Every week, Dr. Took-One-Psych-Class-Sophomore-Year will be answering Colorado College’s questions about the one thing that perplexes our student body most, Love on the Block. Email your questions to Catalyst@ColoradoCollege.edu for a totally free, totally anonymous consultation.
Dear Dr. Took-One-Psych-Class-Sophomore-Year,
I’m a gay man who recently came out and I’ve been having trouble finding a partner at CC, since I’m not sure who would be open to a same-sex relationship and who wouldn’t be. In particular, I have a friend, somebody I’m not very close to, who seems to be flirting with me and giving all the right signals, and I’m certainly interested, but I’m not sure whether he’s straight. Would it be okay to ask? Should I worry about losing a friend if he’s straight?
One of the challenges that many queer people face after coming out is the feeling of a distinctive kind of isolation. Many of our social practices, and the presumptions that go along with them, were designed or formed with a particular idea of heterosexuality in mind, and these practices and presumptions can feel alienating to those who don’t conform to this idea.
It is very difficult for many people to come out, of course, and for some it can be exceptionally dangerous. In the best circumstances, which are rare as it is, it’s a brave act of defiance. So, after coming out, and once a safe milieu of friends and allies can be found or constructed, one may feel as if the hurdles are in the rearview mirror. But this is not always the case.
In fact, a great deal has been written about the significant trials queer people face after coming out. One of these, no doubt, is a feeling of social and romantic isolation; it is hard enough to move through a world that seems as if it wasn’t designed with you in mind, and it’s harder still when you feel alone in that.
Queer people often find that making queer friends and finding romantic or sexual partners is a more arduous task than it seems to be for their heterosexual friends. This can understandably be discouraging, and one may be left feeling lonely or alienated from the idea of romance, which too often appears in the guise of a blatantly heterosexual image, a kind of regulative ideal one doesn’t fit.
However, there are a lot of people out there who have a sense of what it’s like to come out and be left still unsure whether, and where, they fit in. One way to meet other queer people is to get involved with LGBTQIA+ organizations on campus, such as EQUAL. Such organizations provide a space for those with similar experiences to come together and support each other. They also provide a forum to listen to and learn from those with challenges that are perhaps unlike one’s own, and to push back against institutional heteronormativity alongside others. This may be one way to meet potential queer friends, or romantic and sexual partners. And it may prove a welcome space to be vulnerable and communicative in a way that’s possibly more challenging with heterosexual friends.
Many queer people find that it’s easiest to meet potential romantic and sexual partners, and sometimes friends, via online dating apps. Apps such as Tinder allow you to get a sense of someone’s interest in a much more direct way than certain face-to-face situations do, since you’ll know they’re interested if you match. And apps such as Grindr cater to a particular demographic (though they have other faults). This may solve the problem of meeting people interested in same-sex romance, but one may feel that online dating has a host of other issues.
In that case, there are other queer-friendly spaces, such as Club Q in Colorado Springs or Pride & Swagger in Denver. A sign on the door of Pride & Swagger happily reads, “If you are homophobic … Don’t come in.” But admittedly, such spaces are a rarity in our lovely city. While these spaces aren’t always the paradises one hopes they’d be, they do at least provide a place where you can be amongst other queer people, and that may make a substantial difference.
As for your friend who seems to you to be flirting with you, I think there’s no harm in flirting back and seeing what happens. He may very well be queer, and he may be open to something of a romantic or sexual nature. But even if he is queer, there’s a chance that he is not ready to come out, doesn’t want to date or be otherwise involved with you, or doesn’t want to jeopardize your friendship. Speculation is unlikely to do anyone much good, and I’d never advise against an honest conversation.
If you really feel like he’s giving off flirtatious vibes, sit down with him one-on-one and express how you feel. There’s no need to ask him if he’s queer or interested; tell him you are, and he’ll tell you if he is. If he isn’t, there’s no reason you can’t remain friends, unless he takes it poorly, in which case he isn’t a very good friend. And if he is interested, you’ll be glad you talked.
Being gay in a heteronormative world can be tough, and you may feel that you have to face grave challenges all alone. But you aren’t alone, and those burdens can be made easier by finding friends with whom you can be vulnerable and share in your experiences. Though gay love can be harder to come by, it often seems there’s nothing so worth the extra effort.
Good luck! 🖤