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Dear Christine, Crazy in Clawson

  • Posted on September 11, 2017 at 10:23 am

Dear Christine,  My girlfriend and I have been together for a year, and maybe I moved in too fast (second date…) but I’m having a hard time with her relationships with her family. Her two daughters live with us half of the time and half with their father. I am very close to the girls and they talk with me all the time, and tell me that they love me and even come into our bedroom at night to kiss their mom goodnight, and me! My girlfriend claims she isn’t gay but just loves me, and she’s isn’t comfortable telling the girls, or anyone else in the family, that we are in love and we are a couple, and with the girls, we really are a family. Her family is involved with Christmas, and last year, we pretended I was just living there for a while, to help them out. She wants me to move out of the bedroom, so her sister and brother in law can have her bedroom when they visit for Christmas this year. That’s the living end for me! I’ve been out and proud for over 20 years, and I just feel like a maid. I’m “the help”, helping with the household, cooking, driving kids around etc, but not given the respect of being family! My girlfriend has been telling me all year that she wants to tell her family, but that she’s not ready. I’m afraid she’s never going to be ready, and I feel like I’m going crazy. Help! What do I do to not feel like a maid, but be a part of this family? Crazy in Clawson

Dear Crazy,  The holidays are such a stressful time, even without the pressures of coming out to family! Sounds like you have a very loving and good relationship with your girlfriend and her children, and that’s wonderful. Since you’ve been out forever, and she never saw herself as lesbian before, it’s really important to give her space and time to figure out how to acknowledge this relationship with her family. I would be surprised if the kids haven’t figured out that the two of you are a couple, saying good night to both of you in your bedroom! Kids are pretty sophisticated and aware these days. They may not know the labels, but clearly they feel connected to you, and treat you like family, not a maid.

I’m not recommending you move out of the bedroom for visitors, as I don’t recommend a couple in their own home give up their private space to others. One example of why, is the story I heard recently. A man stayed overnight at a friend’s house, and she let him use her bedroom. He opened a bedside drawer, looking for a clock, and he found some handcuffs! Clearly, she hadn’t expected him to go in the drawer! He found it very embarrassing to see her the next morning, thinking “Good morning Mrs. Handcuffs” but trying to keep cool and be appropriate. When he thinks of that friend, the handcuffs are the first thing that comes to mind. So, keeping your privacy is important, both yours and your girlfriend’s. Keep talking with your girlfriend about her process, but back off of any ultimatums. Listen to her thoughts and feelings, and trust the love that you and she and her children share. Love conquers fear, always. Trust your girlfriend’s process and hopefully she will tell her family directly, soon.

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067
248-591-2888

Click here to email Christine.

Dear Christine, Frustrated in Ferndale

  • Posted on August 7, 2017 at 9:24 am

Dear Dr. Christine, Question: I am a lesbian, and I’m masculine looking and proud of being me. I like hanging out with straight girls, as they are more fun, I think, than lesbians. I get caught up in a cycle that is exhausting, and I wonder what should happen? For example, my straight friend “Cindy” likes to hang out at my house and we’ll watch movies together, and pretty soon, she’s holding my hand on the couch, and before long she’s cuddling with me! I can’t watch the movie to the end! She’s driving me crazy. The next day I’ll try to tell her that I’m really attracted to her and want her, and she’ll just laugh and tell me that she doesn’t have feelings like that for me. When I ask her about being such a tease, she insists that she does these PDAs with her other straight girlfriends. It’s torture! I try to tell her that I’m like a guy, that if you hold my hand and cuddle with me it turns me on, and I can’t stop! If she really does this with her straight girl friends, then it sure isn’t something I can do and remain…

Dear Christine, Anonymous in Ann Arbor

  • Posted on May 8, 2017 at 10:15 am

Dear Christine, I know that it’s wrong to doubt the validity of someone’s trans status, but I have this thing going on with another friend of mine. We’re both trans, and we have our different ways of going about it (how we dress, act, etc.) But whenever I’m around him, I can’t talk about anything trans related because I can’t look at him like a man. He became trans overnight, and I took months and years. He’s always weirded out by the fact I’m gay, and he has a girlfriend. We both seem to doubt each other.
Anonymous in Ann Arbor

