Racist Girlfriends, Plush Closets, and Sufficient Queerness

I took a decade-plus long break from dating/relationships etc. to figure me out, and all that junk. After finally reconciling all my spiritual/sexual/familial-type issues, I feel confident in who I am and am ready to date. So, I started seeing this one chick who was pretty awesome. We get along really well and I really like her. We’ve been seeing each other for a few months, but she’s not comfortable putting any kind of label on our “relationship” and she frequently refers to it as “hanging out” (for the record, when I “hang out” with my friends, I DO NOT do the things that I do with her). But then, the other night we were out and she mentioned three distinct different ethnicities that she “hates.” What??? People like that are still out there? People that are in a protected group against discrimination can hate other groups? This is mind boggling. I know I need to end it with this chick because, first of all, hate does not sit well with my spirituality. Hate does not sit well with my humanity for that matter. And one of my closest friends happens to fall into one of those people groups she hates. Plus there’s the whole bit about her not really wanting to be in a real relationship with me…

So yes, I know I need to end it. Am I a bad person because in spite of these clearly big issues, I still really like her? Also, how do I end a relationship that isn’t really a relationship? I should end it, right? Can I just be passive aggressive and stop responding to her texts and emails (I’m texting her right now, because I don’t know how to stop this)? Could I just change my phone number (I really hate conflict/confrontation)? And final question (that is more of a future question) … is it possible that there’s a tattooed, lip pierced, Jesus-loving, non-hateful/racist lesbian out there? 

Let’s start with the easy one: there are just so freaking many tattooed, pierced, Jesus-loving, non-racist lesbians. If you threw a music festival and only allowed tattooed, pierced, Jesus-loving, non-racist lesbians to attend, you would still run out of beer in less than two hours. You should not have any trouble replacing your crappy, commitment-phobic, bigoted makeout buddy with an upgrade. Obviously this will be easier if you live in a big city with an active queer scene (go to a gay-friendly church! hit up Dyke Night at your favorite bar!), but even if you’re in a smaller town, there is someone who fits that description within a 10-mile radius and you will find her eventually. Probably on Craigslist.

But of course, before you can get yourself a shiny new girlfriend, you need to jettison the old one. You’re not a bad person for still being attracted to her despite her myriad flaws, but – as you’re already aware – you can’t in good conscience continue dating someone whose beliefs are antithetical to your morals. You know how you have that friend-of-a-friend (or wife-of-a-cousin or whatever) who’s always making nasty homophobic comments, and your friend or cousin is always like “Don’t hold it against her, she has really good qualities too!” and you’re like, ugh, I hope you stub your toe? Please do not be that person. Do not make excuses for your awful racist umfriend. Do not condone her behavior by continuing to reward it with orgasms. Get rid of her, seriously, she is revolting.

(I didn’t skim past the part in your letter where you talked about her not wanting a serious relationship; obviously if the two of you want different things out of your interactions, that is reason enough to ditch her. But that’s not a character flaw on her part, just a point on which you disagree. The racism is a character flaw, and a dealbreaker. Even if she wanted to marry you and have your babies, I would be telling you to get out of there.)

Obviously in a perfect world, what you would do is look her in the eye and say “I don’t want to sleep with you anymore, because you are racist, and I don’t want your racist cooties in my vagina.” She needs to understand that her prejudices are repellent to all right-thinking people, including the ones she wants to see naked. However, I understand and respect your desire to keep confrontation to a minimum. You do need to break it off with her for real, though, not just stop answering her calls. Use your words. Say something like “We disagree on too many things, and I think we need to stop seeing each other, because I don’t want your racist cooties in my vagina.” Then get out there and find yourself someone better.

I’m a 19-year-old bisexual woman, and I hate myself for liking men. I feel like I’m not queer enough to have a say in LGBT issues or to call myself a butch or own a strap-on, and I fully realize that this is stupid. I wish I were a lesbian, because I feel kind of hated and left out in the gay blogosphere/community, and I don’t really feel any desire to plunge into heteronormative straight culture. The problem is that I keep having strong heart/vagina feelings for dudes. I know that this should be okay with me, and I should be able to say “fuck the haters, I like this person regardless of gender,” but every time I’m out with a guy in public I feel guilty. I also really hate feeling closeted when I’m dating/screwing a dude, and I feel much more positive about myself when I’m with a woman. It feels more rebellious and anti-patriarchal to sleep with women, and I’m wondering how I can get over this and just enjoy being with people, because I’m ending up blowing off guys I really like and sleeping with women who treat me badly so that I can be with the more “ethical” gender. I hate biphobia and bi invisibility in real life, and I hate myself for participating in it, and it’s probably anti-feminist of me to judge myself for my own desires. HELP!

