Ask Elise: Finding Personal Community
Ask Elise is an advice column meant for suggestions regarding LGBTQ+ community member dilemmas of any kind. If I am not qualified to answer your question (regarding issues for transgender individuals, people of color, etcetera), I will ask someone who is qualified and cite them. Your question is equally important and may help another community member. If you have a question, please submit it to [email protected] listing your pronouns and pseudonym if desired. If you need someone to talk to for more urgent or serious matters, please consider using the following hotlines:
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline: (888) 843-4564
Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860: Trans Lifeline is a trans-led organization that connects trans people to the community, support, and resources they need to survive and thrive.
How do you build a personal community? Queerness can sometimes feel isolating with the current media attacking trans people and continued COVID cautiousness. We find community to be a difficult to acquire, but crucial resource for us.
Forrest and Zoe
Dear Forrest and Zoe,
We hear you. Building community can be challenging for any adult, especially queer adults. Although, we can view this challenge as an exciting endeavor to explore ourselves, our hobbies, and find new interests. Start off by simply participating in new spaces and garner the courage to strike up a conversation with someone via a compliment, asking how long they have participated in the space, or asking how they got connected to the space.
Some ideas for spaces that often have events targeted for queer people include libraries, small bookstores, and climbing gyms. Join a book club! Those are easy to accommodate people virtually if you have health concerns about public spaces. Grrrl Scout is an excellent local organization that puts on events for queer women and gender non-conforming people to meet up, but it may not be the most COVID-conscious space as winter approaches.
Other local musical spaces that may cater better to your concerns would be One Voice Mixed Chorus concerts or events that my friend, local composer Emily Boyajian (she/her), is featured in. One Voice is one of the nation’s largest choruses for queer people and allies. Per their website, “One Voice has been building community and creating social change by raising our voices in song for 30 years.” Emily will be playing piano for a cabaret celebrating transgender performers at Mixed Blood Theater on December 9th, 10th, and 11th. Find her other performances on Instagram (@emily.boyajian).
Lex is an excellent app for finding queer communities. It is like White Pages but for LGBTQ+ folks. Post about one of your interests and try to find a new friend to do that with you. Search Facebook or Instagram for local or virtual groups that pertain to your interests. You might be surprised by the variety of affinity groups you can find online. If you can’t find the exact community you are looking for, start one!
One way to curate a new community is to introduce existing friends to each other. Do not be afraid to mix friends together. They have at least one thing in common: they love you. This is a great way to foster a new friend group who can do things together. Go sledding! Go to an outdoor art exhibition! Go for a walk!
Regarding COVID-cautiousness for immunocompromised folks and worries about transphobia, you must define your values and boundaries to best curate your community. Write down any dealbreakers you have about events or budding friendships. Do you want to attend only masked and/or outdoor events? Create a plan for what to say if someone does not respect your pronouns. Hopefully your hobbies and interests attract accommodating and considerate individuals.
When you do participate in a new space, please be brave in reaching out to people you find interesting. More often than not, they will think you are interesting too.
You are not alone in this endeavor.