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I am gay and have been friends with “Jake” since high school. We lived together when he started dating “Molly.” Molly didn’t have much of a filter and would joke about how I “domesticated” Jake for her since I got him to start cooking instead of getting takeout all the time. She’d also say things like “You look so good that I wish that I were gay.” I tried to shrug it off. I ended up moving across town after a work transfer. Molly moved in with Jake, and shortly thereafter they announced their engagement. Jake asked me to be his best man, and Molly invited me to her bachelorette party.
Molly started off the night plastered and kept drinking. She announced to the group that she was secretly bisexual, had never kissed a girl before, and wanted me to kiss her. I said no and tried to get up, but she jumped on my lap and stuck her tongue down my throat. I froze. Then Molly started kissing my cheek and whispering I should join Jake and her in bed: “Jake loves you, and I want you.” I pushed her off me and ran out of the room. A few people came after me, but all they did was make excuses for her because she was drunk. I called a cab and went home.
The next day Molly bombarded me with apologies over text. I asked her if she would forgive a guy who forced a kiss on her and proposed a threesome. All she said was that she’d been drunk and she was sorry. I spent a week debating what to tell Jake. Instead, Jake threw me out of the wedding because my presence would be too “difficult” for everyone. He ghosted me and wouldn’t return my calls. I finally sent him a screenshot of Molly’s messages to me and asked if he thought what she did was OK. All he wrote was “Sorry.” This has completely split our social circle. Everyone is “on my side,” but the big debate is if people should go to the wedding. I want to go off to lick my wounds and mourn the loss of my best friend, but other people keep asking me if it is OK for them to go to the wedding. I get it. They still love Jake even if he is marrying a witch, but I really don’t know what to tell them. I lost one friend. I don’t want to lose more. But I am not going to start handing out blessings.
—No Longer a Member of the Wedding
I’m so deeply sorry that you’ve been hurt and betrayed by so many of the people in your life—Molly for harassing and assaulting you, Jake for ignoring you when your boundaries became inconvenient to him, the rest of your friends for demanding you clear their consciences about attending this wedding. If you have a friend you trust to speak on your behalf, you might ask him or her to let the rest of your friends know that you’re not available to make the decision of whether to attend for them. If you don’t have anyone you can trust on that level right now, feel enormously free to shut down any attempts people might make: “I’m not available to make this decision for you. I don’t know what Jake and Molly need. I do know that I need support right now as I deal with the aftermath of sexual assault and losing one of my oldest friendships.” If you can afford it, I’d encourage you to set up an appointment with a therapist who can help you process such a profound loss on multiple fronts. If you can’t, look for a queer support group in your area. I think it might prove helpful to be around queer people who won’t pressure you to make straight people feel more comfortable about the ways they’ve tried to harm and instrumentalize you. Take all the time and space you need to look after yourself, and shut down any attempts to get your blessing to attend this wedding.
I am a woman in my mid-40s in a monogamous relationship with a man. We have two young children. I had brief relationships with a few women when I was younger, but all of my long-term relationships were with men. I didn’t come out to a lot of people, because it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. For the past decade, I’ve been an instructor at a university, and a lot of young people have approached me to share their coming-out stories, I think because I have short hair and tattoos, which makes me stand out among the other faculty. Some of the students have directly told me that they are looking for an adviser who really “gets” LGBTQ+ issues. My research falls along these lines, and I’m happy to help from a scholarly standpoint, but I can see that these students are also looking for personal connection, and I’m not sure how to handle it. I certainly don’t want to make myself available for navigating the queer scene outside of school, and I can’t just say, “Oh, sure, I’ve dated enough women to help you with X.” But talking about my husband and babies without contextualizing my identity further just leads to students feeling misled or disappointed. So, what now? A big, queer sign on my office door? A statement of belief and orientation on my syllabus? This all sounds ridiculous, but I also know that representation and mentorship are important to my students who are learning about themselves and how they want to present their own identities.
—Am I a Queer Mentor?
You are slightly overthinking this! It doesn’t sound like any of your students have ever said, “You have a husband and kids? This is so disappointing,” and left your office in a fit of pique. If any of them had, that would be both inappropriate and unwarranted, and you would be free to either curtail your advisership or encourage them to adhere to more appropriate boundaries during future sessions. Now, if you’d like to have a sign or two around your office in broad, general support of the LGBTQ community or include something LGBTQ-affirming on your syllabus, that’s perfectly within your remit as an instructor and not in the least ridiculous. But your students will have plenty of opportunities to find queer examples and mentors in the world at large as they struggle to define themselves not just as students but as people. As their professor, you don’t have to make yourself responsible for how they present their own identities. You can mention your husband, but whether you want to go into greater detail about your dating history or your current identity is up to you, depending on how much personal information you’re comfortable sharing with students. But you’re giving yourself way too big a job by expecting yourself to be the first or primary source of queer representation to students on campus.
More Advice From Care and Feeding
Eight years ago my husband’s brother took in a stray pit bull. “Beauty” is a gentle giant who mostly wants to snuggle and lets my brother-in-law’s parakeet nibble her head. She also got into a fight with my spaniel over a toy five years ago that left my dog with a 6-inch gash to the throat and me with an $800 vet bill. I hold no grudges over that.
My husband and I now have a 10-month-old. As the baby became more mobile, my dog became more anxious and snappy, to the point that we made the difficult decision to rehome her. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I know it was the right decision to keep my dog happy and my baby safe.
When we visit my in-laws across the state, my brother-in-law wants to bring Beauty along. I have made it clear to everyone in my family that I don’t want a dog with that kind of lethal capability near my child. Grandma says we will simply keep them in different areas of the house, but during the first visit, Beauty was left right outside our bedroom door for extended periods, and during others, the dog bolted out of her room and right up to the baby before anyone could stop her. (Have I mentioned I’m seeing a therapist for postpartum anxiety?)
Complicating the issue is that my brother-in-law is generally irresponsible—he’s bad at holding jobs, managing money, and taking care of himself. He has never once taken Beauty to the vet because “he can’t afford it.” She cannot be boarded because she’s had no shots. He has no friends willing to dog-sit. So if Beauty can’t come to visit, he can’t come.
Grandma says I’m driving a wedge in her family and forcing her to choose between her son and her grandchild. I’ve offered to travel across the state, take Beauty to the vet myself, and board her at my own expense. My husband says we can’t afford that, and he’s right, but I would do it for peace within the family. The grandparents also live in a small town with no nearby hotels, so that’s not an option for us.
Is there another solution I’m not seeing here? Am I being ridiculous in my demands, as Grandma contends? I don’t want to cause pain in the family, but I don’t know what else to do.
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