You Need Help: Am I Invisible to Other LGBTQIA People?

Q:

I have a dilemma that you all might have advice on.

I’m an agender, biromantic asexual in my early 30s who would love to be in a relationship. I’ll admit I’m not great with flirting or initiating relationships, but I’m wondering if I give off “straight vibes” or something. Nobody comes up to flirt or ask me out either in general life or at queer events.

I’m an introvert by nature but years of customer service work means I can pretend to be more outgoing, and I’m a pretty warm and friendly person, or so my friends say. I have even tried dressing ‘more queer’ but I still seem to fly under the radar.

My question is: How can I make myself more obvious to the girls, gays and they’s around me? How do other people usually attract others?

A:

Hi! Believe it or not, this is a pretty common dilemma for LGBTQIA folks of all identities and personalities! While I do think extreme extroverts sometimes have it easy because they’re willing to walk up to strangers and say “hi I’m gay” or can more comfortably “make the first move” in flirting situations, I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum and still intermittently struggled with flagging as queer in dating/flirting contexts when I was single.

As far as wanting more people to come up to you and flirt or ask you out, confidence and having a strong sense of self goes a long way. Be yourself. Don’t change aspects of your personality. I already see you identifying some of your own strengths in this letter. You say you’re warm and friendly, so lean into those things. I do think dating and “putting yourself out there” does often necessitate stepping outside of your comfort zone a little bit. Sometimes, you really do get what you give. What I’m saying is you might have to occasionally approach people instead of waiting for them to approach you. The more you do it, the more practice you’ll get. But it’s also possible that if people see you going up to others at queer events, they’ll feel more comfortable coming up to you, too.

There isn’t a secret formula for attracting others, but again, confidence does go a long way. Think about the things you like about yourself. Write them down even. Those things you like about yourself are things someone else could like, too. Assume everyone thinks you’re hot. These might sound like silly little self-love exercises, but they indeed will build your confidence muscles, which will in turn help you when it comes to meeting people.

I wouldn’t take it personally that people aren’t approaching you first. To be honest, I think everyone is struggling with social skills and meeting new people these days, something I usually connect back to periods of isolation during the early parts of the ongoing Covid pandemic.

As for making yourself “more obvious to the girls, gays, and theys” around you, this is something I still struggle with sometimes. Even though I’m monogamously partnered now, I still like flagging as queer in social settings, especially because I’m trying to make more queer friends. That has felt even more urgent to me but also more complicated since moving to Florida. Having queer friends here feels so meaningful. But I also can’t always flag in the easy ways I did before, like when I would wear my Autostraddle DYKE DRAMA shirt to bars in New York. There are plenty of safe spaces where I could wear that shirt here in Orlando, but there are also contexts where I wouldn’t want to have my queerness on as big of a display. That said, I’ve found a lot of ways to subtly flag, like wearing a beaded bracelet that says DYKE (which would only really be visible close up) or tbh by wearing my Yellowjackets letterman, which has led many a queer to approach me to talk about the show. My friend made really cute earrings for herself that are in the colors of the ace flag, which her fellow ace folks are usually able to clock but which just sort of look like funky earrings to those not “in the know.” You can definitely get creative like that!

It’s truly that sometimes ace folks can feel invisible in queer spaces. Ace writer and academic Ela Przybylo wrote a really great essay about it and other discrimination ace folks face for Ace Week this year. If you don’t already have a strong community of ace friends in your life, I highly recommend working in that in tandem with your efforts to date. Dating and seeking out relationships is always easier when you have a strong network of friends and sense of community.

Good luck out there! I promise you’re not giving off straight vibes, because that’s not really a thing. Dating is hard, and sometimes you really do have to take risks and get uncomfortable in order to connect with strangers. It’s okay to wait for people to approach you, but I think a mixture of being the person to approach someone else and letting people come up to you might be the way to go here. Have fun, be yourself, and show off the parts of your personality you like best.


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 837 articles for us.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Kayla! I really struggle with this too, so it was nice to read that I’m not alone. There are some “subtle” shirts and accessories on Etsy that I’ve found helpful when trying to walk the line between wanting to flag as queer to queers but not so much to anyone else – I just bought a shirt with the phases of the moon in the colors of the lesbian flag, and I think I searched something like “subtle lesbian pride shirt” to find it.

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