During the first few months of college, I had a difficult time making close friends. It wasn’t because I was queer; I hadn’t yet realized that I was. It wasn’t that I was unlikeable; I had made plenty of casual friendships.
When it came time for our first break on Indigenous Peoples’ Weekend, I couldn’t wait to go home. My brother Lee picked me up on Friday afternoon in the family truck. After he asked how I was, he asked if I’d made lots of friends.
“Not really,” I said, feeling teary.
“That’s okay,” he replied. “You only need a few good ones anyway, right?”
I’ve held onto that sage advice from my little brother ever since – when I returned to school the next week, when I later lost friends from our college Christian fellowship after coming out as affirmingly queer, and each time Ada and I moved to a new state.
We only need a few good ones. And for LGBTQ folks, it helps to have a few good queer ones.
Why Do I Need Queer Friendships?
Friendships help us feel grounded in who we are and in the community we inhabit. For LGBTQ people, this is especially true. We are constantly walking in a world that is cis-/heteronormative, and we need close friends who can walk alongside and sometimes in front of us. We don’t all need many, but we all need some.
Most if not all of us in the LGBTQ community crave meaningful friendships with other queer people. (Straight folks, you should want queer friends too. We are awesome.) In fact, LGBTQ people need meaningful friendships with other queer people.
Queer folks need queer friendships because it’s important for us to see reflections of ourselves in others. Queer bonds help us grow in self-confidence despite the rocky soil of a society that marginalizes us or relegates us to invisibility. They help us fight against our own internalized homophobia. There’s a saying (and a statistical finding behind it?) that to confirm a stereotype, a person requires only a few pieces of evidence, but to overrule a stereotype, they need dozens if not hundreds of pieces of counter-evidence. Queer friends can give us – over and over again, in subtle ways and big ways – the counter-evidence that we need in order to scrub ourselves of the world’s negative stereotypes.
Queer folks also need queer friendships because we need friends who can do more than empathize. We need friends – we deserve friends – who deeply understand who we are and what we experience. The same is true for other groups of people that society has marginalized, like people of color and people with disabilities. We find freedom when we rest in the presence of another who truly understands us.
How Do I Build Queer Friendships?
We’ve received a few que(e)ries – both in person and through our contact page – demonstrating this shared longing for LGBTQ friendships. Many of our readers and friends are only a few years out of school, where friendships were easier to make and maintain because we inhabited spaces with hundreds of people in a similar stage of life. As some like to say, we are finally “adulting,” and for some of us, “adulting is hard.” (I don’t love this sentiment and consider myself exempt, but it’s all in good fun.)
Though I can’t offer you a panacea for your friendship deficits, I can empathize and I can offer advice. But first hear this: if you’re LGBTQ and craving queer friendships, you are not alone. And that’s good. You want LGBTQ friends, and they want you. This situation is a win-win, so let’s get to it.
Be Authentically You
Ada and I like to joke about how our hearts soar when we see fellow queer people on the streets, on TV, or in a song – in part because we are so darn cool, but mostly because we are delightfully bold in a world that prioritizes assimilation. We’re honored when we can similarly energize others by being our authentic selves. It’s the best form of magnetism.
If you’re a queer person looking to make queer friends, be open about being queer. Use your best judgment in unfriendly spaces, but also put on your best rainbow self in queer-friendly ones. It could be at a coffee shop, church, or just a casual gathering of friends. You don’t have to wear rainbow (though that never hurts). Just be authentically you. If that means wearing certain types of clothes – wear ‘em. If that means talking a certain way, do it. If that means cracking a joke about being queer – like having an innocent crush on the worship band leader or barista who happens to share your gender – slip that into a conversation.
In safe spaces, let those around you (and the person inside you) know who you are. Build yourself a queer playplace, and your fellow queers will see you and want to join you.
You Might Have to Move
We are not all blessed to fall into a town, church, or circle that is overflowing with LGBTQ people. Sometimes, we have to input ourselves into those spaces. When Ada and I moved to a new state and landed temporarily at our first affirming church, we seemed to be the only queer couple in the pews. It wasn’t until we started going to a church 45 minutes away that we found couples like us.
To find LGBTQ friends, you might have to move: maybe physically – like when we found a new church, and maybe metaphorically – out of your comfort zone. Try joining a book club or volunteering with a queer-friendly organization. If you’re in school, check out (or start) an LGBTQ affinity group. (In my experience, these groups are more welcoming to Christians than you might expect.) Go to an LGBTQ-focused conference. Websites like Facebook and Meetup.com can help you find (or host) events geared toward queer people. A hipster bookstore here in Maine just started hosting LGBTQ “speed-friending” nights, and they were so instantly popular that they’ve each filled up within hours of registration opening.
Participating in events like these might be easier said than done if you live far away, but they might be worth the trip. For more introverted folks like me who would be nervous about going alone, consider inviting a queer acquaintance to tag along, thereby feeding two birds with one scone by further befriending that acquaintance and making new friends too.
Attend an Affirming Church
Here at Queering the Kindom, we are major proponents of LGBTQ-affirming (that is: open, welcoming, and celebrating) churches. We believe it’s especially important that young and recently-out queer Christians attend affirming churches so that they can grow in love rather than have their growth stunted by non-affirming theology that makes them constantly question their self-worth.
Affirming churches are also great places to make queer friends. Our pal and fellow blogger Alex leads an LGBTQIA small group at her church in the Boston area. Pastors and church leaders are eager to facilitate meaningful friendships between congregants. Many affirming churches are safe spaces for people who aren’t Christians, too; I promise they don’t all try to bludgeon visitors into conversion.
If you’re an LGBTQ Christian attending a non-affirming church, have you felt yet the call to find an affirming community? That call is the holiness in you, the Holy Spirit in you, driving you forward – this time not into the desert, but into a verdant sanctuary where Christ’s love is demonstrated fully and without bounds.
A Plug for Queer Media
Queer media isn’t a replacement for queer friendship, but it can help you be in community and gain a richer appreciation for your queer “family.” I’ve been eating up Autostraddle.com and queer fiction and memoirs like candy (The Miseducation of Cameron Post, The House You Pass on the Way, and Honor Girl, to name a few). Ada and I are finally watching The L Word, which comes with its own special set of transphobic, biphobic, and white-dominated baggage but has still been a worthwhile plunge into queer culture.
Though I’ve only recently started listening, I wholeheartedly recommend the podcast Nancy by WNYC Studios. My Autostraddle perusing led me first to Nancy’s wildly popular “A Gaggle for Me” episode about finding queer friends. The hosts are queer and Asian American. They explore diverse aspects of queer culture and the queer experience. Listen! And sign up to get their four-week email series with “advice, tips, and actual practical steps you can take to make friends.”
Consuming queer media helps me fight against internalized homophobia and heteronormativity. It shows me queer struggles, yes, but also queer joy, queer strength, and queer beauty. It helps me learn more about myself, about my queer siblings, about the history we’ve lived and the future ahead of us. It helps.
If you’re here and you’re queer, I hope you’ve been catching a glimpse of your reflection in Queering the Kindom. Are you looking for queer friends? Do you have any tips for making them? There is hope for a queerer community, a queer kindom, for the good of queer folks and the good of the world.
You are part of it.
Photograph from Autostraddle.com