I’m a 20-year-old student at one of the local women’s colleges. I’m gay and have been out for five years, though I’ve never dated anyone.
I figured that it wouldn’t be too tricky to find someone here, since there’s a pretty large population of people who identify as LGBTQ+. However, despite the fact that I’m pretty social, and part of multiple student groups, I’ve only managed to fall for straight girls.
To most people, I appear “stereotypically straight” — my hair is pretty long and I wear mostly dresses. I also don’t drink or attend parties. For these reasons, everyone recommends that I try Tinder, etc., but I’m demiromantic so I don’t find people attractive unless I have some level of friendship with them first.
I also can’t really engage with anyone if I go in thinking “This is a date!” So, this cuts off the prospect of being introduced or set up with people. Furthermore, I currently identify as asexual. I’m really worried that if I do find someone, my asexuality will turn them off, and eventually make the situation even harder.
Do you have any advice or words of wisdom?
Having Doubts About Asking Out
Dear Having Doubts,
The extensive topic of queer identity and visibility is one that many writers dive in to daily in regards to queer visibility as working positively to affirm identities, build community, and score dates alongside visibility working negatively as targeting folks for harassment and violence. We can’t get into all of that important stuff here but let’s talk about visibility re: finding you a good date.
When I first moved to San Francisco in 2007, I was decidedly less visible in my LGBTQ+ community. I had a wicked crush on my local (female) barista who (spoiler alert!) eventually became my partner of five years. Like you, I also had long hair and chose dresses as my go-to apparel. I felt like I didn’t know the first thing about flirting with other women beside writing in Sharpie on my forehead NOT AS STRAIGHT AS I LOOK PLZ DATE ME.
My strategy then as a “straight-looking” lady trying to pick up another lady was to send clear signs about my sexual fluidity. And what could be a clearer than bringing an entire stack of books I was reading for my undergraduate thesis with titles featuring words like “lesbian community,” “bisexual identity,” and “sexual fluidity” into the cafe and then strategically positioning them towards the counter in plain reading-view of my soon-to-be-girlfriend?
I’m not saying but I’m just saying that we were dating the next week. But, before you book it to the library, there are certainly a few more, less passive-aggressive, ideas to consider.
First, the struggles you describe such as feeling extra nervous about a date that’s been set-up, falling for people whose sexuality identities don’t include you, or feeling afraid that an aspect of your identity will be a “deal-breaker” to new mates are common, human experiences.
In your question I hear a lot of negative perspectives about your unique traits. But, you’re certainly not a freak in your worries or uniqueness, Doubts, and especially not on your fair campus. Feeling attraction only after friendships have been developed or prioritizing romantic connection above sexual aren’t inherently faults, and neither are you! You can have long hair and like dresses as much as you like other women!
But you can’t flawlessly engineer asking someone out in a way that avoids all chances of awkwardness, vulnerability, or potential rejection. Not even if you were straight or super visibly gay — sexuality is truly rarely something you can see with your eyes.
So, let go of this idea that there exists a secret mechanism to failure-free dating that you have yet to discover and perhaps this will free you up to keep asking folks out, use a dating app to meet as friends first, or be set up (awkward for everyone!). As fellow sex educator Elle Chase once told me: “Rejection is protection.” Don’t avoid it, Doubts. Use it as information in your journey to finding a good fit.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.