By Dr. Martha Tara Lee for YourTango.com.
Where can you find single lesbians? Single gays? Trans folk? Where are the bisexuals? If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times — “There’s no one to date where I am!” Not true.
If you’re connected (meaning you’ve got Internet access), are you searching for and checking out all the dating sites? If you’re not connected to the Internet, go to the library and use their machines. Got a smartphone and a data plan? Consider yourself hooked up.
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Let’s just get dating sites out of the way first. There’s one for everyone. Many focus on our LGBT needs, desires and fetishes including transgender folk, bears, butches, femmes, tops, bottoms and everyone else in-between. But the whole dating site scene is getting old, right? It’s not always fun; it’s not always productive and though it’s interesting to meet that bottom boy in Alaska online, that’s a hook-up that won’t happen if you live in Miami.
Being LGBT means being extra special, but it also means being extra hard to find … but only because you are stuck in a box about where to find lesbian, gay, bi or trans people. I work with lesbians from New York City to small towns in Texas to Dubai, Australia, Canada and the woods of Maine, and almost every woman I work with believes it’s hard to find LGBT people.
So, let’s open up a few more closet doors, move beyond your local Starbucks, explore some options to create a treasure map for where LGBT people hang out and where you can go looking for connections.
1. Local lecture series. First off, we are smart, aren’t we? Secondly, we love to learn and hang out with smart people. Start checking out your local university and its lecture series. Harvard did a lecture series for 2012 that involved a collaboration between leading researchers and world class chefs. I’m sorry I missed it.
Can’t you see the gays hanging out here? Um, I can. So don’t miss what’s happening for 2013 in your city and town for lecture series. Harvard isn’t the only university or college that does lecture series. Libraries do them; nonprofits do them; museums do them; aquariums, historic sites, audubon groups and activists of all sorts do them. Yeah, you’ll meet straight folks but lots of them know LGBT people these days. Even Honey Boo Boo has an out queer redneck uncle!
The University of Maryland and San Diego State University both host as annual LGBT lecture series and there are so many other colleges that do this. And apart from hanging with an exclusively LGBT crowd, what else do you want to learn about this year? Check out what’s available and get on it now.
2. Fundraisers. It could be a fundraiser to fight cancer like the Maine Tri for a Cure that many lesbians love to support or how about LGBT civil rights events. One of my favorites is ArtErotica that is put on by the Octopus Club in Austin, Texas to raise money to provide emergency financial assistance to those living with HIV and AIDS in Central Texas. Now this is just one of at least a dozen events that this group does annually. For over 20 years ArtErotica has been one of the most unique and scintillating art events in Austin. From lust to love, ArtErotica has it all: painted art, sculpture, fabrication, kitsch and live-on-the-spot art being created as part of the evening.
So whether it’s your local HRC chapter, the HIV/AIDS group or your state’s gay marriage effort you’ll find lgbt family all over the place at these happenings. I love to walk into a room where we “own” what’s going on. But don’t forget other nonprofit events that our LGBT crowd likes to support like theatre, the symphony, the local museum and animal shelters.
3. Cooking classes and wine tastings. We all have to eat! And it’s really cool to be the one putting out a meal that has your friends begging for more. I love cooking classes, and I’ve gone to quite a few over the years. One of my favorites was at the Whole Foods Headquarters in Austin, TX. It was a wine tasting and dinner event.
The wine all came from a family owned vineyard, Davis Family Vineyards. They had an amazing Riesling; barely a hint of sweetness, oily, full of lingering mineral flavors and served with an amazing appetizer created by the lead Whole Foods chef. Can you say major fun? Plus I met a number of single lesbians at this event who also enjoy wine and good food. No Whole Foods cooking classes in your city? Then start looking around for where there are cooking classes and special food events.
4. Local community classes. this can be a goldmine for meeting LGBT folks. Again, we are smart and love learning! Community Education classes range from health and fitness events to plumbing, electricity and car repair. I’ve got a slew of lesbian friends who have attended these classes after buying a house or car. If you’ve got a special talent or skill, this might be a place for you to offer to teach a class. I’ve got a few friends doing this and its been a great way to meet others in the LGBT community.
5. Travel events and conferences. Seems like a no-brainer right? Well, because it is but have you thought about it? Consider LGBT travel like Olivia Cruises is celebrating 40 years as the lesbian destination for travel and vacation fun. Eco-travel company Sweet is new to the ranks for lesbians but it’s a great concept to be vacationing with a gaggle of gay girls and also making a difference for the environment, children or animals in a community you are visiting.
There’s a great LGBT family focused business called R Family Vacations that caters to LGBT families and single LGBT people with kids. And yes, LGBT travel events are great places to meet other single parents. We all want our kids to be in environments that are positive and affirming for them.
