MakeMeLaugh - thanks for sharing. I think maybe you're right, that context and stories is a better route to understanding here.

    @ Nancy - As her friend your job is to be supportive and not push her to a place where she obviously feels uncomfortable and sad. Boom. Perfect.

    @Ireland - Yeah. You should do nothing. I get that that's hard, but I strongly believe, for all the reasons above, that it is the right thing for you to do - and that if you back off, just reminding your friend from time to time that you're always there for her, that she will come to you when she is ready for your help.

    Coming out is freeing - but as much as it frees you, it opens you up to judgment and risk. At some point, for most queer people, that risk is worth the freedom it brings - but not always, and not for everyone, and sometimes just not yet. And the thing about the freedom is that what it really is, I think, is the freedom of saying for yourself: this is who I am and what I want. These are the relationships and identity and lifestyle needs I have. This is the life I will be living. It is a powerful moment, the moment when you decide that your life - everything from love to day-to-day interactions - will be lived on your terms, according to your wants and needs and capacities, instead of the heternormative story that you've been expected to act out your whole life.

    If you do this for your friend, or force her to do it, it's not personal. It's not powerful. It's not honest and ready and right. Does that make sense? If you push it, that is SO different than her deciding that she knows herself and that it is her time to share that self-knowledge. It becomes coercive; as coercive, I think, as the boy-meets-girl narrative that we perform before we even hit puberty. It becomes YOUR story of her sexuality; it should be hers, and all the way hers. Even if it takes her a long time. Even if it hurts along the way.

    Let me tell you about my "coming out." I didn't really take my time - I grew up in a progressive household and new a bunch of "two-mom families" growing up, and had repeatedly heard from the adults in my life that they were there if I ever wanted to talk. In middle school, I started attending queer youth events with a friend from another school; I told my parents what they were but not what I was. I was extremely wary of putting a label on it, especially because there were so many - was I a lesbian? Bisexual? Pansexual? Moreover, I didn't have any strong crushes or sexual feelings in my early adolescence, not like the boy-crazy girls around me, and I wondered if there was something wrong with me after all. I was safer, and felt more honest, just not saying either way - taking my time to figure it out. In 9th grade, I started at a new school and staked my claim as a baby queer - trying it out in a safe new environment where no one had any opinions about me yet - but it wasn't until I started dating a girl in 11th grade that I told my parents that I wasn't straight. And I told them not to "come out" exactly, but because I was tired of lying about who I was hanging out with when we went on dates; my closet became constrictive and made me someone I didn't want to be. That was the moment that the freedom and the risk balanced for me - not when I realized I was attracted to women, and not when I realized that yeah, I was queer, but when it impacted my life and my relationship with the people I cared about.

    Through it all, people reacted to my queerness and my attempt to be honest by not "picking a side" with discomfort - my parents' veiled hope that it was a phase, not because they disapproved but because of all the difficulties they foresaw for me, my best friend assuming that I'd end up with men, the guys I dated obsessing about it if I told them - that I adopted a "out, but not advertising" policy for my teens and early twenties. I didn't lie, but I didn't disclose - at work, to friends, even at my super gay college (though everyone just kind of assumed I was queer and I went with that), and if I was single or dating a guy, why bother? It was embarrassing and awkward. It was only as I got more comfortable, and then started seriously dating a really wonderful woman (to whom I'm now engaged) that it felt right to stop playing the pronoun game, to be out consistently in my personal and professional life, to reopen the topic with my parents and friends. I was 22 then, so I'd semi-closeted myself again for about 5 years. And again, it wasn't so much about my identity - I was okay with myself the whole time - but about having a part of my life that I wanted to share and fully live.

    Your friend is still in the figuring out phase. That phase is private, and personal, and super confusing, and it only gets more complicated when other people's reactions and responses get mixed up in it. So give her the space now, to gather and examine her thoughts; if you want to help her, you can respect her boundaries, and also help give her space from the teasing and chatter that might make it hard for her to gather her strength and certainty. That really is amazing support, and I promise, it's probably will be much more effective at helping her get comfortable with herself and ready to come out, if that's really what she needs to do.
     
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  16. overtheriver

    overtheriver Active Member

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    Is this for real? Your attitude is kinda creepy. Why would a friend think they have a right to know every detail of someone's life, including sexuality or things they just don't want to talk about. If everyone keeps telling her she's gay, and keep asking her, you all stand a good chance of really confusing her. If you think she's sad now, imagine how sad she'll be after you convince her that she's gay but she just isn't attracted to women... She'll feel very lost/confused/sad then.

    You came here to get opinions about whether we think your friend is gay. I'll give you my opinion. Sounds like she's straight, but that you're struggling with your feelings for her. Why else would you be obsessed with her sexuality? You should probably look into yourself and figure out why you're having problems admitting it. You'll feel a lot better when you finally come out to her. Good luck with it.
     
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  17. Moses

    Moses Well-Known Member

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    Wow, AE girls are fecking amazing. An (imaginary) flower for each of you for trying, and caring and helping and trying again. And Ireland, well done to you too for having the balls to come on here and ask this question and keep asking and raising everyone's blood pressure until they found a way for you to hear them. That kind of attitude is how you will grow and become an amazing person in time. And yea, what they said. Totz. Do nothing, cept enjoy ur cool clever funny friend and feel happy that you get to know her.
     
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  18. Boo

    Boo Well-Known Member

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    Maybe she's into you.
     
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