Dear Captain Awkward,
How is a good way to let a friend know that her mildly homophobic comments are hurtful to me before I move in with her?
My friend Ella would probably be offended if she knew her comments come across as ‘othering’ to me (I’m a bisexual woman, not yet fully out to her, and only newly out to myself). Nonetheless, the things she says make me feel I can’t be fully myself around her.
When Ella heard I’d been on a date with a woman, she grilled me about my sexuality at a point I was feeling uncertain myself and unready to talk.
Now when we go clubbing, Ella will grind up against me, pant against me and generally invade my personal space in a way I don’t like while looking at all the men near us. It makes me feel like she’s trying to ‘put on a show’ to attract men, and I don’t like being a part of it.
Ella has often said things that make me think she views sexuality as very binary – a female friend of ours was once in a three year relationship with a woman, and is now with a man. Ella immediately dismissed the previous relationship as “just experimenting”.
Ella has low self esteem and is dealing with anxiety right now, which is why she wants me to live with her. She’s a nice person and I think it could be really fun to live together, but not if these things that make me uncomfortable continue.
How can I respectfully and kindly assert what I need, Captain Awkward?
Not in Kansas anymore
Dear Not In Kansas:
I’ve read and heard a lot of accounts of newly-out bisexual and gay women who become the creepy object of their straight female friends’ curiosity and ignorance, so, you’re depressingly not alone here. None of this is your fault! Just know, it’s okay to shut it down and shut it down hard.
Please, if you take nothing else away from this post today, I strongly suggest that you put the brakes on the process of becoming Ella’s roommate. Whatever good qualities she has as a friend, the two of you are a bad mix right now. Until and unless you can be really clear with her about boundaries and trust her 100% not to do and say homophobic stuff around you, she is not the roommate for you. Don’t move in with someone who steamrolls you and makes you feel like you can’t ask for things you need!
Your scripts for Ella could be:
- “We need to clear some stuff up if we’re going to keep talking about becoming roommates.”
- “I’m pretty sure I’m bisexual. I’m still figuring it out for myself, and it’s been hard for me to come out to you before now because of [above-described comments and behaviors].”
- “I don’t like it when you grind on me in the club and try to put on a show. Please don’t touch me like that when we’re dancing.”
- “That’s not how bisexuality works.” (re: her comments on the female friend and “experimentation”)
- “If you want to do some reading about bisexuality, here you go: https://biresource.org/bisexuality-101/. I don’t want to be grilled about my dates or be your specimen for educational purposes.” You’re not her identity tutor!
- “I know we’ve talked about living together but I think it’s not the right decision for me. I’m going to get my own place/stay where I am.“
None of these scripts are rude or unkind. They are reasonable responses to the gross ways she is behaving. A good person who is your friend will be embarrassed, mortified, and apologetic. She will not try to defend or justify the behaviors. Most importantly, she will not do the gross things again.
I hope you can find some some room to figure out your identity without the scrutiny (& performative dance-groping, ugh!!!!!!!) of Ella. Please be good to yourself. And please reconsider this living situation. If I were to make a flow chart of “should you become roommates with this person?,” “They do weird touching stuff that makes me uncomfortable” would definitely lead to “Do not live with.”
143 thoughts on “#1047: “How do I talk to my future roommate about her homophobic comments & behaviors?””
I agree with the Captain- Don’t move in/ become roommates with this friend. All that grinding on you in clubs is icky and suspicious me thinks she may try to experiment on you if you are her roommate. Maybe she is questioning her own sexuality but says homophobic things to try to make people believe she is straight?
Sorry, all that grilling you and grinding on you at clubs just makes me suspicious and think she will respect your boundaries if you move in/become roommates with her.
*will NOT respect your boundaries
Yes this is possible! – though I would recommend putting the breaks on the roomies thing even if she were totally straight but wanting to seem edgy/appealing to guys by using you as an “exotic” dance pole. ew.
I once dated a woman and was her first lesbian experience. She had a lot of internalized homo-phobia and had a lot of difficult processing that was triggered by us hooking up but that was ok, I was fine with being patient and supportive. What sucked was during our time dating it became obvious she was sorta in love with her former roommate who is a lesbian, and her fixation was unfortunately very damaging and one-sided. I stopped seeing her because of that…because she couldn’t not treat me like a drug habit she had to hide while also kinda parading me around and taking me to see her old roommate on a whim a 45 min drive a way and then freak out like she got caught cheating when her former roommate walked in on us together.
LW, I completely agree with Captain Awkard and Michelle. This woman is not respecting you and perhaps she is going through her own issues regarding her sexuality/mental and emotional health. Do not continue with your plans to move in with her if anything you say will be dismissed.
Best of luck to you on your journey!
Do you have to be roommates with her? Are there other big advantages, or other difficulties with finding a different roommate?
It’s possible that being roommates with her is the best option you have (financially, socially etc) but it doesn’t sound like a really really great option.
Moving in with friends can change the relationship or put strain on it anyway.
Blanket recommendation: Don’t become roommates with “weird touching” friends (if you have *any* other safe options.)
“Weird touching” friends feel like a specific branch of boundary-trampling friends, and I think it would be safe to recommend that no one become roommates with boundary-tramplers if they can at all avoid it. It’s like the express bus to “omfg stop using my food and moving my stuff and letting your drunk friend sleep in my bed when I’m out of town and feeding my pet things I told you not to feed it and trying to talk to me through the door when I’m on the toilet!”
This is a beautiful, succinct, specific list of drive-you-crazy boundary crossing behavior by a roommate! Like like like
I agree. In addition, these can be awful surprises because it doesn’t come up unless we are actually living with someone.
LW, you have been given a gift of glimpsing the future of actually living with Ella. If you are uncomfortable now; trust me, living together will bring opportunities that are even worse.
They are all things I have heard other people complain specifically about their roommate doing.
Except the talking through the door when you’re on the toilet thing, that was one of my roommates in college.
Additional suggestion: “weird touching” friends who don’t make it safe for you to tell them to stop the weird touches, or who don’t stop the weird touches when asked, should not be considered friends at all. That’s not friendly behavior.
Also, when evaluating the costs of this move, remember to factor in the costs of being in a bad housemate situation. I’m currently paying for way more drinks in cafes than I want to be so I can get away from awful-housemate-who-is-always-there-being-awful, and even had to pay for a hotel room one weekend. One of the other housemates has started smoking again and is buying more booze than before out of stress. We’re also paying extra in bills because it turns out boundary pushing housemates don’t give a shit about how much electricity they use, or about getting the money to you on time. I’ve had to pay to replace household items of mine that have been damaged or thrown out. I’m also looking at the possibility of having to pay for another house move for myself if we can’t find a way to get her to leave.
Don’t forget to factor in penalties for early cancellation of the lease, when you find you just can’t stand it anymore and move out before the lease is up.
Moving is expensive, at any time, but moving before the lease is up is REALLY expensive.
I don’t have any better advice than the scripts the Captain already gave you and not to move in with Ella right now, but here’s a way of thinking about the problem that might help. Imagine for a second that a male friend who was just a friend often made comments about your sexuality, grilled you about your date with someone else (male or female), ground up against you when dancing while glancing at his friends like he was showing off for them, and dismissed a mutual friend’s 3 year relationship like it was his privilege to decide what’s an important relationship and what’s just experimenting for someone else. Also, this guy has low self esteem and is dealing with anxiety but can also be a nice person and might be fun to live with except that he so often makes you uncomfortable. In that situation, would you have any trouble recognizing red flags? I’m not trying to suggest that the 2 situations are exactly the same, but thinking about it in those terms might help.
Another comment agreeing with the Captain. If you still have a chance to *not* be Ella’s roommate, back out now. The grilling was bad enough, but the grinding was completely creepy. Both mark her as a bully. And even after you find another place to live, I’d approach her warily. She just showed you who she could be, and that’s not going to go away. She may cover it up well, but the ability to break out into that behavior will always be there.
