The other day (like most days in my life) I received an urgent Facebook message from a lesbian in distress. I could feel the intensity of her frantic energy penetrate through the static of my laptop screen. She explained to me that she had finally, at the age of 31, come to terms with her sexuality. She was lesbian, baby.
And while she felt wildly relieved, she had subsequently never felt more lost, confused and shy in her entire life. She’d recently mustered up the courage to break the news to her two best straight friends, who bestowed her with nothing but their undying love and support, but were (to no fault of their own) completely and utterly clueless about the lesbian underworld she was about to enter.
Our girl had zero queer friends and the isolation was majorly bringing her down. She had even thrown herself out there and attended a soiree or two at her local LGBTQ center (in Long Island, for context) and had found that each event was either geared towards 21-year-old little queer kittens OR for the more seasoned lesbian 65+.
While she had absolutely no discrimination toward either age group she longed to find a group of queer women who were in places in their lives similar to her own.
“Oh my god, we’ve all been there!” I yelped to my best friend Owen, a gay man, who, like me, has struggled with the same predicament. Owen took a delicate sip of his early morning rosé spritzer (we were on Fire Island for the record, where slurping back rosé is completely acceptable any time of day, which is why Fire Island is my kinda place!) and gazed thoughtfully into the distance.
“We certainly have, Zara.”
I mean damn—whether you’ve been out and proud for a decade but just moved to a new city or you’re newly out, it’s hard to find your way in the gay scene.
I only recently relocated back to New York three years ago, and I was super freaked out when I went to a lesbian night in a West Village bar alone for the first time.
I ordered a strong personality drink and stood in the corner of the bar watching groups of girls laugh, take shots, make-out, and bump and grind against each other’s damp, sexually amped up bodies.
Holy shit! I thought to myself, feeling like a defeated loser. Everyone is SO young. I began to furiously twirl my hair (as I’m wont to do when anxious) as I nervously stared into a vast sea of girls all neatly subdivided into distinct groups. And so cliquey. I sighed and went home.
I had NO lesbian friends. How was I to find lesbian friends that I could party with, but also engage in conversations of substance within this seemingly cliquey club culture?
But alas, here I stand today: 31-years-old and I’ve found my people in this cruel, cold city. And if my socially awkward, timid, weirdo self can do it; so can you!
So here are my tips for getting into the gay scene when you’re new in town and everyone seems SUPER young and SUPER CLIQUEY.
Out yourself everywhere you go (as long as it’s safe)
When I interviewed for the job I coveted in New York for (working for a popular millennial internet publication), I outed myself in the interview.
“I wish we could find someone to write some strong LGBTQ content!” the editor-in-chief said longingly.
“Uh, I will!” I practically flew out of my seat I was so excited. “I’m a lesbian!”
I felt the air in the room pause, not in judgment, just in genuine surprise. I was, after all, interviewing to be a “features writer” with emphasis on fashion and makeup, and was clad in a silver fit and flair Valentino cocktail dress, black platform Mary Jane shoes and the brightest lipstick this side of the Mississippi. I didn’t exactly fit the mainstream media stereotype of what a “lesbian looks like.”
“That’s great!” the editor-in-chief chirped, her beautiful dark brows raised in delight.
And I got the job!
The second article I wrote for the site was about lesbian dating. I knew if outed myself to the whole company (not just my editor), really, really quickly someone there would know someone who was also a lesbian, and maybe introduce me to her. I know from experience that sometimes all it takes is one queer friend and a beautiful rainbow comes sprawling into the dark, dismal sky.
My wish was granted to me instantly. The first office happy hour a cutie boy nervously approached me, clutching his Pabst Blue Ribbon.
“I don’t mean to be uh, invasive. But I read your article, and I have this friend Sam, who doesn’t have many gay friends and has no one to go to Pride with next weekend with. Would you mind if I introduced you to her via Facebook?”
“Of course! I need gay friends too!” I happily sing-songed. I wasn’t offended that he assumed we would get along just because we were both “lesbians” I actually was just elated for the opportunity to meet someone who was also new to the city and played on my team.
And within three days Sam and I had made plans to go to “Teaze” (a New York City Pride party) together. I recruited my ex, the amazing Lauren Perchitti (we were completely just friends, and she had just moved to NYC too) and three of us went to “Teaze” together. Suddenly I had a support system. It was so much easier to go out and make friends with the two of them with me. And eventually, we all met other people and combined groups. A network was created.
And we’re all still friends to this day. Had I not outed myself to my entire company the sweet looking boy creature would’ve never approached me and I would’ve never met the lovely Sam Pearlstein, who will always hold a special place in my queer little heart.
The more you out yourself; whether it’s at the nail salon, a networking mixer, or a work party, the more other lesbians will come flying out of the woodwork.
You don’t have to be all: “Hello, my name is Zara and I’m a dyke.” You can casually bring up “an ex-girlfriend” or say something light and easy like “Oh, it’s hard to be a lesbian in this town. I don’t know anyone!” at an office happy hour.
And if you’re worried about exposing your sexuality at work, I totally get it. Expose yourself at the gym or your book club instead (or the internet. The internet is a great place to be out). BUT, if you do work for a company where people talk about their personal lives and are relatively open-minded, I say get over that fear, baby.
