Ask a Queer Chick: How Do I Make LGBTQ Friends as an Adult?

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Culture & Conversation LGBTQ

Ask a Queer Chick: How Do I Make LGBTQ Friends as an Adult?

Lindsay King-Miller

Also: How can I support my bi kids; and, how can I convince my wife not to end our marriage?

One of the underreported side effects of 2018 seems to be the decline and possible death of small talk. These days, when people ask “How are you?” it’s usually with some serious eye contact and the tone of voice they would use on someone recovering from a severe illness. Things are wild, but I see folks checking in with each other with genuine care, and responding with genuine vulnerability.

With that in mind, how are you, readers? Check in with me. Let me know how I can help you. In the meantime, here is some advice:

I’m the sole parent of two amazing children, in the fourth and eighth grades. Even before I had any inclination of how they might identify, I made a point to be open with them about the spectrums of gender, identity, love, and attraction. I wanted them to feel comfortable telling me anything they might want to share and also prepare them to be supportive of their peers. 

The children recently (separately) shared that one is biromantic—that is, romantically attracted to people of multiple genders—and the other is bisexual. I loved that they felt safe telling me and each other. No big revelations here, just open conversations. They both have diverse peer groups and supportive friends who are so much more aware than my generation was. It makes me happy to know they have that support. My friend group is also diverse, so I know they will be surrounded by adults who understand and care for them—in some cases, people they can relate to as well. 

However, I think I’m less aware of resources for them than I should be. Are there age-appropriate books (other than yours, which is already on the list) you recommend, or tips for identifying organizations and resources they might find useful and important? I’ve done some searching, but feel we could use the benefit of experience here. 

Also, what might a young queer chick have wished for in terms of parental support and validation that I might not have thought of? 

It sounds to me like you are doing such a great job! You’re already doing the biggest thing I want from all parents, which is letting your kids see you knowing and loving LGBTQ people. Kids notice when there’s a discrepancy between what you say and what you do; if you tell them it’s OK to be gay, but don’t actually have any gay friends, they’ll pick up on it. They might internalize that you think queerness is fine in theory, but don’t want it under your roof. But you, whether by design or just as a result of your welcoming nature, have created a community in which your kids can find all sorts of possibility models and reassurance of your unconditional love.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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You are kicking ass, as evidenced by the fact that your kids came out to you so young. The fact that your kids were open with you (and each other) about their identities means you’ve brought them up to feel safe and respected. More than anything else, you should just keep doing what you’re doing.

There are certainly resources available to support you and your kids if any of you are struggling with what they’ve told you. The Family Acceptance Project has developed an evidence-based booklet about best practices for families of LGBTQ kids, and PFLAG offers online support even if there isn’t a chapter near you (and if there isn’t, you can start one!). If you or your children are in an urgent crisis, The Trevor Project has lots of tools for preventing suicide in LGBTQ youth.

You can also look for a queer-competent family therapist if you think it would be helpful. Most major cities have an LGBTQ resource center or similar organization that can help you find counselors, support groups, and community; Google “LGBTQ resources near me” and see if there’s anything of use. And I can’t say enough good things about middle and high school GSAs (that used to stand for Gay-Straight Alliance, but now sometimes stands for Genders and Sexualities Alliance). My adolescence was infinitely better because of my school’s GSA and the friends I made there. If your children’s schools have a group like this, I would encourage them to join it; if not, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) offers tools for starting a new one.

But I think it’s also important not to treat your children’s bi identities as a Situation. Listening without leaping to action can be an appropriate response. If they tell you that they’re struggling with depression or being bullied, then you should certainly look for all the help you need to protect them, and I believe you will. But right now, it doesn’t sound like they’re in serious crisis. There are lots of scary statistics about LGBTQ kids’ risk of self-harm, dropping out of school, drug and alcohol abuse, and so forth, but simply accepting and affirming your children does more to shield them from those dangers than any action you could take at this point. I don’t think you need to do anything beyond what you’re already doing, until and unless they ask you for something more.

Your kids, like any other kids, need space to work out who they are independent from you. The new information you’ve learned about their orientations doesn’t substantially change that process. You don’t need to figure out a path for them; you just need to make sure they know you’re cheering them on as they navigate their growing autonomy. I have every faith that they’re going to be amazing.

I am in a funny spot. My wife and I have been together 18 years. Two years ago she came out to me as bi, and in January of this year I came out as a transgender woman who is a lesbian. Recently, we opened up our marriage and my wife had her first sexual experience with a cis woman (without me and with my blessing) and now she is ravenous about women and not sure she wants to continue our marriage even though I plan to fully transition within the next few years. What do we do? 