Yeah, I’ve found it incredibly important to recognise that people will always show you exactly who they are with their behaviour.
Ella might grow into being a better person but not at the expense of your peace of mind & safety.
You’re doing her a favour pointing out her boundary issues. I think sometimes people have so fully assimilated outdated cultural mores they don’t even realise it themselves (assigning value or not to another’s relationship WTF?).
Re Erykah Badu: “…you don’t have to believe everything you think, you’ve been programmed, wake up, we miss you…”
You’re definitely not alone. I’m bisexual. Two quick things.
1) Dancing with a bisexual friend, male friend interrupts us and gets grabby, when rebuffed says, “You can’t put on a show and not share!”
2) Recently: Visiting Friend of Friend knows I’m bi. Out dancing. Woman on dance floor clearly into women. Visiting Friend grabs me, thrusts me at Dancing Woman while saying “I think she’s into girls!” I proceed to get groped and assaulted. I was also in a monogamous relationship. But hey! I’m bi! That means I want to hook up with all women all the time, yeah?
So, no, you are not alone. My response has been to calmly, gently explain to such women why they are being hurtful and creepy. The analogy I use is, “You’re into men, yeah? Okay, but are you attracted to all men you see, always? No, I’m not attracted to all women, either. And my interest in women isn’t because I want to put on a display for men.”
If she can’t understand or gets offended, well, that’s not really on you. Please don’t let people objectify you or subject you to biphobia just to be polite. And unless she shows a major 180 here, I wouldn’t move in with her. It’s great that you’re empathetic, but please don’t do so at your own expense.
Seconding this! It is a thing!
One of my best friends since I was a kid went through a phase in our 20s where she liked to flirt with me for male attention. (And I think for my attention to.) I honestly didn’t really think much of it at the time, because I am dumb. But there was a lot of me having to look at her in various stages of undress and provide commentary, and a lot more touching than usually happened when we were alone, when we were in front of men.
I realized eventually that she was using me to validate her own attractiveness, and to try to get more validation from men. Fortunately, at the time we lived very far apart and since I only saw her occasionally it did not become a problem.
Living with someone who constantly wanted me to judge if her boy shorts were hot enough and wanted to snuggle whenever guys were around? Yeah, uh, no thank you.
100% if LW comes out fully to Ella the first thing Ella will say, immediately, will be “oh you’re into girls? Do you find me attractive then?” There is no answer to this question which she will not find offensive.
Ugh now I’m thinking of the girl in college who freaked out and assumed that because I came out to her it meant I was into her.
So many layers of badness.
I was out as bi in college, and I’m fairly certain a girl did come out to me because she was into me.
Cosigned, it’s a thing.
Last time it happened I stayed up all night consoling her and talking him down from a breakup, since it was obviously my fault she wanted to rub up on and kiss me I guess I fixed it because they ended up married.
I stepped away from that whole group of friends about a year before they married. I’m agreeing with the chorus that what you know of her is the tip of a very toxic iceberg.
I’m so sorry you have to deal with all that. Male “Friend” in #1 is not your friend.
Both those examples turned my stomach.
I’m a recently out bi woman and fuuuuuccckk this noise! The biphobic and homophobic comments are enough to put the breaks on a potential roommate situation but she grinds on you at clubs? The fact that she thinks she’s entitled to use your sexuality to attract men is horrid. Really, she shouldn’t be grinding against you when you don’t like it at all, regardless of anything else. Her actions could be rooted in homophobia, or she could have bad sense of sexual boundaries in general, but both are pretty abhorrent.
You say you want to be kind to her, and mention potential mental health issues on her part. I think you need to realize that you don’t owe her kid gloves because of that. She’s treating you very wrongly, and on top of that, it sounds like she wants to move in with you for her own sake? It sounds like she’s using you, whether she’s cognizant of that or not. Low-self esteem and anxiety are hard to deal with, but they don’t give someone a license to treat others badly. You need to prioritize your own feelings and needs, not hers.
“Low-self esteem and anxiety are hard to deal with, but they don’t give someone a license to treat others badly.”
Yup. I have anxiety, I am as capable of being a dick (including a prejudiced dick) as anyone else, and anxiety is not a “get out of consequences for shitty behaviour free” card.
Yup, there are plenty of ways to be kind to someone that don’t involve living with them.
Yeah I gotta second all of this. Isn’t it weird how just existing as a bi woman is enough to bring out the narcissist bees in so many people? Because what else do you exist for if not to provide sexual validation to literally everyone amirite? *massive eye roll*
Lw, I just got out of a place where I ended up deeply regretting that I didn’t heed my spidey sense 18 months earlier. Please please please do not move in with this woman. She’s treating you like a prop! That grinding? No. It wouldn’t be acceptable from a stranger, so why does she think she gets a free pass?! Friends don’t treat friends like props. You damn well don’t need a room mate like that.
Full of bees. Abort houseshare mission. Do not pass go, do not collect bullshit boundary-tramplers.
Yes, to quote the very accurate Admiral Akbar, “IT’S A TRAP!”
Don’t move in with someone who disrepects you like that, because it will probablly just get worse. She doesn’t sound like much of a “friend” anyway.
The Captain’s advice is, as usual, excellent! I’m going to suggest tweaks to one of her scripts:
“I don’t like it when you grind on me in the club and try to put on a show. Please don’t touch me like that when we’re dancing.”
There’s enough qualification here to leave Ella room to argue and equivocate, or negotiate where/when the behavior is OK (which I think the answers you might give are “nowhere/never,” from what you wrote). I would suggest making it:
“I don’t like it when you grind on me. Please don’t touch me like that.”
And 10000% YES to delaying/canceling moving in with her! Best of luck working through this.
Yes, agreed. The fact that LW’s friend is doing this to show off for men at the bar is relevant to how LW feels about it and the dynamics coming into play, but it is 100% irrelevant to the fact that the behavior is non-consensual. You don’t have to explain to her why you don’t like it or what the context of her behavior is that makes it uncomfortable. She is touching you without your consent and you’re allowed to tell her to stop. Period.
Totally agree with both of you. The fact that she’s using the LW to get guys’ attention adds an extra layer of ick. *IF* she’s receptive and *IF* you want to, it would be a good thing to explain how depressingly common it is for bisexual women to be objectified like this. But I don’t think there’s any situation in which you’d be okay with her grinding on you.
I think maybe “The only time it’s OK for you to grind on me while dancing is when we’ve been dating for at least _____.” Because LW might actually enjoy a bit of dirty dancing with an ACTUAL partner.
But if it’s not consensual, it’s not consensual, and context/gender are actually irrelevant.
“Ella has low self esteem and is dealing with anxiety right now, which is why she wants me to live with her.” Ok, but what would you get out of this living situation except someone that uses you as a sex object for the purpose of pleasing men and someone that puts down the very demographic that you are coming to believe that you belong to. What on earth is “nice” or “fun” about that? Use the Captain’s scripts and rethink the roommate plan. Refer her to a therapist for the self esteem and anxiety issues. Those are not yours to solve!
She has anxiety which is why she wants to move in with you = she can’t deal with her own shit and wants you to do it for her.
She has anxiety? Fine. But that is NOT a reason to move in with someone! The boundary trampling will get worse and you will end up with an Escalator or a Glinda. Why does she think magically living with you will make everything better? She will glom onto you so hard you will need a crowbar to get her off.
You know who can help with mental health issues? A therapist. You know who can’t? A roommate.
I sort of get it–I have anxiety and depression (and a handful of other issues), and it is definitely better for me to not live alone. I don’t need my housemate to do any particular things for me/with me, just live in the same house/apartment.
But that does not mean that any particular person needs to live with me, or that I have the right to walk over their boundaries.
