Out and About: A Beginner’s Guide to Navigating the Queer Scene

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Out and About: A Beginner’s Guide to Navigating the Queer Scene

Right around this time last year, I had recently come out publicly and was just beginning my first relationship with a woman. After 12 months of being introduced to, engaging in, and ultimately fully immersing myself in the D.C. queer community, to say my life has changed is an understatement. It’s not just that I learned things—it’s so much more than that. I met so many different kinds of people. I deepened my understanding of old concepts and explored new ones. I even discovered new music, movies, and art I never would have if it weren’t for the community.

So, in an attempt to self-reflect and hopefully help others who may just be at the beginning of their coming out journey, I compiled a list of observations and tips for last-year me. Although specific to my own experience, hopefully some of y’all can relate.

Yes, u-hauling is a thing. And when you fall, you fall hard. The romantic connections you foster with women feel exponentially more genuine than any you’ve made before. You experience an understanding with someone of the same gender that further deepens your relationship and inevitably brings you both closer in a much shorter amount of time—hence the u-hauling. Be cautious, but enjoy it.

Clothing becomes an important form of expression for you. Not only can it be one way of letting people know that you are queer AF, but it also lets you explore your identity in visible, tangible ways. And omg, yes, totally embrace the masculine style and rock the shit out of it.

The dating scene is very, very, very, very, very small. No doubt you’ll date the same person two or three of your friends did in the past. And that’s okay! Just learn to accept it—it’s not going away.

Lots of people you date will become your closest friends. Dating apps will give you more than prospective love interests. You’ll meet quite a few of your close friends through first dates. There is a big grey area between romance and friendship that you’ll have to navigate. As long as you remain honest with yourself and others, you’ll be okay.

Be open to being friends with your exes. It may take time, but you’ll benefit immensely from reflecting on things together with them. Plus you’re bound to see them literally everywhere you go, so get used to that.

The community is your family. It will sometimes feel like you already know people you’ve never met. You have something in common that significantly shapes your worldview and experience, and the best advice I could give is to embrace that.

You will meet so. many. people. It’s kinda crazy, so get ready—especially if you’re not good with names. But also keep in mind that even though you will want to, you cannot foster deep friendships with everyone. You’ll find two or three close friends that will always have your back. The rest of those people are just icing on the cake that is the queer scene.

People talk. Most of the time it is with good intent, but sometimes it’s not. Don’t let others in the community bring you down, regardless of their intent. Although you share commonalities, not everyone in the community has your best interest in mind. Stay positive and keep searching for the genuine people that respect you, while consistently reciprocating that respect yourself.

You’ll learn a lot. Being part of a community so diverse in thought and experience will make you more inquisitive, open-minded, and smarter. It’s fucking awesome.

Art makes sense to you now. Echoing the previous statement, you are exposed to so many different worldviews—and experience the shaping of your own—that it’s made you appreciate and understand forms of art and beauty you’d otherwise never encounter.

This one’s important: the queer community is NOT JUST PARTIES. You’ll meet so many cool people at the late night events, and drunkenly bond over diner food at 3 a.m. Parties are enticing because they have such a concentrated number of queers to meet and mingle with, but it is difficult to truly get to know people on the dance floor. Explore other events and spaces where the community gathers. Now that you like art,  remember that there are so many open mics, exhibits, book clubs, and the like organized by the community. Try those out.

You experience fear and hate from others. It’s infrequent, but it still happens. Walking down the street holding your girlfriend’s hand can be enough to invite sneers, cat calls, and sexual harassment. I hate to say there are times where you are forced to choose protecting your physical safety over speaking your mind. Just know that the anger you feel only further motivates you to freely express who you are. Plus, now that you’re acquainted with the community, you’ve got so many queers behind you that you can look to for love and support. They are integral in reminding yourself and the world that you’re not going anywhere.

It’s okay to still feel confused. Just because you’ve come out “shitting rainbows” (as your best friend put it) doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers to your identity. You might stay feeling confused for a while and that’s just fine; it doesn’t mean you’re not a part of the queer community. Try as best you can to embrace uncertainty, because there’s a helluva lot of it in our community.

You become (and still are) convinced that everyone is a little gay. It’s just the truth.

You’re weird, but you’re not nearly as weird as you thought. There are so many weirdos in the community, and you will love every single one of them. They teach you to be the truest version of yourself, and embrace the weird in yourself. They are the most interesting, entertaining, and genuine people you’ll meet.

You learn to embrace your body. There is so much body positivity in the community and it’s amazing! Conversations around body image often feel like giant, warm hugs. You’ll lose weight, then gain it, then lose it again. And for the first time, you’ve learned to love your body at every stage.

And oh yeah—you shave the back of your head. Your mom isn’t happy. But you love how it makes you feel queer af.

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Kristen Voorhees
Kristen Voorhees
Kristen is a community organizer and communications entrepreneur living in DC proper. Co-founder of the QREW, Kristen also engages in advocacy and small business empowerment through her public relations expertise.