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Just friends

I’m writing this from a hostel in Copenhagen while solo travelling (and posting it over a year later when at home). Two female friends from Holland welcomed me into their conversation with another other solo traveller. We all exchanged stories of travel and adventure, and I explained that I moved to England for a love that didn’t work out. I purposefully left my story gender neutral. And when my new friends assumed my ex was a he, I let them.

Why? I am not proud of myself for masking my identity in many interactions like this. This post is, in some ways, the flip side of the coin of my post about being more comfortable with straight men. This post highlights my fear that coming out will negatively impact my platonic female friendships. Strong bonds with other women have always been important to me. And although I’m a bit quirky, I’ve been good at making female friends.

As a straight woman, when you are warm and friendly with new women there is a subtext of the sisterhood that says: “I don’t want anything from you…I’m safe.” The only option is to be 'just friends' -- and nothing more.

Of course, coming out hasn’t made me creepy or predatory. I’m not afraid of my own actions. I even exchanged glances with one of the women from Holland when a man who joined our conversation was being a bit creepy.

What I am afraid of is if straight women will unnecessarily be more cautious around me, or even say things like “I don’t care if you’re a lesbian as long as you don’t hit on me.” As of yet, I’ve been lucky enough to never experience the latter. And I’m not sure if my concern about the former is a genuine fear, or just in my head.

I sometimes worry my female friends from my straight days will feel less at ease around me now. My high school friends are great – yes, I’m still friends with my high school friends – and this fear has proved to be wholly irrational and paranoid. But I can’t shake it.

My straight female friends and I used to talk a lot about finding the right man and sex. I have since modified this. I feel much less comfortable talking about finding a partner and sex now. It feels more vulgar, transgressive, somehow, to talk about queer sex.

The reality is, I do like women (and other non-male genders). Maybe I will develop a crush on a straight girl one day – it’s apparently a common phenomenon. But the person most likely to experience pain from this is me, not the straight woman. I know I won’t take advantage of the sisterhood and the closeness it affords, yet I morn the unconscious ease of it all from when I was straight.

I think this is an example of how the pervasiveness of homophobia, even in relatively progressive contexts, is still harmful. I self-police due to a fear of how I may be misinterpreted; I impose walls around myself. Perhaps this is also an example of internalised homophobia. I am still in a process of unpacking my feeling and fears around this.

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