"Dear Comrade Femme," is an advice column meets queer theory daydream meets insurrectionary love letter. With her toolkit (working-class roots, queer femme modality, a PhD, and a little magic), Comrade Femme responds to your questions about politics, sex, identity, feelings, work, family, friendship, astrology, and the intersections of them all. Write to her at email@example.com and put "Dear Comrade Femme" in the title. xo
***Update!!! DCF has one more letter in the queue and after that will be on an indefinite hiatus. Thank you for all your letters - I hope to be back to this reciprocal exchange of empathy sometime in the future! <3 ***
Dear Comrade Femme,
I have always wanted, more than anything, to be in a loving relationship, and I am just not getting there. I am a 24 year old straight female, and I have never had sex. I am demisexual, which means that I am unable to feel sexually attracted to someone without first having an emotional bond. (I am not asexual, I do want sex and could have a healthy sex life with someone I knew well). It's virtually impossible for me to tell, upon first meeting someone, if we will just be friends or if I will fall in love with them in a month or in a few years. This makes dating really hard; I think I need to be more upfront with telling guys about demisexuality and then hope that someone is understanding. I keep falling in love with people that were my best friends, and then being rejected when I try to tell them that I want to be more than friends (and then losing the friendship). I am fit and attractive and I have wonderful friends and a promising career. I'm a good friend and generally am understanding and kind and good at getting along with people. I do try to focus on myself and not worry about being single, but it always catches back up to me. I also know that a lot of people and have bigger problems than me and I do volunteer and try to focus on helping others, but that doesn't seem to be enough.
I have always struggled with low self esteem and I do have a tendency to throw away any personal goals or sense of self in hopes of winning someone over. I have a lot going for me in life except for the thing that I want the most. I feel so worthless, unattractive, and unlovable. I try to be very self-aware and I'm constantly working on improving myself. I don't understand how to fix this or what makes me so different from other girls who manage to find love. I am already going to therapy, but have not had much luck with it in the past. I just can't take this pattern of loneliness and rejection.
Thank you for your time.
Demisexual & Alone
Dearest D & A,
Oh sweet one, I’m so sorry you are struggling. I can feel the loneliness and frustration in your words, and my heart aches and acknowledges your pain. Your situation is particularly difficult because in some ways it probably feels like you have absolutely no control over this, and in other ways it probably feels like it’s entirely in your control and you must be doing something wrong. I have felt similarly in relation to my career. We all have something that, at certain points, just doesn’t quite….work.
I want to first applaud you for having the self-awareness to understand your demisexuality, and celebrate whatever time/space/people provided you resources to help you make sense of it. Not everyone has the ability to confront what others may deem unusual, and so for you to say, “Hey there is a thing and I am this thing,” is super exciting and powerful! Having a language for our desire is beautiful and I’m glad you have not just a word, but now also a community (even if it’s just on the internet).
To begin, let's talk practical advice - I think your hunch is right that it might be wise to let people know that you’re demisexual (although it’s certainly not a requirement!). I would specifically suggest you do this on dating sites, and also search for other people who identify as demisexual. (I’m not familiar with all that’s out there right now, but I know that at least on OK Cupid, you can search for keywords like that!). Already this helps narrow your pool - which is not to say you may not end up having a super fulfilling relationship with someone who isn’t demisexual, but it may be easier to find someone who already ‘gets it.’ And since I don’t identify as demisexul, I also want to direct you to online resources for demisexual people - this one is specifically about dating as demisexual.
With all that said, I hope you know your demisexuality isn’t a “problem” that needs fixing. And that just because some of us have to work a little harder to find people who can understand our sexualtiy (whether that’s homosexuality, polyamory, ace spectrum, or anything else) doesn’t mean that it’s bad. I hope, in your frustration about relationships, you can hold on to the belief that indeed, your sexuality is perfect.
So then what could be standing in the way of love? I have some ideas. And I’ll share them. But I want to say this first: at the end of the day, the first step to moving beyond your situation is to accept it. I think I’ve quoted Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance in at least two other letters and I’m sure I’ll do it again in the future because her advice is absolutely fucking necessary for things that feel impossible:
“The way out of our cage begins with accepting absolutely everything about ourselves and our lives, by embracing with wakefulness and care our moment-to-moment experience. By accepting absolutely everything, what I mean is that we are aware of what is happening within our body and mind in any given moment, without trying to control or judge or pull away. I do not mean that we are putting up with harmful behavior—our own or another’s. This is an inner process of accepting our actual, present-moment experience. It means feeling sorrow and pain without resisting. It means feeling desire or dislike for someone or something without judging ourselves for the feeling or being driven to act on it.”
Can you hear that, sweet one, without resistance? It’s okay if you’re not there yet - but I believe it’s important to work toward.
And so, in line with this, I invite you to consider what it would mean to release the efforting. I know, in many ways, you’ve already attempted this. To “try to focus on [yourself] and not worry about being single,” but even that is a lot of work. I can hear in the letter that you are a bit of a perfectionist, a bit of a fixer. You want things to be just so and if they’re not, you want to do the work. You want to elbow grease your way into a partnership. But that, tender hustler, may not be the solution here. Which is not to say you can’t put in some work to make the pieces line up more neatly: tailor that online dating profile, continue therapy (assuming you have health insurance), and so on, but it’s also important here to….well...let go. Of force, of trying, of will power.
What if the strategy wasn’t as important as the faith? Faith in love, sure, but mostly in yourself.
I would urge you to continue to thrive in all the ways you’re already thriving - keep taking the steps into the promising career, keep enjoying time with your friends. But, most importantly, I would also invite you to step into thriving with yourself. I know, I know - you said you’ve tried. But again, “constantly working on improving yourself” suggest that you think there is an endless list of things that need improving. What if you just loved yourself right now. Accepted yourself right now. Exactly as you are. What if nothing changed about you ever again and you still believed you were worthy of love? “You do not have to be good” ...you just have to be you.
Dearest D & A, trust me, I know how ludicrous this sounds. How can you possible thrive alone when exactly what you need to thrive is a partnership?! I know. But this is where the hard work begins, and if you have any trust in the universe, it’s also where the magic starts. Can you find a way to believe that there is nothing wrong with you? Can you find a deep place inside your soul that knows you are not a problem to be fixed? Can you consider that the things that aren’t quite right are just a truth of your life in this moment, and that it won’t be that way forever, and that it’s okay to not be totally okay right now? (Are you open to believing that in the pillowy sanctuary of peace with yourself, you will find someone who wants to join you there?)
It’s a huge ask, demanding we dive into loving imperfection, it’s a terrible task to love our loneliness. And yet. And yet. Darling, we must.