7 ways to find your niche as an LGBT+ person
Coming out is hard enough on its own, but it’s even harder if you don’t have many LGBT+ connections or friends. It’s daunting to try to insert yourself into a pre-existing organization and finding queer-specific organizations can seem impossible. But don’t get too nervous! Here are seven painless ways you can find your own affirming queer communities.
1. If you’re in college, look up your school’s registered student organizations.
It may seem obvious, but see what may already be around you. Even small four-year schools typically have a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or similar group, and most schools will have a faculty advisor or student coordinator listed in the group’s page or description.
If they don’t have meeting times posted, you can send a few emails and go from there. One of the particularly nice things about alliance clubs is that even if you’re closeted you can participate in group activities and make connections with the understanding that you’re an ally.
2. If your school doesn’t have a GSA, start one.
Finding a faculty advisor is usually not as hard as it may seem. If you don’t personally know any professors who would be interested in helping you start up, you can do one of two things.
First, find the contact information of your school’s Student Life Coordinator (or similar title) and see if they can help you contact more staff/faculty. This is probably the best option, but if that fails, you have a second option of finding professors yourself.
Go by department and see who teaches, say, gender studies or sociology. Contact them, and chances are they can either help you themselves or put you in contact with someone who can. You can find more tips for starting or registering a GSA at your college through the Gay, Lesbian + Straight Education Network.
3. Get online.
Camden Hargrove, who is a community and digital organizer for the National LGBTQ Task Force, highlighted how different social media platforms tend to have their own tone and purpose. Often times, for older LGBT+ individuals, Facebook groups tend to be a better route. On the other hand, Hargrove said, “Instagram is popping up as one of the things most [popular with] young people between 18 and 35.”
"Twitter is a pretty open group, but it has a little more of an aggressive tone to it. Instagram is more about sharing stories and making people feel good — ‘life goals’ stuff," Hargrove said. "Instagram is kind of that place where you can connect and feel happy.”
From there, you can reach out to queer people with similar interests and maybe even some who live near you.
4. Branch out IRL.
Being mindful of your own physical and emotional safety, you may be able to video chat or meet up with queer online friends in person.
Researching LGBT-specific sports leagues, choirs, gamer groups, etc., can also help. You might be surprised what a quick search of “gay book club” in your area will turn up. This is a great way to make friends with supportive people with whom you know you have similar interests.
As Mary Andres, a professor of psychology and education at the University of Southern California, put it, it’s “really empowering to be involved in [special interest groups]. To be like, ‘I like somebody of the same gender, but I’m also a softball player’ or ‘I’m a triathlete’ or something like that.” Finding affirming people in organizations that aren’t just LGBT-related can help solidify and affirm your identity while meeting supportive people.
Meetup.com is also a great option for in-person relationship building. For most areas, often even rural ones, you can find LGBT+ groups that organize their own social events that you can get involved in.
5. Get involved in queer-friendly fandoms and subcultures.
Andres pointed out that looking for relatable, queer fictional characters and seeking out those with similar interests is an easier and more subtle way of connecting with people — especially if you’re closeted and living in a less-than-supportive household. Without even leaving your house, you can access LGBT+ fan blogs and fan fiction about complex, LGBT+ characters and role models.
Even if you don’t particularly connect to any "canon" LGBT+ characters in media and instead “headcanon” their queerness, you’re not alone. In addition to the litany of queer characters in books, film and TV, there are hundreds of queer headcanons and accompanying fan art on sites like Tumblr. You can often connect with the writers and fans of these, too, and jumpstart your own online community.
Andres also noted that most anime and comic conventions are inclusive to the LGBT+ community. Some bigger cities even have LGBT-specific ones, like Atlanta’s Outlantacon. Cosplays are, of course, usually welcome, but don’t feel like you have to dress up to attend and enjoy conventions, especially if you go with friends!
6. Look within your own religious or spiritual community.
Even if the church or organization you grew up in may not be supportive, there are a lot that are. Affirming Christian churches include the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. and in many areas, the United Methodist Church. The list doesn’t stop there, though, and once you find the right spiritual or religious center, it can be surprisingly easy to start developing your own community base.
7. Download LGBT apps.
There’s a lot more out there than just dating apps, as the Damron travel guide shows. This app can help you map out a vacation, day trip, or even your own city by marking LGBT-friendly spaces and upcoming events. Misterb+b is like Damron on an international scale — or like a gay Airbnb — and QueerBFF is the ultimate queer social networking app. Organizations like Biresource.org sometimes have their own calendars for queer events.
In your search for a queer community, try to remember that family doesn’t end with biology. A supportive family significantly reduces the risk of mental and physical health issues, but that support group doesn’t have to be the one you were born into.
With a little work on the front end, you can develop a reliable, affirming community of your own. Remember that you already have a whole community — the LGBT+ community — rooting for you. Just find your favorite part of it and hold on tight. 🍒