omgwtfbbq mefi, i can haz gay boyfriend, plz?
February 20, 2012 5:58 AM   Subscribe

PhillyGayPhilter: Online dating through OkCupid hasn't been working out well for me, but I'm not quite sure how else to do it now that I'm out of college. How do I meet other young-ish gay men in Philadelphia, in either meat-space or alternative digital pastures? Anxieties, personal details, and candy within!

(No candy, sorry.)

Me: Young (early 20s) openly queer male college-graduate, living in Philadelphia and working in an awesome scientific research position. Since moving to the city after college, I've enjoyed a wonderfully rich social life and truly fantastic friends whom I am very close with and whom I have appreciated dearly. The only hitch to this is that I've been single. It's not particularly uncommon for me to be single—I'm not a serial monogamist and, as an introvert who likes people a lot, do appreciate my alone time—but nevertheless I have had the urge to "have someone," as it were. However, the one method by which I have seriously pursued this—OkCupid—has over the course of the year been rather a bust for me.

My previous relationships (read: previous 1 and 1/2) have all been with friends of mine with whom I felt a mutual, growing intimacy over time that evolved into romantic feelings and stirrings. This is in some ways my ideal relationship pattern: friends first, then lovers. At least so far on OkCupid, I have felt like my dates have been rushing toward sex on the first few or even first dates, to which I have not reciprocated. This is a major turn-off for me, as I am a shy person despite being personable and social. (And, perhaps, if I was feeling a "real attraction" maybe I would also feel this sexual urge, so I should trust myself?). I don't know if this is an OkCupid thing or what, as I'm rather upfront about not looking for no-strings-attached sex and that I'm wont to "take it slow." I also have a defensive tendency to—largely unconsciously—expertly socially-mirror people and provide them exactly what they want to see when I am first meeting them, a habit which disappears over time as I feel safer in a relationship. It does get me a lot of second dates, but I think I end up feeling emotionally uninvolved and experientially detached as I'm usually not in the slightest providing any resistance or going with what I really want. I've noticed this, am working on it professionally and with some heartening success so far. I do think that it would help to know people I am potentially dating in a less charged context first, though.

So, really, I'd like to know ways in which I can meet other gay guys—to the teleological ends of possible dates—as it doesn't seem to be happening organically in my life. I could also maybe do with some alternative online ways to meet folks.

For some things to rule out:
(1) Though I am not out of shape, I'm pretty unathletic (I have all the natural grace of a drunk brontosaurus), so have mostly ruled out gay sports leagues et al.

(2) I also don't play any musical instruments or have any particular vocal talent, thus nixing gay music societies.

(3) Unfortunately, my great social network hasn't been a help so far in providing first-connections and "new blood." (I am friends-and-only-friends with all of my queer male folks, and they generally have the same friends I do.) I am ever-vigilant though.

For some things to, uh, rule in?:
(1) I tend to be attracted to one of two types: sweet, super-dorky (kempt or unkempt) but intellectually-passionate nerds... and comedic/awkward or "mysterious and elusive" hipsters, but neither are rules. Passionate people really are the shit, yo, either way.

(2) If I may presume the existence of a bear-twink spectrum, I am rarely attracted to people on the twink-end of that spectrum. My sweet range is probably from three-quarters in bear-territory to about a quarter into twink territory, or people who don't really fit this crude qualification at all. I tend to be more attracted to people with average-and-larger body builds? Facial hair is, generally, hot.

(3) I feel that, to some degree, I have some minor anxieties about more "traditional" queer social meccas (i.e., clubs) due to feeling a bit orthogonal to dominant "gay culture" (whatever that is; obviously gay culture is not monolithic). If anything I am a bit bearish and people who are attracted to me tend to be attracted to that aesthetic generally. While I like going out to gay dance-clubs to be silly and dance with friends, pick-up-hook-up culture as a whole doesn't appeal to me. I'm not sure what else can happen in a place like that; I've never quite understood intuitively how a club "works," except as a removed social observer. I also feel like I'm a bit of a stranger-in-a-strange land in some queer spaces due to not being pretty or fashionable. I actually rather like the local lesbian bar (Sisters) for the reason that it's a lot more casual and also a place for queer socializing, dancing et al. for both men and women. Maybe I could do with knowing how to navigate gay bars/clubs better?

(4) For whatever reason, I don't particularly "come off" as queer despite being very much open and out even at work, so much so that it sometimes feels like I accidentally get put back in the closet by casual relations as I don't have a significant other to talk about. (E.g., the bros at my lab amusingly tend to involve me in any heteronormative bro-discussion of girl issues and attractive women in our research network. "Oh, you're working with Patricia. Oh, wow... are you going to steal her away from me?" "Uh, guys, uh. Remember, I'm gay?" "Oh, oh, right!" Lolwhut!) I wonder if this makes it harder to meet queer people in day-to-day life, though. I also imagine it's harder to meet people "naturally" as there are simply a lot fewer gay people around than straight people, alas.