Ditto – my anxiety means I get increasingly distressed if I have to be alone in the house for more than a few hours. But that doesn’t mean I get to strongarm people into moving in with me, especially people I am frequently a dick to.
LW, don’t let your concern for your friend’s well-being override your concern for your OWN well-being. Put on your own mask before assisting others, etc.
Yeah, it’s not your job to be her walking security blanket and tool for attracting men.
I’d like to add “a roommate is not a security blanket” to the now-famous “a girlfriend is not a pacifier” quote. Different relationship, same theme: people aren’t tools or objects, sexual or otherwise.
In my experience, people like Ella are a bottomless suck of need. LW should focus on herself right now, and not her friend, who sounds kind of like a terrible human being.
I missed that line on my first read. OP, Ella is asking you for a FAVOR. You do not need to move in with her to fix her self-esteem or her anxiety. They are her problems to deal with, and while it is good to be a supportive friend, that means things like checking in regularly, maybe helping her find a therapist, etc. It does NOT mean handling all the difficult moments in her life for her, and it DEFINITELY does not mean putting yourself in an arrangement that is going to be unhealthy for you.
LW, she doesn’t sound like a nice person to me. A nice person doesn’t grind and pant on her friends, full stop. I’m in my late adulthood and I have *never* crossed a boundary like that with a friend. She may have anxiety issues because she’s opening up to her own sexuality, but that’s not a free ticket to be physical with you. And living with her is not going to be fun if it’s starting like this.
What Modern Culture said. That really struck me too – “she’s a nice person.” WHAT? We all have to decide what that means, but to my mind, by no definition whatsoever do nice people do what Ella does to you. I can think of other labels, but “nice” is for sure not one of them. Please rethink this friendship. LW, and please do not move in with her. This is such a bad idea for you. As one of the other commenters asked, what are you going to get out of this roommate situation? If nothing else, please think about this – people who care for you will not treat you like this. Maybe look at it this way – Captain and all of us commenters are complete strangers to you, yet we care enough about you to want Ella’s icky treatment of you to stop immediately. As Captain said, please take of yourself. And if you are so inclined, many of us would love to hear an update as to how you are doing.
This friend seems to be a “nice person” in the same way that some guys are Nice Guys[TM]. I#m not saying there’s any sexual motivtion here, but the elements of [ab-]using someone’s friendship and trust for your own benefit, regardless of their personhood and right to bodily integrity – that’s almost exactly the same
It doesn’t have to be purely sexual to be icky either. Egotism, narcissism and control are just as skeevy reasons to violate your boundaries, and are things you for sure want to avoid in a room mate. Step away from the bees.
Nice people might grind and pant on their friends *consensually*. I have.
*hat-tip for flagging this*
Bi woman with a straight roommate here.
Do not. Move in. With this toolbelt.
You deserve to live with someone who is ALREADY not homophobic and who ALREADY treats you like a person and who ALREADY does not touch you in ways that make you uncomfortable.
LW, please do not move in with Ella if you have any better options! Your home should be a place where you can relax and be yourself, not a place where your identity is constantly invalidated and your flatmates dismiss your boundaries. It will give *you* low self-esteem and anxiety if you can’t ever relax at home. I’m bi and I can’t even explain how much better I felt in my dorm after I came out to my flatmates and they were cool about it – even though I wasn’t dating or trying to date anyone just the fact that I wasn’t hiding and didn’t have to censor what I said anymore made me so happy. I didn’t even notice before how much not being able to be open about it bothered me. Don’t do this to yourself, LW – Ella is not acting ok regarding your orientation and for your mental health’s sake she should not be your flatmate.
LW- I get that you care for this person and want to see the good in her and all the possible ways you can be the best of friends and roomies…. Really, I do cause I’ve done it….Alot.
But you wrote in cause you are having a gut reaction to certain boundary violations that you should really honour. The reality is people like your friend will have their behaviours magnify when you live with them.
And we all deserve to have our homes be SAFE. You should come home and be able to reasonably expect certain things…. And if you are in your own process of figuring out what being bi means for you, living with someone who will exploit your identity in all the ways you described, definately is not safe.
She may try to guilt you, or reason with you, or emotionally extort you into moving in- but if you live with her out of guilt or to help her or to stay friends, then it’s already starting off on very unstable ground and will probably (Read: absolutely unless some weird magical behaviour defying intervention that most likely will not happen in between now and the time you move in with her) get worse from there.
Also any guilt tripping/extorting/whyyyyyyying she does would confirm that she’s not a great person to live with.
Somewhat related, I’m a queer woman who made the mistake of dating a guy who had said some sort of homophobic things around me that I wrote off. I spent six years with him and he destroyed my personhood and confidence. He was abusive, and would use my queerness as something to control me and denigrate me. Also would continuously make comments about how lesbians and queer women aren’t real, they’re just doing it for fun and here all really straight. And that people could choose to be gay. DO NOT MOVE IN WITH HER. These seemingly innocuous homophobic comments are going to get worse and are glimpses into who she really is. She is not a nice person, you will not have fun living together. Her anxiety and depression don’t excuse her bigotry.
that’s somewhat similar to what I was going to say… “mildly” homophobic, in my experience, has not really meant mild, just that the person hadn’t fully disclosed the full extent of their homophobia, or I hadn’t recognized the warning signals (or both, I suppose). I don’t buy “a little bit racist” or “mildly homophobic” or “teensy bit sexist” categorizations any more. In the LW’s shoes, I would believe the behavior that is oh so troubling and book it out of there. best of luck to you, LW!
while this is often true, and I think LW should not move in with this person and absolutely has the right to not associate with her, I don’t necessarily think the types of things Ella has been doing means she’s actually concealing worse things and/or will get worse. I’ve encountered lots of people who said/did things along these lines and later realized how troubling and not cool it was, sometimes even in the process of discovering their own sexuality. I’m not excusing any of these behaviors because they are just as troubling in the moment no matter what happens later, but in my experience people can act in these ways and later realize they had absorbed toxic narratives due to family/culture and move away from them.
This doesn’t make any of it LW’s problem, of course.
In my experience, anyone who’s truly “mildly” bigoted–and such people are rare–know enough about decency to just not bring the subject up around members of their particular marginalized bugbear. This is not “mild” bigotry. This is the tip of an insulting, demeaning, maggoty iceberg.
Eh, I’ve also known people who said/did ‘mildly’ homophobic things because they genuinely didn’t realize the implications of what they were doing. Like, they had internalized ideas of what being gay means that they hadn’t really considered or challenged, and therefore did things like calling someone their ‘gay best friend’ and expecting him to go shopping with them, or assuming that bi women are generally sexually available and up for things like sexy-show-dancing in clubs. For some of those people (not all, but a reasonable proportion), once someone sat them down and talked them through what they were doing and the assumptions it rested on, they actually learned better and cut it out.
I wouldn’t say they were, like, the best allies ever or anything–their behavior still involved a lot of stereotyping, and showed a lack of regard or thought for other people. But it wasn’t a ‘warning sign’ for a more violent underlying homophobia. It was just a general lack of challenging the stereotypes society taught them, which honestly I think we’re all guilty of sometimes.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if Ella is truly hophobic or just a confused person. The LW feels unsafe and uncomfortable – that is reason enough to slow down/not move in together. The LW does not have to be fair or present an iron clad case against this living arrangement, nor does the LW have to take it upon themselves to educate Ella on bisexuality or manage Ella’s feelings.
This doesn’t work for the LW. That is reason enough. If Ella feels bad or discomforted then it is up to her to manage those feelings. She can decide ‘welp I messed up, I need to do better’ and then commit to it… or not. And then deal with the consequences.
Yeah, the reason doesn’t matter so much. Maybe Ella can be educated, maybe she can’t- but that’s not the LW’s job. And if she’s already feeling unsafe now, then moving in will put more of a burden on her.
i.e. “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”
This is also why I prefer labeling things “casual” racism/sexism/homophobia/classism/etc. over “mild”, since “casual” describes demeanor and intent instead of minimizing the impact. The person doing the thing may not understand how or why it’s a problem – to them, it’s jsut casual conversation – but that doesn’t make the impact any less of a problem for those a behavior harms.
