Hello, my name is Erica. I’ve been in a relationship with my best friend of three years. We’ve been dating for almost seven. I love her to death and she says she does also. Sometimes I doubt it though. We go to a all girls catholic school together, she’s a grade below me. I’m out and none of my friends or anyone I know of have a problem with me being a Lesbian. A few of my friends know I am dating her, my mom does also. She comes over my house every weekend since we’ve met. My family loves her, and her family loves me. Her family doesn’t know we are dating, or that she’s gay. Her mom and dad are extremely homophobic so I can see why she’s never came out or said that I was. She hasn’t came out to anyone besides her friend Casey. She knows I’ve told my friends but she still acts like we’re not dating. I understood at first since she hasn’t came out yet but after I found out she told her friend I found it pretty odd she still acts like we’re just friends. I left it alone for a while. After a week or two, we were at lunch sitting with my friends and my friend was talking about relationships. My friend Jewel said something along the lines of “I’d never date someone who acted like we were nothing.” And looked at us. I looked at her (the girl I’m dating) at she looked down. The conversation died down. The next day same table, same people. Another conversation started and my other friend Summer looked at me than her and said “are you guys dating. I blushed and said nothing than looked at her. She said nothing at first looked at her food and laughed slightly looking up, I smiled and she flat out said “No.” Looked down and continued eating. I was devastated. A few minutes later, I got up, threw away my food and left the lunch room. That weekend she came over, as always.(this is before my mom found out. When she was allowed to sleep over) we where laying in my bed and I was holding her. I normally touch her sides/hips, especially when we’re kissing. She wouldn’t let me. She just started volleyball, I assumed maybe she was insecure. I left it alone. That morning I woke up and kissed her and she slightly smiled, I looked at her and asked her what was wrong. She said she was sorry and started crying. I used to cut myself and she helped me through it. I never would her thought she would have, that never would have crossed my mind. Yet she lifted her shirt and there, down her hips where dozens of scars some old, many new. Shocked, I held her and said nothing but “it’s okay” for a half hour. A week or two later my mom walked in on us kissing, she was shocked, yet okay with it. Two weeks later my mom was driving us home and I held her hand, my mom saw and she dropped my hand. My mom assured her it was fine. I looked at her(my girlfriend) and she looked at make and said no, we got to her house I said bye, she got out of the car. My mom asked me what happened and I didn’t respond. She asked me if she was breaking my heart, I could only shake my head yes. I bursted into tears. I feel as if she is ashamed of me. I don’t know what to do, she tells me she loves me but, I feel like if she did it wouldn’t matter what other people think. I don’t know..please help.?
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Hey, Erica. Good to hear from you, even though you’re in a bit of a bind there. On the one hand, people generally don’t hide how they feel about other people. On the other hand, one of the most important people in the world to you is doing just that: your girlfriend’s hiding how she feels about you. She privately kisses you and tells you she loves you, then she publicly denies that she’s anything more than just your friend. That’s rough. Under these circumstances, it would make sense if you felt sad or upset, or even a bit angry or confused.
Sounds like your girlfriend’s a bit behind you on coming to terms with things. You used to cut, she’s cutting now. You’re out to all your friends, she’s only out to Casey. You’re out to your parents, she wouldn’t dare tell them just yet. You’re ready for the world to know you’re dating each other, she would rather put her head down and stare at her food. As much as you want her to catch up to you and just be open about your relationship already, the fact is, she’s a little bit behind.
The process of coming out is very personal. Many young people have no trouble at all just coming right out and telling people. Many others find the process very difficult, and it should be no surprise that the circumstances of each person’s upbringings generally influences whether it will be easy or hard.
In your girlfriend’s case, for example, she clearly feels quite stressed at the thought of other people finding out about this part of her life, let alone about you. She may even feel like coming out could be unsafe for her emotionally (or even perhaps physically) in light of her parents’ extreme homophobia. (Whether she agrees with them or not, they’re still her parents, and parents have a way of pressuring us and making us feel guilty when they want to.) Maybe she even has a general fear of unknown consequences like, perhaps, not knowing whether her parents would try to kick her out. These are important considerations. Even a fear of a small chance of getting kicked out, whether it would ever actually happen or not, is enough to get someone super worried.
