Building community is one of the most important aspects of queer identity. No matter where you fall on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, community is the glue that holds together the foundation of what it means to be queer. After all, community is where we find those people who later become our chosen family. Whether they’re friends, lovers, family, or a mix of all of the above, queer identity would not be the same without a sturdy foundation of community to tether us to one another.
But while this is all well and good, actually building it can be easier said than done—especially if you’re a more introverted person. At any given time, there’s a variety of queer events happening throughout the city, yet so much of them revolve around going out and interacting with a high volume of people. While some folks thrive in that kind of environment, this kind of high-energy interaction can leave us more introverted queers feeling… overwhelmed and disconnected, at best.
I’ve always been an introvert myself and while the search for community has led me to connect with a wide variety of people, it’s been exhausting trying to keep up with my more extroverted peers. I thrive on spending time alone, and being in large groups of people for extended periods of time can feel draining and overwhelming. For me, being able to balance community building with my own limitations as an introverted person is a constant challenge.
Dating as an introverted person comes with its own challenges: it can be hard to open up or find environments where you’re comfortable enough to meet people if bars and clubs aren’t your scenes. How do you find the compromise between being social enough to meet new people while also knowing your limitations when it comes to stimulation, interactions, and communication style? On the best day, this can be exhausting, especially because it takes away from me being able to enjoy the experience – instead I’m hyper-aware of my introversion.
This question doesn’t become easier to answer once you move outside of dating, either. Just meeting new friends or finding other queer folks to connect to is a tricky thing when you’re introverted. Though not every person’s introversion manifests in the same way, there are some consistencies across the board that can make it difficult to navigate.
So whether you’re introverted or just want to be more aware of the ways in which introverted people navigate community differently, here are some pointers to keep in mind that help introverted queers feel more comfortable to thrive and be their best selves! These are things that have helped me to find a better balance between the thing that I want to do and the things that I actually have the capacity for.
1. Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Whenever you’re throwing an event, “the more, the merrier” is usually the motto when it comes to how many guests attend. But that may not always be best if you’re looking to connect with or are more introverted. So when planning an event, keeping in mind the option for folks to engage in conversation in more intimate settings (like small tables or open rooms that are slightly away from the main event) can help. Also, if the event is already smaller in scope, to begin with, consider having name cards (including preferred pronouns) or questions prepared already to help break the ice.
These are things that I look for personally when I head out to events. I’ve been able to connect a lot better with other people when I’m able to connect with them outside of the hustle and bustle of the main event.
2. Consider Sober Meetups
What would a nightlife event be without a bar, you may be wondering. Drinking is so synonymous with going out and having fun that often, many people consider it to be a mandatory part of the going out experience. But when such high numbers of LGBTQ+ people struggle with addiction, having alcohol present at every event may not be the best thing.
There can be a lot of pressure for introverted folks to be “on” all the time—having sober meetups can help keep the event more low-key, and lessen the stress to keep up with a high energy event. This can also help everyone to be more relaxed and have conversation and connections appear naturally, rather than trying to keep up with the beat of the event. Some of my favorite events have happened when the expectation for fun has been outside of feeling expected to drink.
3. Don’t Overlook Lectures and Discussions
Fall is the best time to attend lectures and discussions at universities, lecture halls, and even bookstores. Many of them can be free or low-cost (under $20) to attend, and they can go a long way for us introverted folks. Having a focus can help to take the pressure off of them to keep the conversation flowing, and the lecture can spark a connection a lot easier than meeting at a club or concert—the ability to talk one-on-one with people who already have an interest in the speaker or event topic already keeps things off to a great start.
I love a good lecture, personally – and I’ve actually made some really good friends from bonding over political and social justice-oriented lectures.
4. Seek Others Where Your Interests Lie
This may be obvious, but some of the best connections happen when you’re in an environment where you already feel at ease and comfortable. For introverted people, this can go a long way in helping to put their nerves at ease and help to bring them out of their shell. If you’re into comics and feminist literature, it makes sense to spend more time at bookshops and reading clubs. But if you’re interests lie more with, say, sports and organizing, then finding events that focus more on that can also make an impact in helping to find your community.
It makes sense that when you’re trying to make friends, you want to bond over similar interests that you may have. So why not start where you’re already the most comfortable? For me, this included online Facebook groups – interacting online was already in my comfort zone and it was a lot easier to navigate being able to interact with different groups of people that way because I was already comfortable with the setting. It may seem small, but it does make a difference.
5. Be Open To New Experiences
While it’s important to be aware of our limitations and the things that we need to bring our best selves forward, sometimes it’s important that we stretch ourselves to move beyond our comfort zones. Pushing yourself to do something that seems scary, like attending a party with a friend, can lead to better connections and positive interactions than you think. If you’re more on the extroverted side of the spectrum, push yourself to reach out to the person who is keeping more to themselves or is not at the center of the fun. You could find yourself pleasantly surprised at what simply reach out first can do in terms of helping you to connect with new people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Building community is such an integral part of the queer experience, but we could be doing ourselves a disservice by keeping our circles only open to people like us. By stretching ourselves to meet folks in new spaces, who may have different ways of expressing themselves an communicating, can make for richer experiences and can begin a lasting relationship, no matter what form it takes.
So what are you waiting for?