Welcome to ¡Hola Papi!, the advice column where John Paul Brammer helps people work through their anxieties, fears, and life's queerest questions. If you need advice, send him a question at email@example.com.
I’m a “straight” girl in my early 20s and super confused about my sexuality. I think I’m developing a crush on a girl.
For background, I was raised in the deep South and my family is super religious. I never thought I was into girls because, well, I liked boys. But now I’m not so sure. I might be bi, but I didn’t even know what bi was until I was 17. I’ve developed a crush on one of my friends who is a lesbian, and I’m not sure if I should do anything about it.
I think I might have liked other girls previously, but we were all pretty close friends. I’m not sure if I’m confusing close platonic feelings for romantic ones. I don’t even know if she’d like me back. Should I try dating different girls first to see if I like girls? Should I tell my friend I like her? Am I just in a gray area of sexuality? I’m really out of my depth here.
Hey there, BB!
Sounds like you might not be straight. Don’t panic! There are perhaps dozens of us who aren’t straight and together we form a mighty collective. Sometimes we carpool, and sometimes we exchange baked goods. I have a good time here, anyway.
I’m not saying you have to identify yourself as bi now. That’s all up to you! In fact, don’t feel too bogged down by capital I “identity” just yet. I think often times people get fixated on making sure they’ve got the right nomenclature down before they allow themselves to do anything. I can understand the impulse. Many in the LGBTQ+ community are (pretty reasonably) vigilant about people co-opting language and culture to use as queer decoration for their otherwise cishet lives.
But I’ve noticed this sentiment a lot with my bisexual readers in particular: They really, really want to make sure they’re An Actual Bi™ before they go about dating or entering community spaces. They want to make sure they have the “valid” rubber stamp of approval first. I love that people want to be respectful. That’s nice! But I can’t help but think that if we didn’t interrogate bisexual people so much about what they “really” are or aren’t, this process would be a lot smoother for so many people.
I mean, how are any of us really supposed to firm up an identity before we’ve even put ourselves out there? Especially when, like in your case, we grew up in environments where we were denied the vocabulary to even address our desires? It’s like asking you to build a marshmallow bridge, but all you’ve been given are popsicle sticks and no marshmallows. (That metaphor absolutely worked and I won’t hear any criticism of it. Write your own column, brain geniuses.)
All this is to say that I think you’re putting the identity horse before the horny carriage. Dating girls just to validate your crush on your lesbian friend isn’t a good strategy. Those girls have feelings and lives of their own and probably have better things to do than to be your gay science project. You think you like this girl. This one, in particular. That’s a great starting point! Consider your feelings and express them. She might like you back. If not, then you’ve got a great friend who is already part of the community and who can hopefully help you figure some things out.
You can worry about which letter of The Big Queer Alphabet you want to move into at any point. But don’t get so caught up in existential “what am I?” angst that it compounds the already fraught endeavor of figuring out your sexual orientation.
Yes, you are indeed in a sexual gray area. Many people are, if not most! I’d love for you to think of this as more of an opportunity for self-discovery than as a crisis that has you “out of your depth.” Have fun with it! Get excited, even! Whatever happens and however you end up defining yourself, something gay is afoot here, and I love that for all of us. We’ll be here with your baked goods as a welcoming gift if you do decide to join us.
Con mucho amor,