Oh, to be 19 and politically queer! Look, I know this is going to sound hideously condescending, but I think that a lot of what you’re feeling will just naturally mellow as you get older and settle more comfortably into your bi identity.

You’ve gotten really into the idea of being The Biggest Homo Ever, which is totally understandable when you’re young. You’re recently out, you’ve just discovered that there’s a whole thriving queer community all around you (and on the Internet!), and you’re buzzing with your newfound freedom. You don’t have to hide anymore! Stick it to the Man! Et cetera. And that’s all amazing and thrilling and inspiring and so forth, but it starts to become a problem when you’re avoiding the relationships you want because you’re afraid they’re not rebellious or anti-patriarchal enough. All of a sudden, you’re not empowered anymore – you’re right back in the closet, hiding the truth about who you are and who you want because you’re afraid someone else won’t like it.

But you know what? Being actively, proudly bisexual is a pretty radical way to live. People really get uncomfortable about it. If you date a guy, they’ll want to proclaim you cured; if you date a girl, they’ll say you were gay all along, they knew it. But when you insist on your right to your own identity, your right to self-define even when it disrupts someone else’s ability to fit you into a category, you’ll feel way more powerful and anti-patriarchal and rebellious than you ever have before.

As you get older, as you continue to define yourself as bisexual (and correct people who miscategorize you), you’ll probably become more confident in your identity, secure in the knowledge that your queerness is not going anywhere, no matter how many boys you make out with. You’ll feel more established in the queer community you’ve found, and less worried about being kicked out of it because you failed at the Secret Dyke Handshake. And you’ll probably just stop caring so much about the statement your relationship makes, because you’ll be having too much fun – and too much awesome sex – to spend a lot of time stressing about it.

For right now, rest assured that you are not betraying The Cause by dating people you find attractive regardless of their gender. Instead of worrying about being sufficiently queer, just worry about being you — whether that means being butch, wearing a strap-on, sleeping with dudes, letting your boyfriend ride in the sidecar at the Dykes on Bikes parade, or dating a girl because you want to and not because you should. And if you’re really nervous about being out with your man in public, buy him one of those t-shirts that says “I’m Not Gay, But My Girlfriend Is.”

I have a weird problem. I came out when I was 19, and though I had rough patch with my mother, she eventually caught up to the rest of my family, and my parents and five siblings have all been incredibly supportive since. I’m now in my mid 20s and something unexpected happened about two years ago — my older brother came out to me. He has been gay all along but never said a word, and is now nearing 30 and still in the closet. At first I thought it was great that he felt comfortable enough to come out to me — we went out to the bars together and had fun! — but lately I’ve become more and more irritated with his stance on life. This is a man who is incredibly successful in every other realm, owns his own house and is terribly good looking. And yet he is ashamed of who he is, and has told me many times that he wishes he was straight. The worst part is, he thinks he’s won. He enjoys all of the privileges of the straight world while still dating men secretly. I know this sounds mean, but I feel like his continued lifestyle is actually hurting mine. For every gay person who doesn’t come out, all of the out gay people suffer. 

I asked him once if he would ever come out, and he said he would if met the right person. I’m not sure I believe him, but we haven’t spoken of it since. The truth is, we could not have a more supportive and loving family, so I’m mystified as to his decision. We did have a somewhat difficult time growing up; we were on the poor side, with parents that were too stressed out to treat their children with patience, which meant excessive yelling at times. I’ve learned to forgive my parents and love them for who they are today, but I don’t know if my brother ever can. He has a good relationship with them on the surface, but I sometimes feel that our childhood had a more lasting impact on him. Our family can also be oppressively close at times, and although it’s all out of love and respect, I think he feels weighed down by their presence. All of this is my best guess to explain his decisions.

I worry that the longer he stays in the closet, the more warped his brain will become. My siblings and parents have asked me multiple times if he is gay, and I always say I don’t know. How can I talk to him in a loving way and tell him I’m worried about his mental and emotional health? I want him to be a happy and healthy gay person, like I try to be. But I just don’t know how to get through to him.

Is there any particular reason why you’re worried about his mental and emotional health, besides the fact that he’s not out yet? Your letter doesn’t indicate any deeply worrying behavior on his part – you didn’t mention mood swings or binge drinking or a fondness for the later seasons of Alias – so I kind of think you might be drawing unsupported conclusions here. “Closeted people are miserable; my brother is closeted; therefore my brother is miserable” makes some surface-level sense, but you can’t know for sure unless he’s told you – which it sounds like he hasn’t.

