Moving Beyond the Dating Scene – Advice on Relationships

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Maya Angelou

My dear queer children,

Before I go into this post’s topic on being a relationship, I must insert a little disclaimer:

I have only been in one relationship, and it lasted for about a month.

As such, while I did learn a lot about relationships in the two months I dated my ex and entered into a relationship with him, I don’t know everything there is to know about being in a relationship. However, drawing from my experience and the experiences of other queer people around me, I will provide you with some advice about being in a relationship.

By now, I’m sure you have heard many of the characteristics that make up a good relationship: trust, communication, commitment, and such. These are all good and are indeed needed to have a good relationship. However, there are a few characteristics that I will especially focus on because I find them particularly relevant for LGBTQ+ relationships.

First, trust. I want to first say that, despite what queerphobic individuals may say, LGBTQ+ people are not any more likely to cheat on or lie to their partner than heterosexual people. In fact, we are probably less likely to do so because of how hard it is for us to find another LGBTQ+ person to have a romantic relationship with. This is because we are all at different stages in our journey with our sexuality and/or gender identity, and some of us are still in the closet and not wanting to be outed. It’s a tricky situation.

But trust is important in any LGBTQ+ relationship because of these toxic heteronormative narratives around LGBTQ+ people. While we may be in the 21st century, there are still people out there who want LGBTQ+ people to suffer and to be alone. Thus, relationships must be built on trust so that these relationships rise up and fight against heteronormative narratives of queer people.

Another important aspect of relationships is balance. This was perhaps the greatest lesson that I learned from my relationship with my ex. When I first met my ex and started talking to him, I couldn’t stop interacting with him. My mind was always on him. I made him my life. After our first date, we would hang out nearly every other day after that. By the time we officially started dating a few weeks later, I had basically stopped hanging out with my friends. I paid less attention in class. I just wanted him and nothing else.

Granted, this was my first chance for something that would be more than a one night stand. This was my first relationship. But I had not balanced my relationship with the rest of my life, and as a result, I almost lost my friends and performed poorly in my classes. Thankfully, my ex broke up with me a month after we started dating, and I realized I had my life back.

So, it is important for you to balance your relationship with the rest of your life. While your partner deserves your commitment, time, and energy, so too do your family, friends, and responsibilities. This isn’t to say that you will successfully balance your relationship right away or that it will come naturally. Rather, it is a process, and you will learn, and you will be okay. One way of learning how to be balanced is by having intentional conversations with your friends and family as you progress into a relationship. Have them help you reflect on your life and what you are investing yourself in. Also, it may be good to have a planner or schedule so that you can keep track of your time. Looking at your schedule after you fill it out may help you see how you balance your time. Finally, be honest with yourself. You’ve come this far on your journey, and this is in part because you are being honest with yourself about your sexuality and/or gender identity. Engaging in personal reflections and journaling can help you understand how you are balancing your life.

Finally, respect is such a necessity for a healthy relationship. You and your partner should respect each other. That includes your personhood, your space, your identity, your journey, and any of vital aspect of your life that deserves to be acknowledged and actively respected. In particular, you two should respect each other’s boundaries and not push the other to do something that they do not want to do. Also, doing this will help give you and your partner the space needed to create balance in the relationship.

There are of course many of important aspects of a relationship to consider in building a healthy relationship with a partner, but these are a few that I believe are most important, especially for LGBTQ+ relationships. Trust is important because it is needed to build relationships that fight against heteronormative ideas of sexuality. Balance is necessary because you could lose your personhood, community, and responsibilities by focusing too narrowly on your partner. Respect is vital because it ensures that you are being seen, heard, and validated by your partner instead of being ignored and used.

As always, please let me know if you would like my to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

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The Dating Scene – The First Date (and hopefully, more)

“Everybody knows the pressure of a first date: Searching for that perfect outfit. Hunting for ways to be engaging. Dissecting each detail when it’s over to check for mistakes. Dating can make even the most confident person lose his cool.” – Kelly Starling

My dear queer children,

Last time, I talked about meeting new people through online dating for the possibility of going on a date with someone. Today, I want to talk about what to do when you make a connection with someone and go on a first date with them. We all have different experiences with dating. Some of us have had a few relationships and been on multiple dates, whereas others have yet to have a first date at all. Wherever you are at with your own dating experience is completely okay. The reality is: first dates can be some of the most stressful and awkward experiences ever.