(By the way, is that last one a possibility here, even a very small one? If it is, does she have a back-up plan, just in case someone finds out and tells her parents? Maybe you could ask her about that, just in case. Would mom be okay with having her stay at your house under a scenario like that? Or does she have an aunt or uncle or grandpa nearby?)
Anyway, whether it’s the stress of coming out, a concern of being unsafe, her homophobic parents, a general fear of the unknown consequences, or some combination of all of these things, she’s determined that it’s easier for her to just avoid all of that by keeping this part of her life a secret. At least for today. And tomorrow. And probably the next day, too.
The point is this: it’s not you.
There are lots of reasons that seem very good right about now — well, at least to her — for not wanting people to know her sexual orientation, let alone that she’s dating someone. So our advice to you is this: try your hardest (promise us, your hardest) not to take her conduct as some sort of signal that she does not actually love you. Why else would she come over every weekend? And kiss you? And hold your hand — at least when mom’s not looking! The stress of coming out is easier on some people than others, and your girlfriend’s coming out process is going to take a bit longer than yours did. It won’t happen by tomorrow.
You might be wondering whether we have any suggestions on how you can help speed things up to get her out of that closet already. We do: don’t. Your girlfriend needs to go at her own pace. It’s very personal. Keep that in mind. This is particularly true right now, given that she’s cutting. Yanking her out of the closet, or even trying to speed things along, could prove all too much for her, and she might resort to other ways of dealing with the pain. As her best friend and girlfriend, she needs you to keep being there for her and helping her along her own process of coming out — at whatever pace she’s comfortable with.
Rest assured, though, that she’s not stuck in that closet forever. She’s already begun to come out. She came out to you, for one. Plus she told Casey. And your mom. (Mom counts for double because she was, at first, shocked by the idea of your mom catching you kissing, but she figured out how to deal with that.) She likely realizes, by now, that you’ve told other friends about how you’re dating each other. She definitely realizes that at least Jewel and Summer know. So she’s beginning to see that there are a whole bunch of people who know and who are totally cool with it. This takes time, but the clock already began ticking.
So remain strong, Erica, and stay confident that she’ll be ready to tell people about you soon enough, when she’s ready. She might even take baby steps: first come out about her sexual orientation to more people, then start telling people about you. You keep doing whatever you can to help her through this process, at her pace. Perhaps you could give her a few resources about coming out. Like this one (http://amplifyyourvoice.org/youthresource/youthresource-comingout) or this one (http://www.hrc.org/files/documents/ComingOut_ResourceGuide.pdf) or even the Trevor Project’s very own, “Coming Out As YOU,” guide (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/section/YOU).
By the way, need a favor: mention us to her. We know how it feels to cut. She’s lucky that you’re there to tell her that it’s okay to want to cut, and we’d like to back you up on that. Get her connected with us.
One more thing to keep in the back of your mind. Although your girlfriend may not yet feel comfortable with people knowing about her or, more to the point, about you, and even though it really hurts to hear your girlfriend — of all people in the world — say that she’s no more than just another friend of yours, the truth is that she’s only human. She’s been taught by society and her homophobic parents to feel internalized guilt, or that she’s somehow not free to be who she is. But, as society is beginning to recognize, homophobia is not okay in this day and age. Many states, including Maryland, have made sure their laws are evened out so that they apply equally to everyone when it comes to things like getting married and being treated fairly at work.
It’s not okay for your girlfriend’s parents to be homophobic, and it’s not okay that society (and her parents) have left her in a situation where she feels overwhelmed by the thought of coming out or about telling people about you. But society is changing. And, no matter what, things will get better, both for her and, in turn, for you.
Definitely keep us updated on AskTrevor. And don’t forget to mention it to her.