I keep getting hung up on “I can’t be fully myself around her”. LW, you have to be comfortable in your own home. That’s the point of home. A safe, comfortable place to let yourself be.
THIS. Plus, what if LW wanted to bring a woman home? It sounds like this woman has no boundaries and is gross around queer folks, so who knows what that would look like.
the thought of bringing home a woman to this person just gave me the horror shudders. Worse still if it was a long term thing, subjecting a young and tender fledgling relationship to that sort of interrogation and erasure.
I also think it could go pretty badly if she wanted to bring a guy home, given that her roommate is prone to erasure and just-a-stage thinking.
What a mood killer it would be to bring someone home for a quiet evening in to find housemate gearing up for the expected lingerie pillow fight…
In my experience it’s weird how disappointed people get when they find out that a pair of bi girls can quite happily sit on the couch, eat snacks and watch RuPaul, fully clothed, and consider it an evening well spent.
Quiet with the odd ‘YAS KWEEEN COME THROUGH’ thrown in 😉
Or the weird thing where maybe she brings a guy home when she knows you’ll be around and suddenly tries to get touchy on you in your living room on a Friday night/heavily imply a threesome is likely to the dude before he gets in the door.
Oh God, that’s a terrifying but plausible prospect. People’s expectations around bi women and threesomes are one of the reasons almost no one in my RL knows I’m bi.
SO MUCH THIS.
It will be your home too, LW. And your home should not be a place where you have to feel the things this person makes you feel.
I’m in agreement to all above and the Captain’s advice.
The only thing I’d add is perhaps a bigger perspective? As in:
If you were straight, would this be okay behavior from a straight guy friend who wanted to be your roommate? It would not. Further, if you were polyamorous, or lesbian, or asexual…? It still would not. What I’m saying is, I don’t think your sexuality is either a problem or a point of issue – what you are facing is an issue of boundaries. Don’t let this person use you or undermine you, regardless of who you are or how you identify yourself. No is No, and saying No needs no explanation.
Hope that made sense…?
I hear you, but obligatory reminder that we live in a society where systemic oppresion of women and queer people is condoned, and because of that the fact that the LW is a bi woman matters, and it matters a lot. Ella’s biphobia and bi-erasure wouldn’t be nearly so hurtful for a straight person, for instance.
Please don’t move in with Ella.
If you want to, you can tell her it’s because she’s a biphobic and homophobic pain in the neck. You don’t have to though.
The script I suggest is
Ella, I’ve changed my mind about living together.
Jedi hugs if you want them.
Nice people do not touch you without your consent. They do not dismiss or demean your sexuality. They do not use you as an object to get the attention of others.
Please don’t move in with her. She is not currently a safe person for you to live with, and no amount of nice correction will change that – at least not overnight. She’s got months or years of work ahead of her to deal with her (possibly internalised) homophobia and biphobia.
I had a friend for a while who knew I was bi, and who every time said friend got drunk would kiss and rub against me in bathrooms. She clearly had some issues handling her own queerness but it was not cool of her to use me to work that out. Whatever is going on for this person is not your responsibility – her anxiety, her relationships, her feelings about gay and bisexual people.
I have to agree with all of what anninyn said, here, LW.
I know how important it can be to define someone you’re considering with as a nice person, but the examples of Ella’s behavior you describe in your letter are not examples of ‘nice’ behavior. I understand the need for a roommate but you won’t be doing her, or (more importantly) yourself any favors by moving in with her.
Your apartment does not yet have bees, but I fear if you allow Ella to share your living space you’re building a hive for them. And a nesting room for velociraptors, too.
I sometimes think when people say ‘they’re a nice person!’ what they mean is ‘they’ve not spoken harshly or shouted at me and they’re good at being personable’.
Those things may make them a pleasant person to spend casual time around, but they do not make a person nice, or better still, good.
She may be charming and say nice things to you sometimes, lw, but her actions say she doesn’t respect you. Don’t live with someone who doesn’t respect you.
I get it! People are complex. She can be more than one thing. She can have shitty attitudes towards gay and bi people and still give generously to charity or whatever. She can use people and still be a good listener. She can touch you without consent and still be nice to animals.
But what matters here is not whether those things cancel each other out, but whether the bad parts of her are things you can live with, and they really aren’t.
I agree; I was going to add (but forgot because they’re installing a window in my office door which I don’t even) that what people say often isn’t as important as what they do.
Yes, all this. Nice = personable. It does not necessarily equal being a good person.
Dear Coquette wrote the following that resonated with me: “Being kind is a matter of altruism. Being good is a matter of morality. Being nice is a matter of etiquette.”
As an example, plenty of abusers have many of their friends and coworkers convinced they’re good people because “they’re so nice!” Well yes, they can be very nice and personable and charming. Everyone has facets. But as @anninyn says, these things don’t cancel each other out. Can you live with that?
Dear Coquette wrote the following that resonated with me: “Being kind is a matter of altruism. Being good is a matter of morality. Being nice is a matter of etiquette.”
Oh man, I love this. Part of my rant against Nice Guys is that about ninety percent of being nice is the baseline amount of effort required for your tribe not to abandon you to the wolves. Wait your turn, say please and thank you, don’t tell someone you think their haircut is ugly. All good things, of course, but not exactly heroic.
For me, saying that someone is nice is baseline. If all I can say about you is, “Well, they pass minimum inspection standards,” then that is a person I don’t know that I want to know better.
My favorite line from a musical ever “Nice is different than Good.”
I’m always very leery when people are described as “nice.” I guess I don’t see it as a word that can really describe a person’s character–it’s too small, somehow. “Nice” can really only tell you about behavior. Then for me, the definitions and the definitions “fastidious” and “precise” get in the mix, which seem more imporant than the definition “pleasant.” Idk. It reminds me of what Gavin de Becker says about people we find charming. He suggests we turn it around. Instead of saying, “This pereon is charming,” we should say, “This pereon is trying to charm me.” Maybe instead of, “She is a nice person,” it would be better to say, “She is being nice.” So…what happens when she stops being nice?
That’s a really good way of framing it. Nice is very much a surface thing to me, so saying that someone is nice is pretty vague.
I’m so sorry this is happening to you. It is extremely common for straight women to do this to their bi and lesbian peers. It’s not okay.
I hope you can find another alternative for a roommate. Most medium-larger cities have lgbt housing finding groups on facebook that might be helpful for you.
Congratulations on coming out to yourself! Welcome! I hope you can find friends and family who make you feel safe and comfortable.
Yeah even flatmates.com has a box you can tick to search LGBTI+ friendly houses. I found my current house that way and it worked out great.
“It is extremely common for straight women to do this to their bi and lesbian peers.”
Why? Seriously, I do not understand this AT ALL. Neither do I understand straight women writing fan-fiction putting two attractive (straight) male characters together, with their author-insertion-Mary Sue setting them up. Because the male characters are both so hot, and the woman wants them, so they hook them up with each other? Instead of the author-insertion-Mary Sue? Why?! I’d understand a LGBTQIA+ writer doing this, but not a straight one. Also, I don’t get the thing with straight men getting hot about lesbians making out with each other.
If anyone understands this, or has any insights, please let me know, because I really, truly, do. not. get. it. And I want to. I want to have a better understanding of humans.
Has anyone ever run across studies about this, or papers, or even a chapter in a psychology textbook? It seems common enough to be studied, right? But so weird. Why would any straight person try to mess with another person’s sexuality like that? It makes no sense!
I’m actually afraid to google this question, for fear I’ll get hit with a bunch of porn sites. Otherwise, I do know it’s my responsibility to look stuff up for myself.
