By Daña Alder, Campus Community Partnerships Team Manager
UW-Madison Health Services
A healthy relationship is one where both people feel free to express their true selves in an atmosphere of love and support. The ability to communicate openly and honestly, even when difficult, is key. These sentiments are true for all intimate relationships whether the individuals involved are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or heterosexual. The key differences for LGBT people come in finding other LGBT people and in deciding how open to be with family and friends about your relationship.
Where to Go
Most college communities have LGBTQ clubs or events where you can find other LGBTQ people (UWEC Spectrum: www.uwec.edu/spectrum/). UW-Madison's Ten Percent Society has dances throughout the year that regularly draw about a thousand people to the Memorial Union. Large cities have a variety of LGBTQ groups--everything from bowling clubs to literary societies to political activists. An Internet search can help you find the resources in your town or in the closest big city.
But suppose you find yourself noticing that cute, articulate girl in your English class, and you think she might be paying special attention to you, too. How do you check that out? An invitation for coffee or working together on a project can give you a chance to get to know her better and to take a more informed guess whether or not you're imagining things. Follow your feelings, and if the time seems right, try saying something, subtle or explicit, that will let her know how you feel. She might express surprise or even have a negative reaction initially that may or may not mean that she has feelings for you, too. Some people react negatively at first to feelings of attraction to someone of the same sex and later adjust to the idea. Sometimes you just misread the signals, and the person really is heterosexual or just isn't attracted to you.
This is usually a higher risk proposition for men than women, since deeply ingrained homophobia and masculine insecurity sometimes lead heterosexual or highly closeted men to react violently to another man's expressing his feelings for them. Gay men should take great care in sharing their feelings with anther man whose sexual orientation isn't clear to them.
LGBT people have been finding each other in places both likely and unlikely for many years, though, and, if done safely, many LGBT people who are now in long-term relationships will tell you it was worth the risk to ask her out for coffee.
UWEC Counseling Services expresses it's apprecation to the author, Daqa Alder, who is a Lesbian Feminist Activist