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A favorite of mine is a special annual summer event called Camp Camp. It’s summer camp for the LGBT community. The summer camp you dreamed about as a kid is here for you as an adult. How about conferences? If you’re into it, there is probably a conference with your special LGBT interest being held somewhere. Here are a few to consider:
- Transcending Boundaries Conference for the transgender community and they’ve got a Facebook page also.
- Our True Colors is an amazing group that supports sexual minority youth and their families. They hold an annual conference in March each year with upwards of 4000 youth in attendance.
- The Femme Conference is an event that brings together hundreds of local and national femme-identified LGBTQ people and their allies to this multi-threaded and intersectional forum.
- The Southern Comfort Conference is the largest transgender social, educational, and entertainment conference in the world.
- The BECAUSE Conference has become an important weekend attracting bisexuals, queers, trans, questioning, and all others, regardless of identity.
- Bear Pride Sleep Over Event is coming up in May. You could be there!
Are you starting to see the theme here? Google your LGBT interest and see what shows up.
6. Networks. And that means www.meetup.com plus more. This is one of my favorite resources for finding community, dates and just something to do where you live. Meetup.com has recently made it unusually painful to search their site these days so use my “go to” search source, Google.
Finding a group is just a Google search away. I typed in “transgender meetup groups” and there were three million hits. Now I’m pretty sure there aren’t three million meetup groups for transgender folk out there, but it tells me that from Canada to Florida, Texas to Australia and beyond you’re out there and connections can be made.
What makes meetup.com so special? Well many of the groups are absolutely free to join. Well-run groups have multiple organizers and event planners with lots of things going on, making it easy to meet LGBT folks and it’s a very safe way to connect.
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7. Facebook. Enough said right, yawn, boring, yeah but have you looked a little deeper. People connect on Facebook, and then if you’re close enough you can take that connection off-line for face to face connections. Half the known universe is on Facebook which means lots of LGBT people are also wasting their days away on Facebook, you can too. The average person spends a couple of hours a day there and the number of lgbt groups/pages is growing every day.
Here are a couple of pages to take a look at:
Transgender Support has 23K plus likes. Have you checked this one out?
For Colored Queers is a new page but it’s got legs and a unique focus and message.
My own Facebook page Gay Girl Dating Coach is out there with 3000+ likes and lots of stuff going on and lots of single ladies. I just finished our holiday campaign on how to find a date fast for the holidays. Next up is my Roadmap to Lesbian Love for 2013!
8. High school/college reunions. Now this is a really interesting way to make connections with everyone that’s come out since you graduated. At my last high school reunion, I met two women who’d come out in just the last couple of years plus discovered that more than half of the women who I played field hockey with are lesbians. Did I have my head up my butt or what during high school?
For many of us, reunions don’t bring up warm fuzzy feelings. We couldn’t wait to get out of high school and never go back. I’m not saying you have to go back, but between high school and college class reunions people make a lot of changes in life direction and often that includes sexual orientation. Just think about it.
The age that individuals are coming out is dropping and in part because young people today have access to so much more information via the Internet. Lucky little queers! What I also see is more and more people in their 40s, 50s and beyond coming out. They are going to those reunions and you should too.
9. Volunteer. Animal Shelters, political and activist organizations and events and whatever else lights you up; the local theatre group, the gay or lesbian chorus in your area, the LGBT Community Center, the Anti-Hate Program, anti-bullying projects, Speak Out and so many other variations on this theme.
You don’t have to sing or be an actor, you can buy a ticket and get the chance to hang out with local queers. You don’t have to be into public speaking to show up and support others who are out there teaching the public about being LGBT. There are always behind the scenes things that need to happen and every show needs a friendly audience.
And don’t forget that one of the easiest ways to meet your LGBT family is to volunteer for your local PRIDE events. And if you really want to kick it up a notch, get involved in PRIDE events in a few different communities around you. PRIDE events are growing and happening in more and more places and being spaced out across many months.
Get off the couch and get out there. Don’t let 2013 go by and not get involved. I can’t believe how many lesbians and gays I meet who don’t participate in PRIDE. We’ve gotten complacent, don’t be part of that crowd.
10. And finally, your local gay-friendly church. If you’re a person of faith and participating in a structured spiritual community feeds your sense of well being then perhaps there is an LGBT friendly church in your community. And thank you again Google, here’s a resource for you:
Gay-friendly churches. They have over 7,000 entries worldwide of churches that are gay welcoming along with a number of other spiritually focused resources and links.
We’re out there, all over the place but you’ve got to get out of the house! Not all of these venues should be a surprise, but every day I work with clients who’ve never thought of searching on the Internet to get their need to for community met. There is so much information and its so easy to find it whether you’re using Google, Bing or Yahoo. Get smart and use this amazing resource to find out where the LGBT singles are hanging out.
There is only one excuse for not meeting more LGBT people and that’s because your butt is stuck to the couch. Get up, get out and get going. Yes you can.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.com: 10 Surprising Places To Meet LGBT Singles.