So: Are there any interesting organizations, social clubs, meet-ups, volunteer opportunities, etc. for young-ish gay men in Philadelphia that you might be able to recommend? Are there any other sites that people have successfully used? Or maybe tips on how to make something like a gay-bar-chat-up something less repellent or anxious for someone like me? Any advice or remarks would be welcome, really. Merci beaucoup, MetaFilter. Thanks for reading!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried I joined for the Boston area recently, and there are a ton of queer and queer-friendly groups that get together to do everything from wine tasting to "Frozen Frisbee." (NOTE: I do not like to be cold nor do I like Frisbee enough to do that one.) There's probably a group that, even if it doesn't fit exactly what you like to do, it may give you a place to go with other queer guys who aren't into the bar scene and are a bit less likely to try to jump your bones immediately.

Though, a warm bone-jumping after Frozen Frisbee might be just the thing...
posted by xingcat at 6:20 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

1) Get a series of stylist, hipsterish, political and/or comical button or t-shirt(s) that clearly identify you as queer. (I like most of the merch and the boyfriend and I always get positive comments when we wear them out in the settings I am going to suggest.) These will clearly identify you as queer, and given the number of bearded, cubby straught hipsters on most scenes, you need to clearly identify yourself.
2) Attend art openings, indie music events, basically any alternative/hipsterish event. If they are serving up free or cheap drinks, even better. (I have not lived in Philly since 1994, but I am sure these things still exist.)
3) Do your best to overcome your introversion enough to chat with at least a few people at each of these events. You may not meet your lover at one of these events, but husky queers with beards who don't like dance clubs are usually friends with some of these folks.
posted by hworth at 6:43 AM on February 20, 2012

Do you think you would be comfortable in other gay-oriented spaces that aren't bars? I know that Philly is home to Giovanni's Room, which is an exclusively gay bookstore that hosts a huge amount of events. I think you would certainly run into nerds and hipsters alike. Philly also hosts a wide number of events that you might look into, such as a LBGT roller skating party and a writer's collective.

I think, to fulfill your relationship pattern, you need to establish more friends within the gay community and work from there; instead of going with OKcupid or bars. Worst case scenario? You end up with a new platonic friend.
posted by oxfordcomma at 6:44 AM on February 20, 2012

You're in Philadelphia? That's a great city for you. Go hang out in the Gayborhood, and above all check out Giovanni's Room, an awesome queer bookstore. You could join a book club; that's a surefire way to meet likeminded gay nerds.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:45 AM on February 20, 2012

And although you didn't ask, I've got another suggestion for you. Once you do meet a promising fellow, take him for a date at the Mütter Museum. If he digs that, he's a keeper for sure.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:04 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just a quick note regarding first-date expectations: I don't think you should react too strongly against guys that are interested in sleeping together on the first date. FWIW I am in many ways similar to the way you describe yourself. I have not been on that many dates, but uh... I definitely had sex on every date I've been on. And that wasn't because I expected it or pushed especially hard for it, or even would have been disappointed if I hadn't? That's just kind of how it's been.

Anyway I'm not saying you should feel like you have to do anything on the first date! Just that you shouldn't instantly write off people that do.

Anyway from your question you sound cute as hell so like really it's only a matter of time here. Have fun!
posted by kavasa at 9:39 AM on February 20, 2012

Volunteer at William Way. Join a gay civic organization like Liberty City Democrats (assuming you are a Democrat). Or even just poke around William Way and see what is happening in the gayborhood and attend some events. Volunteer for an organization that you believe in that does a lot of outreach in the gay community. I worked for the Clean Air Council, and aside from being staffed primarily by queer folks, they did outreach at Equality Forum, Pride AND Outfest.

Whatever you're into, there's almost certainly a group for you. Check out this listing! There's a gay-friendly Scrabble club advertised. Seriously.

As for online dating, I'm a little down on OkCupid. I think most people are there window-shopping because it is free. I love the format. I love the algorithms. But seriously, I have never had a ton of luck there. Eventually, I broke down and paid for and within a month was dating the most wonderful and interesting guy. We've been dating for more than a year now.

