Dating in the queer world involves complicated hurdles to go through, hurdles that aren’t imposed on straight dating. Queer dating is a victim of judgment, fear, hatred and harm. While our local community of Redwood City is progressive, homophobia tends to lurk around keeping queer love from reaching its full potential.
As queer teens grow up with the realization that queer dating is not all sunshine and rainbows, their picture-perfect love stories remain practically unattainable through realistic means. This is a result of ongoing issues such as homophobia, expectations stemming from social pressures derived by family, media, etc.
The impact unwelcome harassment has had on queer dating will be long-lasting. Society has made it extra difficult for queer teens to get into romantic relationships that we all deserve to have without judgment, oppressive behaviors, family exclusion and hate crimes.
“Straight dating is definitely more socially accepted and easier, I hate to say that but it just is because it’s the social norm. It’s like you can have a crush on someone and have something happen fairly easily. At least compared to if you were queer,” senior Sarah Suarez said, a student who’s been in heterosexual relationships.
For queer teens, the journey for love will almost always be a weary one. Throughout history, society has been accommodating to straight relationships that overall fit the standard and norm imposed by our culture. Being straight is generally considered the default, so dating in the straight world doesn’t often require playing guessing games with someone’s sexuality or having to ask someone if they’re straight or queer. So of course, since most people are heterosexual, and many queer people are not out, it is more difficult to find people around you to date.
Unfortunately for the LGBT+ community, the end goal of true acceptance still has a long way to go. While many classrooms around Sequoia campus wave around pride flags to show acceptance and display forms of progression, majority of people have always struggled to be accepting of queer relationships in which they have no business to talk down upon or intervene in any way.
“I’ve had people say [homophobic] things to my partner and me before when we are minding our own business,” senior Sheila Perez said, a queer student who has been in queer relationships. “You have to be very careful in who you confide in, I mean I’m pretty out but every once in a while I see people making weird remarks at me and it reminds me that not everyone is accepting.”
Romantic films have played an immense role in queer dating as well. Film in general has been very hetero-centric throughout the decades. While heterosexual audiences have gotten the luxury to see a relationship that fits the straight standards play out in film, queer audiences for a long time have felt sidelined and unrepresented.
“I think heterosexual norms are always being represented whether it is through video content or couples in the public eye. The more we can [publicize] queer couples and experiences, the more we will be able to make them visible and give queer communities hope,” Kristen Anthony said, IB English teacher who identifies as queer.
Critiques and perspectives in terms of queer relationships will always be in play, however, some of these opinions stem mainly from an intention to censor and oppress. At what point do we just have to accept that queer people exist and seeing themselves be represented is not only vital to queer audiences, but to straight as well?
Surplus amounts of straight romance films have often shown a standard in which many queer people don’t seem to fit. Not only does film in general have the power to impose positive morals and ideals, but it has the ammunition to do the opposite as well. Straight romance films also tend to portray very stereotypical forms of gender identity, such as a cliché macho man saving the pretty and pink princess’ day.
“Seeing romances on TV just didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t want to be a damsel in distress or only care about superficial things, which was how women were presented in these relationships,” Leah Thomas said, a queer and engaged Biology teacher.
However, boundaries that confine gender identity and queer romance have been gradually shutting down to allow more representation. Tremendous progress has been made but there is still so much more to do, especially more to do correctly.
“I’ve noticed that a lot of things seem heavily based on stereotypes based on behavior. Things that concern me for teenagers are these ideas of how people are supposed to act,” Thomas said. “Teenagers and adults both kind of have a hard time identifying what they want personally, versus what society wants for them.”
The yearning for queer representation in film is mainly for a hope to spark, to finally see queer romance normalized and to help those who are ignorant, view queer dating as average and less taboo. Never seeing someone in a queer film have a love story just isn’t right and often makes queer teens feel hopeless. The power that the lack of representation has, along with societal norms, can very easily make queer dating even more troublesome.
“When there isn’t mainstream queer media, it can be really alienating for a queer person. There is a hunger for queer representation and I definitely feel that,” Anthony said.
