The Importance of Having Queer Friends
I was a young teen when I realized I liked both men and women. Both Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley side by side in Pirates of the Caribbean sealed the deal for me but it wasn’t until college that I started openly expressing my sexuality. I was always pretty quiet about my private affairs, so in high school, I never felt the need to publicly address my sexuality. Of course, close friends knew, but I largely kept to myself. No one in high school needed to know if I made out with a cute girl at a concert. In my eyes, there was no reason for me to be out.
Then I went off to university and I found my reason. 30% of the student population at my university identified as part of the LGBTQIA community. I went from a high school where there was virtually no community, or at least no broadcasted community, to a university where the queer community was thriving. Tons of LGBTQIA clubs, rainbow flags adorning dorm rooms, and queer couples cuddling on our main courtyard.
Overnight I realized that perhaps I wasn’t just private about my sexuality, maybe I just didn’t have an incentive to be openly out. In high school, I understood the stigma around bisexual women and I wasn’t too interested in the stigma without the community for support. But at my university, I no longer felt that way. There was a community waiting with open arms, I wanted to be part of it.
In college, my entire philosophy on my sexuality changed. I still maintained a decent level of privacy, but I openly shared that I was queer. I went to queer events, joined clubs, celebrated Pride, and occasionally wore clothes that signified my queerness. But most importantly, I made queer friends.
I never expected such a difference between having straight friends and queer friends, until one of my room-mate was queer. The conversations with my queer room-mate were vastly different than with my straight friends. Simply put, my queer room-mate understood the lay of the land. Unlike with my straight friends, I wasn’t asked uncomfortable questions that bordered on biphobia. I never received the stereotypical “Are you sure you like girls too? I know a lot of straight girls who make out with other girls when they’re drunk, and we all know that doesn’t count.” Queer friends never treated me like a sexual object, none of my queer friends ever asked if I would be up to a threesome.
As my circle of queer friends expanded, our conversations were deeper. Negative experiences I had brushed off, I now had people to talk to. They shared similar experiences; I had a safe space to vent. I felt less lonely and felt more comfortable talking about dating.
This isn’t to say I don’t have wonderful straight friends, I do. Some of my favorite people are straight but there is a difference. Even the best of my straight friends can’t help but ask awkward questions or make wrong assumptions once in a while. They aren’t doing anything wrong, but I don’t encounter the same difficulties with queer friends.
In a world that still heavily stigmatizes and delegitimizes queer individuals, the LGBTQIA community is beneficial in so many ways. For many of us, without our community, we would have a significantly harder time accepting who we are and finding ways to be our authentic selves. The LGBTQIA community is a place for comfort, acceptance, love, and support.
In a socially distanced world, interacting with the queer community has become increasingly challenging. From Pride to wine nights being cancelled, we all have to adapt and find innovative ways to stay connected to our community while staying safe.
For me, I’ve turned to social media and cinema to stay connected with the queer community. Luckily Queer TikTok is thriving and representation has never been better on the big screen, so without further ado here are some ways to stay connected with the queer community during shutdown orders and the socially distanced winter.
Social Media - Twitter, TikTok, Reddit, you name it.
Although I believe full-heartedly that social media can be really draining, I do simultaneously find value in various social media platforms…especially if you curate your feeds well. Recently, I purged all my social media and unfollowed people and pages that I wasn’t really interested in. And in its place, I followed tons of artists, pages relating to my passions, BIPOC pages, and LGBTQIA pages. My experience with social media has changed drastically, and mostly positively.
My advice to you, go follow some queer pages. Whether it be NGO or activist pages that discuss queer current events or individuals who fill your feed with queer culture. My personal favorite is TikTok because the algorithm adapts quickly to the videos you interact with. Which means, if you start following queer people and interacting on videos relating to queer topics, your page will quickly be filled with LGBTQIA individuals. My TikTok feed is filled with beautiful queer people and their comment sections are so uplifting.
Social media can be a really powerful way to interact with the LGBTQIA community, and if you don’t know where to start just Google “LGBTQ Tiktokers (Twitters, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.),” it’ll point you to a starting point.
We all know about the Tinder’s of the world, but luckily there are also tons of sites/apps dedicated to finding friends as well. There are sites like TrevorSpace, which are dedicated to LGBTQIA youth and community. There are also apps like Nextdoor, Hey!Vina, BumbleBFF, Peanut (Mom’s looking for other Mom’s), Meetup and BarkHappy (dog parents meeting other dog parents) are just a few to name. These apps are not necessarily geared towards the LGBTQIA community but like Hey!Vina, there is a place dedicated in the bio to share you’re looking for queer friends. If you prefer a strictly queer app, try GayBFF and Cutie.
I know it can be awkward to make friends on apps, but it isn’t as scary as it seems. These connections can be as simple or intense as you want. If you’re interested in building deep connections there are people to match with and if you only want a texting buddy to share queer memes with, there are plenty who are looking for the same.
Interact with Queer Media
Hollywood is far from perfect when it comes to queer representation, but there are still plenty of queer TV shows, movies, podcasts, books, and music to interact with. My sense of belonging is magnified every time I interact with queer media. I feel a little less lonely when I watch a TV show focused on my community or listen to a podcast talking about queer culture.
Watching and listening to people with shared experiences is such a powerful aspect of a community. The current queer show I’m watching is DC’s Harley Quinn on HBOMax and I have Sizzy Rocket’s latest album on replay, an ode to women loving women everywhere. The book on my nightstand is Her Body and Other Stories. I absolutely adored that the opening scene to Euphoria’s latest episode was a queer scene. All these examples helped me feel seen and heard as a queer person.
If you don’t know where to start, look up listicles, things like “Best Queer TV of 2020.” But even better, if you’re on queer apps, forums, or social media…ask other queer people some of their favorite queer media.
2020 has required so many of us to find innovative ways to adapt and survive. For so many of us, the year of social distance has been a hard one and even harder without communities that ground us. The queer community is just as strong as it's always been, interacting with the community just looks a little different these days.
This article was written by Faith Ann. Faith Ann is a freelance writer and editor out of Michigan, USA. She writes about topics such as mental health, LGBQT+, culture, and family. You can find her writing on Medium and her random musings on Twitter.