I'm a 26-year-old lesbian from Australia and I have a question about one of my friends. She has been with her boyfriend for about seven years and they have been through a lot together, including the death of his father a couple of years ago. She came out as a lesbian to myself and another friend (who's bi) at the start of the year with lots of promises that she would be breaking up with her boyfriend as soon as possible. Cut to now: They're still together and in the months that have passed she has had an intense affair with a woman that she swore we were not allowed to tell anyone about.
She keeps making excuses about why she is not breaking up with her boyfriend, despite the fact that they haven't had sex in over a year. I find her reluctance to come out as a really hurtful situation to be brought into as someone who's out, because it feels like she would rather be miserable in this straight relationship than risk being out (and happy!) but judged by others.
I just don't know how to be her friend through this when I am so hurt by her actions. I don't know how to reference her relationship in conversations with other friends because I'm not allowed to say anything. I feel burdened by this knowledge and frustrated by her carelessness both to me, and more importantly, to her boyfriend. How should I address this with her, when she knows how much it's hurting me to have her talk to me about it?
Angry Lesbian Lying4 You
Your friend didn’t really come out to you—she yanked you into the closet with her.
That bit of insight comes to you courtesy of Judy Savage, my late mother. I came out to my mom when I was 18—six months later I was out to my mom, but not my dad; out to one of my siblings, but not the other two; out to some of aunts and uncles, but not all twelve hundred of them (big Irish family). My mother became increasingly frustrated by the impossible task of keeping track of who knew and who didn't—she felt burdened by this knowledge—and finally lost her patience with me one night after almost saying the wrong thing in front of my dad. I had told her I was tired of keeping this secret when I came out to her, she reminded me, but now it was her secret to keep—and, as it turned out, she didn't like keeping secrets anymore than I did.
"It feels like you didn't come out of the closet, Daniel," she told me one night. "You pulled me in there with you. And you were right: being closeted feels awful. Can we all come out now, please?"
Be a Judy, ALLY. Pull your friend aside and tell her being closeted is awful—you came out to escape that awfulness. You didn't come out of your closet to go live in hers. And you’re not just the co-keeper of her secret/co-inhabitant of her closet, you’re now complicit-ish in the duping of her deceived, sad, and un-fucked boyfriend. Tell her that's not a place you wanna be either. Your friend's reason for not dumping her boyfriend are most likely equal parts cowardice and pity: afraid to come out and afraid to hurt him. She'll probably tell you she doesn't want to break his heart and that once, a long time ago (back when they were fucking), he said he couldn't live without her, etc., etc. Tell her she’s gonna leave him sooner or later—and the later it gets, the greater his hurt.
You can't drag your friend out of the closet—or you could, ALLY, but you shouldn't—but you don’t have to hang around in her closet with her either. So tell her it hurts to see her right now, tell her why it hurts to see her right now, and tell her to give you a call when she's ready to come the rest of the way out already. If she's ready now, offer to be there for her after she comes out to her boyfriend. If she's not ready now, tell her she's got your number and to give you a call when she is ready.
What your friend needs is someone to push/nudge/nag her the rest of the way out of her closet, just as my mom pushed/nudged/nagged me the rest of the way out of mine. If your words (or my mom's borrowed words) don't do the trick, maybe your absence will. Once your friend realizes she's alienating her closest friends, ALLY, maybe she'll own her actions/truth/secret-lesbian-love-life and come the rest of the way out. And if she doesn't? Well, good riddance then. A friend who makes you miserable isn't a friend you want to hang on to—or hang out with in the closet.
Oh, and speaking of Australia...