There has been a big cultural shift in California which we can’t ignore. Films in general, such as “Love, Simon,” “Booksmart” and “Call Me By Your Name,” have finally started to highlight queer romance and allow both audiences and producers to craft a love story in which a queer person won’t have to feel like a happy romance is only for straight people.
After having such a lack of representation over the years… we are now faced with a lot of misrepresentation. Many times, shows portray queer dating as being as easy as straight dating. It’s good to frequently show diverse relationships to cement in people’s heads that queer love is here to stay, but we also want queer love to be more genuine, real and raw.
“I think one of the things that a show like ‘She-Ra’ did right was that it wasn’t just two lesbians who were magically going to date. It isn’t just the one lesbian who’s with the other lesbian, queer people come in a pack,” Thomas said.
Queer media has done a good enough job to get out the fact that queer love is here, but it is not uncommon that queer films fall short, not being genuine enough, and subsequently leaving impressionable queer teens to feel as though love is not attainable for them.
“Any relationship in [any] queer movie or story is totally about them being gay. I have never seen a queer couple that’s genuinely, solely just like any other straight couple in the media, except it’s two women or two men or two non-binary people or anything,” senior Nicole Miller said, queer student. “It’s always about being queer or coming out, or it always fits that sort of storyline. And honestly these producers probably think what they’re doing is so good because queer people are seeing themselves in the media but, I don’t.”
It furthers the question if straight people are even paying attention. Or perhaps just catering for the sake of tokenization. Dating is a process, but for queer people, it is just a more difficult thing to achieve.
It can be extremely difficult for queer people, more so queer teens to find someone to potentially start a relationship with. Because of this, many in the community turn to online spaces, oftentimes unsafe to find a partner.
“I think the positive of online dating for queer people is that if they live in an area where there’s not a huge fully supportive LGBT+ community that maybe they can find a date more easily online,” Thomas said.
While many positive online communities could give queer teens a place of refuge, the intense feelings of desperation many queer teens feel often leads them to venture into less positive and safe spaces online. Since the majority of online spaces aren’t specifically catering towards queer people seeking a relationship, especially underaged teens, many feel the need to look in spaces where they feel they may have more luck.
“I think it’s very sad that some younger queer teens go into these adult dating apps because they feel hopeless, either because they don’t really know anyone else who is queer in their school or maybe just don’t know because others haven’t come out yet,” Suarez said.
History has shown the queer community to be strong-willed and to keep pushing towards the end goal of acceptance. While we have made undeniable progress over the years, being queer is still, to this day looked down upon.
Queer teens can’t really go up to a person and ask for their number or ask them on a date. A lingering voice of anxiety, shame and fear to a possibility of harm will reside in the back of their heads.
This creates a lot of vulnerability. The fear that homophobia incites does not allow for queer teens to find other queer teens in public spaces. Many times queer teens are pulled into adult dating apps because of how much easier it is to find someone, this yearning can lead to low self-esteem and negative states of mind, this can provoke a lot of possible dangers such as rape, assault, kidnapping and trafficking.
“I taught in San Francisco and I would notice that students who were not publicly out, but were to me, would kind of whisper in between classes about being on Tinder and stuff like that. I mean it is dangerous first of all because you’re underage and you’re using this website where people might think you’re a different age than you are,” Thomas said. “Beyond that there is vulnerability in being a young person who is in a relationship with an older person, since you sort of have to lie to be on these websites then you might end up with someone who is 25 or 26 and has money and power over you. It can lead to something more dangerous. Adults can prey on people who are younger.”
Many queer teens don’t have the luxury to go on and about their lives with dating, too many times queer teens are left hopeless and feeling undesirable because of what society has confined gender identity and sexuality in.
“I hope people are being careful because you have to be aware that these teens could be hurt and are most likely in a state of depression,” Perez said. “There is a lot of internal dangers too, a lot of manipulation that can happen online and it is very easy for queer teens to get taken advantage of.”
Due to the limited amount of support that the queer community gets, it is very easy for them to spiral down this rabbit hole and construct a lot of their self-image through very manipulative types of people who take advantage of minors.
“You’re pushed into peripheries even digitally and you find yourself navigating like the ether in ways that you know you probably shouldn’t be, but also shouldn’t have to be, all I can do is empathize,” Anthony said.
