Omar Bustamante/FUSION

I am an 18-year-old French girl. It is really difficult to be different in France, and to show our differences. I have always been attracted to girls but I wouldn't admit it. Now, I am eighteen and still single and everybody is trying to push me into a couple. Someone asked me at a party, "What's the matter? Are you gay?" He said it with a voice full of judgment. But I can’t just go around saying, “Hi, I’m gay.” I live in a really conservative city, and we’ve all known each other for so long that I could not imagine myself telling anyone. However, I really, really want to meet new people (hopefully some beautiful girls). I do not want to be ashamed of who I am, but I don't know what do.

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So you’re struggling with the assumption that everyone is heterosexual, and that if you’re eighteen and single there must be something wrong with you. I know you know this, but sometimes it helps have another person tell you what you already know: You don’t need to be ashamed of being gay. It’s okay to be gay! It’s pretty rad, in fact.

You also, and this is just as important, don’t need to be ashamed of not being out yet. Living in a small, judgmental community and lacking a strong support system, you have good reasons to keep your identity to yourself. It’s always okay to wait until you feel supported and safe enough to come out. In the meantime, if and when people give you a hard time for not having a boyfriend, just tell them “I haven’t met a boy I really like yet.” Which is true! You haven’t! And you probably never will, because you like girls. But you can leave that last part out.

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Is there anyone in your town you can come out to? A family member, a good friend, someone you look up to? Having even one staunch ally who knows and loves the real you, it will be easier to get through this period of your life. If you know someone you think you might be able to trust with your secret but you’re not sure, try engaging them in a conversation about same-sex marriage or LGBT rights and see if they seem receptive and open-minded.

Whether or not you can find a supportive person in your immediate vicinity, it’s worth your while to look for friends online. Seek out LGBT resources or any kind of cool place where you can bond with people who share your interests. Not just your interest in girls, either—you can probably find folks who share your taste in music, books, sports, etc., and who would love to be friends with you regardless of your orientation. Do you have a blog? Starting one (and keeping it totally anonymous, so you can’t be identified by anyone whom you ever have to look at with your actual human face) will give you a much-needed venue to vent your feelings; it could also help you reach other people who are going through similar experiences but with whom, because of geography, you might never cross paths. The internet is an incredible boon for people who lack physical access to the communities they need.

And finally, as challenging as uprooting your life can be, if you don’t feel safe being out in your hometown, you should be working toward living somewhere new. It’s valid and sometimes wise to stay silent about a vital facet of your life for a finite period of time, but you’ll be miserable if you do it forever. Think about what you’d need to do in order to move to someplace bigger, more liberal, and hopefully teeming with cute, available ladies. Do you need to get a job and save up money? Get into a school? Find a roommate? Divide these goals into small, manageable steps and start doing them. I promise you, as soon as you’re moving in the direction of where you want and need to be, even if it takes a long time to get there, it’s going to feel like a massive weight has been lifted off your soul.

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While you’re working on building your support network and getting yourself to a more accepting place, please remember that we’re out here rooting for you, you’re not alone, and you’re awesome! Good luck and much love!

So I am gay and I have a crush on this girl Amy, but Amy is actually a boy named Dylan. I just discovered this a couple of days ago and am rather confused about how to do this. I really want to get to know Dylan. Granted, I am a senior in high school and he’s a freshman so I'm not looking for a relationship or anything like that. I just want to get to know him. I have been calling him Amy ever since I met him and he hasn't corrected me so I'm wondering if I should ask about it? Should I ask if I should use pronouns like “he”? And I'm also wondering that if I am attracted to a trans boy, if that makes me bi?

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Wait, how did you learn that Dylan isn’t a girl? It doesn’t sound like he came out to you himself, so I’m wondering if you found out via someone who wasn’t supposed to share this information. As you probably know from your own experience being gay, deciding when and how to come out is a really personal choice, and it can be devastating if that choice is taken away from you. If Dylan still goes by the name Amy and “she” pronouns at school, and hasn’t corrected you when you use that language, I think it’s fair to assume that he doesn’t want to be out as trans right now. Using his chosen name and pronouns when he hasn’t shared them with you could actually come across as intrusive and hurtful.

A better option would be to work on showing him that you’re a trustworthy and cool person, someone he can feel safe opening up to. Invite him to do things with you and your friends, and share details about your own life. If he doesn’t know that you’re gay, it’s probably worth mentioning – not that cis gay people have always shown trans folks the support and love they deserve, but I do think knowing that you fall outside the cis/hetero paradigm might make him feel slightly safer disclosing his gender to you. And if he doesn’t right away, don’t freak out – it’s not a referendum on you as a person; coming out takes as long as it takes. Just be supportive and he’ll tell you when he’s ready.

You said you don’t want to have a relationship with him because of your age difference, which is fine, but it’s also fine to ask him out if you want to. Remember that even if he says yes, your relationship will probably be limited in length – very few people stay with their high school sweethearts once high school is over, and that’s fine. Bear in mind, too, that even if he does want to date you, being his girlfriend does not automatically grant you access to information about his gender; you still have to respect his process and his privacy.

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Finally, if you’re attracted to girls and also at least one boy, I think “bi” is a viable word to describe your orientation! But it’s also fine to keep calling yourself gay, if you resonate more with that description. Different people define those terms in different ways; ultimately, the vocabulary you use to describe yourself is up to you and you alone.

And I know I already said “finally,” but I want to add that I’m so grateful we’re moving toward a world in which coming out in high school is a valid option, and people are working to be sensitive and respectful about queer, trans, and otherwise non-normative identities. You go, letter writer. (Also, you and LW#1 should be pen pals. I feel like you’re the kind of friend she could use right now.)

Thanks, everyone! Remember to send me your questions at askaqueerchick@gmail.com, and read my book!

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Lindsay King-Miller is a queer femme tattooed fat chick who does not have an indoor voice. Her writing has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, Buzzfeed, The Hairpin, and numerous other publications. She lives in Denver with her partner, an adorable baby girl, and two very spoiled cats. Her first book, Ask A Queer Chick, was published by Plume in February 2016.