The Independent published a “Dear Mary” column in which a woman in love with her female friend asked for advice. Mary gave her very poor advice, which is why I am stepping in.
The reader asked the following:
“I think that I am in love with my best friend who is also a girl. I do not know if the term is really in love at all, because up until now I’ve never ever had a romantic relationship. My status is NBSB – no boyfriend since birth. I just really believe that true love waits, so am not in a rush. I’m a 24-year-old professional whose career is going strong, I have a wonderful family, I serve the Lord every Sunday and I only have very selected friends.
My friend and I went to the same university and took the same degree course. During our college years, I developed this likeness of her being around me because I was attracted to her simplicity and humour. She was a very good friend to me during college.
After we graduated my interest and our friendship got deeper. I used to visit her most of the time since we live in the same village. I slept over at her house many times, I did favours for her and I honestly admit that I care for her a lot. I also think that she’s trying her best to return any favour that I’ve asked for. We feel at home with each other’s presence.
Of course, my mind is battling against my feelings. My intellect says the reason why I am like this is because she’s the only person I can cling to after my family. But my feelings tell me differently.
We have a lot in common. We share the same NBSB status, we are both religious, conservative, and also share other life ideologies.
I did not have this sort of confusion before but I am now wondering if I have a lesbian orientation. I even introduced her as my “girlfriend” which she just laughed at, and I understand. If I were a boy I would marry her. If I will be with one person for the rest of my life, I want it to be a male version of her.
So am I in love with my best friend considering these things? Or is it that just because she is available to me that I am into her?
Or could it be that I can’t find a man who is up to my own standards and so I settle for her companionship? Do I have to consider myself as a lesbian?
As of now, my plan is to distance myself from her because the more time that I am with her the more I want to be with her. I don’t hate those who are lesbian but I do not like this orientation either.
Sorry to say, but I even thought of having a “boyfriend” just to alleviate my attention from her and to see if it feels good to have one.
I grew up in a God-fearing environment so I know what is supposed to be done. Yes, the Church never condemns the LGBT community but I do not want to be one in any case.”
This is how Mary answered her reader:
“I really don’t think that you have had enough life experience to honestly be able to answer yourself as to what your sexual orientation is.
You haven’t ever had a boyfriend, you have a small selection of friends who share your values, and one girl in particular means an awful lot to you.
Women have best friends all through their lives. They may not see each other regularly, or they may meet up a couple of times a week, but they are always there for each other and can be counted on through the best and worst of times.
So far this is what you have with this girl, and as a result you have become very comfortable when you are with her. The big question is would you like to wake up next to her every morning?
We love lots of people in our lives. Our family, our friends, our hairdresser, our doctor, and each one is a different sort of love, but love nonetheless.
But with a partner there is a sexual component as well, and although I realise that you have zero sexual experience, would you like to be sexual with her? Only you can answer that question. What matters is that you stop worrying and get things sorted out in your head.
Your idea of having a boyfriend is a very good one, because until you try it you don’t know if it is for you.
Naturally you will adhere to whatever teachings your Church lays down, and I’m not advocating that you do anything that is forbidden, but dating, kissing and all the fun stuff that is part of the dating process should be experienced by you with a guy before you can in any way definitively say that you are lesbian.”
This is terrible advice, for the following reasons: she didn’t address her internalized homophobia, she minimized the importance of this relationship, and she suggested that a woman must try dating a man in order to find out if she’s a lesbian. That last point is particularly offensive. Here’s some real advice:
I am delighted to hear about this wonderful friendship you have. It is truly a blessing to find people who you can connect with on such a level and who make you feel good just by being themselves. You seem to know already that you love your friend, and I know you haven’t decided yet what kind of love it is, but it is definitely love, and that is something to cherish.
There are some clues in what you’ve written here that tell me that what you feel for her is romantic love. You say that if you were a boy you’d marry her, and that you’d like to spend your life with a male version of her. What I’m hearing from you is that you already know that you’d like to marry her. This sounds different from the platonic love we feel for our friends. For example, you have surely had other friends before, but didn’t want to marry them: what is the difference? Try to name how your feelings for your current friend are different from your feelings from other friends who you haven’t wanted to marry. That will give you a clue as to what “kind” of love you are feeling.
You are reluctant to believe that you could be a lesbian and that is because you don’t think that having a lesbian orientation is okay. I hope you will take some time to ask yourself why loving another woman would be wrong. I understand you have a religious faith and this is informing your beliefs. Why do you think your church opposes homosexuality?
Here are some questions to consider regarding religion and sexuality. If God made you the way you are, and if you are naturally inclined to love women, then doesn’t it follow that God made you that way? Do you believe it is necessary or possible to change the way God created you? Do you think the teachings of the church are absolute and always correct? Has the church ever changed the way it functions or the message it teaches before? Do you think that people’s interpretation of the Bible is absolutely correct and cannot be open to any other interpretations? Some religious people suggest that the reason homosexuality is wrong is because it’s based on lust or fornication or because it doesn’t produce children. Do you think the love you feel for your friend is based on lust? Do you think that all relationships need to produce children to be valid?
To me, it doesn’t sound like the way you feel for your friend is based on a sinful desire to satisfy your flesh. It sounds like a deep respect and appreciation for her as a person and a feeling of warmth and happiness when you are with her. Do you think that a deep love and appreciation for another woman can be considered sinful? Does that sound like something that comes from evil? It sure doesn’t sound like it to me!
I think what you have here is a blessing in disguise. You are apprehensive about accepting something that you never thought you would accept before, and that’s totally understandable. But you are in love with a woman who shares your values and beliefs and that could turn out to be a really good thing. There is a perception that gays and lesbians are all urban liberals who live a lifestyle full of partying and dancing, and although there certainly are people like that, there are all sorts of other types too. There are even gay conservatives! You are in the lucky position of already having found someone who is your “type,” and if you find out that she loves you back, you have an excellent foundation for a long-term relationship.
I know you haven’t decided to tell her how you feel yet, but that is an option for you that I hope you will consider. If you just “stop being friends” with her, she may feel hurt and confused, wondering why you suddenly stopped being her friend. That might cause you both a lot of pain. You could decide to go on as you are, not declaring your feelings and continuing as friends. That could potentially be enjoyable, but I’m sensing that something is pushing you to make a change. Because you have written this letter asking for advice, it sounds like this situation is no longer working for you. What you decide to do is ultimately up to you, but consider this: telling her how you feel doesn’t automatically mean that the two of you will be in a romantic relationship, or that you are already a sinner, or that you will lose your faith or her friendship. You may just discuss with her how you are feeling but also that you aren’t sure yet what to do about it. It’s okay not to be sure. It’s good to go one step at a time when you are dealing with something that feels like such a big deal.
There is really no need to try having a boyfriend just to see what it’s like. It’s not fair to you or to the man you might date to just try it for the sake of experiment. If you ever meet a man you are attracted to, then the two of you will naturally begin seeing each other when the sparks start flying. Of course there is nothing wrong with going out and meeting people, but don’t pressure yourself to date a man just for the sake of dating a man if he’s not the one who makes you happy. If you needed a man in your life, you’d probably have found yourself naturally attracted to one by now. If you haven’t, it could be that they aren’t what you need. You wouldn’t be the first woman to feel that way.
I hope that whatever you decide to do, you can come to appreciate the beautiful gift your friend is in your life, and consider what you have with her a treasure, whether you choose to define it as homosexual or not. It’s not the label that’s important, it’s the joy you experience with her that matters.