Ultimately, early 20s are a tough time! Don't despair. It gets better.
posted by jph at 1:47 PM on February 20, 2012

Oh, and go to a MeFi meetup. They're all wonderful people and if they don't immediately know someone you should be introduced to, they'll know someone who does know someone.
posted by jph at 1:48 PM on February 20, 2012

Having never been there, I can't speak to Philly. However, your question did spark a few thoughts that (I hope) will be universal:

Get political. Yes, obviously, you shouldn't start working on some cause you don't care about just in an attempt to find a boyfriend. But if I was looking for the type of guy you are looking for (particularly sweet, dorky, intellectually passionate nerds), I'd start with a cause close to your heart and go from there. Outside of hookup sites and sports, that's been the best way I've found to meet gay men who I had anything in common with. And as has been stated above, even an increase in platonic gay men will cast a wider net.

As for gay dance clubs/bars, again I can't speak to Philly, but I've been going to them, on and off, for about half my life, so I've got some opinions:

I've never quite understood intuitively how a club "works," except as a removed social observer.

Here's the big secret: No one really does. The only people who realize that they don't know how it works are the people, if I can be so bold, like you and me who spend time bean plating the world around us. Everyone else is just faking it.

Clubs, like lots of other places with tons of people, may seem to have a strict rulebook that outsiders can't figure out. But they don't. Because everyone is coming from it with a different set of expectations. The "serious gay clubber" probably would prefer to be at the hot, "gay friendly but not specifically gay" place across town but is tired of getting up the nerve to talk to a guy and find out he has a girlfriend but doesn't mind male attention. The "typical pretty or fashionable gay guy" there may look like everyone else and blend in naturally, but this is horribly frustrating for him because he wants that special someone to notice him. The "guy who isn't into the club scene" is there anyway and, because he doesn't want to look like an asshole, is just trying to seem like he's having a good time too, so he quite possibly looks just like everyone else as well.

So if you want to go there, do. If you really don't want to, don't. But realize that nobody else has it any more together than you, no matter how it appears.

Two more things:

1) Though gay bars are traditionally thought of as meat markets, and, of course, like almost all bars, to a certain extent they are -- as someone who has been on both sides of the online digital divide, I feel like that focus is far less than it used to be. If people want to just fuck for the evening, they can get online and order in. I think it's much easier to actually meet friends or someone to date (or at least get the pre-date filtering out of the way) in a bar these days than it is online.

2) There's a lot to be said for being 'not the type' as everyone else at the bar and club. Because, like I said earlier, you stand out. There's been many times (or at least a few) where I've had the literal "WTF is that guy (supposedly out of my league) looking at me?" thing happen. And I would think "why is he hitting on me when I'm not the type of guy who typically frequents this bar" and be completely insecure about it until he, abundantly clear.... and even then I was unsure of my standing. (It takes a special type of insecurity to wonder if a guy is really interested in you AFTER you've made out, but that was me.) Only with the hindsight that comes with age (and bean plating) did I realize, I was getting his attention BECAUSE I was different than everyone else.

One more hint, which works best if you have 'non-stereotypically gay' musical tastes but also probably just as well not:

I'm not sure if Philly has enough gay bars to have this, but there are also just plenty of "non-scene" gay places in Chicago. Find one with a jukebox and a friendly clientele. Pick a couple of your favorite songs and play them. For some reason, this seems to be a huge icebreaker. And if I had known that just by listening to music I liked, by having an opinion and sharing it, I'd have attractive men talking to me in bars .... well, I would have been a much less depressed shit in high school.

And I think, based on the small amount we have from you here, is that what you have going for you You know who you are and you know what you want. Confidently stick with that, and eventually, the right guy will come your way (though I know until that moment happens it seems about as likely as a lightening strike)

Good luck!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:03 PM on February 20, 2012

Hey there fellow Philadelphian! I just moved here myself and have been trying out/researching different ways to meet people, both for friends and for dating. I´m a mostly-straight mid-20s woman, for reference. Here are some of the things I want to try. None of them are advertised as explicitly for GLBT folks, but all are queer friendly.

1) Look into different events at the A-Space. I see signs there for queer and trans-friendly yoga all the time; I know you said you don´t want to do athletic things, but I know that´s not the only queer-friendly event they run. Plus, they do cool not-queer-specific things, like packing books to send to prisons.

2) If it fits your politics, sign up to staff/volunteer at The Wooden Shoe. Lots of young queer folks there. I haven´t done orientation here yet, but I plan on doing so next chance I get.

3) Do you like to cook or consider yourself a foodie at all? If so, consider becoming a member of/volunteering at Mariposa. It´s a little pricey initially, but once you join you get discounts on all the food, and there are various ways you can share an account with friends. A couple people have told me about how volunteering here is a highlight of their week/month because they run into so many friends. Of course this is most convenient if you´re living and/or working near West Philly already. Weaver´s Way in Mount Airy is a similar set-up, on the off chance that it´s more convenient for you.

Good luck!
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:05 PM on February 20, 2012

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