In answer to your first question, why do straight women do this to queer women: Power. It’s a power play, the way it is when white women harass black women. Gay men harass/group straight women. Our society is sexist and homophobic and fucked up and people with more power sometimes harass people with less.
There is a ton of scholarly and popular writing about slash fiction that isn’t porn – happy Googling.
Also I appreciate your comments most of the time, but the volume of text and number of responses is starting to become overwhelming to me in the mod queue. You don’t have to share multiple anecdotes you have in each thread, or reply to each person. Keep it brief and on-topic please, and consider saving longer pieces or off-topic thoughts for your own site or the forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com. Thank you.
LW, don’t move in with her, especially since it seems like you would only be doing so for her own benefit. Her “anxiety” and “low self-esteem” are not going to be fixed by having you around for a crutch.
Since you’re newly out, and still deciding what that means for you, hanging out with a friend like her is going to be bad for your process. A good friend wouldn’t demand to know everything about your sexual orientation and put you through a cross examination because you went on one date with a lady.
For what it’s worth, I am a straight women with multiple bi lady friends. I have low self-esteem and anxiety. Never once have I grilled any of my bi friends about their dates, attempted to grind on them at a club, or flirt with them for male attention.
My point being, if she needs someone to live with her because of her self-esteem and anxiety issues (which I totally understand!), that person does not have to be you, a person she has made feel uncomfortable and undervalued multiple times. That aspect of her personality is a separate thing and I don’t know if something like that is a fixable or workable roommate quality.
If you do not have to be her roommate, do not be! There are many wonderful people in this world, both straight and not straight, who I am certain would be a much better roommate than this friend.
+1 allllll of the comments above to pump the breaks on moving in with Ella. I have anxiety and low self-esteem – that does NOT entitle me to be an arsehole to my friends or use their sexuality as a means to make myself feel good. This isn’t a Victorian sideshow and those things were not okay even back then.
Also +1 on the commenters saying that there are no such things as “mildly homophobic” comments, just boundary testing and grooming you to put up with shit you shouldn’t have to put up with. Ella might say something along the lines of: well, why didn’t you tell me before? why speak up now? (And, if some work has been put towards you moving in together, i.e. choosing a flat, she might try to use that as extra leverage to guilt trip you) DON’T LET HER. If you’re feeling generous, say something like: “I care for you as a friend, and I want you to have your best life, but I can’t move in with you.”
Also, don’t feel compelled to accept any “compromises” (like promises that she would stop if you move in, or asks you to hang out of more because you deprived her of your company or smth). Biphobia doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If she makes you uncomfortable now, how do you think you will feel like when she has more access to you? Even if she doesn’t direct her comments AT you, you will still have to listen to them, and words definitely have an impact on a person’s mental health.
Storytime: I’ve known and been friends with guys who make homophobic, fat-shaming, misogynist comments. I was shy, introverted, and didn’t have that big of a friend circle, so I either let the comments go, or challenged them SO gently it went right over their heads. And I also thought, it’s just banter, right? They’re just shooting the shit, they don’t mean it. They’re not all bad….
Yes, well… sticks and stones and words can hurt you in very different ways. I was getting a little too carried away with dieting at the time, overdoing it with the sport, and crushing on a dude who made fatphobic comments. Being in that group felt like living in a pressure cooker. I can’t say whether I wouldn’t have found another way to wreck myself, because anxiety is sneaky and manifests in different ways, but it sure didn’t help.
Also, “she has low self-esteem and anxiety” is not a reason to become someone’s roommate. People with low self-esteem and anxiety often need roommates, yes, but if you’re moving in BECAUSE of those things, that turns you into a live-in mental health care professional which you ARE NOT.
You are not a fix for what she’s going through. You are a real live person who deserves to be treated with respect.
If she needs a live-in mental health care professional, she’d be much better off hiring one. Someone who actually knows what they’re doing, and how to actually help. Not you.
One doesn’t even have to finish reading your second sentence to know this would be a bad situation for you: if Ella “would probably be offended” if she knew her comments hurt you, she is NOT a suitable roommate for you, regardless of what her comments are. If you’re already worried about her taking offense, you already have a problem. That’s a house of bees right there.
That she wants you to live with her because she struggles with self esteem and anxiety, is velociraptors. She’s telling you up front that she will expect you to share or bear the burden of her issues. You’re not a partner nor a paid live-in caregiver and under no obligation to sacrifice your life for her.
Ask yourself why *you* would want to do this. The only reason you give for yourself is she is “nice” and “could be fun”. “Could be fun” does not outweigh safe, comfortable, and secure as criteria for selecting a home. You would pay a horrible price for any potential “fun” of living with her. You’re already writing an advice columnist trying to figure out how to just *talk* to her. You already don’t feel like you can be yourself around her.
Add Ella’s gross boundary stomping, and disrespect, and homophobia, and now the bees and velociraptors have flamethrowers.
Please don’t do this.
I noticed that, too. Ella “would probably be offended” that her comments hurt the LW? Because clearly the important thing are Ella’s feelings, and not the LW’s – that’s not setting the foundation for a good friendship, let alone being roommates. (And even if Ella doesn’t actually get offended, the fact that the LW worries about the eventuality makes me think that Ella has trained her friend circle to walk on eggshells around her, to the point where their own hurt and fear is secondary.)
Not all friends make good roommates. My dad, due to a complicated work/housing situation, moved in with an old mate, only to discover that his old mate is great for some laughs and going out for dinner, but is not someone you can live with easily. Long story short, he’s counting the days until he moves out – he can’t relax in the space, not because his friend is actively bothering him, but because my Dad feels like his requests for (privacy/peace/not having his food stolen) will not be respected.
Ella sounds like someone who will not only encorach on your privacy, she will make you apologize for disliking it. RUN!
Because of the context (specifically, “nonetheless” setting up a contrast, when the two statements as I would directly interpret them are in agreement and not contrasting), I read that as, “Ella would likely be offended on my behalf/at her own expense,” to indicate that LW thinks the behaviors are not malicious or hostile in intent, and that Ella would change them if (when) she knew. but it’s certainly ambiguous, and your interpretation is the more direct interpretation as written. Still, it SEEMS to be doing the work of “embarrassed”, “chagrined”, “chastised”, “horrified”, etc. here.
” (And even if Ella doesn’t actually get offended, the fact that the LW worries about the eventuality makes me think that Ella has trained her friend circle to walk on eggshells around her, to the point where their own hurt and fear is secondary.)”
Add to it: Even if Ella hasn’t trained her friend circle, our Letter Writer may have trained HERSELF to place other people’s comfort above her own. And that means this is a very bad mix for her.
I agree with everyone else that you should not move in with this friend! From the headline, I was anticipating reading a letter about some kind of assigned student housing, but it seems like this is entirely voluntary and that you have the option of keeping your current living situation. I really think you should do that.
Living with people is hard. Educating friends who have some shitty beliefs is hard. Enforcing boundaries with friends who need that enforcement is hard. Combining all three is a disaster. You can still be her friend if she isn’t perfect, but I think you’ll be a lot better friend to her and a lot happier in your own right if you have your own place to go to at the end of the evening.
I agree with all of you who are saying, “Don’t do it.” Being roommates with Ella would be a nightmare given all her obnoxious remarks.
And also want to say how much I admire your responses, Captain. They are so thorough and helpful. Thanks for that.
Most definitely don’t move in with her! She wants to live with you because she has low self-esteem and anxiety? Even if she didn’t do things that make you unsafe and uncomfortable (and it sounds like she certainly does!), it sounds like she wants to use you as a security blanket. That’s not the role of a roommate, not matter how much fun she is to be around.