My first date ever was a little over a year ago. I had matched with a commuter student who went to my school on Tinder overnight and woke up to a message from him the next day. Pretty soon, I was consistently talking with him, and we had been connecting really well. We went on our first date a week after we started talking.

I vividly remember trying to figure out how I should sit in the passenger set of his car. Should I sit with my body facing forward? Slightly tilted toward him? What about crossing my legs? All of these thoughts. however pointless, filled my head because I wanted to make a good first impression. This was the first person I had ever gone on a date with, and I didn’t want to screw it up so early.

We had gone out to eat for dinner, came back to campus to watch a magic show, and then went out for ice cream afterwards. While there were moments of silence, it actually wasn’t as awkward or terrifying as I thought it would be. We had ended the night with a hug, and we would end up going on more dates and end up dating for a few weeks.

Several months later, I went on another first date with someone. However, unlike last time, it was much more awkward and we didn’t talk afterwards. We matched on Tinder and kind of talked before he suggested we go out on a date. On the date, we talked a little bit, but it was mainly me driving the conversation. He kept looking away and off to somewhere else. When we said goodbye, we just silently walked away toward our Ubers.

Because I’ve had widely different experiences with first dates, I wanted to share with you a few tips about what to do on a first date.

First and foremost: be yourself. Even thought this is one of the most basic cliches out there, it’s important to be yourself so that you are transparent with the person you’re going on a date with. Not only will this help potentially build a connection between you and your date, but it will also help you feel confident in your identity and with what you are doing. Also, you deserve genuine happiness, and you can’t accomplish that by pretending to be someone who you are not. Finally, being yourself makes it all the easier for you to focus on getting to know the other person better and enjoying yourself on the date.

Second: there will be awkward moments, whether it’s for a few seconds or half of the date. Embrace these moments and take that time to think of conversation topics or to reflect on how the date is going so far. If the date is going well but you two have just reached a dead end on questions, then maybe all you need is a question about the other person to keep the conversation going. If the date is rocky and really awkward, don’t fret. There may still be time to make the date better and end on a good note. However, you may be at a point where the date is just not salvageable and it needs to end. And that’s okay! Sometimes you don’t get past the first date, and that’s okay. There doesn’t need to be any rhyme or reason to why it went badly. It just can be what it is, and you can only learn and grow from the experience.

Lastly, don’t play the “hard to get” or “disinterested” game. People who say this often think that this will give you a sense of mystery, and that it might intrigue your date. In reality, appearing detached from the date will really hurt your chances of building a connection with the other person. They will feel hurt and believe that they wasted the time they invested into the date. Personally, I don’t find playing “hard to get” cute. As college students, we don’t have time to play these games because of our busy schedules and responsibilities. If I’m forced to play a game, then I’ll just forfeit and move on. I also just find this “disinterested” game dehumanizing. It’s equating our lives to chess pieces, and if he make the wrong move, it’s game over. It really isn’t fun.

In all, my loves, remember that you are what matter the most when it comes to dating. If anyone should treat you otherwise before, during, or after a date, then they don’t deserve your energy and time. There’s someone else out there who will appreciate it more. It may take some time, but I know that will be worth it. Hell, I haven’t been on a date in eight months, and I’ve been single for a year now. It’ll take time, but until then, we have each other.

As always, please let me know if you would like my to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

The Dating Scene – Dating Apps

“You have to kiss a lot of frogs in order to find your prince.” – E.L. James

My dear queer children,

To continue our little chat on dating in college, I decided that one of the most important and relevant aspects of the college dating is online dating dating. Even though people may be more comfortable with their sexuality and/or gender identity in college, many are still figuring out their identity. As a result, they may not be out of the closet but still want to explore their sexuality and gender identity.

