To the extent that there’s anything approaching a roadmap to gay dating for women and nonbinary people, you’re reading it. JK, even with our prodigious back catalog of tips and deep dives on lesbian/queer/gay dating, it’s basically impossible to ever feel like you’re doing this right. We don’t either! Like, truly, ever. Learn from our mistakes (and our exes’): here are the things we wish we had known before we started gay dating.
Archie Bongiovanni, Cartoonist
I wish I had the communication skills I had now! I so often felt like a bobble-head, just nodding along in a relationship or hook-up or whatever. It took me time to get to the root of my desires, of what I actually wanted and didn’t want and it took me even longer to be able to properly express those desires. As it ends up, “casual” can have a LOT of different meanings.
Bailey , Writer
I wish I’d known (or rather had access to the possibility that) not all dates had to happen in bars and not all relationships had to begin in clubs. Not all of my gay/queer activities had to revolved around consuming alcohol or drugs.
Carolyn Yates, Writer
You’e hot shit and it’s okay – in fact, encouraged – to ask people out instead of waiting for them to ask you.
Christina Tucker, Writer
I came out somewhat late in life, so I don’t know that I felt like I needed a roadmap for queer dating in particular? Honestly, a lot of the things I learned when I was dating cis het dudes are still applicable to my current dating life (which, full disclosure, is nonexistent at the moment). The hardest part to learn was separating “do I want to be friends with this person” vs. “do I want to bone down with this person?” That elusive chemistry thing is hard to pin down! The best way I’ve found to answer it is to go for a kiss (consensually!). As my very wise best friend would always say, when I was waffling about how much I liked someone, “Just put your mouth on their mouth!”
Dani Janae, Writer
I wish I had known that women can destroy you too. I did kind of know that because I have mommy issues but I didn’t know women can and will destroy you in romantic relationships. This can be both good and bad. Have you ever been destroyed sexually? Great stuff, wonderful time, would recommend. But getting your heart absolutely wrecked because you fell in love after a month? 0/10
Drew Gregory, Writer
Okay, so as is well-documented on this very website, I didn’t start queer dating until about a year and a half ago. I was in a relationship when I came out and stayed in that relationship for a while. So for me this question is like what do you want to tell your very recent past self.
This is going to sound silly, but I think my answer is… nothing. I tend to be really anxious and want perfection and a big part of the last year or so of dating was me trying to get past that. My adolescence and early 20s were defined by an attempt to never fuck up and all it really did was prevent me from having fun and keep me in the closet. So! I’ve certainly learned some things about dating the past year, but mostly I’m glad to have learned them from actual experiences? I’m happy I fucked people I probably shouldn’t have because that’s not a thing I did as a straight.
Heather Hogan, Senior Writer & TV Editor
I wish I’d known that I didn’t need to have everything figured out. I am, by nature, a person who overcompensates. I hadn’t dated any women when I came out later in life, and I didn’t know ANYTHING. Instead of just being real about that, I read a bunch of books and watched a bunch of vlogs and devoured basically every article on every gay website about being with another woman, and then I just pretended I knew what I was doing — which must have been incredibly off-putting. I also wish I’d known how to break up with someone kindly and maturely. I didn’t, and I ended up hurting a lot of really wonderful women who deserved so much better than the shitty ghosting of my youth.
Kamala Puligandla, Editor-in-Chief
I wish I had known that dating wasn’t about impressing people into thinking I was hot and cool and valuable, but that it was finding out who had the interest and capability to love me the way I wanted — and that sometimes, people would be in one category but not the other, and that wasn’t really going to work out.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Writer
Hmmm, my main answer is a bit of a paradox, but I wish I had known more about myself sexually before I started dating… but I also am not totally sure I would have figured out the specifics of some of my sexual desires without jumping into queer dating. I feel like I’m just now starting to understand myself when it comes to sex (I’m in my late 20s), and it would have absolutely been helpful to know some of these things sooner!!!!! I don’t think I realized how deeply my repression ran; I thought that I had jumped the main hurdle by simply coming out and starting to date women, but a lot of the shame/sexual repression still persisted even once I did that, and I wish I had been more aware of that/unpacked it a lot sooner.
And this might be a weird answer too, but I kind of wish I’d been exposed to more stories about abuse and toxicity in queer relationships so that I could have had a better understanding of some of the things that eventually happened to me/made me feel really alone. I also wish I had learned that the whole “all lesbians stay friends with their exes” stereotype was indeed a harmful myth. Could have saved a lot of time and effort!
Ro White, Writer
Don’t fucking UHaul.
Rachel Kincaid, Managing Editor
I wish I’d known that dating women isn’t magically easier, better or hotter just because they’re women and so am I. Granted, I’m bisexual and so the difference between dating women and not-women might feel different to me than a lesbian, and also there are obvious axes of things like misogyny that shift (although also obviously, other axes of interpersonal oppression can still come into play). I just wish I had known that after the rush of how amazing it feels (and it does!) to finally date gay women, a lot of the same problems and issues come up; they aren’t solved by gender or by gayness.
I mean that there will still be relationship problems, yes, and of course people can still be abusive or unhealthy in gay relationships — but also that they can be boring, or difficult to understand, or someone can be really cool and fun but you just aren’t sexually compatible at all, or someone can be really cool and fun but you just don’t feel it for them, or they don’t about you, and you don’t know why and that’s the end of it. I think for some reason I thought all of that stuff would fade into the background along with men, and every hot girl I had anything remotely mutual with would be the Heloise to my Marianne. That is, duh, not always the case, and when that happens it isn’t because you’re somehow doing something wrong. Outside of the systemic oppression, years of internalized stigma and our whole community’s collective trauma, gay dating is often… pretty mundane!
Shelli Nicole, Culture Editor
That you don’t have to keep dating someone just because they are queer and that their queerness doesn’t mean they can’t be a bad person. I went on so many 2nd, 3rd and 4th dates with women because I thought that if I didn’t give them chances I was a bad lesbian. I let a lot of women treat me wrong while dating, talk down to me while we were out and so much more all in the name of being a “good feminist lesbian.” If someone is treating you wrong, no matter their gender, you don’t have to put up with it and you aren’t some sort of traitor if you don’t take shit.
Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor
I didn’t date girls until my early 20s, and my relationships with men prior to that had usually been pretty awkward and confusing. I wish I had been more confident and felt more comfortable asking more questions, and ultimately I really just wish I’d known the potential for communication in relationships. I settled for a lot of bullshit back then, and I am no longer willing to do so.
Valerie Anne, Writer
Don’t settle just because you found someone else who was queer in your largely straight circles. First of all, your circles will get way less straight and you’ll meet so many more queer people, you just have to give it time. Second of all, you deserve better than the girl who asks you to wait, the girl who tries to control you, the girl who likes to hurt your feelings because she thinks it’s funny. Eh hem, that got a little specific, but in general I just wish I had realized that just because they were the best options available to me at the moment didn’t mean I had to accept them as being good options for me personally.
Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor
1. You don’t have to be friends with your ex.
2. You don’t have to be friends with the girl you met on Tinder (even if she says “wanna be friends instead?” after two dates and some exceedingly mediocre sex).
3. Honestly, drawing out your friend group’s version of The Chart is a bad idea.
4. It’s okay to want to date casually rather than looking for a partner. It’s also okay to NOT want to date casually. Just try to date people who are looking for similar things, otherwise you’ll both end up frustrated at best or deeply hurt and betrayed at worst.
5. You’re actually not that picky, you’re just not straight.