People of every sexuality struggle to find their perfect match, but there’s a plethora of dating challenges that only the LGBTQ+ community has to wade through. As a gay man in Missouri, I’ve experienced my fair share of these issues that make dating difficult.
For starters, the gay community has a much smaller dating pool than the straight community. In the U.S., only 4.9% of men and 6.4% of women identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community, according to a 2020 study by Gallup. In small towns with hundreds, you can often count the number of gay people using less than 10 fingers. The smaller pool of people lowers any chance of finding a compatible match. This is especially discouraging when gay people see their straight friends surrounded by eligible partners.
This manifests into a sense of loneliness in gay youth. As all their friends get into relationships for the first time, they’re still coming to terms with their sexuality. It’s difficult to focus on internal growth and finding a partner that’s good for you. However, the surrounding pressures to experience a relationship leads gay people to date purely for the sake of dating. These forced relationships can be incredibly damaging to gay youth’s self-esteem since they may internalize these failed relationships as a fault of their own. In reality, it’s just unlikely that the one other gay person in a small, Midwestern town is their soulmate.
Additionally, it’s not as straightforward for a gay person to find people of their sexuality as it is for straight people. For example, a straight person at a bar can reasonably assume that anyone around them will also be straight, thanks to heteronormative biases. However, a gay person can’t assume the same.
If I approached someone at a bar and assumed they were gay, I would be running the risk of assuming their sexuality or revealing mine to a homophobic person. A solution to this issue would be to make our sexuality obvious. However, that would alert homophobic individuals and force us to behave somewhat like animals performing a mating call.
The ever-present threat of homophobia also makes it difficult for gay individuals to come out in the first place. The lack of a supportive family doesn’t make it much easier.
I dated a boy in high school who couldn’t come out to his conservative parents. This was an immense strain on our relationship since we could never fully be ourselves around his family. This is a common situation I’ve witnessed in my gay friends’ relationships.
However, even if two people in a same-sex relationship are out, hateful people still exist. I’ve gotten called slurs for holding a boy’s hand on the street, and I’ve seen horror stories in the news of gay couples being beaten in public for displays of affection. Gay couples have to be on guard every time they leave the house, which is anxiety-inducing.
The fight isn’t over for equality. Just because gay marriage is legal, it doesn’t mean there’s equality in the dating world. Support your gay friends in the ways you can. In doing so, you can make the world a safer place for your gay friends.