This is where dating apps are helpful for LGBTQ+ people who are not out of the closet. LGBTQ+ individuals can make an online profile that has some information about who they are, what they like to do, and what they are looking for through the dating app. They can choose not to include a public picture on Tinder, or they can crop an image that has everything except their face. Thus, their identity remains anonymous and they can still try to find someone to chat with through dating apps.

However, if you are in the closet and engage in online dating, not showing who you are on dating apps can get a little messy. People may be frustrated that they cannot see who you are. They may block you the second after you send them a picture of your face because they may be only in it for the physical attraction. Someone may also out you if they find your profile and recognize that your online profile matches who you are in real life. So while online dating may be a convenience, it can also bring about some consequences for closeted people.

In general, online dating for LGBTQ+ people can be rewarding. You can meet other LGBTQ+ people and make new friends. You can randomly get the other person’s number and go on a spontaneous date. You may even find a long-term relationship. There are many stories about people who have developed friendships and relationships via dating apps.

However, online dating can be frustrating. Many of my conversations on dating apps end with people wanting to have sex with me. Others chats end after a few messages because the other person and I can’t hold a conversation. Also, the ideal type for many gay men is a lean to muscular, tall, white, well-off, gay man. Anyone who does not fit this mold in the slightest is often ignored or forgotten.

Despite these frustrations, I still encourage you to take part in online dating if you’re looking to meet new people. I have met some amazing, caring people who I still chat with today through online dating, such as my friend Devin. We get coffee every time I’m back home for a few weeks and catch up. Also, online dating can help you figure out your identity and challenge your perspective. My contact with transgender and gender non-conforming people increased through online dating, and these chats have challenged my thinking and my identity. Now, I identify as being genderqueer, and I think that I would have not gotten to this stage of my identity had I not been in contact with other queer people.

Above all, be careful with online dating. Despite how well-intentioned people may seem while you chat with them, they may not be the people that they say they are. There are people who want to use you for your body, who want to prey on you and your desire to meet other people, who just don’t really care about your well-being. I don’t mean to scare you! It’s just an unfortunate reality that we as LGBTQ+ people particularly face because some heterosexual people like to prey on our community because they believe there’s something innately “kinky” about us. Because of this, it’s always a good idea to get the other person’s name, Snapchat, phone number, or some form of communication outside of the dating app. That way you can confirm their identity and dump them if they turn out to not be the person who they say they are.

If you’re interested in dating apps, some options are Tinder, Grindr, Her, Chappy, and OKCupid. There are plenty of others out there, but those generally have the largest base of members. If you check out these apps, be aware of the demographics they are made for! For instance, Grindr is largely geared toward gay men. Also, each app has different features that might interest you. It may take some experiments with apps to find the right one that works for you, or you may just use more than one!

Remember that the most important consideration while figuring out the dating scene is YOU! You matter, and you deserve the best.

As always, please let me know if you would like my to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

The Dating Scene – The Most Important Consideration: You

“Dating is about finding out who you are and who others are. If you show up in a masquerade outfit, neither is going to happen.” – Henry Cloud

My dear queer children,

As you most likely know, trying to date another queer person is difficult. This is not because our relationships are more likely to fall apart or because our people are not committed, as some homophobic people would like to say, but because we can have a tough time finding someone in the first place.

I mean, let’s be honest: society assumes that everyone is straight unless you’re at some sort of gay bar or similar setting. LGBTQ+ people can’t just walk up to someone and ask them out because more likely than not they’re straight. Also, it could be dangerous if you ended up the wrong person out. They could be extremely queerphobic and harass you. So, dating for our people is difficult because we can hardly find anyone and because there is potential harm.

Now that you’re in college, you may find that the dating scene has become slightly easier. You may be away from a homophobic setting and now feel safe enough to date someone who you’re truly attracted to. Also, if you’re involved on campus, especially with LGBTQ+ friendly organizations, you are more likely to meet someone who you could date. Your friends may introduce you to other LGBTQ+ people who may be interested in you. There may also be LGBTQ+ friendly parts of town where you can explore and find other LGBTQ+ people to date.

