Saturday, July 21, 2012

Love in India and Not-Really-Roommates

I'm very quickly going to catch up on a couple of questions I received via email, one of which I've been putting off forever, and I'm truly sorry about that. I have excuses though! Possibly even good excuses! Sadly, most of what I could come up with by way of excuses could also just be called living life as a writer/girlfriend/cat owner/human being, which is to say, they're not particularly vindicating.

"Hi Cass,
 I came across ur question answer round in d lesbian dating site. I found ur answer and suggestions to the point and very practical. Cass if u cud do me a favour. M actually in a dilemma and I don't see thngs moving ahead.
M a 26 year old woman from India. I was in a relationship with a guy for few years and honestly I always felt sumthng missing. The relationship wasn't going healthy therefore we broke up for good.. It took me a long tym to get over him. In a years tym, I met this amazing woman. She is a butch lesbian and is open about it. We used to communicate over the phone and met few tyms. Now the thing is I wasnt ready for anythn more than frenship at that tym, however I did have feelings for her. The two months that we were together were the most amazing thing that happened to me. One day we met and thngs went beyond just friends.
Now the problem is soon after that she wanted to get into a relationship but I ws not ready to confront the society. She had issues and she left me. Its been a year now and m stil waitn for her. I have had lots of proposals from guys but I just can't thnk bout anyone else but her. Please help me out. How do I win her back."

This last letter was typed out on a Blackberry--being an owner of that kind of phone, I'm completely sympathetic in how difficult it is to type out a whole email on one of them. Let's all be understanding of the writer of the email for the errors and let's also be understanding of me that I didn't go through and smooth it over since I've recently been blinded by proof copies (not literally, but you get the idea).

Dear India Reader:

What you describe in the first part of your email is fairly typical of non-gold star lesbians. For those of you not familiar with the nomenclature, a gold star is a lesbian who has never been with a man (I'm one but my girlfriend isn't). For women who come to the realization they might be a lesbian after a few awkward relationships with men, it can be kind of disorienting, especially if you live in highly traditional area like India or Alabama.

What happened between you and this lovely woman you fell for is also fairly common. This is good news for you, but I'll explain that in a second. It's incredibly common for a first relationship (or even one a bit down the road) to fail because one person is out to society about being a lesbian and the other isn't. We call it being "in the closet" but I'm not sure if that saying is universal enough to be true in India. You were in the closet, she wasn't, you weren't ready to come out yet, and things fell apart. This is a story as old as Sappho.

This is where the good news comes in. Since it is an old story, and it's happened to people all over, it might be something this woman has experienced before. Breaking up with someone because you're ready to live life as an affirmed lesbian and they aren't is tough, but sometimes, like in this case, a second chance comes along with someone who wasn't ready before, but they're ready now.

You may not be able to get her back. She may have moved on to someone else by now. If that's the case, you need to let her go. But there's good news in this too. Lesbians date, break up, and then become fantastic friends that may end up back together someday or just remain lifelong friends. That's pretty much the glue holding together the lesbian community. So if she's moved on to someone else, make it clear that you'd really like to be her friend and she'll probably accept. At that point, you'll be off and running to meeting other lesbians within the community, since she'll probably be able to introduce you around. You need and want to be part of this group as a new lesbian.

If she's single still, your best bet is to simply tell her you weren't ready then, but you're ready now and she is who you want to be with. Explain you were afraid before, you weren't sure, but you've had time to think and become sure, and you know now that you want her and you are ready to come out to the world. She might have some stipulations about how "out" you need to be to be with her. Consider them carefully, but I would suggest keeping an open mind about accepting them. They might sound tough or scary, but ultimately you'll be a happier person after coming out and you'll strengthen the trust of the relationship by proving to her that you are ready.The next letter is super short and super sweet, but has a HUGE issue behind it. I love those tiny questions that have huge answers.

"How do I come out and tell my family that my roommate of 43 yrs is really my partner?"

See what I mean about it being a small question but requiring a lot of answering?

Dear Not-Really-Roommates

Odds are, if you've been living together with this woman for 43 years, your family will have their suspicions unless you've been a master at hiding it, and even then... When I came out to my family, they kind of had a "finally, she figured it out" response. You may find that this is the case with your family as well. They might be simply being polite enough to wait for you to say. If this is the case, then you're generally not doing anything but clearing the air.

If this isn't the case, and it might not be, then you've got some more work to do. First and foremost, let me congratulate you on having a 43 year monogamous relationship. Well-fucking-done! For those of you who aren't aware, I've quit the last of my dating website/magazine jobs and I'm doing all my advice through my blog/twitter now, which means I can swear in my responses again. That's a huge relief to me since I'm no damn good at watching my mouth.

Your tactic in this should be divide and conquer and here's how:
Step 1:  Make a list of all the people you want/need to come out to in your family.
Step 2:  Pick the people on this list who are most likely to respond well to the news. Odds are, these will also be the people you're closest to.
Step 3: Come out to the likely allies first, doing it individually of course, and bringing your partner along for the ride. Tell them you love them, that you've been living like this for a long time, and it doesn't have to change anything about your relationship with them, but that you wanted them to know since families who love each other shouldn't keep secrets.
Step 4:  Find the people on your list that you don't think will react well at all and decide whether or not you even need to come out to those people. My grandmother on my father's side is extremely traditional Korean, living in Korea. I'm not out to her and I never plan to be. She lives on the other side of the world from me, she'd never accept it, and so I'm planning on running out the clock and letting her go to the grave without ever having to freak out about her favorite granddaughter being a lesbian (my sister thinks she's the favorite because she gave grandma a great-grandchild, but that's just silliness). Odds are, there are some family members on your list that you can just say, "To hell with telling that person."
Step 5: Use the allies you've come out to already who reacted well to it so far to help and support you in coming out to the other, trickier members of your family. If Cousin Joe sees that you have three or four other family members with you that already know and are fine with it when you tell him, he's far less likely to make a scene about it. Do this part one at a time. A person can be reasonable and open-minded on their own, but when it becomes PEOPLE things start getting iffy as to how tolerant they're going to be.
Step 6: Be ready for it to not work out 100%. There might well be people in your family who aren't going to be cool with it no matter how well you approach this. With them, all you can really do is say that you're sorry they aren't willing to accept your relationship of 43 years (holy freaking crap that's incredible!) and that you hope they'll reconsider some day. And then you have to let them go until they get over their bigotry. Sadly, they might never, but that's not on you--it's on them. You don't have to live your life as an apology to bigots, even if those bigots are blood relatives.

I'm hopeful that this will go well and that your family is already probably in the know about what's been going on and simply waited for you to admit it to them. Regardless, I'd love a follow up email or comment to let me know how it went. Regardless of their reaction, you've got me on your side.

1 comment:

Aurelia Blue said...

Dear Not-Really-Roomates, Best wishes and best of luck. 43 is fanfreakingtastic. Your devotion and loyalty to your Love, speak volumes about what kind of person you are. If those you are coming out to can't see that, they aren't seeing a LOT of things that make you so great.