I imagined love like many other teens did. Like the movies and tv shows around me had depicted, I would meet a smart, charismatic boy with a charm like Chad Danforth of “Highschool Musical” or Devon Carter of “That’s So Raven,” who would sweep me off my feet and into pubescent infatuation. In the culmination of our young romance, we would share our first kiss under the spinning prom disco ball, which would leave me soaring and butterfly-filled. But to my surprise this moment never came, and for many young Black LGBTQ+ folk, this story is all too familiar.
The movies and tv shows of our youth create what we expect dating and romance to be like. The world around us informs us of what to expect, and we begin to daydream ourselves into these narratives, never realizing that the rules might be different for us. But the truth is, marginalized communities experience the world in a very different way than the non-marginalized, and that includes Black LGBTQ+ folk.
While we would love as a society to say that the ages of homophobia, transphobia, and overall anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments are over, the truth is in 2022 social stigmas surrounding LGBTQ+ identities still exist. Anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs and opinions are not just personal viewpoints but are living and breathing ideas that in turn create legislation, lack of access and the overall rocky social landscape that Black LGBTQ+ folk face. It is this environment that makes queer romance not only hard to foster but hard to even find.
With LGBTQ+ phobia baked into our media, communities, and beliefs it becomes hard on a young Black queer person to love themselves, thus making it hard for them to love someone else. How can someone participate in intimacy with a partner while still struggling to accept the intimate parts of themselves? How can someone truly value their partner and the love that they’ve created while still dealing with the internalized effects of their queerphobic upbringing or surroundings? The way we love our partners is a reflection of our capacity to love ourselves, so when loving ourselves becomes complicated and cloudy, so does our love with others. And while some struggle in this limbo of acceptance, some remain silenced by the opinions of others, not even bothering to come out. It is not only social stigmas that mystify the path to Black LGBTQ+ folk finding love but also the very communities we exist in.
Community is what allows us to find like-minded individuals to form bonds and relationships with. It’s what creates space for us to not only be our most authentic selves but to find our tribe and thrive. Black LGBTQ+ folk who fully accept themselves but exist in communities that don’t support them can feel unsafe to disclose their sexuality or to seek partners openly. And even when Black LGBTQ+ folk come from accepting homes and communities, they still face the added layer of being around a queer community to have the opportunity to even experience romance with.
All these barriers complicate the access Black LGBTQ+ folk have to love, and compound on top of the non-marginalized dating landscape. Black LGBTQ+ young folk, beyond the systemic and societal stigma, still are young folk navigating the ever-changing, ever-complicated romance arena that is their 20’s. Hook-up culture, finding potential partners of interest, understanding communication in relationships, establishing boundaries, and more come with young dating regardless of one’s marginalized background.
It isn’t easy being young, Black, LGBTQ+ and in search of love, but it’s also not impossible. I’ve seen plenty of Black queer young folk, from social media to within my community, find love and carve out spaces for themselves in their communities. Because the truth is, no matter how hard the road might be to love and intimacy, we are all worthy, deserving, and capable of love.
In this spirit, here are 5 tips to offer hope and lessons in navigating matters of the heart as a Black Queer young person.
- Never Accept the First Offer: While it may be tempting, after long periods of loveless moments and watching friends find their partners, to jump on the first opportunity of romance, never accept the first offer. Know that while you might have little experience in this arena, you have a right to be picky and selective of who you share yourself with…and just because they come a-knockin’ doesn’t mean you have to open the door. Adopt an abundance mindset and know that rejection isn’t an emptying, but making room for the right one to come your way.
- Understand Need vs Want: While it might feel like you need a partner to be complete or “normal,” understand that your journey is your own and you never are in a “space lack.” While we may want partners to experience life with, know you have never needed a partner to be whole, fulfilled or to experience love.
- Find Validation in Self: As cliché as it may sound, self-love is the best love, and while it does not replace sharing romance with a partner, it does deepen our sense of self-worth and internal validation. When you find yourself without a partner, use that time to learn more about how you want to be loved. Show yourself some love so that when your special someone comes into your life, they’re not your only source of love – instead, they are an extension of the way you love yourself.
- Confide in Community: I cannot tell you how many times community has saved me when heartbroken or working through the range of emotions that come with being single. Remember that everyone needs a shoulder to cry on. Utilizing our community does not make us weak or “less than,” but builds healthier members of our society.
- Know Your Time Will Come: Honor your journey and understand that love with a partner may not come today, or tomorrow, but trust it will come. Know that you are worthy of intimacy and loveable, and anything loveable is sure to one day attract the love it so desires.