Congratulations to you both on coming out! That takes enormous bravery and willingness to be tender, which are skills you’re both going to need as you work out what comes next for your relationship.

There’s so little detail in your letter and I’m so hesitant to extrapolate, but I wonder if your experience with opening up your marriage gave your wife a big hit of what poly people refer to as “new relationship energy.” It’s exciting to have sex with someone for the first time, and if you’ve been monogamous for the previous 18 years, that’s a form of excitement neither of you have experienced for a while. Compared to the quieter joys of stability and trust, the thrill of something new can be downright addictive.

Is this a sign of a deeper dissatisfaction with your relationship, or is it something you two can work through? How do you feel about your wife being with other women? Does nonmonogamy bring you both joy? Does she want to stay with you and sometimes experience the highs of extramarital sex, or did her tryst open her eyes to something that’s fundamentally lacking in your marriage? I can’t answer that question for you, but hopefully your wife can.

It really sucks that your wife is framing this as an issue of your being the wrong gender for her tastes. You’re a woman, so “I might leave you because I’m only attracted to women” is not really a logical argument. But the thing about a breakup is it doesn’t have to be logical. If your wife is done with your marriage, I’m sorry to say that she doesn’t have to have a good reason, or one that she can debate, or even one she can articulate to herself. The sole and sufficient piece of evidence a person needs to offer in order to leave a relationship is the disinclination to continue that relationship.

If you want her to stay and she wants to go, that’s an argument you’re going to lose. But at the very least, please don’t turn your transition into an attempt to keep her by being “more” of a woman (you are already 100 percent a woman) or transitioning faster. I hope everyone knows this already, but drastic physical changes to appease your partner are never endorsed by A Queer Chick—please proceed at your own pace and according to your own needs.

In a way, this is kind of like a more extreme version of the letter from last month, from the woman whose male partner insisted he was too heterosexual to be attracted to her with hairy legs. If your partner has certain physical requirements you must meet in order for them to consider you a woman, that’s not healthy or fair to you. I can imagine how devastating it would be to end your marriage so soon after coming out, when you’re already vulnerable and destabilized, but I still think it would be better than trying to figure out an authentic way to live in your womanhood while also making sure it’s getting your wife hot.

I know this sounds doom-and-gloomy, and maybe you two will work through things—many couples before you have! With trust, honesty, and a genuine mutual desire to nurture your relationship, it’s extremely possible. But it will certainly require an investment from both of you: It can’t be up to you to save your marriage by being “enough” of a woman.

I think you should reframe this in your mind, not as “What can I do to keep my wife from leaving?” but “What do I need from this relationship?” Your needs and boundaries are, of course, up to you, but I think it’s fair to say that you deserve a partner who wants to stick with you through your transition because she loves you, supports you, and wants you to be happy, not because she’s hoping you’ll end up closely resembling her ideal fantasy woman. If your wife can’t offer you that, you may be better off bidding her farewell.

So I’m a 30-something woman coming to terms with my bisexual nature. I’m married to a lovely man who is very supportive and understanding, and I have friends of all stripes, but I have never been a part of queer culture or the queer community. College seems like it would have been a good time to make those kinds of connections, and now that I’m older and I have a family, I’m not too sure where and how I would be able to enter the LGBTQIA+ space. Thoughts? Advice? Suggestions?

I’ve got great news for you, which is that boring 30-something (and older) married or settled queer people are dying for new friends. We can’t go out dancing that much anymore, we don’t have the energy to play musical girlfriends, and we’re excited to get home early and save money on the babysitter—and if you are too, it can be the beginning of something truly beautiful. Since becoming a parent I’ve found a whole new world of queer friendships, and I’m thrilled to tell you that your ability to make LGBTQ friends did not peak in college. This new, weird stage of life called “adulthood” is full of cool people who might be a good fit for your life.

If you live in or near a major city, there are probably a bunch of LGBTQ meetup groups, Facebook pages, and at least a couple of book clubs. Do some Googling, find something that looks cool, and show up—it can really be that simple! Volunteering for an LGBTQ-affirming organization is another good way to meet people; probably half of the queer friends I’ve made in the past three years were through Girls Rock Denver. Even if you’re in a more rural or isolated area, you can try to make queer friends online.

And whatever you’re already doing with your free time, look around and see what other queer people are there! (This may be more difficult if you live in a conservative area where being out compromises your safety, but you didn’t mention any concerns along those lines.) It’s never unwelcome to say “I want more queer community in my life, can I invite you over for brunch sometime?” Building community is the way of our people, and LGBTQ actually stands for Let’s Get Brunch Together, Queers. Be sure to offer vegan half-and-half and you’ll be golden.

Got a question? Email me: Questions may be edited for length and clarity.