“Should I Come Out to My College Girlfriend?”

I (21M) am a senior at a Christian college in the American south. I am also a closeted gay, as my school, family, and hometown (and my state for that matter) were all quite hostile toward gay people, and the only person who knows is my best friend Andy. My parents are alumni of “Southern Christian College,” and I ended up getting really good financial aid to go there, making it cheaper than a state school. Andy, who is a year older than me, also goes there, and he had a positive experience his freshman year, so for all those reasons it made sense to go there.

Southern Christian College also has an honor code that we all had to sign, and breaking it can lead to disciplinary action including expulsion. It includes things like not drinking alcohol, not having sex outside of marriage (which leads to lots of people getting married before graduation) and not engaging in homosexual activities or promoting a homosexual lifestyle. So saying “I’m gay” could be seen as promoting a homosexual lifestyle, but saying “I am struggling with same-sex attraction” is a valid prayer request. Many people don’t take the honor code seriously, but I have heard stories about people who came out and were treated very badly by the college. I doubt I would be expelled, but I might face disciplinary action if I came out. That being said, I have had a mostly positive college experience, and it has been much better than high school.

I wound up with a random roommate named Leo, as Andy had already made living plans with other friends. Leo is an ideal roommate, and we have continued to live together for all four years, but he has a very traditional view of sexual morality, meaning he believes that sex should only be between a man and woman married to each other. He has a serious girlfriend named Carmen, and I saw him looking at rings the other night. Carmen and Leo are both good friends with a girl named Luna. I finally met Luna junior year, after hearing from Leo how much I would like her, and he was right. When I finally met her, I felt like I had met my new best friend, and she apparently felt the same way. We started hanging out all the time. Then she told Andy that she liked me, and I decided to ask her on a date. Andy thought this was a bad idea, but I thought maybe I could be attracted to her. I definitely like her a lot.

After a few dates, we became “official” in May, and then went our separate ways for the summer. Luna is a really wonderful person, but I’ve realized over the past few months that I am not attracted to her any more than any other woman. We kissed a few times and it was not exciting. Like most students here, Luna has a traditional view of sexual morality, so we are definitely not having sex before marriage because we are good Christian people who don’t do that.

I have a job lined up with a big tech company after graduation. Luna is looking at grad schools, and I know she is considering a school that is near the big tech company. I know this isn’t going anywhere, and we should probably break up, but I don’t know how to do it, because I really have no good reason for breaking up. When other guys hear I am dating Luna, they are always impressed because she is very attractive. She is also a genuinely kind and good person. I’m worried that if I come out to her, word will get back to Leo, and he will be creeped out by the knowledge and our living situation will become very uncomfortable. However, if I break up with her for no reason, she might speculate and figure it out on her own and also hate me. Plus, there is the potential for getting in trouble with the college. At this point I just want to graduate and get out of here, as I have only one semester left. I would like to remain friends with Luna though, or at least be on good terms. How should I handle this? — Still in the closet in 2024

It certainly does feel ridiculous that in 2024 people are still ostracized in certain communities for being gay and that you’ve felt the need to keep your sexual orientation a secret from everyone in your life except one person. I commend you for finding the bright spots in your college experience and for keeping your eyes on the prize: Graduation is so close, it sounds like you’ll have minimal to no student loan debt, and you already have a job lined up with a big tech company. All you have to do is get through a few more months and the world will open to you, and I think and hope you will find that the world outside your conservative Christian community will prove more welcoming of your whole self.

But for now, you are still very entrenched in a community that is hostile to your sexual identity, and I think you’re right to worry about how your roommate, Leo, and maybe how Luna and others would react to learning you are gay. You’re so close to the finish line now that I wouldn’t say or do anything that might disrupt your peace in these final months of school. Does that mean you should continue dating Luna to keep the peace? No. You know you aren’t attracted to her and this relationship isn’t going anywhere. You should break up with her.

You should break up with her, but you don’t owe her the entire truth about why you’re breaking up with her. After all, even if you were straight, it’s unlikely that you’d end up marrying the first person you dated – although, yes, I realize this would be more common in an ultra-conservative community where sex before marriage is forbidden. My point is that your breaking up with Luna isn’t so different from a straight guy breaking up with a girl he just doesn’t have chemistry with even if he really likes her as a friend. For most decent guys, breaking up with someone is an unpleasant experience that can bring feelings of guilt, regret, and even shame. These feelings are all normal, and just like all the guys before you – straight or gay – who have broken up with someone, you will survive and so will Luna.

Part of growing up is exploring and figuring out what appeals to us and what doesn’t. This is true, regardless of sexual orientation, although exploring one’s sexual orientation can certainly be part of this process, and college is a time when many people figure out what kind of person excites them. That you are in a college environment that doesn’t support this sort of exploration doesn’t make it – or you – wrong. And, frankly, you’ve done nothing that is going to cause much or lasting harm here. It has all been pretty innocent. And a break-up can be innocent and relatively harmless too.

