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Are the challenges of dating and relationships different if you’re not strictly heterosexual? Yes and no. The feelings, desires and fears may be the same, but the social context is still often hostile, even if you are completely out. Rapper Macklemore writes about blind intolerance in the hip-hop industry in his hit “Same Love.” (You can watch a live performance here. Even if you don’t generally like hip-hop, you might like that performance; or you can just read the lyrics here .) Here’s what teens and young adults told me about their experiences.
First, they are lookin’ for love in … well, not many places :
“They [gay and lesbian teens] don’t get to date because the social networks are too small so it’s very hard to find a boyfriend or girlfriend. I tried to start an inter-school Gay-Straight-Alliance-type group for this reason but it never got off the ground.” -TS
Maybe the stereotypical behavior and looks serve a purpose, like gang emblems.
“You can’t find people easily. You can’t just walk up to someone and ask him out. That’s why there is so much online dating.” – TA
It can be more complicated to be in even a “successful” queer relationship than a heterosexual one:
“With lesbians there is a lot of shyness. If you fall back on the usual gender roles in flirting and so on, no one makes the first move!” -KL
“It’s hard for queer kids to learn the scripts for falling in love, acting romantic, and having sex, especially outside of urban areas. For some, all they have is ‘Queer as Folk’ and ‘The L Word’ and ‘Glee.’” – SH
“It’s kind of awkward when my boyfriend comes over. [My dad] doesn’t know how to talk to him. [Not the same as when his older sister brought home her first boyfriend.] It’s weird because he doesn’t know if he should be all guy-to-guy with him, like ‘Hey, what’s up,’ or what. I can understand how he feels because even I think it’s weird that I should have a boyfriend sometimes.” – TA
“Hook-up Culture” can add an extra layer of confusion for anyone. If so many activities are always so casual, how can you draw any conclusions about the relationship?
“Female friends hook up with each other but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, either about a relationship between the two girls or their orientation. This makes it easy for romantic overtures to be misunderstood, in both ways. I was accused freshman year of flirting with everyone, and I thought I was just making friends”. -KL
For kids uncertain about their orientation, casual making out or more is a two-edged sword: the stakes are lower for exploring their own physical reactions, but the barriers seem higher for a satisfying relationship. And turning to friends to help sort that out can be uncomfortable; queer and questioning teens often don’t have the same kind of support for their love lives from their friends that straight teens do.
“When her friends talk about their crushes, she wants to be able to talk about hers [a girl], but she is a little afraid, not knowing how they will react.” -JW
Even teens who believe they have no homophobic bias don’t actively try to understand their LGBT peers’ relationships.
“People ask ‘who’s the man?’ in lesbian relationships and it’s insulting. There isn’t one, that’s the point! If they ask out of innocent curiosity without disrespect intended, that’s one thing and I will explain, but you can tell some people don’t want to understand.” -EL