However, before you do any of this, you must reflect on the most important consideration: yourself. It’s important to make sure that you are in a healthy state before going out and finding a date. This is because you should be mindful that there are nasty people out there, both in and out of our queer community. There are people who want to use you sexually, who want to take advantage of your emotional labor, who are not interested in you, but in what you can do for them. In order to minimize this, you should be in a state in which you love yourself, you know your immense worth and dignity, and you can recognize manipulative people when you meet one. This step does not necessarily mean that you will not be put in a situation such as some of those that I outlined above, but it will give you many resources to draw upon so that you can leave that relationship as soon as you can. But most importantly, I hope that you will never have to experience a relationship such as that, and that if you ever find yourself in that situation, please feel free to contact me.

You should also be aware of whether or not you are ready for a relationship. While it may be exciting to tap into the new queer community that is around you, you may be needing some time to figure your identity out or to discover your passions and interests. Jumping into a relationship could be harmful in that it sucks all the time and energy out of you. Even though the relationship may be nice and indeed may help you understand yourself a little more, it also may consume you.

My relationship with my first boyfriend was kind of like that. It was my second month of college, and I had started talking to a guy on a dating app one day. Before I knew it, I was going on dates with him every weekend, seeing him at least once a day, and dedicating my whole life to him. I lost my touch with my friend group, I didn’t focus on school, and I didn’t get involved on campus. It wasn’t until we broke up two months later that I realized that I had not been ready for a relationship and that I had lost a lot of time, energy, and personal and interpersonal fulfillment in the span of those two months. Luckily, I had an understanding friend group and support system that helped me recover from that relationship.

There was a lot that I had learned from my relationship, such as what to do and not to do (although the list for the “not to do” is a hell of a lot longer than the “to do” list). That’s why I’m imploring you to know, treasure, and love yourself before you start dating, so that you do not feel the pain and loss like I did when I jumped into a relationship without thinking at all about it. You deserve only the best, especially because of your struggles as an LGBTQ+ person. Making sure that you’re in a good spot before dating someone is a important step in that process of achieving what is best for yourself.

In short, you deserve what’s best for you and what you want. If that comes in the form of a relationship, then I only hope that you find someone who cares about you, respects you, and treats you well. Know that I am always here if you need any help sorting through that process.

As always, please let me know if you would like my to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

Embracing and Engaging with Identity – The Individual

It takes courage….to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.” – Marianne Williamson

My dear queer children,

Last time, I wrote about exploring and finding your identity through your communities. I’ll admit, this may seem to be a strange place to start. Do we not find who we are first, and then bring our identity to our respective communities?

While I do believe we need to have some knowledge of ourselves in order to know what communities we belong to, I also believe that basic knowledge is already within us. When we take this foundation of our identity to our communities, we are given resources to go off on our own and discover ourselves more fully and deeply.

For example, as I said in my first post, I always knew I was queer since I was four or five years old. At the time, however, I didn’t know a label or identity that I could associate my queerness with. While I would later understand myself to be gay, I had just scratched the surface of my identity. By engaging with the LGBTQ+ organization at St. Louis University, Rainbow Alliance, I was given the resources to go off on my own and investigate my identity.

Essentially, engaging with our identities is a cycle. We bring some knowledge of ourselves to our communities, and we utilize resources and information from these communities to better understand ourselves. After this, we know more about our identity, and we take this back to our communities. And this is especially important in college, since you have greater access to different types of communities.

So how do we go deeper in our understanding and exploration of our identities while balancing all the different aspects of our college life?

First things first: you need to take time for yourself! If you take a lot of classes and get involved on campus, the busyness of college life can have you running up and down and all across campus. You can’t take the necessary time and energy to focus on yourself and your growth if you are so busy. While it’s important to be involved on campus, it’s also important to practice the three selfs: self-care, self-reflection, and self-love.

One way of practicing self care is by carving out an hour or two in your weekly schedule to dedicate to yourself! This is important for a couple reasons. First, this can help you recharge yourself and increase your productivity levels. By giving your mind and body a break from the daily grind, you allow yourself to recover from the stress and work that you put on yourself. Second, this time can help you reflect on your week and see what your highs and lows have been. This can be a time when you take note of your progress and of who you are becoming.