Hate crimes often rear their ugly heads when it comes to queer dating. Homophobia runs rampant throughout local areas very predominantly to a point where straight people have used queer dating apps to lure members of the LGBT+ community to harass, humiliate and harm them.
“It seems scary to go on queer dating apps because the other person behind the phone could just be this very vicious homophobe [masquerading] themselves as queer to attract actual queer people just to assault them and even in some instances, kill them,” Suarez said.
There has been an allotted amount of coverage and reporting on these types of situations, very recently on Oct. 14, an article published on USA Today reported that a Texas man with accomplices has used apps such as “Grindr” to draw gay men and hold them to gunpoint, assault them and rob them.
These issues course throughout daily life either to or not to our knowledge, however, the reality is that queer people will often be unsafe when looking for relationships or casual meet-ups.
“I’m really scared [for] some queer teens. I’ve seen on the news that this queer person had scars all over him because he was tricked into a date when the other person was really just trying to harm them,” Suarez said.
It’s heartbreaking how queer people face tribulations such as these involving their personal romances and lives that certain people feel the need to do harm to. An article published on the Human Rights Campaign website titled “New FBI Hate Crimes Report Shows Increases in Anti-LGBTQ Attacks,” shows that a little over a year ago, hate crimes among LGBT+ people have increased. In the article, recent reports show hate crimes are based on sexual orientation with 16.7 percent while another research shows an increase in gender identity-based hate crimes rising from 2.2 percent in 2018 to 2.7 percent in 2019.
Transgender individuals face possibly the hardest situations when it comes to seeking love and just existing. Another article published by the HRC shows that as of October of 2021, at least 41 transgender and or gender non-conforming individuals had been killed or assaulted.
The LGBT+ community faces possibilities of death, assault and discrimination because they alone are perceived differently. These types of perceptions lead to catastrophic consequences, consequences that float within the head of queer youth when not only looking for a relationship, but also being in fear of just being who they are.
You can’t say all lives matter and then turn around and be homophobic, or in that matter feel as if anyone else’s lives mean less because of race, sexuality, etc.
Something that happens quite often in queer dating is where straight people feel the need to matchmake queer people together.
“It is pretty annoying when a straight friend pushes you to go talk to this other person solely because they’re queer, it is better if it’s just mentioned but when it is very pushy then it feels so forced, almost as if they’re playing cupid and it is just really frustrating,” Perez said. “Just because they’re queer or match my sexual orientation, it doesn’t mean I’m automatically attracted to them. They’re a complete stranger, it is very weird behavior for friends to play cupid in [queer] scenarios.”
Queer relationships aren’t flowers just waiting to be blossomed by anyone else’s gardening, being queer doesn’t automatically link two queer people together nor does it allow heterosexual people to make any decisions for queer people in terms of their own dating.
While these suggestions can come from good intentions, such as hoping to see queer family or friends fulfill the desire to form relationships, there resides ignorance behind these initiatives because it isn’t taking into account all of the aspects that go into starting a relationship, especially in the shoes of a queer person.
Though this experience can be frustrating, the idea that a queer teen needs to date the only other queer person in their area, can extend to queer teens themselves as well.
“There [aren’t] many people to date, I have a lot of queer friends who are always saying there is no one queer in my school to date and I relate to that,” Perez said. “The main reason I really dated someone [queer] was practically because they were, at the time, the only person I knew who was queer and close to me.”
After facing the difficulty of finding a partner in the first place; once you do finally find another queer person that you feel a genuine connection towards, and decide to start a relationship with, there is the possibility that they aren’t out.
This additional hurdle makes queer relationships all the more challenging. With the issue of telling others about your relationship, specifically family, a new, happy relationship can very quickly turn into a stressful one.
“Queer dating is more taboo, I mean you can have a partner but if they’re closeted then it is a completely different story,” Perez said. “It makes me feel like maybe they’re ashamed of me and then it’s going to be even more complicated with their family.”
Being in a relationship with someone who isn’t out can not only leave their partner feeling as though they may not be enough, but can also pose an issue in terms of family dynamic.
