Trust me, I am far from an expert on gay dating. I wouldn’t even say I’m experienced. The only reason I’m sharing this is because I wish I had had something like this when I first came out.
If you’re a gay Christian who is thinking about coming out or has recently come out, here is what little advice or observations I have made during my first year of being out.
If you’re a gay Christian, the first thing you should know about the gay community is that anything goes. It’s kind of like you can do whatever you want. At first this was a shock to me because I just wasn’t used to it. In reality, the freedom within the gay community is no different than the freedom in secular straight culture. I just hung out with some former students who are home from college, about to head back into their junior year. You wouldn’t believe how open they are about how many random hookups they have, how much they drink, how many drugs they do, etc. In secular college, anything goes, and people pretty much just do what I want.
When I became a Christian at 15, I got pretty deep into it pretty quickly. I joined a discipleship group with a contract with all kinds of legalistic requirements. My friends and I who were in that group now laugh when we think about how we used to cut our worship parties and prayer meetings early because we were under contract not to be out past midnight. In high school and college, I never drank, smoked, did drugs, had sex, or participated in anything that would be considered obvious, blaring sin. Of course I was never perfect, but I honestly never did those things.
My first few years in ministry were focused on middle school ministry, so I didn’t realize how much high school kids drank,smoked weed and had sex until this class of now college juniors was in high school about five or six years ago. It was a shock to me back then, and learning that acid and cocaine are as common at college parties as weed is at high school parties was also a shock to me the other day.
I think when Christians talk about the “gay lifestyle,” they don’t realize how similar the “gay lifestyle” is to the secular heterosexual lifestyle. I can definitely understand for people like me, it can be a big shock to go from strictly legalistic church culture to secular culture. I honestly thought I was one of the less sheltered Christians in my circle because I didn’t grow up in church, so I can’t imagine how much different that shock might be if I had grown up as a homeschooled pastor’s kid like some of my friends.
Anyway, back to dating. When you get involved with the gay community, you’ll just notice that it’s regular people living regular lives, but what has been normal to you is probably not normal to everyone.
Gay dating is weird.
When I first came out, I was somewhat excited to try out dating. I went on my first date a few weeks after I came out. It was a guy I met on Tinder, and we chatted for a while before meeting. We met at a bar, and it was my first time ever intentionally going to a bar. Bars aren’t really my thing, but I feel like it’s kind of just what you do when you’re in your twenties and dating, whether gay or straight. If you’re in a position like I was, it’s ok. I was pretty nervous and felt kind of guilty or ashamed, but there’s really nothing to be guilty or ashamed about.
On our second date we met at a gay bar, because I said I had never been to one. We met at R Place and then walked over to Neighbours. It was a weeknight, so neither of them were busy, so that was probably a better introduction than a weekend night would have been. Going to a gay bar was pretty intimidating for someone who had never even been in a regular bar for the first 26 years of his life, but really there’s not much to be afraid of. You might see bar tenders in tight short shorts, but that’s about it. Some bars have go-go dancers on some nights; they’re not strippers because they don’t take off any clothes or show any private parts, but they just dance around in underwear. It’s not my thing, but that’s something you can expect if you’ve never experienced it before.
On our third date, we just met at a restaurant for dinner. To be honest, I knew after the first date that I wasn’t interested in this guy long term. I think I went on the second and third dates both because I was too nice to end it and didn’t know how, and because I wanted to learn some general stuff about being gay and the gay community from him. He is a gay Christian who went to SPU and had come out about two years earlier, so he had some valuable insights to share. Eventually, I realized the nicest thing to do is to be honest and end it before it goes any further if you know it shouldn’t go any further. I let him know over text that I didn’t think we would be the best fit, and we never really talked again.
After that, I took a break from trying to date and wanted to just work on myself.
Then I met a guy in February who was pretty cool and interesting. He was an attorney with an extensive catholic background, and he was writing an academic paper on Ephesians 3, which is significant to gay-affirming theology. He was interesting to talk to, and we also went on three dates- one to Pike Place Market, one to Seattle Art Museum, and one to lunch. On our third date he mentioned that he didn’t want to get married because he felt it would be conforming to the heterosexual norm. He wanted to have a monogamous life long partner and raise a family, but didn’t see any value in having a legally recognized marriage or a piece of paper to validate the relationship. I thought about that, and it just didn’t work for me. I want to get married, and I think ultimately God recognizes marriage, but I would want it to be official and legally recognized. With him, I told him in person that it wasn’t going to work out, and it was fine.
