Once upon a time (OK, two years ago), I moved to Chicago.
I moved from Minneapolis, where I had lived for years and years.
It was really hard to move. Actually…dreadful.
In Minnepolis, I had a big circle of friends. They were wonderful.
I’m a lesbian, and nearly all my friends in Minneapolis were queer. I had a tight-knit group of seriously good friends, and I vaguely knew most of the queer girls in the city. We all saw each other out at night. We all saw each other at the co-op during the day.
It was heaven.
In Chicago, though, I suddenly had no friends. No core group of queers. No friends at all. None. I was starting from scratch.
Where were the gays? I needed them. I needed them now.
I had some hope—I had just started working at a huge internet startup with about 250 stylish-lookin’ kids in my exact target-friend-age-range.
Confident that about ¼ of the girls in the office were at least queerish, I began my investigations.
But weeks turned into months, and months turned up a realization: I was alone.
In my giant office building on Chicago’s Miracle Mile, with hundreds of hipster kids working on my floor alone, with literally hundreds of girls my age all working on the same project, going to the same shows, and drinking together after work every night…
I was the only lesbian.
Marooned! Surrounded by tales of what everyone’s boyfriend said last night!
A cold wind whipped through the office cafeteria, cutting into my heart with icy fingers. I loved my new job, but I really missed working with ladyfags.
The snow came down. The months went by.
I swallowed my pain, made friends with the kickass straight girls in my office, and learned to live with loss.
But then one Sunday, six months into my job, I saw my boss, Alma*, in a coffee shop. She was with a pretty girl.
I waved at Alma, and she came over, bringing the pretty girl with her, and introducing her as her “girlfriend.”
OMG ALMA WAS A LESBIAN!!!
You guys, my jaw hit the floor.
I was the only gayelle at work! ME! The only one! What was this???
Y’all, I was so used to being the only lesbian at work that I was kind of shocked to have the title yanked out of my martyr hands.
Alma and I have been tight ever since. Hanging around the office together. And man, it is so nice to have another ladygay in the office.
One day, when Alma and I were having coffee in the break room, she made a li’l confession:
I was her first dyke friend.
Her first! She had never had one before! She’d never been a part of the gay scene. She was almost my age, had been out for seven years, and had never had a lesbian friend before.
I was shocked. How was that even possible?
When I came out, I was lost.
I was raised in the Mormon church, and, as a newly out homo, I had just left the only community I’d ever been a part of—the Mormon community.
My sister was incredibly supportive, but my parents wouldn’t talk to me. My straight friends didn’t understand.
As I understood it, the God I knew had, apparently, been listening only when I was planning on marrying a returned Mormon missionary.
Gay people saved me.
My college queer student union. Gay bars. My new friends at the burlesque show.
They became my family.
Queers swooped me up in their gorgeous arms and hugged me tight and told me it was OK to be happy and like women and look like a freak and it was also OK to be really, really angry.
Apart from being fun as hell and throwing great parties, the queers also split my white, privileged, uptight brain open.
Through homos, and my driving need to be accepted by my new, chosen family, I met people I would never have reached out to, even a year earlier. I met my first girlfriend, Justine, who was dancing at a bar called the Gay 90’s, when my best friend literally shoved me at her.
Y’all, here’s how sheltered I was: the first thing I thought, upon seeing Justine dancing, was “Woah, an Asian lesbian.”
It had never even crossed my mind that there could be Asian lesbians. C’mon now, give me a break: I went to a high school in Wisconsin with exactly one non-white student.
I began to meet amazing people. Transgender folk. Old lesbians. Baby dykes. Burlesque dancers. Bike punks. Queer Christians, drag queens, rollergirls. Gays with babies. Women who laughed a lot and never wore high heels and women who were over 50 and said “goddamn” whenever they goddamn felt like it.
They took me into their community when I needed friends and love the most—as is, no questions asked, no to-do list of improvements demanded.
Now that’s Christ-like love, friends.
I learned from my new family. What drama meant. What being a friend meant. What addiction was. What acceptance meant. What grief looked like. What love was.
The queers raised me into adulthood.
Not to get too sappy on you guys, but when Alma told me I was her first lesbian friend, my heart exploded. How had she survived this long???
Amazed, I asked her whom she talked about girl problems with. She shrugged and said, “I don’t, really.”
I tried to wrap my head around it. Tried to picture my life without having spent the last eight years so fully ensconced in queer culture that at one point, I realized I knew exactly four straight girls, and three of them had definitely “dallied.”
I couldn’t even imagine life without homos.
All this time, Alma had been a card-carrying member to an awesome club she’d never even gone to. She’d never seen a drag show! Never gone to a queer party! Never marched at Pride!
OH MY GOD. We had some serious catching up to do.
But…why does having gay friends matter, anyway?
Well. It doesn’t matter. To some people. Some gays are totally fine being the only one in their friend group. In fact, I know a couple mo’s who really just don’t give a dang.
“Friends are friends,” they snort, batting away my “ohmigodyou’regay?let’sbebestfriends” overtures.
And that’s so. Friends are friends. Friends love you for who you are, not whom you sleep with.
But I need other queers, too. It’s not an exclusionist thing. It’s a physical need. Even though I have wonderful straight friends, it’s just such a comfort to have dyke-minded individuals (heh) around you sometimes.
Just as Mormons go to BYU to be surrounded at college with other Mormons, and classic car people get together so they can talk about ’67 Mustang engines ad nauseum without fear of boring anyone, I need to be around lesbians so we can talk about dykey stuff and understand one another instantly.
Y’know, so many of us are lonely.
There are so many girls who think they’re the only lesbian at their school.
The only queer at work.
The only lesbian whose parents are uber-Christian, the only gay girl who wears dresses, the only mo in the whole damn town.
The only lesbian in the world.
But it’s not true! It’s just freakin’ not.
You can find a community of your own.
You will find your family.
Even if all you’ve got is the internet right now. ♦
* Not her real name.