SparkNotes Blog

Auntie SparkNotes: My Classmates Think I’m Gay

Hey Auntie,

So I have a slightly ridiculous problem I’m hoping you can help me with. Simply put, I’m a 16-year-old straight girl, and my entire school appears to think I’m gay. I kind of understand why they think that—I’ve never dated, I check off a lot of superficial gay girl stereotypes (I’m a liberal writer with a short, spiky haircut) and I am pretty connected to the LGBT+ community because I have same-sex parents.

The problem is that because of this, I’m fairly sure boys I like don’t see me as a potential romantic interest. With the help of your flirting guide, I do flirt, but one guy even told me he thought I was a lesbian and that I just wanted to be friends. I know I’m young, and I don’t have a pressing need to date right now, but it’s getting annoying.

I doubt I can just go around proclaiming my heterosexuality, because I’m pretty sure the more you make a point of saying you aren’t gay, the gayer people start thinking you are. What should I do? I’m completely aware how silly this question is, but it’s having a weirdly disproportionate impact on my life. Thanks!

Not a silly question at all, Sparkler! It’s perfectly reasonable for you to want to date, or at least be seen as dateable by folks of your preferred sex, and it’s also perfectly reasonable to be frustrated when people make dumb, inaccurate assumptions about your identity based on things like your haircut or family background. But you’re also unfortunately correct that protesting too much will only make you seem “gayer” in the eyes of your peers (side note: because high school is a terrible place where nothing makes sense), whereas having some kind of non-platonic relationship with a member of the opposite sex expresses the fact of your orientation silently but quite convincingly.

Here’s the other thing: even if you aren’t walking down the street hand-in-hand with a guy to advertise your heterosexuality, you’re still sending out unconscious signals all day long about what kind of person interests you; it’s happening every time you flirt, or confide in a friend about a crush, or get googly-eyed when a cute guy walks by. And that’s something the people around you will pick up on sooner or later, without any effort on your part, because humans are social animals with a highly evolved radar for recognizing when someone is interested versus indifferent. That one dude who mistook your flirting attempt for lesbian friendliness is not representative of the social intelligence of the average human being. (And even he realizes now that he was mistaken, right?)

In short, you don’t have to do anything to convince your classmates that you’re straight. That’ll happen on its own. But if it’s not happening fast enough, you can always help it along with a little bit of signal-boosting—by flirting more openly with guys who interest you, or by adopting a conventional marker or two of straight femininity (e.g. wearing makeup), or of course, by going on a date or two. Which, y’know, might even be fun.

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