I’m a bi woman in my late twenties, and I want to date more women. (I also have executive function issues, and I suspect I’m mildly on the spectrum) I meet most of my partners through my hobbies.
However, I have realized I have really standard nerdy hobbies (anime, dungeons and dragons, video games, etc) and these communities are dominated by men. I don’t meet a lot of available women through these hobbies. (I do have other hobbies that I participate in, but I also have yet to meet a partner through them.) I have a really hard time using dating apps for many reasons, and I rarely develop a spark through internet dating anyways. Online dating completely drains me, and it’s as exciting as answering work emails for me.
Post COVID, I’ll look into women/queer specific nerdy spaces, but to be honest there isn’t a lot of them. I often feel like an outsider in queer specific spaces, which I guess everyone does, but it’s often more alienating than affirming. I feel like I’m in middle school being ignored by the cool girls, and I always end up talking to the gay men at the gay bar/party about Brandon Sanderson novels instead of hooking up.
It’s incredibly easy to find nerdy men to date, and maybe it’s something I’ve fallen into because I literally don’t have to expend any effort at all to get hit on. The answer may be to spend less time in masculine spaces and learn to navigate women’s spaces better. But how do I do that? I have social skills, I just feel…invisible.
I say this with all the love and empathy in the world, but I think you could be getting in your own way here. You’ve told yourself these hobbies are dominated by men and, therefore, you’ve closed yourself off to seeing and connecting with women in these worlds. I think unlearning some of these assumptions could help open you up to meeting more women. Has the narrative that these hobbies are inherently “dominated by men” been pushed onto you by mainstream culture? How can you challenge that narrative?
Let’s start here: There are so many women and queer folks involved in the anime, tabletop game, and video game communities. When I hear you say these spaces are dominated by men, I think you’re talking about dominant discourse (ie. mainstream websites and forums like Reddit) on these topics, which does often center men. But that’s hardly the full picture. There are so many queer-specific spaces for these hobbies/interests. Even just right here on Autostraddle dot com, there’s a bunch of writing on these things, like this very bisexual essay on Dungeons & Dragons; Heather’s poignant D&D essay; Valerie’s Critical Role posts; all these video game reviews/features. Check out the Geekery category for more posts. And Autostraddle is far from the only place where women are writing about and engaging with nerd culture, and I encourage you to seek them out. There are lots of queer writers covering these topics—even within mainstream media. Chingy has written about video games and anime for a bunch of different places. Lucy O’Brien is an editor at IGN. Patricia Hernandez is the editor-in-chief of Kotaku.
From what I understand, the specific spaces you’ve engaged with tend to be dominated by men, but I’m just trying to help you see there are other options. You just might have to seek out specifically queer spaces, which requires some research and work. But I think going in with the assumption there “isn’t a lot of them” is holding you back! The times I’ve attended Comic-Con, I’ve gone with a group of women—most of whom are queer. I had to seek out that community, but it was so rewarding when I did. As a lesbian of color, I totally empathize with your experience of loneliness and invisibility in certain fandom/hobby spaces. I did have to seek out my people. But through that process, I learned there were so many folks who share my interests and my identities. I was able to reject and subvert some of the norms peddled about nerd culture through building my own community (which I did via tumblr).
I know the above examples are online spaces, but they’re a good place to start. And I can assure you: So many fandoms and nerd subcultures have meetups, events, activities, etc. that not only include queer women but center them. I know you’re not interested in online dating (and that’s fine! It’s not for everyone!) but perhaps connecting with more folks on social media or even just exploring these online spaces in a passive way (like reading articles about nerd culture written by queer women) can help you realize there ARE lots of women and queer women who exist in these worlds. That might make it easier to then connect with women who share your interests in real life, and it can also help with finding out about more in-person activities. There are so many women and queer folks who are pushing fandom and nerd culture to be more inclusive and feminist spaces.
This part of your letter stands out to me: “I often feel like an outsider in queer specific spaces, which I guess everyone does, but it’s often more alienating than affirming.” Friend, I am so sorry this is how you have felt! I’m also wondering how much of this experience is rooted in internalized biphobia or other deep-rooted factors. Because if I’m being honest with you, this is not how everyone feels in queer-specific spaces, which I don’t say to negate your experience. Lots of people DO experience this, and I have in the past, too. But other things are possible.
Queer spaces can be super affirming and inclusive (though of course, some are not). Identifying the reasons you’ve felt like an outsider can help you work on it. Have you experienced biphobia or other forms of stigma in these spaces? What, specifically, evokes that feeling of being “ignored by the cool girls”? When you enter a space, do you automatically feel this? If it’s based on a previous experience, how can you work toward healing from that so you can try out new, potentially more welcoming spaces?
I’m sorry you feel invisible in women’s and queer spaces. Again, I hope you can try to identify where that feeling comes from. What do you need to feel more comfortable in these spaces? Do you have a buddy who could come with you? Do you need to set goals for yourself to push outside of your comfort zone a bit? (For example: deciding to talk to at least three new people at a function.) What feels easier to you about talking to gay men at the bar/parties? Is it because there isn’t the pressure to flirt or hookup in those interactions? If so, would you feel more relaxed if you decided to meet more queer women without any expectations it will immediately lead to romance?
I know you feel like you don’t have to expend any effort to get hit on by men, and that makes sense to me, because many social settings are steeped in heteronormativity. One thought I had in terms of being approached by more queer women in these spaces is to signal your queerness in a visible way. I know not everyone is comfortable with that—especially in spaces that aren’t explicitly queer—so it’s totally up to you! But if you wore a bi pin or something like that, then other queer women might gravitate toward you and then, voila, you can start talking! It’s true that sometimes as queer women we have to work a little harder to find each other. A literally visible solution could help with your feelings of invisibility.
Ultimately, I think starting with unlearning some of the default assumptions you have about your hobbies and interests has the potential to unlock so many things for you. You could end up finding fellow bisexual women who have struggled with the same feelings of alienation in these spaces and be able to bond with them over it. You could also end up finding fellow bisexual women who have had more affirming experiences and learn from them about more welcoming spaces. I think you’re going to need to be very intentional about how you seek out queer and women-centric spaces. They’re there; I promise. You also have the option of carving out your own space. Start a queer D&D campaign! There might be people who are looking for the exact same things as you in your community. Queer people so often have to reimagine and carve out our own spaces, rejecting the dominant narratives hurled at us. I want you to live your best bi life, and if you want to date more women, then I think you can totally do so within your hobbies/interests! Go for it! Put in the effort to find, explore, or even create these queer and women-centric spaces, which will be so much easier if you go in with the assumption they can and do exist.