Derik K. Cowan
How do I meet gays?
This is perhaps the question I most get asked in email, and it's one of the hardest to answer. If you're the person asking this question, you're probably wondering why I say this question is so hard to answer. I certainly found a way to meet gays, why can't I tell you how I did it? Well, there are several issues here that need addressing. The big issue I have to confront is the fact that usually when someone sends me email asking me how to meet gays, I don't know a lot about the person. I can usually assume that the person asking the question is in the closet, but I don't really know much about where they live, what their home situation is like, how gay friendly the area in which they live is, or what their options are for coming out, so it's hard to answer anyone specifically. All I can do is give a few general pointers and hope they can be helpful. The other large issue is that I don't necessarily know what the person asking the question is looking for. Does this person want to meet other gays so they can talk with them, get support, and make new friends, or are they looking for sex? This too makes a difference in where and how I would direct someone looking for gays. But given all of this, I'll do my best to give a few pointers.
If what you're looking for is just sex, then you probably already know where to go. Every area has its places for people to meet and fool around -- in my hometown there was a highway rest area that was active at night, an out of the way park, and one of the bathrooms in the local mall was cruisy. I've encountered similar places everywhere I've traveled. Usually these locations are passed around by word of mouth, but those words aren't only from one gay to the next -- straight people often joke about these places too, usually when putting someone down for being gay. Now I realize that it's kind of creepy to be digging for information from people who are denigrating you, but that's part of the harsh reality of life in the closet. A couple words of warning though on the public anonymous sex front, though: It is illegal and it can be dangerous, so be careful. Also, be sure to bring along your own condoms and insist on their use if you plan on doing anything beyond masturbation. After all, just because you are unsure about your sexuality or are closeted doesn't mean you should take risks with your health.
If you're looking to meet gays for more than just because you are horny, then honestly you'll have to put yourself out about more. I know this is a scary thought, but it's really the only way to make contact. Try calling your local youth services and finding out if there is a gay youth group or at least a hotline you can call. This will at least allow you to talk to someone else who is gay by phone, and if there is a youth group, try to attend a meeting. Also, check into if there's a local PFLAG chapter and drop by one of their meetings. While the majority of the people there will be straight, they'll be able to put you in touch with people who may be able to help you.
If you can't find a PFLAG chapter of gay youth group in your area, don't give up hope. Keep an eye peeled for gay pride symbols in store windows or even homes. Rainbow flags or pink triangle decals on windows are usually a good sign that the people involved in the ownership or running of the business (or living in the house) are gay, and will often will do their best to try and talk to you or be supportive if you go to them. Also, if you live near a college or university, find out about the gay group on campus and possibly try to attend a meeting, even as a nonstudent. It'll at least give you contacts. Even though neither of these opportunities are set up to help out gay youth, they'll at least give you a way to try and establish some contacts.
If you're seeing a psychiatrist who you trust, he or she may be able to let you know about any gay support groups in your area.
Obviously if you are reading this, you have net access. There are a number of gay centered services on the net. Usenet newsgroups in particular are a great source if you are looking to meet other gay people and to talk about your sexuality. The first place you'll probably want to check is soc.support.youth. gay-lesbian-bi, which is a moderated group especially for gay youth, but there are other groups as well. A key to remember when checking newsgroups is that usenet is one of the oldest forms of the Internet and at times uses odd codes for things. For instance, most of the better groups for discussion among gays are under the moniker motss (Members of the Same Sex). Soc. groups are also often more friendly than alt. groups--to the extent that you find gay people fighting amongst themselves more friendly than gay people fighting homophobes, that is. And finally, remember that each newsgroup has its own history and community, so you might want to read a group for a while before starting to post, just to get a feel of the group.
If all my pointers so far haven't helped, then try going to your local bookstore and see if they have a gay and lesbian section (even Barnes and Noble has one) and get a book that looks interesting. If you like science fiction, I'd recommend Mercedes Lackey, or for general fiction try Robert Rodi. Then find a coffeeshop or a park bench or something and spend some time reading. I won't offer guarantees, but often people who are gay and looking for others like them pay a lot of attention to other people, and you may just have someone sit down with you to be friendly. Don't assume said person is gay, but then again, don't assume they're not. The most important thing to remember is that gays are like everyone else. You may feel totally alienated from the world because of your sexuality, but it probably doesn't show to others, and likewise you can't assume everyone around you is straight. You probably already have friends and acquaintances who are gay, but you don't know it, and they don't know about you. I thought I was the only person in my high school that was gay, but when I came out in college, I found out that a lot of my friends from high school had done the same, both people from my grade and from grades above me. Even one of my former teachers came out to me. Try coming out a little-- put a little pink triangle or rainbow pin on your bag, or read something gay related in public, and that'll let other gay people who are similarly looking to meet gay people know that you're gay and approachable.
In a lot of ways, meeting other gay people is the hardest and one of the most important steps in coming out because it requires you to get over your fears about other people knowing you are gay. I remember vividly the first time I went to a meeting of the gay group on campus my freshman year of college. I wanted so badly to meet other gay people, but I was terrified of anyone finding out I was gay, so I walked from my room over to where the meeting was and wandered around the area for about 15 minutes before I got up the courage to actually go inside the building where the meeting was and join the meeting, but it was a turning point in my life. All of a sudden I met people who knew what I was going through, who had been there themselves, and who liked me even though I was gay. Remember, these people you're meeting are gay too, they aren't going to judge you or tell everyone you know that you're gay because they are in the same situation or were in the past. So although it takes courage and a willingness to let your secret out to someone, it will be worth it.