Why Young LGBT People Are Romantically Stunted
Updated: Sep 8, 2018
“You mean… you never dated anyone in high school or college?”
Before I launch into this, I want to make it clear that, as usual, this post represents my beliefs based on my personal experiences as a gay man, which does not mean that I speak for the entirety of the LGBT community. We all live and love differently, but this post captures something that I’ve experienced time and time again and want to try to put into words.
Gay people, in general, are late bloomers when it comes to love. Due to the restrictions we face as young people in the inherently homophobic society we live in, gay people are often forced to hide their sexuality in order to “fit in” as young people. Luckily, that changes more and more each day as young people are more outspoken about their right to live unapologetically, but LGBT voices are still being stifled.
No matter how loving or supportive the environment around them is, LGBT people are often terrified to come out when they are young. There are too many incalculable factors to the decision. Your family could tell you they’ll love you no matter what, but you could have friends who might cut you off if they knew the truth - or vice-versa. When you’re young, you have to think not only about the people who love you, but the people who will choose to hate you - and potentially bully you - for who you are.
That’s why many LGBT people don’t feel comfortable coming out until high school, college, or even later. And because of that, we don’t get the same romantic experiences that straight people get. Each year that we spend muffling our desire to love who we want to love, we lose another year of first dates, first kisses, and first heartbreaks. As our straight brethren bumble their way through middle school and high school and college, experiencing relationships and the intricacies that come with them, gay people are left without that knowledge and experience.
Which is why, as gay people finally get comfortable enough in our own skins to try dating and living openly, we experience the awkwardness of young romance in adulthood. Because many of us never got the low-pressure experience of dating when we were younger, when we try to date as adults we realize that none of us know what we are doing.
I realize that straight people who are dating as adults don’t have access to some magical manual that gay people can’t read. No one really knows what they’re doing when it comes to love. But straight people often have an arsenal of memories and experiences with relationships to draw from that gay people simply do not have. There are exceptions to both rules: there are some gay people who date openly in their younger years, and there are some straight people who don’t start dating until they’re adults. But for the most part, the scales are imbalanced.
I’ve noticed this a lot in my personal experiences with dating. I tried to date here and there in college, but my school didn’t exactly have a large gay population and there was a lot of interconnectivity between all of the gay men there that made it slightly uncomfortable for me. You would go on a date with someone, but you would also know the last two people they’d dated, and you would probably have also dated one of those two people. So there was always a reputation that underscored any first impressions that were made.
Dating as a post-grad adult in a relatively large city is much better, but it still comes with many struggles that seem to stem from that lack of romantic experience I’ve been rambling about. I’ve gone on several good dates with guys as an adult, but the majority of my experiences with dating in recent years have come with a side of immaturity.
I don’t think anyone is trying to be intentionally hurtful, but it’s almost like gay people are so used to wearing armor against the rest of the world that we struggle to show our vulnerabilities to each other. If we go on a date and enjoy it, I think we often feel some type of fear: how do we move forward with this fragile connection we’ve made when we have no prior experiences to nurture it with?
When straight people date in high school, it’s often the first dating experience for both parties. So I think they give themselves more room to make mistakes and be embarrassing with each other. But for gay people dating as adults, I think many of us are under the assumption that the other person has more experience with dating and relationships than we do, so we let fear stop us from moving forward with something that could someday be meaningful.
It could be that I’m projecting my own personal beliefs and experiences onto my entire community, but based on the ways I’ve been treated by gay men in the dating scene in the past few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not the only one who feels this way. I wish I had a dollar for every bright spark that has fizzled out because one or both of us pulled back after having a good time. I’d be able to buy myself an apartment in New York City and fly away from my insecurities.
This problem isn’t unsolvable. As young LGBT people continue to date and continue to gain experience, we will move past our fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. I think we all just need to be a little more fearless.
This post was brought to you by Pynk by Janelle Monae, because I watched the video for it this morning and felt my soul ascending to brighter places.
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