You Need Help: You’re New to the Queer Dating Scene, Do You Need to Change Yourself?

Q:

I recently ended a relationship with my first female partner after we dated for a year, and I finally feel ready to get back into the dating scene; the catch is that I’m crippled with insecurity. I’m femme and identify as queer. I dated men as a teenager because I didn’t think there was another option, and I feel like any “bi” tendencies I still have are me struggling to shake off this reflexive patriarchal validation I get from men finding me attractive. I want to date girls, but I also like to wear dresses, wear my hair long, and be coy to flirt with people, which means I present as very “straight.” And my history makes it complicated too – my straight friends think that my ex was just an experiment and are always try to set me up with men, and the advice my gay friends give me – acting more aggressive towards women, hiding the fact that I’ve dated men before, dressing differently – I know is well-intentioned, but doesn’t feel honest to me. I want to be able to just be myself and still attract women, even to be friends with me, but I feel like I receive a lot of skepticism from both sides, and it’s making me feel like trying to date at all is kind of pointless right now. Is it?

Q:

I need help! I am in my late 20s and just realized I’m queer. Totally hype to be joining the club but I’m having a sex appeal crisis! I am a fat person, which added an extra dimension of horrible to my pre-queer dating life in re: fatphobia . Now I’m wondering, will it be the same with women?? Are queer women into fat queer women? Are they into fat queer women with no experience?? Should I stop wondering if it’s gonna be horrible and just try it anyway? Are these stupid questions??! Ahhhh!!!

A:

It might not seem it right away, but these two questions actually share most of the same answers! They’re both from people who are entering the queer dating scene, but are nervous that who they are will stop other queer women from wanting to date them. They’re both from people who seem like they’re cool and genuine people who would be great people to flirt with. So I’m going to answer these together.

First I want to say to question asker #1 congratulations on deciding to get back into dating! That takes a lot of bravery and is one of the hardest steps in finding a partner. To question asker #2 I say: these aren’t stupid questions! This makes a ton of sense and I remember having these exact fears just a couple of years ago.

On one hand, the biggest piece of advice I’m going to give you is to stay yourself. The cool thing about being a part of the queer community is that we all get to be our most authentic selves. It sucks that your friends are telling you that you need to change who you are in order to please potential partners and that you’re afraid being fat will make it so you can’t find someone, but I think in reality you’ll find that most queer women will appreciate you being genuine and real about who you are. Queer people are generally a lot better than straight people at challenging traditional beauty standards and not falling into the traps and pitfalls of those standards (although of course not perfect). We’re a community that often bonds around being different and feeling judged for who we are, so I find that most people are more understanding. I think you’ll have a much better time dating women than dating men.

This might be wishful thinking, but I’d like to believe that biphobia is on the decline. Not only does it feel like more and more people happy to have their bisexual siblings in the queer family, but I think more and more people are identifying as bi or queer. Despite what your friends have said, I think you’ll find friends and partners who have the same history of dating men that you do; it’s not uncommon or shameful. You can even commiserate over it together! I think the same goes for fatphobia. Body positivity movements are popular in queer circles, and you can definitely date a fellow fat person and talk about your shared experiences with fatphobia. Also, believe me, there are a significant number of queer women who are looking for femme women and fat women to date! People are into all sorts of people and you’ll find plenty of people who will initiate flirting with you.

Question asker #1, It seems like you’re pretty comfortable with your flirting style, which honestly puts you miles ahead of most queer women in that department. You can keep using it! Believe me, girls will blush if you do any kind of flirting with them no matter how coy. Instead of changing who you are to fit in, think about things you like that can help signify queerness and an eagerness to date. If you’re interested, there are lots of feminine looks that are also very visibly queer. A nice ringer tee paired with a skirt and a dad hat is a look that definitely reads queer; same thing goes for bomber jackets over a dress and adding a bandana around the neck with any dress or outfit. Dying your hair a fun blue, purple or pink or getting a nose ring or tattoo can also help. What about a small and cute rainbow tattoo somewhere? It’s sometimes helpful to see these little signs to help you figure out which girls you can flirt with, so if any of these sound like they’d be keeping with who you are and how you want to present, you could try them.