Agreed on all counts! I was once that sexually confused young woman. I was not ready to admit that the feelings I had for some of my female friends were actually attraction, and in consequence I definitely crossed over into inappropriate territory from time to time. It wasn’t ok. I was not their problem to fix, or an appropriate person for them to live with. They, in turn, were not appropriate people for me try to use to work through my internal struggle. I am incredibly grateful that we did not confuse things further by signing housing leases or getting pets or anything like that. Because I took a break from them for a while and figured myself out, I’m still friends with some of those awesome women to this day.
Agreeing with the Captain and all commenters, I’m not sure if you’ve fully envisioned the reality of living with a roommate that makes you uncomfortable and you’re already scared to confront about their behavior. Brushing your teeth? Sudden homophobia! Sitting down to watch a movie? Sudden homophobia! Working on something in your room? Barging in sudden homophobia! Trying to use the bathroom? Homophobic notes being slid under the door at you.
I know the temptation is there that somehow you have untapped secret Bigot Whisperer skills and you will move in with her and through a montage of fun activities to an uptempo background song you will convince her to be less of a skidmark on the underwear of life. But the sad fact is that you will have to expend monumental amounts of energy trying to move her, while inertia means she can just happily sit there in her bigoted mindset without any effort on her part. If you want to take on this battle, be sure you’ve got a strong Team You and a plan for resting and gathering your strength, which won’t happen if you have no home base to retreat to because it is part of your battleground.
+1 for “convince her to be less of a skidmark on the underwear of life.” The phrase itself is great, and the image of trying to reason with a literal skidmark gives me silly brain feels… *snicker*
Ugh, behavior like this is a big part of why I’m pretty quiet about my sexuality. I’m somewhere between ace and bi (as in, I only very rarely experience sexual attraction, but on the rare occasions that I have experienced it, gender doesn’t seem to have a dang thing to do with it). It feels like a particularly fraught combo to me because so many people have these hypersexualized ideas about bi women, like we’re always sexually available for everyone. That’s gross no matter what, but there’s an extra layer of awkward ew when I actually experience sexual attraction so very rarely.
But your close friends shouldn’t be people you need to worry about treating you badly! If this person actually acts like a good friend to you, then you should be able to tell them “XYZ make me really uncomfortable, and they need to stop.” They should listen, and XYZ should actually stop. They should not guilt trip you over having boundaries (they might ask why, but it’ll be a genuine question, not a “but whyyyyyyyy” pressure-y nonsense).
If those things are not possible–if you don’t feel like you can ask and be respected, or you try asking and it goes badly–then I strongly suggest not living with this person. It’s better to live with a stranger than someone who’s shown they won’t give you even baseline respect, if it comes to that; at least a stranger has a chance of treating you decently.
Oh wow. I’m not sure what it is that would lead someone in a situation like this to consider, for a minute, to want to stay in close proximity (like roommate) with people acting badly.
Definitely do not want to make OP feel bad about this — quite the opposite: I want such folks to have sufficient self-esteem to give such people a wide berth… Don’t be roommates or otherwise put yourself in close proximity to people acting badly…
“Nice person”??? Sure doesn’t sound like it to me. Please do NOT move in with this woman.
You’re framing this as something you need to fix by being more assertive. But, sometimes certain people aren’t good to live with even for people who are super good at assertiveness. Maybe it’d be good for you to be more assertive, or maybe Ella doesn’t handle assertiveness in other people well and that’s why you’re reluctant to assert yourself *to her*. Maybe both are true. You could test this by trying to be more assertive with Ella and see what happens, and if actually your guess that she’ll get offended is wrong then that’s good information to have. Having said that, I’m leaning towards everyone else’s “why do you want to move in with this person again?” for, well, the same reasons that everyone else has said. Ultimately if you think Ella would make a bunch of dismissive comments and/or touch you in ways that make you unhappy and you think you’d have trouble getting her to stop, that’s a good reason to not live with Ella *even if* the underlying cause is partially a you-being-unassertive problem. Becoming more assertive can be a slow, gradual process — you need a home situation that feels safe even without fast dramatic self-improvement. Also, saying “I don’t want to live with you” and sticking to it is itself great assertiveness practice. So it’s not like you have to choose between trying to be more assertive and not living with Ella, you can totally do both, if you do want to work on being more assertive. You can also decide you’re assertive enough for now and you want to focus on other things, like picking friends and potential roommates who are good at respecting others’ boundaries. It’s basically good that you’re asking “how can I change myself” rather than “how can I change Ella?”, but changing yourself or changing Ella are not the only options here.
(Fellow bisexual woman, BTW. Lots of people think bisexuality isn’t real or valid to some degree, lots of people think it is, you can choose who you hang with. And/or who you have deep soul-searching sexual identity conversations with. You don’t have to talk about your sexual identity beyond a brief “I’m bisexual” with ANYONE you don’t want to talk about it with, no matter how close the relationship.)
I’m just fine with being assertive when I need to be. But even though it’s become more natural, it’s still tiring. I wouldn’t want to have to practice assertiveness significantly in my own home — that’s where I should be able to relax. LW, you also deserve to be able to relax in your home, not have to choose between watching a show/having dinner/going to sleep in peace vs. figuring out what to do about what Ella is saying or how she is acting.
Hi LW! I just wanted to say that I think from your perspective this comments section probably looks a bit scary and over the top right now.
Ella probably has some great qualities as a person, which you’ve omitted from your letter for brevity. In some circles it’s totally normal for women to dance up on each other for male attention whether or not one of them is bisexual. And to be perfectly honest I’ve been a queer person living with straight people who had incorrect ideas about bisexuality, and it wasn’t the end of the world. I did some heavy sighing and some glaring and some educating and it wasn’t fine but it was OK.
All of which is to say, it very probably isn’t as bad as people are making it sound!
But (and this is the kicker) it *doesn’t have to be that bad* for you to be allowed to not do this, or not want this.
You’re allowed boundaries whether or not moving in with Ella would be the end of the world, whether she’s awful or lovely. You can have boundaries about living with the nicest sweetest person in the world in the nicest healthiest living arrangement where you both anticipate each other’s comforts and needs with effortless supreme grace. You’re still allowed to be, like, nah.
i just didn’t want that to get lost if it turns out this situation isn’t as bad as everyone’s previous experiences are making it sound to them.
This is a good comment and you should feel good about yourself.
Or it may not be, I miss problematic stuff way more often than I should, but it made heart lift and my shoulders relax, and you should still feel good about yourself. regardless of what I say.
Yes. “I don’t want to” is plenty of reason to say no. There is no objective standard that you need to meet to qualify for boundaries.
You get that right automatically by being a person.
In some circles it’s totally normal for women to dance up on each other for male attention whether or not one of them is bisexual.
LW, from the letter has not consented to this behavior:
Ella will grind up against me, pant against me and generally invade my personal space in a way I don’t like
There is a difference between consensual behavior between friend circles and what LW describes.
LW, this (among other things in your letter, like your putting Ella’s feelings ahead of yours) is why a lot of us are really hesitant about the two of you sharing living space.
I don’t deny that Anna Badger could be right and we could be reading too much in what you said within the constraints of the letter format. I don’t think we are, but anything is possible.
ok, so. I said totally normal, not totally harmless.
like a lot of feminist spaces, this site places a v high premium on explicit consent and that’s a good thing. but it’s also, like, not how most of the world lives. as a result the world is a trash-fire, yes, and it means that sometimes people do things thoughtlessly.
none of us are immune from the effects of patriarchy and rape culture, and I think this particular example is within the range of normal shitty mistakes normal people make in the actual real world where we are constantly fed messaging that women’s bodies are to be used for male attention.
I feel like a lot of times recently the comment section has immediately leapt to the most disaster-scenario interpretation of the LW’s words, and I can imagine several recent LWs reading their comments and thinking …but this looks nothing like my actual reality, and if my reality isn’t as bad as this then maybe I’m not justified in taking action.
the hyperbole is unhelpful.
By allowing these behaviors to continue as normal, the harm also continues.