I would be unhappy in the closet. You would be unhappy in the closet. A lot of queer people would be (or currently are) profoundly unhappy in the closet, and maybe your brother is one of them. It seems likely. But fixing his life is not your responsibility, and outing someone who doesn’t want to be out is one of the nastier things a person can do. Coming out needs to be his decision, and it will happen (or not) on the timeline he chooses.

As far as your assertion that his lifestyle is hurting yours … I mean, you can make the case that the more gay people come out of the closet, the more people will realize that we’re everywhere, we were here all along, and we’re actually pretty great (mostly. Some of us are douchebags). So in some abstract sense, every person who’s passing for straight is setting us back on our journey toward that hypothetical future date when all intolerance will end. But that’s just an abstraction. In the actual, literal world, how is your brother refusing to come out causing you harm? If anyone is suffering because of his choices, it’s him, and possibly the guys he’s dating.

It would be great if everyone felt totally ready to come out at 19, like you did, but sadly we don’t live in that world. There are a lot of reasons why your brother might prefer to keep his dude-on-dude activities a secret, and they might or might not have anything to do with his relationship with your parents. If he’s unhappy with who he is – if he really does wish he were straight – I don’t think even the most loving and supportive family in the world can make him embrace his sexuality before he’s ready. All you can do is love him, be there for him, and keep introducing him to every hot gay guy you can find. Hopefully with enough positive examples around, he’ll begin to understand that being queer is nothing to be ashamed of. If nothing else, maybe he’ll come out because that will make it easier to get laid.

I’m starting to really seriously think that I am asexual. I’m 25 and I’ve never had sex, but I do masturbate to climax (at irregular intervals, usually when I’m bored and can’t think of anything better to do?). I can’t really complain; I don’t feel unfulfilled without partner sex, don’t particularly care about my virgin status, but I am about to turn 25 and that has started to feel like A Major Life Milestone for some reason and part of my brain is being sneaky and asking, “shouldn’t you at least try it?” But the rest of me answers that sneakbrain with “meh.”

So really, how can I tell if I’m just being Cher Horowitz-shoe-level picky with who I let at my vagine or if I really will never have an interest in sex?

Ooh, who wants to take bets on how many times the phrase “saving herself for Luke Perry” will appear in the comments?

If you’re not interested in having sex, that’s totally fine, and I think the correct way to handle the situation is don’t have sex. No one should ever have sex that they don’t genuinely desire. I suppose this might just be a question of never having met anyone who pushes your extremely specific buttons, but it seems to me that if that were the case, you’d have someone particular in mind – like, “I only get it up for Halle Berry,” or “I’m only interested in Olympic swimmers,” or whatever. That actually sounds like a way bigger pain in the ass than just being asexual.

So how do you know that you’re asexual? Not being asexual myself, it’s hard for me to say for sure, but I think it’s probably analogous to how someone “knows” that they’re gay. Occasionally, less-than-open-minded individuals will say things like, “But how can you be certain that you wouldn’t like sex with a man?” or “Maybe it will change when you meet the right woman.” Which, Okay, sure, maybe. Maybe I’m really a cowboy, but I just don’t know it yet because I’ve never been on a horse. Still, I can be confident enough in my preferences to name them based on what they feel like to me (i.e. queer, non-cowboy). If you’re pretty sure you don’t want to have sex with anybody, you don’t have to wait until you’re looking back from your deathbed to say, “Yep, I never did bone anyone, guess I was asexual!” You can call yourself asexual if it feels right. If the day ever comes when it doesn’t feel right, maybe you’ll start calling yourself something else.

As for Major Life Milestones: I certainly feel like my first sexual experience was a defining moment in my life, but I don’t know that it was more defining than, say, the first time I shaved my head, or the time I went skydiving – and I would never tell you that if you haven’t buzzed off all your hair or jumped out of a plane you’re having an incomplete human experience. Just because something is a Major Milestone for a lot of people doesn’t mean it’s necessarily something you would find meaningful, or even enjoy. If you want to do something special to celebrate turning 25, why not take a vacation somewhere you’ve never been, or build a house for Habitat for Humanity? You get to decide how you’ll mark the milestones in your life, and that doesn’t need to include sex until and unless you want it to.

Previously: Filed Nails, When to Move, and the Coded Mixtape.

Lindsay Miller is also on Twitter. Do you have a question for her

Photo by Anna Sedneva, via Shutterstock

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