There I was, having never even been on a dating app therefore completely clueless, and literally surrounded by LGBTQ+ people. I immediately posed the question to the group I was with and the response was swift and unanimous. HER was the dating app this baby gay should be on first. True story.
As I sent the answer back to this mom, I realized how lucky I am to have access to a community of “been there, done that” queers. Dating knowledge is specific to culture oftentimes, and in our LGBTQ+ community, it’s not passed down from parent to child. If you're were more like me growing up, it was your big sister and brother that showed you how dating was done. But even then it’s just not that applicable when you’re the sole queer in your family.
I know, we want to say “But love is love, right? Isn’t finding each other and dating pretty much the same thing regardless of sexual orientation?” How I wish I could say yes. But it’s just not. And that’s because of compulsory heteronormativity. Straight is the default. We can’t look at any person and assume they’re LGBTQ+, we have to hope (even if we’re in a gay bar, #sorrynotsorry allies). Additionally, we have to feel very safe. Because the fact is, if we come out to the wrong person at the wrong time, it can have dangerous consequences.
So first we have to find each other, not an easy feat when you’re a fraction of the population. Then we need to feel safe enough to approach each other. Dating apps solve both of those problems in a beautiful way.
So as a late-blooming lesbian myself, with a vast network of young ones who are also just striking out on their dating lives, I set myself to find out some tips and tricks of entering the lesbian dating world. I don’t have a mom looking out for me per se, but I’m still concerned for my own emotional and physical safety in this new realm.
It totally makes sense to me why my friend was nervous when her 19-year-old daughter wanted to get on the dating apps. When we were 19, dating apps weren’t even a thing. I think the only one around back then was Match.com and the world was filled with horror stories of bad people doing bad things to unsuspecting women.
But the world has changed. Regarding our young LGBTQ+ family, like my friend’s daughter, Ariella Serur, a dating coach for LGBTQ+ people, has this to say,
“If you are going to college in a small town or a place with not a lot of queer community, dating apps can wind up being the main way queer folks find each other. That being said, safety first.
Check in with your body while you're talking to someone. How are you feeling during your conversation? Is there anything that's making you uncomfortable? You want to go into the date having a general sense of safety.
When it's time for the actual date, meet up in a public space and tell a friend or roommate where you are going, who you're going with, and what time you'll be checking in with them, post-date.
Lastly, you can use dating apps to find friendships, not just dates! If you're in a place without an abundance of queer community, you can take the pressure off dating from the apps and try to find community that way first!"
Kita Adams is a Certified Matchmaker for LGBTQ+ people and she had this to say on the topic:
"For young queer people who are looking for their people or looking to find love for maybe the first time, dating apps seem to be the best way right now, especially given Covid and the hesitation to go out to events and other places to meet people.
My first recommendation is to check out your campus's LGBTQ Club to meet people. I have noticed that these groups become more about meeting friends and advocating for their campus, but teens are going on dating apps to "find love". There are more people on dating apps that may not be out on campus or they may not go to college so that is why queer young adults are getting on dating apps.
When using dating apps, the #1 goal is safety! The key is to make sure that you are actually speaking to a real person and to make sure it is safe. I recommend anyone using a dating app to talk on the phone and/or Facetime before doing any type of meetup with someone. When meeting up, meet somewhere in public, make sure someone else knows where you are, etc."
Later-in-life lesbians are a quickly growing demographic. Once we’ve finally claimed our sexual orientation, many of us feel pretty stuck. I swear, making friends once you’re past 30 years old takes an act of congress sometimes. Let alone finding LGBTQ+ romantic partners.
And don’t even get me started on the comments like “She’s only a lesbian because she couldn’t get a man.” Honey, do you know how EASY it is to get a straight man?! All it takes is a cell phone and a pizza. Getting a girlfriend is like finding a winning lottery ticket on your doorstep. Don’t even @ me about that.
So how do we late-bloomers navigate the waters of online dating? LGBTQ+ relationship coach, Dawna Noble had an interesting perspective on this:
"For many later in life lesbians, the risk is emotional safety.
