Illustration by Maxine Crump.

Illustration by Maxine Crump.

At the risk of making everyone cringe so hard they swallow their own teeth, my life recently improved a lot when my best friend and I somehow turned into girlfriends. Neither of us have really been attracted to girls that much before but love is love. While I’m pretty OK with people knowing about this, she’s having a much harder time convincing herself to tell people. She’s worried they will act differently around us and her friendships will change dynamic. While I understand completely, and of course I would never force her to do anything, it’s becoming really difficult to keep our relationships a secret and sneak around so much. I want to be honest and open with my family and friends. Even though I know it’s paranoid and silly, I also can’t help feeling a tiny bit hurt as well. Do you have any ideas how I could start a conversation with her or try and make her feel more at ease? Or should I just leave it to happen at her own pace? What should I do? —Rose, 17, U.K.

Hi, Rose! No one is cringing! Some of us are clasping our hands and squealing, “AAHHHHHHH I LOVE ITTTTTTTT,” while sitting by ourselves in a coffeeshop!

Your experience mirrors an experience I had at 17. I had a friend-turned-girlfriend, and while she was casually open about it (we went to different schools), I was Mormon and prettyyyyy sure, even though we were just two girls who loved one another, that this was not something I wanted to tell others about. I never came out in high school at all—I came out in college, when I felt more secure about myself, my sexuality, and my safety.

It’s wonderful that you and your best friend have fallen in love, and it’s so cool that you’re fine with people knowing. However, everyone moves at their own pace, and I think you’re right—your girlfriend is not on your ready-to-be-out level. And that’s OK, too! It is absolutely OK for her to not be ready to let other people know about ~the nature~ of your relationship. It could be that she fears her parents (valid), she fears losing friends (any friends you’d lose might be worth losing, but definitely a valid feeling, especially in high school), she fears for her safety (super valid), or that she fears receiving different treatment in general. She might also just not be ready to label herself, which is 100 percent understandable—y’all are young, and labeling yourself as anything can feel pretty like a pretty tremendous step, especially if that label (queer) is a big one that tends to stick.

I get that it might hurt your feelings. I do. You’re in love and excited about your relationship, and it might feel like her not-wanting to be open with other people makes you her secret, something she’s ashamed about. Try not to think of it that way. You being ready to tell people does not mean she is also ready, and it doesn’t mean she loves you any less. Everyone gets their own story, and her story is different than yours. My advice is to let her work through this at her own pace. If she wants to come out, she will. And if she doesn’t…you’ll have to decide, down the line, if that’s something you’re willing to have in a relationship.

Now, I feel you on the difficulty of meeting up secretly. It’s not fun to feel like you’re lying to people. You might think about asking your girlfriend if she’s comfortable with telling a few select people you both agree on and trust about your relationship. Good people to tell might be a trusted older sister or a friend you both love who has a proven track record of being able to keep things quiet. That way, you would get the happiness of telling somebody, and your girlfriend would get the security and control over who knows this extremely personal thing about her life.

I hope this helps! Good luck out there, you lovebirds! ♦

Need advice? Email questions about any of your life’s quandaries to [email protected], and please include your AGE, FIRST NAME/INITIAL/NICKNAME, and CITY. We will do our very, very, very-very best to assist.