Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Finding a BF

Maybe it's because I've been out for 20 years, maybe it's because I've raised children, maybe it's because my manly ways inspire confidence :-), but for whatever reason a lot of younger guys have asked me for advice over the years. The most common question is "How do I find a boyfriend?"

Here's what I know about this topic.

Note: Please stop reading here if you might be offended by a discussion of gay dating. I completely respect your religious beliefs and am not advocating that you make any of the life choices that I have. In particular, I respect your choice to A) be celibate or B) be part of a mixed-orientation marriage. This post is for those who might be curious about what option C entails.

When you first come out, entering the dating scene can be daunting. I think there are four reasons for this:

  • Gay adolescence. I've blogged about this here. The gist is that most gay people start dating much later than the average straight person. As a result no matter what age you are, you will have the responses of a 16 year old when you get started with your first same-sex dating experiences. Infatuation can be intense, and you may want to marry the first man who smiles at you.

  • Social awkwardness. It's not uncommon for people just coming out to be emerging from a long period of celibacy. Perhaps you find yourself in your mid-twenties or beyond without any sexual experience at all. If this happens to you, you're a bit behind the curve and need some time to figure out the basics.

  • Unfamiliarity with gay social norms. Like any culture, gay culture has its own social conventions. These are probably unfamiliar to you when you come out and start dating. You may feel like the new kid.

  • The blank page problem. If you've come out, especially in the Mormon context, you've had to make some big changes in your thinking and your social support system. You feel great that you've turned over a new leaf, but the page following is blank. Where do you start?


  • Like job hunting and heterosexual dating, same-sex dating is all about connections. The best source of leads is through the social connections you already have. The trouble is that you may not have a lot of social connections if you've just come out. So rule number one of gay dating is:

    1. Get some gay friends.

    You need to expand your social circle to include people who might know eligible single gay men. This leads to rule number two:

    2. Join in some gay social activities or do some volunteer work.

    When I came out, I did not know any gay people and had just moved from Cache Valley to Salt Lake. I started by doing some volunteer work, in my case, with the Utah AIDS Foundation. In less than a year I had a decent circle of friends that included many gay people. (I also learned a lot more about illness and grief than I bargained for, but I was the better for it in the end.) One of my friends introduced me to the person who became my boyfriend.

    The point of this story is that sometimes looking for a boyfriend isn't the best way to get one. Sometimes just engaging yourself in a social circle may be the best place to start. I mention this because it is common that people who have just come out need to start over socially. You need to factor this into your plans.

    In the city where I live there are all kinds of gay activities and clubs. There's a gay hiking club, a big gay men's chorus (no, I don't live in Provo), country/western dancing and even gay karaoke. There are gay-friendly churches to attend. There are political and social service volunteer opportunities. If you have fingers and can use an Internet search engine, you can find some kind of gay social activity. (Apologies in advance to readers in Iran and Vernal.)

    So get out there and have some fun and meet some people. Remember: your goal isn't necessarily to date the people you meet at these activities. Instead, it is to develop a social network.

    3. You can also meet people online. This is incredibly popular.

    Online dating has an undeservedly bad reputation. Online dating is just another way to meet people. It's not as good as personal introduction by friends, but it's not bad either.

    Let me stand on a soapbox for a moment. I get peeved when people paint gay folks as uncaring sexual libertines. This is a lie. In fact, gay people run the same gamut of personality as straight people. From sociopaths to saints, you'll find them in about the same proportion. (My boyfriend, for example, radiates wholesomeness.)

    There is a myth that everyone online is just looking for sex and may be a dangerous predator. This just isn't true. There are all kinds of people online. You're online, for example.

    Here's a tip: if you use a social networking site to find dates, make sure your own profile is accurate. Say that you are new to gay dating. Say that you are more interested in dating than casual sex. Let the reader get a sense of who you are and what you're about. People will usually respect what you say.

    The protocol for meeting someone online is to chat with them via IM several times before meeting in person. During the chat sessions you should get acquainted and get the basic questions answered. If you think there might be chemistry, the next step is to meet them in public (for example, in a coffee shop) just to chat. This meeting is not a date; it's a chance to talk face to face and get introduced. It should be brief, no longer than a half hour or so.

    If the in-person meeting goes well, then you can schedule a date. From this point on, online dating becomes indistinguishable from any other kind of introduction.

    A popular gay social networking site is gay.com. There are others, including myspace and even blogspot.