So how to do it? Here’s a general script to use with Luna that you can tweak as needed:

“Now that we’re heading into our final semester of college, I’ve got my eyes on the immediate future, and I know you do too. I don’t think it would be fair to you to lead you to think we have a future together as a couple. I like you so much as a friend – you are one of my favorite people I’ve met here – and you’re so beautiful and I had hoped my feelings would transfer to more romantic ones, but they haven’t, and it would be selfish of me to continue trying to foster these feelings that I know just aren’t going to develop. As much as I enjoy your company and hope we can remain friends, I know that continuing to date you would mean keeping you from finding someone who would be a better fit for you as a boyfriend.”

And that’s it. She might cry or demand to know why, and you can keep saying you just aren’t feeling it. This could be the case if you were straight, too. Sometimes, the chemistry just isn’t there, and it’s not there for you and Luna and that’s all she – or your roommate or anyone else who might be confused or suspicious – really needs to know.

Might this make things weird or awkward or uncomfortable for the remaining months of your tenure at school? Maybe. But you don’t owe anyone a longer or deeper or more thorough explanation for your feelings, and you definitely don’t owe anyone your peace, which is what I think you’d sacrifice if you came out in an environment that is so hostile against homosexuality. You could even risk getting kicked out of school, losing out on your degree you’re so close to earning, and then losing that job you’ve already been offered. The truth about your sexual identity isn’t going to spare Luna’s feelings anyway, and even if it would, it’s not worth the risk it poses to your livelihood and well-being.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. Part-time Lurker says:

    Everything Wendy said.

    1. Agree. Also, many of these colleges are not accredited, which means difficulty transferring credits. The LW definitely needs to stay closeted until after graduation.

  2. I think the fear that she’ll speculate and figure you out if you end things for “no reason” is unwarranted. If this were my breakup, I’d not bother saying my feelings never turned romantic and would focus on life taking us in different directions after college, but I’m sure you’ll figure out a script that works for you.

    I really hope you’re able to live your life authentically after graduation. My dad is a closeted gay man who married a woman because he came from a religious family. They didn’t divorce until their late 60s. I wish the fallout onto nobody.

  3. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

    Breaking up with anyone with the reason that you aren’t feeling chemistry (or similar reasons) is pretty normal. After all, you (LW or anyone) take that next step to date a person to find out if you actually have chemistry or something more – and sometimes you find out you just really don’t. It’s not that they’re a bad person, it’s just how it is! Further, you really don’t need a reason or excuse, “good” or otherwise, to end a relationship. If you want to end it, you should be able to end it.

    I hope LW is able to finish his last semester in peace and will go on to live a happy and fulfilled life.

  4. Anonymousse says:

    I think a gentle, “I’m not in love with you, romantically like you deserve,” breakup would work just fine. Usually woman assume it’s their own fault in some way, at least that’s my experience, even the super beautiful women are insecure in some way. I doubt she’d jump right to assuming you were gay without any other reasoning.

    I understand your school is bigoted, is she? Are your friends?

  5. LisforLeslie says:

    You have to tread really carefully here – she is going to be upset, she’s going to ask why. She may not take platitudes for an answer. Be prepared for this to be the first of several conversations.
    It’s going to get back to your roommate and he’s going to ask you questions. So will his girlfriend. This is not going to be a single conversation.

    Do not tell her. You know her and you believe that she’s a kind person, but even the most kind people can be cruel and vindictive. And she may innocently tell her friend and your roommate who can expose you and leave you in a precarious position.

    I’m not for deceit, but I’m also not a fan of punishing & restrictive religions or institutions that will harm you if you come out. So if for your own safety you need to stay in this relationship (or get back together with her) – do it. When you have your degree in hand (and I mean that literally, when the degree is mailed to your house) then you can safely break up and go live your life. She’ll get over it, she will.

  6. Agree with Wendy’s advice. Break up because it’s not going to lead to marriage and I’m reading between the lines here that that’s where Luna thinks this is headed. Good for you for knowing better than to keep dating her even though you know that marriage isn’t where your head or heart are at with this relationship.

    And, please keep your sexuality a secret. Typing that made me very, very sad. But you have a lot to lose by being outed here, LW. Get through the next few months, get that diploma and then get out. I hope you find the larger world to be welcoming and a place where you can be your true self with a support network of your choosing to help you through it.

  7. PassingBy says:

    People break up for all kind of reasons.
    I don’t think there’s any reason to expect that she’ll jump to “it’s because you’re gay isn’t it?!”.
    And remember that you’re informing her that you’re breaking up with her. It’s not your job to convince her it’s the right decision. It’s not a negotiation. She may not be satisfied with your reasons, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay together.

    While you can let her know that you’d like to remain friends, it’s quite possible (maybe even likely) that she won’t want to be and if she doesn’t, just accept that. Don’t push her. That’s part of the price of breaking up with someone.

  8. First, I am so sorry that you are in this situation and have to factor fear into your decision making process. I would add that if you don’t want to say you don’t have romantic feelings for her, you can also go with the reason so many people break up during a transition. “I care for you a lot, but I know I’m not ready to settle down. I want to have some time on my career and date casually. (You don’t need to mention you want to date the same gender.) I know you are looking for a committed relationship and I am not the one able to give that to you. I’d love for us to be friends, but it’s not fair for us to date when you are looking for something different.

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