“My parents for sure aren’t very accepting, even if I was interested in a girl, I don’t think I could ever introduce her to them or vice versa,” Suarez said. “History has built a predetermined idea in dating which isn’t very progressive with queers and those ideas I find instilled in my parents.”
Even if your identity is not something you explicitly have to hide from your family, the experience of telling them still has the potential to be awkward, uncomfortable and at times dangerous.
“I think a lot of people have trouble telling their parents about their significant others, just because it’s an awkward thing. In my case it was especially awkward and uncomfortable, not because it was a queer relationship, it just wasn’t something my parents expected to hear about or encounter,” Miller said.
Coming out alone will always play a big role in the LGBT+ experience. Being straight eliminates the need to come out. Queer teens that come into question of queer identity oftentimes experience a new sense of self-image that poses itself as a challenge to overcome and accept. Dating single-handedly becomes one of the more weary topics queer people often face.
“A lot of my own struggles have to do with internalized homophobia, since I grew up in a very conservative family I considered myself straight, but when I found myself attracted to another woman, my own sense of self-identity was thrown up into the air. I had to dismantle, reconstruct and accept my new identity,” Anthony said. “Being able to come out to friends and family and saying ‘Hey guess what, I’m experiencing this really new and exciting but also scary change, I’m attracted to a woman.’ Having to explain that to them and even in some instances negotiate with those who were encouraging or fearful was hard as well.”
Family acceptance is something many strive for, but what happens when a homophobic family sees their child with another queer person, dynamics are completely transformed and turned upside down. Parents could be unsupportive of queer dating and express it through harmful means, queer teens could be physically abused, kicked out and ignored by family.
“My cousin came out and all of my family looked down on her for it. When she came to family reunions and brought her girlfriend, no family members talked to them and they wouldn’t even look at her. This is a family member and they’re treating her like this just because she is queer,” Suarez said. “A lot of the fear and trauma of being sexually attracted to either the same sex or just someone queer, doesn’t apply to straight people.”
Queer dating to many queer people is a struggle to have to tell family, the job falls onto the queer individual to really prove and justify to, not so understanding family members. Having to teach, hope and find levels within family about queer love will always be a struggle that straight people don’t typically have to deal with.
As accepting and endearing as films like “Love, Simon” or “Alex Strangelove” portray queer dating to be, with its limits of course, there is just a much more raw and real side about queer dating that often feels swept under the rug or just not celebrated as much. Films like “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” and “God’s Own Country” portray much darker scenarios as well as what it is like to navigate within our, typically homophobic and gender-conforming society. These types of movies aren’t as recognized nor celebrated enough as it’s happier counterpart set of films.
Matters, such as how queer teens are often pushed to online dating and face a new set of dangers, or being tricked and bullied because of who they love and want to date and or having the fear of being hate crimed or murdered. These are the type of aspects that straight dating doesn’t face that queer dating comes across on a daily basis.
Queer dating has been sidelined from hope and representation as well, however now that there is more conversation about it, there are many old and new issues that arise. Issues that can be avoided by treating queer people like they’re normal and exist with a valuable purpose just like anyone else.
Homophobia, carelessness and socially accepted films have stigmatized queer dating for far too long, to a point that queer dating always seems different and full of taboos to delve into. What is presented on silver screens creates a dissonance on how queer teens experience hardships within their families. Thus creating stigma within queer dating that must be put to an end.
The worldwide issue of homophobia is coercing the LGBT+ community and preventing queer relationships to bloom as normally compared to heterosexual relationships. You see these coercions implimented in media and you also hear about these coercions happen in real life, coercions consisting of murder, traps, homophobia and hatred. All of these contribute to the fact that queer dating is chained to a wall, in a seemingly never ending attempt to break their bounds in order to fit the standard and simplicity of straight relationships.
“I still don’t see a lot of [public queer] dating necessarily because I think people are still pretty uncomfortable with that. I’ve seen here and there more people holding hands with their partner and talking about dating, which didn’t happen a lot during my time in high school,” Thomas said. “But I think now the perception is that queer dating is the exact same thing as straight dating and I think that isn’t always true. There is a lot of backlash to people whose relationships look different or act differently and so it’s like people are only accepting one type.”