Person #2, I’m a fat person too! And believe me I get that fatphobia and self doubt. I came out as trans when I was 25 and then didn’t kiss my first girl until I was 30. That was largely because I didn’t have much experience and I was afraid people wouldn’t like me because I’m fat. But you know what, in real life, most people are really, really unsure of what they’re doing no matter how much experience they have. They’re scared too. People are weird and feelings are weird and sex is weird. Also, not gonna lie, just a lot of queer women don’t start dating and don’t get experience sleeping with other women until later in life. Homophobia and heteronormativity make it so that lots of people don’t come out until their twenties, so you’re far from the only person in your boat. A friend of mine told me, “things will happen when the time is right. There’s no standard on what that timing should be,” and I’ve found that to be exceedingly true. People come out when they come out, and they get experience when they get experience.

I’ve been where both of you are! I’ve given myself an undercut hoping it would make me look more queer. I’ve worried that I’d have to lose weight to get a girlfriend. But you know what? I’m more femme and more fat and more bi than I’ve ever been and I’m in a super happy relationship. There are people out there for you, I promise. You might not find them right away, but believe me, there are queers of all sizes, histories and types, and there are queers who like all sizes, histories and types.


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Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 574 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. There are people out there for you, I promise. You might not find them right away, but believe me, there are queers of all sizes, histories and types, and there are queers who like all sizes, histories and types.

    So true!

  2. I love all of this advice!!! Also- Mey is correct, there are definitely people out there in the same boat as you and you can find them and bond over it.

    It IS getting better, but, and this is just my own experience so obviously I cant speak for everyone- there are still some people out there who will hurt your feelings or disappoint you. I had a few bad experiences with biphobic women when trying to date women for the first time as an adult after being with the same man for most of my 20s- and you just have to remember if you find yourself in that situation that it’s a reflection of that person’s own issues, not yours, be thankful to have eliminated another person who isn’t right for you, and hold out for the one that is! Don’t waste your time with dating someone who seems to be merely “tolerating” your bisexuality or wants you to hide it. You deserve love and acceptance for exactly who you are. and you will find it!!!!

    Also also. My current gf and I are both bisexual and a few months into dating we figured out that we went on the SAME EXACT bad date with the SAME EXACT biphobic woman, and it felt so shitty to both of us at the time…but now this shared experience bonds us. We understand each other in a very special way. So. Things have a way of working themselves out!

    PS. I wish I would have had a canned response for biphobia on dates. When it first started happening on dates with women, I would have conversations, give benefit of the doubt, even though I was offended and hurt I would try to understand where they were coming from…but now i’m like, not my problem. I wish I would have just said “Thats a deal breaker for me. I need to be with someone who loves and accepts me for who I am, and who is secure enough to be able to trust someone” and moved on.

    • Just want to echo this from AbieYakYak:

      “Don’t waste your time with dating someone who seems to be merely “tolerating” your bisexuality or wants you to hide it. You deserve love and acceptance for exactly who you are. and you will find it!!!!”

      If have to change your clothes, your identity, your hair, or anything else about yourself for your friends or for a date to accept you, then these people are really failing you. There’s no question you will run into people who are biphobic, fatphobic, racist, and awful in other ways, but it’s totally ok to turn THEM down. It took me a few years to learn that the hard way – it’s ok to be discerning, to want to be with people who share your values, and to want a partner with mutual respect.

    • As a femme person, I get really insecure. There are certain “standards” that are upheld in the queer community of “how to look queer” and they often don’t allow for gender expression as a high femme. Yes, SOCIETY tells us we are hot, but QUEER society? Not always!! Often we’re told we have to change in order to “signal.” It’s a hard message to combat for those of us who are bisexual, femme, and really REALLY want to date women.