Dear Anonymous, There’s no right or wrong way to be whoever you are, and the same goes for your trans friend. How you identify your own gender is a completely separate thing from what you experience as your sexual orientation. Some people look feminine and are men, some people look masculine and are women. Some of those feminine men are gay, and some of those masculine women are lesbians. But not always! There are men and women who ‘look good” and “pass” and those that don’t, whether they are trans or not. Same goes for sexual orientation. There’s also no “right speed” of transition, or even “right goal” of transition. Some people transition when they are young (teens, 20s) and it can happen fast, as their body has not been exposed to sexual hormones shaping their skeleton and body one way or the other. Some people choose to just change their attire, dressing as the opposite sex of their body’s physical appearance, usually called cross–dressing. Interestingly, it’s been welcome for women to cross dress publicly since the World War II era, and I, for example, only wear skirts in the summer, but pants almost exclusively in the winter. For my comfort! No one calls that cross dressing, but it actually is! Some people choose to take hormones and cross dress, and some people go all the way through hormones and having various surgeries, including Gender Reassignment Surgery. That is the surgery that is usually required by the State of Michigan to be able to change your gender on your driver’s license. Some trans people, particularly women to men, don’t bother with the GRS, as it is a difficult surgery without the best results for many people, and so they are able to legally change their gender with the appropriate letters from medical and psychological professionals. Some people don’t have the money to have the surgeries, and some don’t consider those physical changes necessary for their feeling at home in their own body. It’s a very individual thing. Some people can afford to race through the process, and other take many years, both for the financial and for the emotional and psychological changes that the physical transformation takes. It’s not only one way.

Some trans people have physically changed their bodies with clothes, hormones and even surgery, but still have not emotionally internalized their new gender. Some male to female trans people still hang on to their “male privilege” in how they carry themselves, how they walk and how they interact with women and men. Some trans female to male men are not fully comfortable interacting as a man, as others may have a hard time realizing they are a man, because their voice still sounds in a higher register, like a woman still. So, over the phone, someone may not realize they are interacting with a man until they meet face to face. However, once again, there are lots of people who aren’t taking hormones and aren’t trying to be anyone different than their body presents itself, and some men have high voices and some women have low voices. I’ve heard such people complain about the assumptions of gender that are made over the phone, when people hear them and assume. Assume. Bad word. Remember what it stands for: To assume is to make an ass out of u and me!

So, if you can’t find a way to accept your trans friend as he identifies himself, maybe it’s time to back off from that friendship, and give it time: for you to be able to accept him however he presents himself and for you to understand that every trans person is on a unique and individual journey. Just because yours has gone in a certain sequence and timing, it doesn’t mean anyone else’s has or will again! Try to relax, and just let your friend be himself, and see if you can begin to see who he is, as he defines himself.

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067
248-591-2888

Click here to email Christine.

Dear Christine, Worried in Westland

  • Posted on December 31, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Dear Christine, Ok, I recently hooked up with my gay friend at his Holiday party and the whole situation is a little complicated. Everyone who knows about this says im gay when I think im still more bi-curious (more than a little actually) and whats bothering me is despite the fact the we said we we’re going to take all this slow, it feels almost like he’s trying to push me faster than im comfortable with emotionally. We’ve already experimented in more physical ways (not the big physical stuff, just experimenting) and im perfectly fine with it, but lately he’s been laying some serious emotional stuff on me, telling me how he really really cares about me and its only been two weeks since we hooked up. With all this emotional stuff going on im finding it harder and harder to get into him anymore but I don’t want to hurt him because we work together and have been friends for years and im afraid if I do hurt him he’s going to do something stupid and try hurting himself again. Its gotten to the point im making excuses not to come over and see him despite the fact that just a few days ago I wanted nothing more than to be over there as much as possible. What do you make of it, im confused and I don’t want to hurt him. Do you have any advice? Im scared because he’s really turning me off to him and I don’t want to hurt him but he’s just getting emotional too fast. one last thing id like to mention, im the physically clingy one who always wants to be close/cuddle he’s the more emotional one and he’s looking for a steady relationship, but as I mentioned I think im still in the bi-curious experimentation phase so I really don’t want to enter into a relationship till im 100% sure about all this.

Worried in Westland

Dear Worried,

Yes, please, do talk with him! Be completely honest and let him know that he’s going too fast for you and that you care about him and don’t want to be rejecting him and being the one to put the brakes on this relationship. If you have a friendship and he understands that you really do want to try this, and you do not want to hurt him, but need a slower pace, he’ll get it and give you some space. It sounds to me like he is in danger of driving you with the emotional pressure. Ask him if your being more physically clingy is giving him the wrong message about your bi-curious experimentation, since he’s ready for a relationship.

Communication is of major importance, but so rarely happens in hookups, and then one or the other is emotionally hooked, and the hurt begins. Remember, if you allow yourself, and he allows himself, to be truly vulnerable to each other and you are open and honest, not just physically, but also emotionally, you WILL get hurt. It’s not a case of “if” you will hurt him; only “when”, and vice versa. Knowing this hurt will definitely happen may help you keep your guard up a bit, and move a little slower.

This definitely has the ingredients for a messy ending, since you both work together. My biggest concern is that there’s been a lot of experimenting and interaction with too little conversation about what each of you can handle at this point. At what point does a hook-up turn into a relationship? When you both are honest about what you are actually doing with each other, and what you really need and want, and what you can’t have. Then, you’re going a lot deeper than any hook-up is meant to go. So, please talk to him soon! And take care of you, and good luck to you both.

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067
248-591-2888

Click here to email Christine.