During this time for yourself, it is important to be intentional with what you do. For example, there’s a difference between deliberately reflecting on your identity/what you are doing to develop yourself and mindlessly scrolling through your social media feed. While being on social media may give your mind a break from mental stress, it doesn’t necessarily help you develop as a person. Your self-care/self-reflection needs to be focused on you, and you alone – not on others on social media.

Some methods of self-care and reflection can be meditating (whether that be in silence or with music), exercising, going on a walk, keeping a journal, reading spiritual reflections, and similar techniques.

Out of these options, I really like keeping a journal and meditating. Keeping a journal is an easy way of reflecting on your personal development, and you can always go back and read about your thoughts and experiences to see how far you’ve come. If you spend just five or ten minutes at the end of your day to sit down and write down a few thoughts, such as what you felt and what you experienced, then you are able to actively process your identity interacting with your everyday life.

Meditating is also an easy way to combine self-care and self-reflection. Not only are you taking the time to rest from the busyness of your life, but you are also putting yourself in a position to critically think about yourself. In these moments, you can question and explore your identity safely.

But these are not the only methods of learning who you are! Experiment with other techniques and find out works best for you! It may take some time, but I promise it’s worth it, both for your self-care and self-reflection.

As always, please let me know if you would like my to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

Embracing and Engaging with Identity – The Community

“Alone, we can do so little; together; we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

My dear queer children,

More often than not, LGBTQ+ people such as us grow up in environments that prevent them from discovering who we are and publicly being who we are. Middle and high schools can be dangerous places for us. According to the Human Rights Campaign, when compared to our heterosexual, cisgendered peers, we are twice as likely to report that we have been physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved at. As a result, this fear of expressing who we are stifles any further exploration or understanding of our essence.

I remember that high school was a time where I had to hide my sexuality and could not demonstrate any femininity. I could not be loud, much less come out and be proud for being gay. I would always be afraid that someone would suspect me for who I really was, and I was always critiquing myself and my mannerisms. In short, I refused to acknowledge and accept who I was in high school. During this time, I didn’t have any LGBTQ+ friends, much less an LGBTQ+ community. I felt alone with no one to go to.

However, when I stepped onto St. Louis University’s campus, I immediately found a space to be who I am and resources that would help me discover my identity. Hopefully, you are also now in an environment where you are allowed to be independent and take advantage of the resources and opportunities available for you. No longer will you have to hide in the back of a classroom or live up to gender norms in order to avoid bullying in harassment. Instead, you can be who you are and join LGBTQ+ friendly groups. You can also expose yourself to other LGBTQ+ people.

One of the most important steps to take in your journey to understand yourself is figuring out what your queerness means to you and how it impacts other aspects of your identity. In this, it is important to consider the role that groups and communities have when it comes to your identity. For example, I am a spiritual person, and I feel that my sexuality and spirituality are strongly tied together. To nurture these two important aspects of my identity, I joined a spiritual LGBTQ+ small group that discusses faith and prayer. I found an accepting community that helped me better understand my queerness. Also, I joined the LGBTQ+ student organization at SLU, and I found people who helped me speak up about my past and accept myself for who I am at the present.

You might have some of these communities already available to you at your college or university. For example, your school may have an LGBTQ+ organization you can join. There, you can meet new friends and find a safe space to more fully discover yourself. Your group may have an executive board of queer college students who can help you in your journey and direct you to other LGBTQ+ friendly resources, such as counselors or other student organizations. Take advantage of these groups and become friends with other LGBTQ+ people. They will help you find your voice, develop it, and use it so that future LGBTQ+ college students also feel safe on campus. They will help you figure out just who you are, and they will act as sounding boards for your thoughts and reflections.