    • “you have the whole of society telling you you’re hot!”

      Not necessarily, that only applies to a very specific image of femme. As far as I can tell, society certainly isn’t telling black femmes, trans femmes, or fat femmes that message.

  3. Not feeling queer enough is such a particular, and particularly damaging, struggle.
    It’s something I’m still (always) dealing with, despite having purple hair, an undercut, a nose ring, and a tattoo. (brb busy living the cliché.)

  4. I hope LW #1 does not change herself and puts up a profile ASAP because there are a bunch of us out here waiting for someone just like her!

    Yes, I’m someone who dates femmes and I’m bisexual. It was a real revelation to be in a relationship with another bisexual. We could go to dinner. We could agree the waiter was hot…and nobody had to go into therapy! I joke, but having a relationship that was free of biphobia and the biphobic anxiety (‘I’m not enough for you/you’re gonna leave me for THE OTHER KIND’) was just totally life affirming. 10/10 would recommend. LW, get out there & date. The world needs you just the way you are.

  5. I think this kind of stuff is pretty common. I often feel like I need to do something to look gayer, too, but I can’t think of anything I actually want to do, and I don’t want to change my look and potentially feel uncomfortable just so I’ll ping more. I’m a lesbian who doesn’t really wear makeup (unless I’m going somewhere fancy) and dresses mostly in jeans and a t-shirt, hoodie, and sneakers. I don’t think I look overly straight, but I do have long wavy straight girl hair that might be throwing people off. I think people just assume I’m a tomboy or something. I probably need to get over my insecurity and hit on more girls, but that’s easier said than done!

  6. Please don’t get a tattoo to fit in. A lot of people genuinely love having tattoos, but they are permanent, so you should think really carefully about if you want one and then, if you do, start with something personally meaningful that you’re doing for yourself.

    Also, while alternative fashion is one way to signal your queerness (and something I really enjoy personally), you don’t need to dress a certain way to let people know you’re queer. If you want to continue dressing the way you do now, small accessories like jewelry or pins can get the message across, and generally come in styles that go well with whatever you like to wear.

  7. For #1 – yeah, I’m not in favour of changing your look unless you actually want to change it. I have tattoos myself, but honestly, we don’t actually need any more unicorn, rainbow (or, if you’re my vintage) labrys tattoos in the world.

    Then again, if you want a tattoo, sure, get one. If you’ve been a bit worried about that alt-lifestyle haircut, but you REALLY want one, get one.

    I’m a butch woman, so it’s easy for me to say not to bother too much with your image. But I also prefer femme partners and the way they look. I also happen to think it’s really important we have a diversity of presentation in our communities (it’s not just about meeeee and my preferences).

    If you’re hanging out with other queer people, that’s #1 in finding queer dates. I mean, seriously, your friends should be telling their friends you’re DTF the ladies. That’s what queer friends are for – free advertising. Honestly, if someone is seeing you around at multiple social events with lots of queers and they’re not getting the message, they’re pretty damn clueless.

    Secondly, flirting is awesome – keep on with that.

    All that said, though, an unfortunate reality of looking femme or even “straight” is that sometimes you do have to do a bit more work on making your signals clear (especially for people like me who can be completely clueless about hot people wanting to date them). You don’t have to suddenly become all aggressive in your dating style, but you can lay it out there. TELL someone you’re interested you’d love to grab a coffee, watch a movie, even (yikes) go on a date with them – whatever that’s pretty obviously one-on-one.

    One thing about today is that you don’t need to be all coy about dropping hints about what music you like and who’s your favourite actress before you can feel confident about doing the big reveal. But you know, it is a way to do a “soft” coming-out without a big OMG I’M GAI PLZ DATE ME if you say things like, “I really loved that Pynk music video – I’d have loved to be in Tessa Thompson’s place when she appeared between Janelle’s thighs!”

