Queer Dating, Sex, Love, and Everything in Between! - a SHAG Mini-Workshop - PART 2!
June 15, 2023
If you haven’t checked out part 1 of this workshop, read the transcript here!
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There's a queer sex educator and author named Milly Evans who wrote a book called HONEST: Everything They Don't Tell You About Sex, Relationships and Bodies. And I really liked this quote from Evans that says, “Many of us can feel quite overwhelmed when we first start dating as queer people because we might have a sense of excitement and giddiness about finally exploring the kinds of relationships we want to have, or we might have a lot of anxiety and feel a lot of pressure for our relationships to go right.” So that is a very, very common experience of just having an over-stimulation and overwhelm of emotion when you are first getting into queer exploration, queer dating. And that can be a really positive thing – that sort of overwhelm – but it can also be a real challenge and actually a bit paralyzing.
Evans has some useful, actionable suggestions for addressing this kind of difficulty when it comes to queer dating and romance. The first tip is to lay out your expectations very clearly to a partner or potential partner. No matter what you're looking for, and whether you're going on a date with a brand new partner or navigating things with someone you've been dating for a long time, it's very helpful to explicitly communicate where your relationship is and where you hope it will go. That means being specific about whether you are interested in something serious or casual, whether you want to explore polyamory or you’re interested in being monogamous, and so forth. It's very important to be upfront, even if you don't know what you want! That's also important to share. It’s okay to say something like: “I'm not sure exactly what I want. I'm confused.”
Another tip from Evans’ book is to focus on being present in your body. As humans, we can hold a lot of anxiety around our bodies. People have to contend with phobias, individual shame, and societal shame. The more that you can practice embodiment before entering and exploring a queer space in search of dating or romance, the better. In that way, it is helpful to think about what makes you feel embodied! That could be singing, going for a walk, maybe exercising, and, of course, many more options. Find something that helps you feel in your body and do that in preparation for your queer explorations.
Evans’ book also explains that it’s a good idea to take the pressure off. That means acknowledging that everyone, including you, is queer enough. You don't have to prove yourself. You don't need to prove yourself to the person you're going on a date with. On the same theme of keeping pressure to a minimum, it’s also a good idea to make sure you're choosing an intentional and safe venue for any “date” or social encounter. There is certainly plenty of homophobia and other hatred in the world. Making sure that you're physically going somewhere that you feel safe makes everything easier and helps to make a date feel more like a date, affirming the romance. In line with that, make sure you're wearing something that makes you feel confident and aligned in yourself.
Going back for a moment to “lesbian sheep syndrome”: let’s troubleshoot this.
If you find yourself in a situation where you don't know how to make the first move or don't know how to communicate, the way around feeling stuck is to be very clear and intentional about setting expectations from the very start. That includes with yourself! So, practice setting an intention before the date. I heard an anecdote recently of someone who went on a date and was feeling like they didn’t really know how to tell their date that they wanted to play around. This person intentionally set the communication and intention at the start; they sent a text that said, “Hey, I've been having a really good time with you. I am interested in maybe fooling around tonight. I just wanted to throw that out there. We can check in and see how we feel. If you're not interested, of course…” and the text went on to provide the other person with plenty of outs. But this way there was clarity from the start that the person was interested and open, and there was even a clear expression of “I want this.” Putting that information out there even ahead of time can be a very helpful way to set a more comfortable environment where you're not sitting there worried about communicating it in the moment. If you did want to try that yourself, taking that step, here are some templates you could use:
• Do you want to fool around?
• Do you want to sit here and make out for a while?
• I'd really like to play with you and explore a sexual connection.
Whether or not you're queer, anytime you're engaging in play it’s very important to make sure to check in a lot, asking along the way, “Do you like this?” and “What are you looking for?” or “How does this feel?” That is hugely important, especially if you're feeling newer, confused, or just very overwhelmed and excited. Communicating and getting feedback along the way is only going to help build your confidence and will make you a really good partner. The last pain point I want to troubleshoot is the fear of trespassing that we talked about. This is something that I believe comes up a lot when you're first getting into queer dating, queer sex, or queer love. Some people like to start out with what we call “passive exploration.” This is sort of the opposite of the impression some people might have in which a person makes a big shift and overnight is like “Okay, cool, I’m out and proud now. Yay!” By all means, if you are immediately comfortable, able and wanting to go and fall in love right away, go for it! But there are a lot of ways to actually explore yourself and burgeoning queerness or identity exploration that are not through someone else in a romantic and sexual context. That could be accessing queer spaces, feeling your body, and dancing on a dance floor around other queers. It could be reading. We have a ton of books here at SHAG where you can really see yourself represented both in fiction and nonfiction. We also have practical books with tips for queer relationships, love, and sex!
Another way to passively explore queerness is to get into historical references or pop culture. There's a lot of queer culture that you can absorb that's actually outside of the dating sphere that I think is equally important and stimulating. That's one way to really build confidence and get your legs under you that doesn't involve the pursuit of somebody else or the vulnerability of putting yourself out there. My favorite activity in this regard is actually creating a queer mood board.
collage examples courtesy of
Jon Tyson, Gareth David, and Charlota Blunarova via Pixlr
What types of clothing might go on a queer mood board? It might be nothing special at all. It could be your favorite t-shirt, a bow tie, really anything that makes you feel affirmed. Making the board gives the opportunity to explore: Is there a particular color that resonates with your queerness? Is there a song? What about a tv show, a food, a scent, or a hairstyle? This is the part of queerness that I love so much, that is so creative, in which queerness is everything, and there is space for everyone. There are no wrong answers. To build that kind of mood board can be very affirming. Reflecting back on it, especially when you're feeling a little overwhelmed or anxious, can be very confidence boosting. In that way, a pain point can become a pleasure point!
Go for it!
All in all, some of the beautiful parts of this challenging and gorgeous way of living revolve around the creativity needed when there is no script. Sex, love, dating, and everything in between can be whatever the heck you want it to be because it's up to you and whomever you're with, as long as it's consenting and very fun. Queerness in this way can create experiences of euphoria and affirmation. There's a whole community that you can get involved with here in New York where SHAG is located. We are super, super lucky to have a very vibrant queer community, in Brooklyn especially, with tons of events and resources. While not everywhere has such in-person resources, there is also a whole internet full of queer online communities to explore! Someone recently told me that exploring their queerness felt like, “a weight lifted from (their) shoulders that (they) didn't even know was there, like a sigh of relief.” Another quote I got from a friend is, “isn't it great to be gay?” Truly, there's a lot to celebrate.
The troubleshooting and skills that we've been talking about here today are, first and foremost, about developing radical honesty with yourself: getting to the core of who you are and what you want out of a dynamic with somebody else, and then being able to communicate what you're needing or what your intentions are. It takes a whole lot of courage to be fully, unapologetically yourself, but it’s an incredible skill worth honing. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, of course, that you must feel safe to practice this! It’s a reality of our world that time that not every space is safe. Other skills that serve you well in this way of living are emotional intelligence, flexibility, and, as mentioned, creativity.
Next up: part three of this workshop will feature resources for allies and queers, here at Shag and in general! Don't miss it!
**This text was transcribed from SHAG’s live Mini-Workshop on June 15, 2023 and edited for clarity. This opinion piece is not intended to constitute licensed expert advice; all content is for general informational purposes only.**