I am not living with a certain person in my life who would be an excellent roommate (and has been in my past) because she is very high-maintenance and would require more effort than I am willing to give when I am at home. For my own mental health, I need my home to be a ‘safe space,’ and this friend is, to use a phrase used elsewhere on this site, a “short-doses” friend. It is my opinion, and that of other commenters, that LW and Ella should be short-doses friends until Ella educates herself and is willing to respect LW’s boundaries.
I don’t particularly see anyone being hyperbolic. I see a lot of people saying: hey, red flags, reconsider this. And I also see a lot of people saying “you don’t need any more reason than ‘I am uncomfortable with your behavior’ to say ‘I think our living together a bad idea.”
LW does not like Ella’s behavior. That is reason enough.
‘LW does not like Ella’s behavior. That is reason enough.’
totally! that’s my whole point. what I said was that the situation does not have to be as bad as commenters are assuming for LW to take action.
I’m not comfortable linking to specific comments because I don’t like the thought of calling people out for their trauma, but several comments on this letter strike me as v hyperbolic. either we’re reading different comments or we’re reading the same ones differently, I don’t know.
The “hyperbole” is other people describing their own experience. And yes, there is a definite lack of respect for boundaries and consent in the world at large. The LW has asked for help in pushing back against that. Your assertion that it’s “totally normal” for women to dance up on each other for male attention will surprise only people who have never been to a club, or seen a club in the movies or on tv, or heard of clubs. Everyone knows this is “totally normal.” That’s why it’s so hard to push back against it. Ella is using the fact that it’s “totally normal” as plausible deniability for some grody behavior that’s making the LW uncomfortable. Validating the LW’s discomfort is kinda what we do here. Hyperbole would indeed be unhelpful. Minimization is unhelpful as well.
‘The “hyperbole” is other people describing their own experience.’
no. the hyperbole is people hearing one small detail of an LW’s situation and saying ‘this one small detail means that your situation is INEVITABLY ON FIRE and will inevitably result in trauma for you in all the same ways I have been traumatised’. they are extending their experience in all sorts of tenuous ways.
I honestly don’t feel like this comment section is treating the dancing thing as a normal thing that happens which we should push back on as part of the standard work we do to dismantle patriarchy in our lives.
the LW is definitely uncomfortable and should push back, absolutely. that doesn’t necessarily make Ella the unmitigatedly terrible boundary crushing abuser people are saying she must be, and i worry that LW will read the comment section, thunk ‘wow these people are in pain but Ella isn’t like that’ and minimise her own situation as a result.
Lol @ “one small detail.”
“My friend Ella would probably be offended if she knew her comments come across as ‘othering’ to me.”
“When Ella heard I’d been on a date with a woman, she grilled me about my sexuality.”
“Ella has often said things that make me think she views sexuality as very binary.”
“Ella immediately dismissed the [three-year] relationship as ‘just experimenting’.”
If Ella were otherwise a totally perfect friend and model ally, the grinding against her friend while making eye contact with dudes *might* be a simple misunderstanding–a “totally normal” boundary violation (lol) that could be cleared up with a simple, “Hey, I’m not into that.” The LW might still need help with that script, which, yeah. Even simple pushbacks are hard. But Ella is not a model ally. The LW reads her as Othering, biphobic, handsy, and possibly hostile to gentle correction. What you’re reading as hyperbole is other people telling what happened when they ignored their instincts about their own Ellas the way the LW feels pressure to.
LW, go with your gut. If you think it’s an honest mistake, try a gentle pushback. For good or ill, Ella will show you who she is.
True, depending where the LW lives and went to school, etc, every one of those behaviours could be such widely expected social norms that literally the majority of people in that group either do them or treat them as normal, and have really never considered them for more than two minutes. In which case sure, Ella could be just floating along on the assumptions she’s surrounded with, and her behaviours and beliefs could not be particularly deeply rooted.
It can be harder to teach someone who is in an environment where they already have been widely exposed to better ideas, because that person has knowingly rejected better ideas.
I like this comment. I am bi and have had friends act in various sub-optimal ways about it. It’s not pleasant in any context. But some people have been shittier than others – some I am glad to no longer see, some I still like or even love as friends. One of the grossest, most boundary-pushing people I dealt with at university was bi herself and *she* really enjoyed grinding up on other women in front of guys. And wheedling female friends into the toilet to watch her pee. o.0 There are lots of ways this can present itself, lots of ways the shitty beliefs creep in. We all get to decide how we feel about it.
Even if Ella is on the less-worse end of that spectrum, even if in many ways she is completely awesome, it is OK to decide that her behaviour is a dealbreaker for living together. It would be for me.
I’ve had a housemate a few years ago who was sexist and homophobic and other things that are the opposite of me on really important topics. At first I thought it was OK to just set boundaries each time it came up, but LW it’s exhausting to do that in your own home all the time. And even if they respect those limits (this guy seemed determined to shove his opposing views in my face and didn’t seem to understand when I said we shouldn’t discuss topic X or refused whatever it was he was trying to impose on me) they’ll still come out with it from time to time. And some days they’ll do it when you’re on your last nerve, when you’re sad, tired, sick or otherwise just really looking for your home to be a sanctuary, and it will suck a thousand times more than it does right now when you’re hanging out. Don’t live with people like this. You don’t need to have that stuff follow you home. You don’t need to be standing there making your dinner after a long day while (for a personal example) some guy explains to you that women are just better at absorbing the emotional troubles of men and being totally fine, or some other fuckery!
Setting these limits all the time with someone you live with is so much worse than doing it with friends and acquaintances. Don’t live with this person.
You should feel at home in your home.
OP, you can care about someone who is struggling with anxiety or other issues, and still say “no” to them about things you don’t like or don’t want to do.
You can have empathy for someone and still find their behavior unacceptable.
If you become roommates and there is a contstant level of tension and discomfort, or you reach a breaking point and get angry, none of that is going to “help” with her anxiety.
BTW: nosiness, unwanted touching and being used in icky ways are 100 percent legit things to get angry about. Better to get a little angry now, than wait till you can’t stand it and say/do things you regret.
Agreed! I’ve fallen into friendship traps where a person was given a pass on their behavior because they had low-self esteem/anxiety/depression/whathaveyou. Letting unacceptable things go just because I felt bad for someone didn’t help them or me. Someone can have low-self esteem *and* be rude (conversely, people can have low-self esteem and be perfectly nice).
Ewwwww. The sounds of this girl is like aludge all over the skin. Don’t live in the sludge, it’s not fun.
My bet is she will either guilt you for your bisexuality or sexually harass you to either attract more dudes or to discover herself. Or she would try to manipulate you into #-somes (or have her partner[s] manipulate you).
You know this person, we don’t. It might be that Ella indeed has her heart on the right place, and what she does is pure ignorance (it being pure ignorance doesn’t make it OK). If you conclude that you want to give her one last chance -before you move in together-, sit her down for a talk along the lines of: “Hey, I need to tell you something, and for a while, I need you to just listen. I’m bi. You’ve been doing things ABC. I’m sure you don’t realize this and you don’t really mean it in a bad way, but when you grind with me in front of guys, it makes me feel like you’re using me to get their attention. Please stop”
She will probably say something to minimize/deflect. You say, “that might be so, but I am still not comfortable with it, and i’d like you to stop”
This right there is the last chance. She either takes it or apologizes, or it’s time for, “i asked you to stop and you didn’t. I’m sorry, but [consequences]”
I agree with most people here that this is probably more courtesy than she is entitled to, and you shouldn’t be the one to have these kinds of conversations with her. However, “if you do indeed want to move in together, these are my conditions” is fair. It’s also fair if you decide all of the above is too much emotional labor that you shouldn’t have to do. Just my 2c.
Grinding against someone without consent is sexual assault.
