Illustration by Maxine Crump.

Illustration by Maxine Crump.

I identify as bisexual, but I’m not out to my parents. And coming out to them isn’t in the picture since I go to a charter school and they might pull me out of it if they deem the fact that I’m bi is due to the school. I’m also not that secure in my identity quite yet. There’s a girl who is interested in me and I have an interest in her. How do I go about possibly pursuing a relationship with her while going behind the backs of my parents and gaining confidence in my sexuality? Thanks. —Anonymous

Oof, it sounds like you’re in a tricky situation here. I wonder why your parents would think your school “caused” you to identify as bisexual. Is it a charter school with a special focus on lady-lovin’? Is it funded by Ellen DeGeneres? Is it (gasp!) an arts-centered school?

Ho ho ho, all joking aside, I hope your parents wouldn’t pull you out of any school you were happy at because of any way you identify. And I want you to know that, no matter what your parents might think, it’s valid to identify any way you want. It’s also valid to not be secure in your identity at any age—after years of experience or none at all. What’s important is that you want to identify that way, and why.

Now, I’m really glad you said that you already know the girl you like is interested in you. That makes things a lot easier, tbh! We don’t have to spend ages quietly trying to investigate if she (A) also likes girls, and (B) is potentially interested in you, all under a cloak of secrecy so that your parents never find out. Y’all like each other—now what?

Welp, I cannot argue either for or against pursuing a relationship behind your parents’ backs. That’s for you to decide. On the one hand, it is good to be honest and open with your family—they may surprise you. On the other hand, you can’t count on that. Your family may pull you out of school and/or punish you just for being yourself. And that’s not fair! I know what I would do: I’d go for the secretive relationship. But based on what you wrote, I also know that having your family find out about this while it’s going on might cost you your school.

That being said, it sounds like you’d like to move forward and explore your sexuality, possibly with this girl. OK. Here is where I discuss something that’s great about being a teenage girl in a queer relationship (I speak from experience): It’s not a huuuuge stretch to let people assume you’re just best friends. Think about it: Teenage girls are constantly portrayed in the media as having BFFs, people they are joined at the hip with, and real-life BFFs often practically live at each other’s houses—sleepovers, constant hangouts, hours-long phone calls, weekend trips to cabins…all these activities fall under the realm of “normal teenage girl behavior.” If you are extremely careful around other people, you and your crush are the only ones who have to know what’s going on.

But be very, very careful. If you are serious about your parents not finding out, you won’t be able to do normal PDA stuff at school or in public places where you might see someone you know. No kissing on the mouth, no holding hands lovingly, no intense hugs where you inhale each other’s scent. You also won’t be able to tell anyone else at school, because if you tell one person, unless they are so trustworthy that you’d trust them with your future at this school, the entire school might know about your relationship in a matter of days.

Don’t make out when you’re watching a movie and one of your parents is in the house. Don’t fall asleep in the same bed naked when you have “slumber parties” and wake up to your mom coming in without knocking to see if you want pancakes. No. Nononononono. No.

This is all basic stuff, but it’s actually really hard to do. When you’re excited about being in a relationship with someone, you may naturally want to talk about that person with other people and share what’s going on. You may also want to kiss them constantly, no matter where you are or who may be around.

Parents may act blasé, but they notice things like, “Gee, Sarah is over a lot,” or, “Golly, Maddy sleeps over every weekend!” If you’re going to pursue a secretive relationship with another girl, with possibly homophobic parents keeping a watchful eye, it’s going to be really, really tricky to keep it under wraps.

But if you feel that this is the best way forward for you and your boo, you can do it. And then you can graduate from the school you want to graduate from. And then you can do whatever you want, out in the open, for the rest of your life. And that will rule.

Be careful now, though, bb, OK? —Krista ♦

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