You Need Help: How Do I Find Nerdy Women to Date?

Q:

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.


A:

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.

Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. And A+ members keep the majority of our site free for everyone. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you're able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Miami. 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 301 articles for us.

20 Comments

  1. Wow. I read this and spent the whole time going “exactly!” so I guess be comforted that you’re not alone in these feelings, even though Kayla’s answer indicates she doesn’t currently relate to them.

    The only thing that’s helped me, even though it is also kind of exhausting, is to remind myself that it’s a numbers game and I have to cast a wide net and be okay with talking to 10 women at an event and not clicking with any of them, because the women I have clicked with (in friendships) have been not at all what I thought I was looking for, and few and far between.

    Also, speaking of male-dominated spaces, this is my official plea for any women who are into watching baseball to please hit me up because I love it and I know there are women out there who do too but so far I’ve only found 2, and one was The Worst. (I’m a Dodgers fan but will never judge you for the team you love, unless it is the Yankees, and then only a little.)

  2. I agree with Kayla, D&D, comics, etc are super queer now! I would recommend seeing if your local comic book store or game store has meetups or trivia nights, depending on where you live they may even have events specifically for queer women! Starting a queer tabletop game is also a great idea, the RPG community is full of queer women. Maybe try joining a Discord server like the one for Dimension 20 or Critical Role and see if you meet anyone that way? I will say, I also was not enthusiastic about online dating, but I met my person (who is also nerdy) by saying “Ask me about my DnD character” on Hinge.

    • I also met my person on Hinge because she messaged me about D&D! (I mentioned a game I was DMing on my profile.)

      Which is to say, OP— nerdy queer women? In your dating app? It’s more likely than you think!

      For the record, I also hated app dating, and I’m so grateful that my now-gf hit me up when she did and that I’m no longer app dating.

  3. I am obsessed with Brandon Sanderson and would love to talk about the Cosmere but do not have friends that are that brand of nerd. Please hit me up, we can start a Queerdos of the Cosmere club and discuss how Jasnah and Shallan belong together.

  4. I think that amongst my queer friends, the feeling of being “queer enough” or otherwise not fitting in queer spaces is rampant. I move in similar circles and have similar issues.

    If you’re down for some reading on this, “A Manual for Being Human” by Sophie Mort has so much nice, gentle exploration of where anxiety and insecurity come from and how we might want to deal with them. I’m hoping her advice will help me when I want to start socialising again.

  5. All my D&D friends are queer. Join some cool only-women-and-enbies groups like Dungeons, Dragons & Divas or No More Damsels. They’ll open your eyes, even if they don’t introduce you to locals, and then I think once you see one gay playing D&D it’s like spotting an ant….you’ll start seeing them everywhere ^.^

  6. You don’t have to engage in online dating, but I was listening to a podcast today that said “no one likes online dating.” Maybe that’s not entirely true but I suspect most people don’t enjoy it and it’s just a means to an end. So if the reason you feel that it’s not for you is that you don’t like it and think other people actually enjoy it, I’d say that’s untrue.

    • I honestly agree with this. Online dating is stressful and weird. I don’t know many people who find it enjoyable. Still though, I force myself to endure the awkwardness and it DOES pay off. I’ve met tons of people from okcupid, lex, etc. Also I live in Seattle so your mileage may vary but I see SO MANY nerdy queers on there. Like so so many. I have a niche interest (intense hiking) and I’ve even found a few people here and there who share that. People are out there. The unfortunate news is you just have you take serious initiative to find them.

  7. I live in a semi-rural area with a very tiny queer community, and one thing I was told when I used to despair of ever meeting someone I clicked with was that if the right kind of space didn’t already exist, I could always create it. So I started up a hiking group for sapphics, and while I didn’t get a girlfriend out if it myself, I did meet some really cool people, two of whom eventually hooked up with each other and are now married with a baby! There is also a queer gamer group on Facebook here that was running monthly game nights pre-covid with moderate success, and I guarantee if it can work in this town, it can work anywhere. So if nothing like that already exists where you live, I’d say give it a shot – you have nothing to lose, and at the very least you might make some friends.

    Also keep an eye out for the next A+ popup Discord event, where we’ll probably post an invitation to our super awesome queer gaming spinoff server that’s been going strong since February! Obviously there’s no guarantee you’ll meet someone nearby that way, but it will definitely change your perception of gaming as a dudes-only pastime.

  8. Check out Clexacon, meetups, Facebook or Reddit groups. I am more nature nerdy, so there are hiking and kayaking groups and even a lesbian camp ground. Find local groups on the Internet and keep checking them out.

