From the Editor: Be true to yourself to find love
June 20, 2012 | 12:00 am
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 5:16 pm)
Summer is in full throttle now and the dry Colorado heat beckons pool parties, summer adventures, patio barbecues and a frisky side of our human nature. It’s the most engaging time of the year, many will say, to be on the prowl – single and looking.
Pride has come and gone, leaving many with streaked sunburns, perhaps a slew of new phone numbers from people we met over the party weekend, and a sense of regained excitement for our journeys as LGBT people.
There is something primal about summertime, especially in a region where backcountry adventures are waiting around the corner, and as we plan our long weekend trips up to places like the Indian Peaks or canyon country, lofty excursions to Puerto Rico, or just Saturday afternoons in the park and evenings in the bars, we are reminded of another common thread: our love for socializing. The people around us give our lives excitement and a fresh perspective of what it means to be open to new experiences.
In the LGBT community dating can be discouraging. Rather than casual everyday encounters – the heterosexual man or woman may meet his or her prince or princess charming at a library, workplace or grocery store checkout line – we have a smaller pool of potentials and more risk sending a wink or a smile to someone who we aren’t sure shares our orientation. We have to seek the opportunities in safe spaces; for us, they don’t land in our laps in everyday life.
So we hit up Sunday beer busts, or First Friday events at the LGBT clubs. We create multiple profiles on LGBT-friendly dating and networking sites, peruse the market to find someone who not only looks our type, but has similar expectations: a lasting partner, dating, casual sex, one-night stands, friendships with the hope of more, playmates, or poly encounters.
However, it’s easy to get discouraged when we’ve been burnt in the past. And the routes we pick still have obstacles – how many of us have found the “perfect” match online, only to encounter somebody completely different when we eventually meet in-person?
We begin to view dating as an expenditure of energy that we just don’t have. And as we found through the folks in this issue’s cover story, it truly is a jungle out there. We talked to people on all segments of the singles spectrum – from those who recently ended relationships, to those on the verge of starting one. From those looking for life-long love to those who put romance on the back burner – it’s too much work.
We found – especially through those who had second-thoughts about being featured – that many folks just weren’t sure they wanted to put themselves that out there, in every sense.
But sure enough, messages began fluttering in to our inboxes; sparks of interest about sharing a perspective. One thing was clear: Even if folks had been discouraged in the past, they were willing to talk about what unique barriers or struggles they came up against in the dating jungle. Common experiences emerged.
“Does lesbian dating even exist?” Marsha Hoffman, a 40-something lesbian said, referencing the stereotype that women in our community tend to jump in quickly to relationships without much courtship, with both feet and no lifejacket.
“I’m an aspiring asexual” commented Caleb Tillipaugh, a 22-year old gay male whose sarcasm and cynicism – lightened by the tone of good humor – sprung from the genesis of past experiences.
Yet despite the obstacles, it was something people were eager to talk about. Sharing such commonly-felt hopes and struggles isn’t bitter or desperate, it’s honest. And what is there to lose?
We’re a different kind of community, more forthcoming and truthful about what others keep secret. More willing to take the necessary risks. There are debates among straight men and women whether it’s possible to be “just friends” with those of the opposite sex – those of the gender they’re seeking to date. For us, there are rarely qualms about that.
Out Front’s publisher, Jerry Cunningham, came upon the contrast at a recent social fundraising event. One would think that it wouldn’t be necessary to disclose our sexual orientation and availability upon meeting someone; “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Jane Smith, partnered, gay.”
We have our own debates in the LGBT community, about the idea of wearing sexual orientation “on our sleeves.” But when we meet new people – gay or straight – it tends to force itself out, perhaps after an awkward silence.
Jerry recounted his experience. Chatting, Jerry said, with “a somewhat attractive woman in her 50s” with a small group, the topic came to the woman’s appearance and demeanor. Being the charmer that Jerry is, he agreed with the resounding compliments: “You really are cute,” he said. “We should hang out sometime!”
She blurted: “My husband and I live about a mile away.” She pointed in the appropriate direction. Brief pause.
“Well, my husband and I live in Aurora!” Jerry replied.
Another brief pause. Jerry described what he called a “Scooby Doo” look on the woman’s face – her synapses silently firing away to comprehend what she just heard. Did he just say “husband”?
Jerry continued his charm, shook her hand, and went on his merry way.
Many of us have experienced this – or experience it often – and realize that though we don’t want our sexuality to define us, we are almost forced to come out on an everyday basis to fit social mores. Lest we be accused of hitting on someone of the opposite sex when we’re really just looking for a friend. Lest, if we’re single, we miss the opportunities that do arise: That cute girl in the coffeeshop, who seems like “family” but we can’t be sure, and who we’d never have a chance with if we don’t find some way to convey we’re interested in women – maybe interested in her.
Dating, for us, is not just a romantic adventure – we must also resolve how to present an identity in light of the political labels and issues of today. It’s complicated, but we hold on to hope.
So, as the summertime brings with it the chance for us to don our skimpy outfits and advertise our inner and outer-sexy nature and energies, we welcome the chance to feel like anything is possible. The limit’s as high as Colorado’s fourteeners when we’re honest and confident about who we are; and let’s just say it, our sexuality and determination against adversity is a large part of what makes us each special, and each that much more of a catch. ]