Everyone talks about their personal lives these days. Straight people in the workplace constantly drop little lines in about their dating life. Even when I worked at the most corporate, uptight company our prim CEO would mention that “she and her husband were going to ballet over the weekend.” And then her 22-year-old assistant would mumble something about her and her boyfriend “going to the theater,” later that week. And then I would mumble about how my girlfriend and I were “doing the Breast Cancer walk Saturday morning.” No one blinked an eye.
Sharing light tidbits about your personal life is not a privilege reserved for the heteros. We’re not “oversharing” by bringing up our PG-rated plans with our dates if everyone else is bringing up theirs. I mean it’s not like we’re talking about going down on each other or anything! We’re just saying “hey, do you know a cute bistro take this girl I like on a date Thursday night?” There is nothing wrong with that, bae.
And you might be surprised how one little comment can open up a world of possibilities for you! It always has for me.
Find a super confident wing-woman
All those sparkly lesbian parties in those dimly lit nightclubs, from a distance, can appear to be super young and super cliquey. Trust me, girl, you know I get it. However, if you actually throw yourself into the sea of women, rather than just gaze into the dark, scary water, you will find they’re lots of fish in the lesbian sea!
So grab a super confident wing-woman and head back to the cliquey young looking bar! I promise you there’s more there than meets the naked eye.
If you don’t know any lesbians to accompany you grab a fierce straight woman. My second stab at going to Hot Rabbit (NYC’s notoriously amazing Friday night queer party hosted by my girl Charlotte “CB” Glasser). I brought my dear friend Bailey.
Bailey is one of those hippy-free-spirited-gentle-good-vibes kinds of entities, a glowy-skinned fairy that effortlessly talks to everyone and anyone. She’s from Vermont.
Me on the other hand, I don’t radiate “talk to me” energy. I’m shy, shy, shy. I wear a lot of alienating clothing like holographic platform gladiator sandals and black leather bondage necklaces and waist length hair extensions. I don’t know how to make small talk and I would rather vomit on the subway then talk to a stranger. I was born on the bitchy streets of Upper East Side, not the friendly fields of Vermont.
Anyway, Bailey’s calming energy helped to coax me onto the dance floor and when I got a closer look at the ladies dancing, I realized NOT EVERYONE was 21. There were women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s too! And not everyone was cliquey! A lot of people were super smiley and clearly looking to make new friends, just like yours truly.
Bailey quickly slithered up to the friendliest looking girl and said hello and then introduced me to her as if I were her shy daughter (which, in many ways, I am). After a few moments, we were all having a pretty great conversation, and the friendly looking girl invited some more of her friends to come chat with us. And suddenly I didn’t feel so alienated. I felt warm, cozily blanketed by the nice lesbians surrounding me.
NOW. This is a wonderful thing that happens, however you must follow this tip up with step 3.
Take down everyone you meets number—and follow the FUCK up
I’m trying not to swear, but this deserves a swear.
OK, so now that say, you’ve met a few cool girls with your wing-woman at the club, it’s imperative that you exchange contact info ASAP. I don’t care if it’s a phone number or a social media handle. Don’t worry about them thinking you’re hitting on them, so long as your energy isn’t predatory, it’s not going to come across that way. Lesbians love to network with each other. We love to welcome newbies into our rainbow adorned coven because we’ve all been there before. However, when you’re the newbie, you must be the one to initiate the contact exchange.
The following morning, send your new friends a casual, yet slightly vulnerable Facebook message or text message that reads something like this:
“Hey! It was great to meet you and your friends last night! I’m sort of new in town and don’t know a ton of people and would love to hang out again with you guys! Hope you had a great night!”
The trouble with most people is that we try to act “cool.” It’s not attractive to pretend to be cool and removed at this stage in the game. It’s not high school anymore. Exclamation points are back in style.
So just be sweet and genuine and honest! Look, who couldn’t resist an earnest follow-up message like that? Now when the girls are getting together for their bi-weekly potluck they’ll say “Oh, we should totally invite that sweet girl from the bar the other night, shouldn’t we?”
The next thing you know you’ll be swigging back red wine, munching on vegan burritos while singing along to “Closer To Fine” by The Indigo Girls with your new best friends.
Join a gentle group on Meetup.com
Oh, meetup.com I LOVE meetup.com! If I would french kiss meetup.com if I could (maybe even do more..purr).
There are so many queer meet-ups all across the nation! I once joined a queer book club, and it was amazing. Everyone there was looking to make new friends and also have ~deep conversations~. We drank little half glasses of pinot noir and discussed the book of choice—and what was really amazing is we totally opened up to each instantly. We connected the themes in the book to our own life experiences and quickly developed intimate friendships. And friendships are founded on intimacy.
Not bookish? Join the soccer team. Even if you can’t play. My ex (Lauren Perchitti) tried that when she first moved to New York and now she rolls DEEP with the coolest group of soccer girls ever. And she can’t play soccer really (at least that’s what she says). She just sits on the sidelines and cheers them on and then gets drinks with the whole crew at Henrietta Hudson after the game.
So get out there ladies! Hope this helps!
ALSO: If you need ANY advice about anything dating/heartbreak/lesbian related please message me on my writer’s Facebook page. You’re under my big sister lesbian wing now, and you can ask me anything. I swear to The Indigo Girls.