    4. Cool your jets.
    Dating your first guy will be exhilarating. You may fall in love quickly (see gay adolescence above). Your hormones are playing tricks on you. Cool it.

    Do not jump headfirst into a relationship. Take your time. I cringe when I hear about first dates that turn into weekends spent together. This kind of instant connection is a recipe for disaster. Instant relationships burn out. I don't know why it works like this, but it does. I've seen it happen many times.

    Take your time. If you like someone after a first date, schedule a second date within a week (but not the next day). If things go well, see them once or twice a week. Let the relationship build over time.

    You may be tempted to go faster than this. Don't.

    Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limerence. Then reread it.

    5. Be safe
    I hope this doesn't even need saying, but here goes. If you decide to have sex you are responsible for preventing the spread of sexually transmitted disease. There are many online resources if you are unsure how to do this.

    6. Sexual attraction is just one piece of the picture.
    You should be looking for a guy you can respect. You should have common interests and compatible personalities. You want someone who might be a friend even if he was not your lover. This is just common sense.

    Good luck. Does anyone have any dating tips or experiences to share? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

    7 comments:

    playasinmar said...

    I thought there was an Iran-Vernal link.

    Sean said...

    this is good dating advice regardless of the gender involved.

    Switch said...

    Pretty thorough post. *tips hat*

    My experience is still fairly limited. I'm no expert, but here's my two cents..

    {plink, plink}

    I came out and started dating at 22 years old. And yep.. I was pretty juvenile about it. That "Limerence" article describes it precisely enough. ;) It's something I still struggle with a little. Occasionally I still have to stop and concentrate on "cooling my jets".

    I dated some genuine assholes at first. It took a long time to figure out what I like and don't like in a significant other, and to establish my "acceptable" and "not acceptable" boundaries.

    Advice: Don't get discouraged if the first few people you date don't work out. Remember, the straight kids got a big head-start with the whole high school and college dating scenes where relationships weren't expected to last for more than a few weeks. ;)

    I've been seeing my current BF for about a year now. We met in person for the first time in August '06. We'd been writing back and forth online for a few months prior to that.

    I'd recommend Connexion.org. It's "cleaner" than a lot of other dating sites.

    I think it's pretty crucial when BF hunting to find someone who's interests and values are compatible with your own.

    In my case, we established early on that we didn't want an "open" relationship. We're both computer geeks, and he's a talented and capable companion for most of my favorite video games. =)

    Stuff like this, you can list as clearly as you please on your online profile. It makes it easier for people with similar standards to find you.

    I went the online route. The more "social" means of meeting guys never worked particularly well for me. But hey.. I'm a geek. My boyfriend is a (*cough* damn sexy, *cough*) geek. It worked for us.

    Edgy said...

    I'll second the Connexion recommendation.

    One thing that I would more explicitly emphasize (because you're implicit in your statement of it, but my current experience has demonstrated that it needs to be explicitly stated) is to get involved in activities that you enjoy. Don't get involved in the Utah AIDS Foundation just because you know you'll meet gay people there if you don't have it in you to minister to and attend to those who may be terminally ill.

    In my case, I started dating my ex because he was a) rather hot and b) a dancer. One of the many things I discovered over the course of the relationship is that I (and consequently we) would have been better off if he had been a) rather hot and b) a reader. Because books are more important to me than dancing.

    MoHoHawaii said...

    Edgy-- Good advice. I actually enjoyed my volunteer work at the AIDS foundation. I learned a lot and felt like I could make a difference in people's lives. It was definitely a good (sometimes almost holy) experience, even if it was painful to witness so much illness and grief.

    Switch-- Thanks for sharing. I agree that online dating is efficient... you can meet a lot of people quickly and sort through profiles to find possible matches. I think it's *safer* than some other forms of dating because you get a chance to know someone a bit via e-mail and chat before you even meet them in person.

    Mr. Fob said...

    Thanks for the excellent advice. I will keep this all in mind as I'm building a social network and in a few months when I'm ready to start dating.

    I will say, though, that if you want to dash the illusion of gay men as sexual libertines, you should stay away from the men-seeking-men personals on Craigslist.

    Switch said...

    "I will say, though, that if you want to dash the illusion of gay men as sexual libertines, you should stay away from the men-seeking-men personals on Craigslist."

    Yeah, I got all offended at first when I noticed that the "men seeking men" section was the only one with an adult content warning.

    Then I saw why. Heh.

    Not that gay men are the only ones.. the women just keep them in check. ;)

    AdultFriendFinder, anyone?