By Ryan Tran
It can sometimes feel like a lonely world out there for a gay Asian man, even long before a pandemic kept us apart.
Like many queer folks, I struggled coming to terms with my sexual orientation in middle school and throughout high school. It was hard seeing my classmates pair up on dates, while giving excuses like “I didn’t have time” or “that pretty girl wasn’t my type”. But all I really wanted was to have that first kiss, hold hands, and go on cute walks in the park with a handsome guy. I desperately craved having that first relationship with someone and to shower them with all my pent up love. I laid in bed imagining what it felt like to cuddle with a warm body as I fell asleep. It seemed so easy for my straight peers to find someone to date, but as queer folks we felt largely invisible. The beginnings of loneliness started in adolescence, but it didn’t end there.
A lot of queer folks come out of the closet and expect to be welcomed with open arms when they finally venture into the LGBTQ community. I expected the same too, but instead I would find more hurdles and fences. We see people divided into tribes, cliques, and groups that force us into boxes and labels. For someone who is still grappling with who they are, how are they supposed to know what tribe they should be a part of? After feeling like an outsider growing up, we tend to assume that we’ll finally feel like we belong when we first step into the LGBTQ community. Where you first step into can really impact how you meet new people and who you meet
For many, the easiest and first place to meet other queer folks is right at home. I’m talking about dating apps and online spaces. Grindr and Tinder of course tend to be full of people looking for sex, however it’s still your choice who you pursue and tailor it to what you’re seeking. If you’re not looking for one night stands then ignore the ones asking “Looking? Into?” and continue on to people who have more meaningful conversations. Whether you are looking for friendships, dating, or sex, it’s likely someone on there is open to it too. It can still take some weeding out and perseverance to find someone who connects the same way you do. A lot of people can agree that it is hard to meet someone compatible online, but finding that chemistry can be just as hard in person too.
As a queer Asian guy or person of colour, using dating apps can be especially intimidating and unfortunately, sometimes defeating. Online apps left a damaging impression on me. Repeatedly seeing online profiles with “preferences” for “no Asians”, “only hairy guys” or “Caucasians only”, made me feel like I was unattractive, undesirable, and ultimately unwanted. The further someone looked from a young light-skin masculine muscular Caucasian guy, the worse it could feel. The compounding oppressions of racism, fatphobia, femmephobia, ageism, and HIV stigma is heavily felt by queer guys of colour. Rejection is already hard enough on its own, but rejection based on race digs deep.
Regardless of all the differences we may have (race, body type, age, etc), I think most of us queer folks can relate to just wanting to be accepted, supported, and finally find a place we belong.
That discrimination we face is why we see spaces carved out for specific groups. In the past few years, there have been a burst of Facebook groups as queer off-shoots to the notorious Subtle Asian Traits. These groups include Subtle Queer Asian Dating (SQuAD+) and Subtle Queer Asian Traits (SQuAT), and Queer Asian Intersections (QuAInt). Then during the pandemic, folks also turned to Discord servers and Twitch as a way to find online community (platforms initially used for gaming).
Once we start meeting people online, it seems the next go-to place to meet other queers folks is at bars and dance clubs. Although historically popular for queer hangouts, the loud music makes these the worst places to have a decent conversation. We also tend to go to these venues when we already have groups of friends to go with. But if we don’t have any queer friends to begin with, who is brave enough to go alone and try to introduce themselves to strangers at a bar? To me, the practice is phasing out.
Ironically, the last places people tend to look are also probably the best places to meet people. That is LGBTQ community groups and sports leagues. It makes the most sense because most groups are built around common interests or similar cultures. That alone already puts you with people with who you’re more likely to get along with. Major components of community groups and sports leagues are the socializing of its members. There is practically a group for everyone.
Football, dodgeball, badminton? There’s a gay sport league for that.
Writing, dance, choir, or life drawing? There’s a variety of groups to stretch your creativity.
Settlers of Catan, Smash Bros, or Eucre? Whichever genre of games you play, there’s a group.
There are even specific groups for older adults, newcomers, or trans folks.
And of course whatever colour of your skin, there’s a supportive cultural group waiting for you!
It might feel lonely when you’ve never had your first relationship or haven’t found friends you click with yet, but it takes some time and effort. Keep your opportunities open by exploring all these options, and eventually, you’ll make at least one friend. Chances are you’re not the only lonely one.