The urgency to connect and link up with a woman after denying ones self for decades has them going all in with reckless abandon in the end leaving them heartbroken when it didn't work out.
Dating apps are the modern-day speed dating site. It is no longer taboo or an act of "desperation" to have one or even multiple dating apps set up.
But, I encourage them to slow down and use the dating apps as a tool or a resource to learn how to find and develop connection with a woman. The danger is repeating the same cycle of unhealthy connections, leaving them feeling confused and heartbroken which we don't want.
Esther Perel says, ' The quality of your relationship determines the quality of your life." So pick wisely."
Our Certified Matchmaker Kita Adams weighed in as well:
"Dating apps for later in life queer folks can be tricky because dating apps are designed to keep you on them. So if you are using dating apps, the key is to have a plan for taking the conversation off the app.
Other ways to meet queer people are:
TikTok (it is almost like a dating app)
queer speed dating events/queer specific events put on by LGBTQ+ Community Centers and/or clubs in the area
There are now LGBTQ+ popup picnics happening in LA, and more people are looking to do those kinds of events to actively meet people in fun spaces.
If you have no clue where to start and need guidance you could use a Certified Matchmaker, like myself. Matchmaking is a personal process of taking you from the dating life you HAVE to the dating life you WANT. Many queer people do not know this is an option because the only representation out there is Millionaire Matchmaker and Indian Matchmaker. I am here to help change that. The world should know Queer Matchmakers exist! :)
And for all of us, some wise words from Reverend Erika Allison:
Thinking of an online dating app as a tool to make the process of connecting more efficient can be one way to take the anxiety level down a notch. If you happen to enjoy meditating, for example, the chances you are going to meet a queer person, who is also interested in dating, who also happens to show up at the same meditation class on the same date, time and location can be pretty slim. A dating app can help you find a whole world of people who share things in common with you. It’s like reducing the static in the radio channel so you can hear the music more clearly! Then you still get to decide if you like the music that’s playing or if you want to change the channel…and as long as you do that part safely and listen to your inner knowing, it can be a fun listening journey as you explore what music lights you up!
It really helps relationships in the long term if they are built on common values and interests. Sometimes we unconsciously hide or blur who we really are to get approval or acceptance from someone else. This urge can be stronger for LGBTQ+ if we have experienced painful rejection in the past for being who we are. We can become chameleons to try to receive love. Sometimes this means we make compromises in our own needs to match what other people want, which is ultimately unsustainable. One of the nice things about dating apps is that you have to say who you are without that being influenced by another person. You make the profile before you meet any other person or read about them. The other people there have done the same. When done with honesty and transparency, this can be a real gift to yourself. If you don’t align with someone, it’s because you really don’t align. Not because you pretend to align to feel love or approval, but over time you realize you don’t actually align.
I was 38 when I came out publicly and went on my first date with another woman. In a word, it was magical. I got to experience things I had only read about in romance novels but had no idea that they happened in real life. Things like feeling butterflies in my tummy when she smiled, feeling my knees shaking when she grabbed my hand as we walked by the lake, and that first kiss!!! I had lived almost 4 decades and had NEVER felt anything like that. The experiences brought me to such a deeper knowing of myself, which affected every other aspect of my life. 10/10 recommendation.
As you’re navigating your dating life, or trying to not worry about your queer daughter’s dating life, I hope you found some help here and maybe even a resource. Stay safe, friends!
(The links in this article are not affiliates, except for HER. They are donating a portion of each sign-up back to our Foundation, for which we are very grateful. Because the story at the beginning of the article is 100% true.)
About the Author:
Elena Joy Thurston is an inspirational LGBTQ+ speaker, trainer, and founder of the nonprofit Pride and Joy Foundation. A Mormon mom of four who lost her marriage, her church, and her community when she came out as a lesbian, Elena’s viral TEDx talk on surviving conversion therapy has been viewed 45,000+ times and landed her media and speaking opportunities with ABC, CBS, Logitech, Michael’s, and more. Elena Joy recently launched Pride and Joy Publishing, the only publisher of solely LGBTQ+ empowerment and business books.