    And a lecture for my more “queer-looking” siblings – get some gonads and don’t assume that “straight-looking” people are in fact straight. If you think someone is hot, ask them out. If I’m getting friendly flirting signals from someone, and I’m interested, I find the best way to find out if THEY’RE interested is to ask them out (or snog them when we’re both a little drunk, but I don’t actually recommend that technique … I’ve been lucky so far that it’s always worked out).

    If you’re worried about being some “straight woman’s experiment”, well, it’s only happened once to me, and I’ve been dating women for over 30 years. And to be honest, for me it was fine – it was just a fling anyway. If you feel like you want to be serious, cool, have the “do you see this being a long-term thing” discussion when it’s appropriate. It doesn’t actually matter how anyone identifies, if they are being open about your relationship with everyone in their lives and they’re not a homophobe (yes, homophobes do get into queer relationships – AVOID these people).

  8. This is so timely. My wardrobe is like a strange combo of softball lesbian stereotype and camping bum cowgirl. I’m comfortable like this, but I finally started packing for A-camp and suddenly like “Omg, omg! What should I wear? Are these overalls queer enough? Will they know I’m one of them?”

    Which seems ridiculous, because by definition everyone at camp is a part of this same super amazing community. But still – that need to prove one’s queerness is something that’s been drilled into me since I started transition.

    Among trans women, it’s not uncommon to be told, “You should do/wear/talk like/move like this (meaning adhering to cis-gender feminine stereotypes is desirable. Anything other, and you are “not trans enough” (their words, not mine). I’ve actually been kicked out of several trans groups here in town for that same reason – I don’t fit the feminine mold. And I think that scares and confuses people.

    Thankfully, I haven’t noticed that same level of judgment and exclusion in lesbian/bi circles. Still, it’s hard to shake. I think it stems from that deep desire for belonging – something I’ve never had before. But I have to keep reminding myself, “I’m going to have the time of my life, no matter what I wear. Auto-straddle is a safe, welcoming place. So I’ll wear what I want” <3

    P.s. I will say that sometimes not dressing/looking obviously queer while trying to enter the queer dating scene is tough! I was at a breakfast diner yesterday and this very obviously queer woman turned out to be my server. She kept giving me these looks (you know, THE look), and I felt a definite vibe, but I couldn't be sure. Then, I open up my silverware packet, and her name/number is written on the paper sleeve. As she walked away, I definitely saw a wink! So obviously what I'm doing is working, even if it's a more subtle approach ^__^

  9. Relate to both! I’m not bisexual, but I am femme. And not cute queer femme or standard attractive straight femme or hot high femme… Like just femme enough to look completely straight and boring. And I’m fat. And I never had problems dating. I’ve been married for almost 10 years to a super sexy and athletic masculine-of-center woman who gets hit on everywhere we go, honestly, and she still only has eyes for me. I did my dating when internet dating was still the thing (is it still?), which makes it easier to make sure you’re on the same page from the get-go (yes, I like women. yes, I’m interested in you.). But if I had dating to do over again, I would just go into it with more confidence about who I am and what I bring to the table. There is someone (or many someones) for everyone and I firmly believe that. Get out there and be confident in who you are and it’ll happen.

  10. I’m fat and femme and bi so hi yes I tick all these boxes!

    I haven’t had a whole lot of luck dating women, but that also has to do with not being outgoing enough and living in an area with a pretty low queer population. Although wlw are definitely more body positive, it’s still pretty common for me to get a lot less attention than my thin friends when we go to lez dance parties, but it’s nothing compared to going out with straight friends and feeling completely invisible 😬. Also people still definitely approach me to dance/makeout!

    You can do as much as you can to flag (short of wearing a rainbow pin) and people will still think you’re straight, that just kinda comes with being femme.

    So yes, I do think that being a fat and/or femme can make picking people up a bit more difficult if you aren’t naturally very outgoing but it’s not impossible at all and you shouldn’t change yourself to try and make it “easier” bc then you won’t be yourself!!

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