Many students go off to university to be able to express themselves without the judgment of family, or to escape the confines of their toxic hometowns. Many queer students feel euphoric in being able to present themselves as they truly are once entering university, not necessarily with the goal of being able to date other queer students, but simply to connect. Yet, the possibility of these romantic connections being formed is exciting and new. 

When I started my transition process, I dreamed of being a gay man; the possibility of being a man and loving another man gave me euphoria. This is not to say that my transition was in any way a choice. I learned later that dating as a gay man is harder than I thought, but I wouldn’t change who I am for a second.

It wasn't until I was actually presenting myself as a man – who sometimes enjoys wearing makeup and possesses other attributes considered as feminine – that I realized how much harder it is to date as someone who isn’t straight.

The world is notoriously easier to navigate for straight people and cisgender people, especially when it comes to dating in university. Straight students connect and get to know each other, and naturally form feelings for each other without having to ask whether or not they see each other for who they truly are, or whether or not they are straight. 

For queer people, it's a little harder than that. There's a certain line of direct or indirect questioning that we go through, like an interrogation…that's what it feels like anyways. 

First, queer people must ask each other whether an individual is queer or not. Then, they must figure out whether they like each other or not. Lastly, for anyone under the transgender umbrella, we must ask whether the other person sees us as the gender we identify as.

From my experience, and other queer people’s experiences, I’ve narrowed it down to five main struggles with queer dating at UBCO, and beyond.

  1. Having a small pool of queer people 

UBCO is a small campus compared to UBCV. The dating pool is small, the community is small, and you’re likely to see a few people you recognize around campus at least once every day. I appreciate the tight knit community at times, but when it comes to queer dating, it can be difficult to find other queer people who are interested or single. In the process of searching, it’s hard to avoid running into a few exes along the way. The queer community is so small on campus that individuals often reach further into Kelowna using dating apps, which can be difficult and scary to navigate.

Adding on to the struggle of finding available queer people in the first place, some aren’t out or open about being queer, which is valid for various reasons. There also isn’t a way to “tell” whether someone is queer or not, no matter how good your straight friend’s “gaydar” is.

  1. Trying to recognize when someone of the same gender is flirting or just being nice.

Is the girl who complimented your hair or your outfit at Comma into you, or is she just being nice because she likes your style? Is the guy who complimented my eye makeup or my oversized flannel into me, or is he just being nice? 

It's these little things that are confusing for queer people involved. We might not even understand that another queer person is interested in us unless explicitly stated to our face, which leads to missed opportunities to get to know someone who is genuinely interested altogether.

  1. Not being seen as the gender we identify as.

This is something I relate to as a transgender man. I’ve had feelings for many straight men (even after trying my hardest not to). Sometimes, they like me back, which infers that they see me as a woman, and are attracted to me because they see me as a woman. This is inherently a transphobic idea. It’s also super complicated if said straight man sees me as a man, because it forces them to look at themself and question their sexuality, oftentimes leading to them leaning on me to ask questions regarding sexuality. Transgender and nonbinary people don’t want to date people who don’t see them for who they are. If a straight man fell for a transgender man, they would have to ask themselves if it is because they see him as a woman, or they see him as a man, which can change their perceptions of their sexuality. 

  1. Distinguishing between platonic and romantic attraction.

This is something many straight people can easily recognize, but among the queer community, this is something of great struggle, especially when it comes to same-sex dating. I’ve often asked myself: do I have feelings for him or am I just really happy to be his friend? Am I attracted to him or do I want to be him? It can still be very difficult for me to tell which it is. For others in the queer community, it’s more complicated than that. For example, one of my friends, who will remain nameless, started dating her best friend who is male. She then realized very shortly after starting the relationship, that she is, in fact, a lesbian, and only liked him as a best friend. She ended the relationship shortly after this realization. 

Sometimes, it's unfortunate situations like this one that help distinguish between platonic and romantic attraction. The complexities of that go beyond what straight people can understand, especially when it involves compulsory heterosexuality.

  1. Recognizing when someone is also queer.

Despite popular belief, the queer community does not have an obvious or singular “look”. It is also not great to stereotype the queer community in general. Therefore, recognizing when someone is queer is difficult, and assuming isn’t the best form of action. It's something many queer people in the community struggle with. Especially at UBCO, however, students have a diverse sense of style, and majors are not confined to one sense of style. 

Is that person queer or are they just a hipster? Is that person queer or do they just major in arts? Is that person queer or do they just go to UBCO? It's hard to tell when there are no defining visible traits for being a part of the queer community, but one can sit and wonder. 

This makes it hard for queer students to pursue the people they are interested in organically, the way straight students do. Queer students have to go through that same line of questioning as mentioned before, which can feel intrusive and uncomfortable.

In conclusion, dating sucks, especially when you’re a queer student. So if you’re a queer student like me, who is single on Valentine’s Day and has had a lot of dating mishaps this year, just know that you are not alone. It's hard out here for queer folks. Treat yourself and snuggle up to your other queer friends, and watch a romantic comedy just to make fun of it. Get yourself a chocolate bar, or some hard candy, instead of those boxes of mystery chocolate that end up being gross anyway. Be happy in your queerness by making fun of the ridiculous things straight people do in Hallmark movies and try again next year.