An important thing to remember if you’re just getting involved with the gay community is that just because anything goes, and you can pretty much do whatever you want, and gay people tend not to judge or ask too many questions, you don’t have to be ok with anything. You can and should still keep your values, morals and beliefs, and you don’t have to feel guilty about not being ok with everything you could be ok with if you wanted to. For example, the first guy I went on dates with mentioned that he was just getting into doing drag. I researched drag and learned more about its interesting history, and this guy explained kind of the meaning and purpose about why people do drag, which was interesting. I didn’t really know what to think, but my initial response was that I wasn’t comfortable with it. I couldn’t picture myself supporting my boyfriend at drag shows, and in the long term, I couldn’t picture myself raising kids who saw their dad occasionally dress in drag. I asked the only gay friend I have if it was judgmental or wrong of me to make that a deal breaker, and he said no, it’s ok to not be comfortable with certain aspects of gay culture. With the second guy, it was ok to not be ok with his view of marriage, and ok that that was a deal breaker.
After that, I took some time off again. To be honest, I chatted with a guy I met on Tinder for months, but he lives out of state, and we eventually decided it wasn’t going to work out.
My next date was when I went on a double blind date with a guy I met on Grindr the night of the Orlando shooting. His female roommate was on straight date with a guy. We went to dinner and then a gay bar and then a gay club. The guy was alright, but I noticed toward the end of the night that he and his roommate seemed to have a strange relationship. It’s kind of hard to describe, but it was just weird, like kind of co-dependent and co-controlling. Too weird for me, so I never saw him again.
It was pretty crazy to wake up the next morning and see all the news about the Orlando shooting, because if that had been in Seattle, I had been in two of the maybe ten places the shooting could have taken place, and R Place in particular is pretty similar to Pulse Nightclub, where the shooting took place.
The next date I went on was with a guy I met on Scruff. We just met at a restaurant for dinner. He was nice, and we had a good conversation, but I think we could both tell it wasn’t going anywhere. When we said goodbye, there was no reason to say anything about meeting again or not meeting again, we just said goodbye.
So that’s it, the first year of a gay Christians attempts at dating. I guess here’s what I learned:
- You can do whatever you want.
- You don’t have to do anything at all- a fruit of the Spirit is self-control.
- You don’t have to be ok with everything.
- It’s always best to be honest, so end it when you realize there’s no future.
- Work on yourself first.
Breakdown of Gay Dating Apps:
- Tinder: Well known as a straight dating app, but you can set the settings to shoe gay or bisexual people. You just see a picture and swipe right if you’re interested, swipe left if you’re not. If you both swipe right on each other, you’ll get a notification that you’ve matched. You check out their profile, which usually has more pictures and a description of themselves. If you want to chat, you can send messages. Some people, gay and straight, use it as a hookup app. If that’s your thing, more power to you, but if not, just chat until you feel comfortable meeting them in a well-lit, safe public place.
- Grindr: You can probably tell from the name, Grindr seems to be more geared toward hookups than anything else. You can see pictures and click on profiles to read their description. You can see how close people are in miles and feet. It’s pretty weird when you can see a guy on an app 100 feet away and then look up to see them in the same restaurant. That takes a while to get used to. Not everyone is looking for hookups, and you can usually tell from their profiles. If their profile mentions sex or specifies whether they’re a top or bottom, they’re probably just looking for hookups. The guy I met after chatting with Grindr was not looking for sex, and like I said we just went to dinner, a bar and a club.
- Scruff: Pretty similar to Grindr, but Grindr tends to be more like jocks, twinks, college and headers (different categories of what you might call pretty boys). Scruff is more for like rugged guys with beards and stuff. It seems kind of less hookup-focused than Grindr, but there’s a mix of everyone on all these apps. It also shows pictures, profiles and proximity. On Grindr, you just have to message, but some people like on Scruff that you can “Woof” at people you’re interested in, which I guess is less commitment than sending a message.
Like I said, I’m definitely not an expert on gay dating. In fact, my very limited experience is probably laughable to most gay men. I’m not really that into it, because I just don’t care enough to spend a lot of time, energy or focus trying to date. I have little to offer as far as advice in this area, but still, I wish I had had even this much to go on when I first came out. I hope that these experiences can help someone out there who’s in a position similar to mine. Good luck.