Dear LW, as an older bi woman with lots of anxiety and self-esteem issues, I want to encourage you to make a serious hobby of finding, seeking and cultivating bi-positive and bi-informed people to hang out with. (And I’d like to find lots more of them myself!) This world is going to provide you with way too many opportunitues to consider and hear about why being bisexual is [fill in every kind of negative idea]. You are not alone with whatever issues or struggles you have with your possible bisexuality, our culture is an incubator of confusion, shame and prejudice. Having your own issues or questions is plenty of reason to seek out the most bi-informed and the most bi-positive people in every area possible. Likewise, being in a stage of new self-understanding is every reason to seek affirming people around you.
In addition to the issues you have now, there’s no saying how you may become more or less sensitive and sensitized to bi-phobic speech, attitudes, and actions over time. You may become political or outraged even, that is something that does happen in some people. I wouldn’t want to have a kinda-sorta bi-phobic person in my home that I need to work around while I’m having whatever unpredictable process I have of being more or less generally irritable and grumpy about various bi-marginalizing stuff I encounter in the world.
We also don’t know what your future dating and/or partnerships may be like. Being super self-concious about my sexuality or bisexuality is among my least fav things, and I can only imagine how off the scale of discomfort it could get, so.very.easily. Is Ella going to make weird comments to my bi-female or lesbian or bi-male or het-male or genderqueer dating-friend or partner? The options for extreme awkwardness just multiply like wild. What about my gay male friends? What about various friends who might actually feel encouraged to voice their own bi-negative views?
I think really my only real point is that there’s no predicting where your explorations and life will lead you. What if you become the leader of the biggest bi-women’s meetup that’s ever existed in your region? Which meets in your living room complete with whatever seems most overtly challenging (maybe political stuff like sign making parties and practicing chants for the rally? Maybe movie parties and dancing and costumes? Maybe a women only speed-dating party with lots of snacks?)
You said that Ella is nice and fun, and you know her better than we do. If there’s a chance that talking to her about her bad behavior will get her to eliminate it, great. It’s worth a shot if you want to preserve the friendship.
I’d be wary of moving in with her, though. She may be a genuinely good person whose actions will slowly improve as she learns more. It may be worth it to you to keep her as a friend in that case—but you don’t necessarily want her learning from her mistakes while she’s living in the same apartment as you. Home is where you should be able to get away from that stuff. Further, if she’s the kind of person who’ll be offended if you call out homophobic statements, how will she react when you ask her to take out the trash, keep the TV volume down after you go to bed, or whatever other ordinary roommate stuff might come up? Being able to talk through issues is an important quality in a roommate.
Ooh boy. Yup the Straight-But-Has-No-Boundaries-With-Her-Queer-Women-Friends girl. Nope on out of that living arrangement – it’s a bundle of trouble waiting to happen.
Wow, thank you all so much for your comments and advice! And big thanks to Captain Awkward; I only emailed you yesterday and you addressed this so quickly! Thank you.
There’s something I didn’t think to mention I the original letter but that is definitely relevant: this arrangement will only be for five weeks, before Ella’s lease expires and she moves in with her mum. Ella’s mum has anxiously got in touch to ask me to go ahead with living with Ella because she’s concerned about her, but the big reason I said yes originally when Ella herself asked me was that in the past I’ve experienced depression and anxiety and been very grateful not to be living alone at the time.
There are some thoughtful comments here I’ve found particularly helpful that I’d like to reply to individually, but I may not get around to that til I finish work tomorrow. In the meantime, I want you all to know that your comments are very appreciated. Reading them made me feel that I’m right to pay attention to my instincts and that’s given me more confidence in standing up for myself if that’s required. Thanks!
I’m glad to hear the living arrangement will only be for five weeks. I’m all sorts of concerned that it’s Ella’s name on the lease, though. That gives Ella, someone who’s already proven herself not very respectful of your boundaries, a lot of extra power during those five weeks.
Can you talk with her about your concerns _before_ you move in with her? Now, while you still have your own separate and private spaces in which to process how the conversation went? And so that you can decide, based on how she reacts, whether it really is safe to live with her–and *she* can decide if she really wants to live with someone who’s willing to upset her by asserting their boundaries! (You are absolutely right to assert your boundaries.)
If the conversation happens and goes badly *after* you move in, when Ella has a key to your shared living space under a rental agreement you have no control over, that seems really uncomfortable to say the least.
I’m super relieved that the roommate situation is not intended to be permanent!
You can still say no, though, if you want to. I mean, if Ella is moving in with her mum anyway, she could move a few weeks early if there are concerns about her being alone. The rent needs to be paid but does Ella have to be in the house for that time? Not to mention (as a person who has also experienced depression and anxiety) I feel a little weird about how far you are expected to be responsible for Ella’s well being.
In any case, best of luck, LW!
Thanks for the feedback and I’m also glad to hear it’s finite. You still don’t have to do it. You really don’t have to do it because her mom is badgering you to do it. It’s like you have been selected to serve as “therapy service human” by everyone. That is a draining thing and a big ask and even without boundary violations it will take a mental and emotional toll on you. Weigh your options. Take precautions. Best of luck!
“The big reason I said yes originally when Ella herself asked me was that in the past I’ve experienced depression and anxiety and been very grateful not to be living alone at the time.”
In other words: I once had a problem and was grateful when someone helped me with the problem; therefore it’s my responsibility to help every single other person in the world with the same problem no matter what.
If that’s an accurate paraphrase (and I hope you’ll correct me if I’ve got that wrong), I’ve got a big honking irrationality alert, something screaming does-not-compute-does-not-compute. If you don’t help, what? That makes you a bad person who should feel guilty? It somehow negates the help others gave you? It means you didn’t deserve the help you got?
Paying it forward is great but not obligatory, and even if you do decide to pay forward, YOU get to determine the specifics of to whom and how and under what circumstances. Want to help other people with depression and anxiety? You could give charitable donations to groups that help with therapy and medical care. You do not have to move in even for 5 weeks.
Ella’s mother, if she’s so concerned, could have Ella move in 5 weeks early despite taking a hit for a loss of 5 weeks rent.
I absolutely would put the brakes on moving in with this person.
I’m also bisexual, and just as a reminder, “bisexual” does not mean “attracted to you” or “attracted to everyone.”
Sadly, I feel like bisexual people get flak from everywhere. I’m not particularly involved in my local LGBTQ+ community (except for activism) because as a femme-presenting bisexual woman, I don’t get treated very well by other people in that community. I’m not gay “enough” or I’m not worth getting to know because I’ll just end up with a man eventually, right? There’s also the perception that bisexual people are ‘greedy.’ I’m not denying that I benefit from straight passing privilege, because I do, but whether other people read me as straight is not something I can control.
It really sucks.
That does suck. I’m sorry, and I wish our communities were doing better for you. You as an individual are worthy. Bisexuality is a worthy cause.
Despite straight passing privilege, bi folks face a lot of difficult challenges that neither straight nor homosexual people face (at least, when studies are measuring outcomes, bi folk often have it the worst). See this study for an example of poverty rates between bi, heterosexual, and homosexual folk: http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/lgbt.aspx . Quoting the study:
Among women 18-44 years of age, 29 percent of bisexual women and 23 percent of lesbians are living in poverty, compared to 21 percent of their heterosexual counterparts.
20 percent of gay men and 25 percent of bisexual men 18-44 years of age are living at or below the federal level of poverty, compared to 15 percent of heterosexual men.
Thank you for being involved as activism. Your work benefits people like me. I’m truly sorry that our communities are not stepping up for you.
“Ella has low self esteem and is dealing with anxiety right now, which is why she wants me to live with her. ”
It’s also worthwhile imagining what this will look like for you. In my experience people with poor borders don’t react too well if you can’t be there for them all.of the time and this gets harder handle once you live together.
Here’s a script. My sexuality isn’t any of your damn business and how would you feel if some random man ground against you without YOUR permission bc that’s assault?!?!
Comments are closed.