On the flip side, you may not have these communities and LGBTQ+ friendly groups at your college. There may be not LGBTQ+ student group. Students at your school may be queerphobic, and you may be in yet another heterosexual, cisgendered setting. However, do not fear. I promise you that there are other queer students on your campus, even if they are not in plain sight. You have a few options. You can join student organizations to meet new people. In these groups, you may meet people who are actually queer and looking for other LGBTQ+ friends. You can also download LGBTQ+ apps on your smartphone to try and find other LGBTQ+ people who are a part of those social networks. A third option takes some courage and a willingness to take a risk: you can found your own LGBTQ+ student organization on campus. There could potentially be some risks and obstacles in your way, but if you are able to do so without receiving harmful backlash or harassment, then you should do so. Not only will this help you find your own LGBTQ+ community, and subsequently help you discover yourself, but it will also give other LGBTQ+ people the opportunity to find a community.

The lesson of the day is this: in order to further discover who you are as a queer person, you need to expose yourself to LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+ friendly groups and communities. These people will help you embrace your identity and give you the resources to explore your sexuality and/or gender identity. They will help you remember that you matter, you are valid, and you are loved.

I hope this will inspire you to go out on your campus and engage in the community, or perhaps to build your own. My next post will be my advice on how to explore your identity on your own. Whatever you may do, know that I am with you. As always, please come to me if you have any questions.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

Coming Out Into College

“Let yourself be the person you’ve secretly always wanted to be.” – Troye Sivan

It was a secret. I didn’t understand it. But I knew I had to hide it. So I didn’t say anything.

When I was five years old, I watched two boys kissing on an episode of Desperate Housewives. My dad told me and my younger brothers that was wrong. I somehow knew that what he said wasn’t right. But I didn’t say anything.

When I was eleven, I began seeing my best friend differently. He didn’t know I liked him, but I would flirt with him, wrestle with him, and ultimately try to get his attention. I don’t know if he caught on or not. Part of me wanted to tell him everything I was feeling. But I didn’t say anything.

When I was sixteen, I thought that I needed to “pray the gay away”. I put myself through conversion therapy for six months because I was desperate to like girls, to be straight. I wanted so badly to be normal. But I began learning that this wasn’t what I was meant to do. So May 3rd, 2016, I could no longer suppress my secret. So I said something.

When I was seventeen, one week after I graduated high school, I realized my secret no longer had to be a secret. So I said something again to anyone who would listen and to everyone on social media. “I am gay. I am Christian. And I am proud.”

Now I am nineteen, and I have been out and proud about my sexuality for about a year and a half. College has given me the opportunity to be who I truly am. I no longer feel as stifled as I did when I lived in Nebraska. Instead, I feel that I can be loud. I can be proud. I can be gay. I can be so much more than who I was during the first seventeen years of my life.

For LGBTQ+ people going into college, college can be an exciting, liberating experience. It can be a time of freedom where you can explore who you truly are. It can be a space of growth, self-reflection, and realization. It can be a chance for you to meet other LGBTQ+ people and find a community of people who share your experiences, your pains, and your joys. You can discover your passions and what makes you, you.

College can also be frustrating. Other college students may be homophobic, transphobic, or just overall hateful people. The college atmosphere may be suffocating at times because there are so many other voices that try to drown you out. There may be moments when you feel like no one around you can relate to what you are feeling. You may feel alone, and you may feel that the odds are stacked against you. You may be overwhelmed. You may feel stuck.

But despite what college may be for you, you deserve to be heard. You deserve to be respected. And you deserve to be loved. And through this blog, I hope to be a resource for you in all three of these areas.

Although my experience as an LGBTQ+ college student is only one experience out of the countless others out there, it still has given me the ability to relate to other LGBTQ+ people. I am a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. I am someone who will  share in your experiences and your emotions. I am a person who will help you process your thoughts and your dreams. I am a friend who will love you through it all. In short, I am your gay godparent.

So whether you are publicly out in college as an LGBTQ+ person, or you’re still figuring out your sexuality and/or gender identity, or you’re somewhere in-between or elsewhere, I am here for you. Hopefully my blogs will give you comfort and advice that will help you with your own journey. If you would like me to write about a specific topic or question, feel free to contact me about it.

So my dears, remember your worth. You are cherished. You are enough. You are valid. And you are loved. May your troubles be light, and your joys be abundant.

Until next time!

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe