No Tinder, No Problem: The Ancient Art of Asking Someone on a Gay Date IRL

It might feel, in 2019, like every single gay on Earth is on Tinder or an equivalent dating app experience. Many people are! You are not wrong. It has its perks – maybe most obviously it helps you find people who have self-selected as being into your gender, and streamlines the process of figuring out who might be into you. But that approach for trying to meet someone doesn’t work for everybody. Maybe apps feel impersonal and weird to you; maybe you aren’t comfortable being potentially outed to anyone who sees you on there; maybe you just don’t like technology that much! All fair. If that’s the case, though, and you are still wanting to meet n’ greet other single queers in your city, the unfortunate truth is that a hot butch is not going to materialize in your apartment on her own. Trust me, I am as upset about that as you are! But you are going to need to flex your social muscles and ask people out in real life.

Where do you even meet someone to ask out?

Good question! If it helps, you are not alone; meeting new people to add to their social circles, whether platonically or romantically, is one of the biggest struggles of adults everywhere. It’s hard to do outside of the structured social environments of school or work! So much so that we have addressed it with respect to making friends… many, many times! Even straight people frequently complain about the difficulty of meeting someone organically that they’re into, and there are many more of them out there. So good news, you’re in good company; bad news, there isn’t an easy fix for this.

As annoying and tired as the advice is, you really do have to, you know, get hobbies and go out and do things. While a hot gay is not going to materialize inside your apartment, there is only a slightly higher chance of you running into them by just… going to stand in the park. Join an organization! Get a plot in a community garden! Go to a protest! Anything that will involve you organically interacting with other people, and actually reflects your interests — joining a community theater troupe when you hate it just to try to meet more people is a bad use of your time and energy, and also you probably won’t even like the people you meet. Look for activities, groups and spaces that are genuinely engaging to you and will get you out of your familiar routine with its familiar cast of people, none of whom are probably your future girlfriend or else they would be already. There is an almost 100% chance that this will improve your quality of life anyway, and has the bonus effect of making you more interesting and thusly more dateable. It’s nice to have something to answer when someone asks what you do for fun besides Netflix!

How do you tell if someone is gay?

Also a great q! The anxiety about potentially making a move on someone who is actually straight is matched only by the anxiety of the many, many people who write in for advice about making sure people know they’re gay in social settings. WHAT A WORLD. The short answer is that outside of some very obvious tips of the hat, like explicitly gay pins, bumper stickers, or exhortations of gayness, you cannot tell! At least not without trying to find out somewhat actively. One of the many ways in which we live in a more challenging and labor-intensive world than straight people is that unless you’re somebody who is REALLY okay with dealing with rejection and maybe an uncomfortable straight person, it may not be realistic to ask out strangers or acquaintances because you just do not know! Maybe you need to have a few conversations and see if they bring up the fact that Officer Michele Fazekas from Episode 4, Season 5 of the X Files is CLEARLY a lesbian before you ask somebody out. Maybe you need to take initiative by making it clear through your own pop culture mentions or anecdotes about exes that you yourself are gay! Often that helps things along.

The exception to this, obviously, is if you’re in an explicitly-defined mainstream gay space: a gay bar, a queer book club, a lesbian poetry workshop, etc. (Which is part of the appeal of creating and maintaining those spaces!) If you have access to spaces or activities that are queer-specific, by all means, try to go! If you get nothing out of it other than meeting other people to platonically commiserate with about how much you hate Tinder, that is okay too. But it’s great to know that if you do see a purple-haired denim-wearing angel across the room you want to potentially make out with, you could approach her with roughly the same level of confidence as a straight person in a commensurate situation!

What do you ask, exactly?

In many ways, things were simpler in second grade when you could slide someone a note that said “do you want to be my girlfriend circle yes or no.” The phrasing and execution of asking someone out from your book club or workplace can be awkward! There are a few ways to go about this. Could you literally ask “Do you want to go on a date with me?” Yes, you could, but I mean, there are other ways to go about this. If you two already know each other from something circumstantial — you chat at your weekly dream processing discussion group! God bless you — you can ask “do you want to hang out outside this thing sometimes? Cool, what’s your number?” The general nature of this ask and the obvious implication that your main interest is getting to spend more time with them one on one makes it pretty clear this is a date, I think, but if you want to make double triple sure, you can always check out our team’s take on how they communicate or discern that it’s a date.

Alternatively, and arguably somewhat lower-stakes, you can do a casual invite-along: “I’m going to this reading/party/concert/fermented food tasting/interpretive dance performance this weekend, let me know if you want to come!” This could be a date or a friend hang; it gives you the option to decide how you want to play it depending on how things go (although also risks being confusing if you really truly want it to be a date), and is very low-pressure for the other person; you aren’t making plans around them, you’re just inviting them to pre-existing ones. Wow, look at you, a person with hobbies and interests! So interesting and dateable!

What if you’re rejected?

Unfortunately, you almost certainly will be at one point or another! As with most things in life, pursuing what you actually want means accepting that at least some of the time, you won’t get it. But also if you don’t go for what you want, you definitely won’t get it, so here we are. The more comfortable you get with living with the possibility (and reality!) of rejection, the better situated you’ll be for dating and also life. You will be thrilled to know that Grace foresaw your need and wrote an entire guide to this years ago, the central tenet of which still rings very true: “once you survive the initial sting, knowing someone doesn’t have feelings for you is infinitely better than the suffering of ambiguity.” Imagine that! You deserve a life without (well, with less) suffering of ambiguity.

Most important is to remember that dating should be fun, whether you’re looking for a wife or someone to eat ice cream and make out with. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, and good night and good luck!

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. “Maybe you need to have a few conversations and see if they bring up the fact that Officer Michele Fazekas from Episode 4, Season 5 of the X Files is CLEARLY a lesbian before you ask somebody out.”

    I am HOLLERRRIIIIINNNNGGGG this is also how I feel about the wolf expert in ‘Alpha’

  2. I read “a lesbian poetry workshop” as “a lesbian pottery workshop” and was like sign me up!

  3. I would like to repeat my mantra here:


    You DO need to know they’re not a bigot. And you know, that they might be into you and are sufficiently honest. Beyond that, follow all the other advice in the article, which is great.

    And if they’re not into you “that way”, well, that’s fine. It actually doesn’t matter why not.

    The reason for my mantra is that some people are actually not too sure about their labels, or haven’t even thought about who they’re attracted to (beyond the default straight brainwashing). Sometimes ~you~ happen to be the bolt of lightning that makes them question the default. It’s happened to me three times, and only one of them was just a short-term fling (and we’re still excellent friends).

    Obviously if you are not happy to just take it as it comes in terms of someone’s identity, then sure, you will obviously want to be more rigorous about checking it out. But I don’t think that needs to be universal advice.

    For me, I can honestly say I haven’t been screwed around any more on average by (formerly? questioning?) straight women than queer ones. I genuinely don’t care as long as they’re into me, not self-loathing, and honest about our relationship, on whatever level it exists.

    On another note about the language here (sorry), I’m personally not bi and I am fine with using “gay” as an adjective all the time – as is the way here, it’s cute – to describe the gay gal-pal vapid fluff we’re into. BUT, talking about finding out whether someone IS GAY for dating purposes seems just a tad exclusionary in language. We’re going beyond adjectives and seemingly right into defining identities. Something to consider, maybe.

  4. Does anyone have advice on what to do about thoughts like “she’s just here to write poetry/save the whales/play football/etc, she must get hit on by guys all the time, she doesn’t need to be asked out by you as well”? That what always stops me, but I’m sure it’s daft

    • Maybe consider that:

      * We generally meet people IRL we’re potentially interested in via shared activities? And that goes for ALL of us, including that lovely person you know at X thing?

      * Lots of people join up to shared activities specifically to meet people? Maybe she’s joined partly for the “meet people” reason and would love to get to know more people – you! – better?

      * There are a lot of attractive people who report they don’t date nearly as many people as you’d think, because people assume that thing about “so many people must pester them”, and don’t end up asking? And some of them have a bit of a thing that if THEY do the asking, they’ll come off as too cocky about their looks?

      * She might totally have the hots for you and her crush is making her feel too bashful to ask you first?

      Obviously if someone is giving signals they’d rather be left alone, totally do that. But if they are not, and you want to ask them to do something outside Activity X and the only thing that’s putting you off is that they *might* only be interested in Activity X, I say don’t worry about that and just ask. And that any one or more of the above considerations could well be true.

      Good luck!

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