  9. Fellow bi here, I totally hear you on the differential in effort level to date women, especially at first. If you bop along taking the path of least resistance … you are pretty likely to date a lot more men, at least in my experience.
    I tried being intentional about not dating men and actively seeking out queer women and it helped. Maybe try out deciding not to date any men for a month or three or?? You may also find that the space that creates in your heart and social schedule motivates you to more actively seek out what you’re hoping for (dates, community, etc)

  10. I met my entire circle of friends through a women-only comic book club that one of them started while she was working at a comic book store. She had noticed a bunch of cool queer (and a couple straight) women coming in regularly to pick up pull lists and decided to invite us all to a bi-monthly meeting to talk about the funny books. A couple years later, we dropped the club and are just, you know, a circle of friends.
    It didn’t lead to any romance or anything but I love my little queer circle and I really didn’t expect that to bloom out of picking up comic books once a month. Maybe you could try starting something like that out of your LCBS?

  11. Thank you for responding to my maudlin, self pitying letter. That being said, I didn’t feel like I got a lot out of your response, and I feel even more maudlin and self pitying now. I am writing this perhaps for the 10 people who feel as alone and alienated and tired as I do.

    I do know that women share my interests, and exist in my city. However, when I mentioned my nerdy spaces being dominated by men, I meant that in my experience, when I go to nerdy events, locally, there are a lot of men, and not a lot of available women. I did not mean that I had a cultural assumption about men being nerds. I don’t need to unlearn anything there. I know there’s more meetup/fetlife/Facebook events, looking for queer specific ones, and I am doing so, but also it’s just very exhausting and disheartening at times. It’s as bad as dating, honestly.

    If there was a “queer women’s board game night” meet up group in my city, I would have already joined it, and would not have written in. I am already trying, very hard, and I am very tired. If I have to know a specific chain of people to get invited to a discord that has a sporadic D&D group run by women that meets up every 3 months irl, that’s not accessible.

    I don’t have any interest in online queer communities outside of practical, meet-up type communities. Online queer spaces make me feel even more alienated than I am in real life. I get no sense of community or belonging from them. (Biphobia is **much** worse online, in my experience, than it ever has been irl. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve found it’s profoundly isolating to be a bi woman in queer women internet space. Like I’d rather talk to straight people about taxes.)

    When I say that I feel ignored at LGBT events, I mean I get ignored, or talked over, or dismissed, or condescended to, if I am talked to at all. I’m usually alone at events. I moved relatively recently (half of my time is this city has been during covid) and the friends I do have don’t go to these kinds of events.

    How do I resolve my various social traumas? How do I manage my limited executive function to have a social life that includes people who share my values? How do I heal from a socially isolating global pandemic? I don’t know. I have a lot of things to work on in therapy regardless. (I’m bi, so obviously I have PTSD as well). I think for the time being I’ll talk to the gay man at the party about Brandon Sanderson, and if I ever meet a woman I’m meant to be with, it’ll be because she sees me playing an anime phone game on the bus.

    • Hi! I don’t think your letter was maudlin or self-pitying, and I do think your frustrations about your experiences are valid! I’m sorry you found my response lacking and somewhat irrelevant to some of the things you’re dealing with. I’m sorry I made assumptions. It’s sometimes difficult to answer these advice letters without the full context/in a vacuum. I appreciate your follow-up, and I hope others who have commented on this thread chime in on it, too, because I think a lot of the things you raise are important and also probably more relatable than you realize! I think your letter definitely speaks to more than just 10 people. I think that finding community and welcoming queer spaces is often more complicated and harder work than it’s sometimes made out to be.

      I do think therapy could help, especially if there are broader social traumas at play. There’s still the issue of there not being a lot of queer nerdy spaces in your community (if I’m understanding that correctly), but I do think approaching the bigger picture of mental health, socializing, and healing from trauma could help a lot in terms of feeling more comfortable in certain social settings.

      Moving to a new city in the middle of the pandemic is also a really hard thing. I similarly moved to a city where I know no one this past fall, and it has taken a larger toll on my mental health than I initially realized. I empathize, and I also think the sad truth is that that won’t get any easier until things (safely) open up more again. It’s so hard to meet people regionally without being able to go to in-person events (in my case, I would normally meet new people in a new place through literary events). Which is all to say that the global pandemic has absolutely exacerbated a lot of social anxieties and feelings of isolation for a lot of people. This is another thing you could possible explore in therapy if you’re open to it.

      I know it’s not connected to your eventual endgoal of meeting women to date, but I’d also like to say that you shouldn’t be hard on yourself for choosing to talk to the gay man at the party about Brandon Sanderson. Sometimes dating/meeting people works in funny ways. Expanding your social circle in ANY way (like bonding with gay men over nerdy interests) could lead to meeting new people eventually. I do wish you luck <3

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