I moved to the West Coast from the Midwest over five years ago to jump-start a career and to immerse myself in gay culture. It might be worth noting that I’m originally from a small town with no gay culture or gay visibility. I’m fairly shy and introverted when meeting new people. Despite my timid tendencies, I bravely stepped out into a world I knew nothing about and I jumped into the thick of things in my new home. I went to all the gay bars, clubs, events and other various places alone when I first started exploring the gay scene. At first, I tried to introduce myself to various people and connect with guys at bars hoping I would make some long-lasting friendships and create/adopt a chosen family. I had this silly notion in my head that when I moved to the city that I would find this loving, open and welcoming community that I heard about from other gay men. Well, that wasn’t really the case for me.
I find myself constantly reaching out to other gays to hang or go out with, but never receive the same invites in return. I sometimes see groups of these friends out and it pains me to see them all out together, especially when I'm alone. Although I have “friends” in this city, almost all only say hi when they see me in public and I then never hear from them otherwise. My closest friend even told me that he doesn't like doing the same things I do, which is why he didn't hang out with me on my birthday. I also quickly found that most gay social groups are firmly established and found it extremely difficult to find/create a circle of friends to belong with. I thought maybe I’m in the wrong place, so I switched gears and left behind the lies, drugs, and shallowness I found in “the scene.”
I tried to connect with “mindful” gays in various activities outside bars and have tried to volunteer to fill my time. Despite all my attempts, I feel like a failure because I don’t connect with other gays. I spend most of my time alone because everyone I reach out to say they already have plans, which I'm never invited to. After years of being used and tossed out like yesterday's cum rag, I am finally at a breaking point. I have even started resenting being gay. Sometimes I feel as low as I did in middle school. I really would like to make gay friends, but I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.
Whose dick do I have to suck to be invited out?
Seeking Emotional Assistance Through Tough Love& Empathy
I'm going to be blunt, SEATTLE. If you're not in the right place—emotionally—to handle some bluntness, don't click that big blue "continue reading" under this paragraph. If you were hoping to hear me say something along the lines of, "Gay people suck, Seattle sucks, and sucky gay people in sucky Seattle suck the worst," don't click that big blue "continue reading" under this paragraph.
The "gay community" is an opportunity, SEATTLE. It's a space—it's a multitude of interlocking spaces (public spaces, private spaces. virtual spaces)—where you will find a lot of men you have one very important thing in common with. It's on you to find the gay men in those spaces that you have other things in common with. People who share your aesthetic, your politics, your sense of humor, your thing for drag or rugby or chariot races. The gay community isn't your Quinceañera—it's not a birthday party your parents are throwing for you. Again, SEATTLE, it's whole lot of interlocking spaces where you'll find gay people you like and gay people you don't like and good gay people and bad gay people and basically good gay people might be having a bad day and bad gay people who seem like good gay people at first and... this is where the bluntness really starts, SEATTLE.
If you’ve spent five years in all sorts of different kinds of gay spaces in Seattle and you haven’t met anyone with whom you click…
Maybe it’s you, SEATTLE. Not "the community.” You.
You're not sure what you're doing wrong, SEATTLE, and I couldn't tell you either. But I suspect you're doing something wrong. So ask for some blunt-as-fuck feedback from the friends you do have and/or get a shrink who you can really talk things out with. Because you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.
My hunch, SEATTLE, is that you are doing something wrong. (And that seems to be your hunch too.) Maybe it's the way you interact with people or the unrealistic expectations you had or the cliques you gravitated toward when you first arrived (shallow druggies?) or the bitterness that took root after you realized it wasn't going to be as easy as walking into a gay bar at midnight and finding your chosen family before last call—whatever it is, SEATTLE, something is preventing you from making the kinds of meaningful connections you want and, yes, deserve. And I can't tell you what that something might be. Only someone who really knows you can help you identify that thing/those things and help you work on them.
Yes, there are problems with “the gay community,” just as there are problems with the straight community (heard of #MeToo?); the gay community, like I said, is an opportunity, SEATTLE, and I've seen people squander that opportunity by hitting the booze too hard or the drugs too hard or or not working through the trauma they experienced growing up gay or by not being self-critical or self-reflective enough to smell their own shit and do something about it. And I've seen guys who were damaged or angry or mean or addicted—and I'm not saying you're any of those things—turn around and blame every other gay person on the planet for their isolation when the actual problem is what they're doing and not what's being done to them.
Chase Burns, one of the Tech-Savvy At-Risk Youth and The Stranger's Social Media Manager, recently moved to Seattle himself. Here's his perspective:
I also moved here from the Midwest, SEATTLE (by way of Minnesota by way of Michigan by way of *ick* Idaho *ick*, where it should be noted there's a hardy population of lesbian farmers out in them foothills). I'll admit Seattle has an above average volume of whiny sad boys. The traffic also makes people less inclined to leave their neighborhood for people they view as a below average friend. But, to quote the recently formed Seattle supergroup Who Is She?, "It's not Seattle, it's you."
Even if you suck the right dick it doesn't mean you'll get into the right party, SEATTLE, and it certainly doesn't mean you'll like the party once you get there. Old gays and young gays like to complain about how "gay meccas" have disappeared, but even those who participated in America's "Great Gay Migration" of the '70s and '80s have reported that gay meccas weren't for everyone—or maybe anyone.
You don't need to live in a big gay city to make gay friends, SEATTLE (see: Lesbian farmers in Idaho). I spent a whole year going to gay bars when I first moved here and only ended up drunk and high. It wasn't until I started doing shitty drag that I started making (actual, real, authentic) friends. Drag wasn't the shift—it's that I started adding to "the community" instead of only asking for something from it.
P.S. That's shitty about your birthday. That close friend isn't your close friend.
Maybe I should've said this at the top, SEATTLE, but the gay community is not "loving, open and welcoming." Individual gay people within it can be loving, open, and welcoming and it's on you—it's on each of us—to find the loving, open, and welcoming guys out there and to make an effort to be one of the loving, open, and welcoming guys. If you can't find any guys like that, SEATTLE, then you probably aren't coming across as the kind of loving, open, and welcoming guy that other loving, open, and welcoming guys want to be around. You can work on that and you can change that, SEATTLE, but not until you get a handle on what you might be doing wrong. And to do that you're going to need more help than I can give you here—you're gonna need that shrink or that friend or friends who will, with your encouragement, really level with you.
Finally, SEATTLE, I feel you. I'm an extremely shy and introverted person myself (really) and I feel incredibly awkward around new people. Nothing made me more miserable in my twenties than standing around in some gay bar by myself. I'm only comfortable in a space (or in my own skin) when I have a job to do. So like Chase, I found my way in and I found my little tribe (and found my extroverted husband) doing something that gave me a reason to interact with people. Bar theater, in my case. You mention volunteering—I think you should do more of that. Put something into the community, like Chase said, add something other than your holes or your coke connections to these gay spaces and you'll meet other people who are making contributions. Those guys tend to be the loving and open and welcoming ones.
Good luck. I'm rooting for you, my fellow introvert.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: I took a run at a very similar question more than two decades ago. Believe it or not... I was a bit bitchier then.