Dear Queer Abby,
I’m 33 years old. It took me a long (maybe too long) time to finally figure out I’m not straight.
Let’s not get too excited yet — I’m still closeted, because of a multitude of problems going on in my life right now. I’m unemployed and unfortunately, I also have a homophobic family. I’m living at home, which is a conservative city in the south that doesn’t exactly have a booming LGBT community. I have no friends, as pathetic as this sounds.
I thought I’d give online dating a shot, just to even find someone to talk to, but I got no messages. I joined some lesbian forum and a queer site, but alas I still had no luck. I feel like the women that belong to these communities all have their cliques that I can’t join.
I hate sports, I’m not a vegan/vegetarian and, try as I might, I can’t get into the TV shows or movies they watch, the musicians they listen to (look, I will never stop apologizing for loving classic rock) or the female celebrities they crush on.
I have tried very hard to change my interests and watch the entertainment they do — I tried to be vegan (it didn’t last), I’d leave my TV on ESPN instead of a rerun of a sitcom — but I can’t stick with them. I’m very different, and even before I knew I was a lesbian I had a hard time making friends. I’m starting to feel like I’ll never fit in.
What do I do?
Out Of The Loop
First of all, congratulations on discovering you are not straight, and for coming out to me. I’m honored.
When I came out I was terrified of the lesbian pack. First of all, they seem a lot more confident than any straight circle of women I’d ever run with. Secondly, they did all seem to know each other already. I didn’t actively come out until I was 21, and that felt like it was too late. It seemed like hopping into a very quick, assertive double-dutch game.
The good news is, it’s never too late, and there are whole swaths of lesbians who get a thrill from initiating the recently-straight. There are people who would love to broaden their circle of friends by having you in it.
When I first went gay, I had a small group of lesbian friends who would sit in a circle and play a “game” called “the first time you knew you were gay.” This was a gathering of young people trying to extend their feathers in order to prove they had the credibility to exist in gay space. I’m rolling my eyes now, but at the time (as an insecure fledgling) it felt crucial.
As we went around the circle, every young invert talked about being SO GAY that they were turned on by their first babysitter, or (the more dyed-in-the-wool dykes) getting sapphically excited just by passing through the birth canal. That’s how long they’d been gay.
When I was a kid, I had a crush on my Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy, I wanted to be Eddie Munster and I wanted to have sex with Jordan Knight. I would shrink and feel shame in these circles for being new and not having made a pass at my Montessori school teacher. I was like “Guys, you know when I went gay because you were there. It was just last week.”
(Note: Looking back, those are The Gayest references I could have had, but at the time I felt like a misunderstood poser. )
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. No one else really cares. People are going to like you or they’re not. Also, you get to keep your own cultural touchstones.
Lesbians are still humans. They like TV, they breathe air, they like all the food groups.
I recommend you bone up on queer culture not to make people like you (because trying HARDER to become liked by pantomiming what you think other people are doing has never worked, unless you are JT LeRoy, and even then it was just for a second), but because you want to learn and respect the history of people who came before you. You can put your experience and the current struggle into historical perspective, and also grow something in yourself that lets you know these people you’re aligning yourself with are deeper than celebrity crushes or memes.
I’m going to prescribe that you make a bigger life for yourself. To get a friend, be a friend. Reach out to the people you think are interesting online. Do something nice for someone you’d like to be a friend with.
Make yourself interesting to yourself. Whatever that means to you. Volunteer somewhere, take a class, start seeking out cultural events in nearby towns that have to do with gay people.
Also, get a haircut you really like.
So you’re not a k.d. lang-loving vegan who was born clutching a (non-TERFy) labrys — that’s fine. You *are* are a sitcom-loving classic rock fan who possibly loves barbecue. It’s okay to be you. I feel like I’m on Sesame Street for saying that out loud, but it’s true.
You aren’t already culturally lesbian. You don’t have to be.
I can’t guarantee that you’re magically going to have homosexuals knocking down your door if you follow my advice, but the only way to get something is to ask. To paraphrase the author Beth Pickens, “If you don’t ask for something, you’re 100 percent not going to get it.”
Asking (the universe, a website, a person at a gay bar) is good practice.
So decide what you want. Decide what you have to offer. Put those things out there.
Keep trying. Keep asking.