NYCLL

Friday, April 01, 2011

Question

After six years of loneliness, I finally found Ms. Right. I am a professionally employed lesbian with a small circle of friends in similar positions. Nobody would question our sexuality just to look at us. When we go out to eat, we wind up with a purse full of business cards from single guys. 

I have had bad luck with girlfriends who drank too much and stole from me or cheated on me, one who had a gambling problem, and another who lied about who she was. I still don't know where she was born or what her real legal name was. Now I have found a woman who is honest, ethical, and true to me. She sees only the best in me, and she has brought hope back into my life. I want to provide a really wonderful life for us. With her help, I think we can make all of our dreams come true. She makes me laugh. She's good in bed. She does the dishes. 

So why am I hesitating when it comes to introducing her to my friends? 

I just don't see any way that they will accept her. They are conventionally beautiful, feminine women, and most of them are also with feminine lovers who “pass.” My sweetheart looks like a lesbian. She isn't outrageously butch, but you can just tell by looking at her that she isn't trying to attract a man, and never will. When I have dinner with her, single men don't come up to our table, but they do sometimes make derogatory remarks or ask me why I'm with her. My friends would freak out if anything like that ever happened to them. They wouldn't know how to handle it. I was surprised to find out that I could handle it. It's none of their business how she looks or who she loves! I feel so protective of her that I even complained to a bar manager about harassment. I actually feel proud of myself. She calls me The Activist With A Manicure. 

But there's more. There's another incompatibility between my new love and my clique. She is not sophisticated. She doesn't care about haute cuisine, fashion, fine art, literature, or travel. So I don't know how she will fit into our conversations. I am afraid they will make fun of her and find some way to drive a wedge between us. I am also afraid they will not want to socialize with us, due to a fear of being outed. I don't go to gay bars or join organizations. This cautious group of women are my community!

I can't tell my love any of this. I am ashamed to share it with you. It makes me look like such a small and petty person. But these women friends have stood by me through some very tough times. When I was drinking too much, they got me help. When one of us got mononucleosis, we all took turns taking care of her. Together, we've survived unemployment, rape, breast cancer, and stacks of rejection letters for a first novel. There have also been good times, enough to fill a dozen scrapbooks. I don't want to lose them. Do I have to chose between this gorgeous “soft butch” woman who loves me with all her heart, and my merry band of bitchy but loyal friends?

 

Answer

You don't say how your friends interact with each other's lovers. I will assume that they are welcome to some events, but not to all of them. This sounds like a “girls' night out” kind of group, one that acknowledges partners but celebrates a bond with one another. I think this is excellent. We all need time away from our partners. The loyalty and kindness in this “bitchy” group is impressive! I can see why you call your friends your community. Many LGBT people wind up creating families out of compatible friends because our biological families have rejected us or don't understand what we need emotionally.

I am in favor of you keeping both of these important sources or foundations for a happy life. But it will take as much courage on your part as it did to summon a manager, point out some ill-mannered men, and demand better treatment. You have to be sassy and deflect their disapproval or uneasiness by challenging them to update their politics. When they start to ask if you have been seeing someone, look up to the skies and praise your partner's skills and devotion. But when they ask to meet her, reply that they are not allowed to meet her because you can't trust them to behave. Make it clear that you are keeping this gold nugget of a GF no matter what. Make them uneasy about their status with you

Be candid about them when they ask why they aren't allowed to interview your new love and pass judgment on her. Say, “I know what closet cases we all are, and I don't want you being mean to her because straight people take one look at her and assume she is a lesbian.” First there will be a fight about the use of the term “closet cases,” then there will be a shorter discussion about her masculinity. I think some of them will be intrigued. A group of femmes this sophisticated has to have sampled some rough trade (comparatively speaking) from time to time.

Next, pick one or two women in the group who are especially close to you. Tell them that if they promise to behave, they can meet her over coffee and dessert. Before the big day, open your heart to them, tell them how much you love them, and also how hard it has been for you to be alone. After this illicit introduction, word will spread that some of the group have been privileged enough to meet the mysterious stranger. Now everybody else will really want to be invited. If they don't plan a special event to welcome your GF, I will eat the paper this is printed on.

I would like to say that everyone will live happily ever after, but unfortunately, not all friendship circles are healthy. Some of them are meat grinders for partners, automatically destroying any intimate connection other than commitment to the group. Or there may be a couple of queen bees who are allowed to keep their drones, provided everyone else is single and jealous and hungry. Try to be objective and get a reading on the type of group you are in. If you've been single for six years, how have all your pals fared? How many of them have loved and lost? 

Let me reassure you that it is normal to pull away from friends a bit when a new love arises. You don't want to lose everybody's phone numbers, but you also don't want to deny yourself the time it takes to build something real. Intimacy increases as it is tended and safeguarded. If this woman is giving you something special that the group can't provide, perhaps your bottom line should be that you are keeping the goodies no matter what. If you are a people-pleaser or the group's emotional caretaker, it may be very hard to tolerate a difference of opinion. But a group of lesbians who try to sabotage another woman's same-sex relationship are just as bad as those who hassled you. The motive is the same: homophobia. Hiding one's sexual orientation and punishing LGBT people who are visible is the height of self-hatred. It isn't mainstreaming, it's clinging to the ghetto and hiding behind thin walls that will be no protection at all if we don't change our status amongst the hetero majority.

Keep this honey of a girl. Let her wear her hair short and talk about cars or cats or whatever it is she likes besides ballet and art gallery openings. Those are things you can do with your friends. Fun things. But you also need somebody to come home to who will rub your feet, ask you how your day went, and make you a snack, then drag you into the bedroom and eat your pussy till you cry. Count your blessings rather than your friends.