Finding Your People in the LGBTQIA+ Community
By Amber Leventry
Social connections are vital to mental and physical health. Having friends and people you can count on gives you a sense of belonging and comfort. To thrive in all areas of life, you need to feel like you’re part of a community. That’s especially true if you are a part of—or think you may have a place in—the LGBTQIA+ community.
Whether you live or go to school in a small town or a diverse, queer-friendly city, there will always be a way to find connections with people who understand you in unspoken ways. LGBTQIA+ folks often refer to these people as our chosen family.
Finding community is one of the best ways to nurture your mental health, because you are surrounding yourself with people who love you for you. These people advocate for you, encourage you to take care of yourself, and bring you happiness. They can also reduce harm from people who aren’t supportive.
You may not be out to anyone or may be afraid to ask how to find these magical humans. Or maybe you’ve started looking but haven’t yet found your people. Here are some places to consider when you want to find your people within the LGBTQIA+ community.
The internet can be a great place to find friends and LGBTQIA+ community members. Social media apps such as Reddit, TikTok, Instagram, and Meetup; LGBTQIA+ websites and advocacy groups; and places like TrevorSpace are spaces you can find others like you and who share your interests.
Lavender spaces are everywhere in the arts. From musical theater to anime, LGBTQIA+ people often find subtle (and not so subtle) ways to fly their flags of identity. LGBTQIA+ folks capture and showcase their lives through writing spaces too. Zines and fanfic are popular online ways for LGBTQIA+ folks to share their joy and find friends. Books also offer reflection and community through characters. Sometimes just seeing yourself will help you feel less alone, especially if you aren’t out yet.
Depending on where you live, there may be a queer-friendly sports league in your area. Roller derby, softball, kickball, and rugby are known to be inclusive, and they accept many levels of athleticism. Check out gyms, yoga studios, and CrossFit boxes, and choose a space that accommodates all bodies and abilities. Look at websites or call and ask about a studio or gym’s stance on inclusivity. Exercise and movement are great ways to feel stronger and happier and improve your mental health. Many LGBTQIA+ people turn to exercise to find friends and peace of mind.
Pride Centers, Affinity Groups, and Campus Clubs
Local Pride centers often host meetups of queer youth. If you’re comfortable with others knowing you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, consider attending one. Finding a PFLAG chapter can also offer a welcoming place to find allies and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
High school and college campuses also often have affinity spaces or Pride clubs that plan events and organize ways to socialize in safe and welcoming spots. If you don’t have a club like this, GLSEN can help you start and organize a gender and sexuality alliance (GSA) in your school.
It’s easy to feel lonely or like you’re the first to feel a certain way if your identity is outside the expected cisgender and heterosexual default. Your feelings are valid, but you are far from alone. You are stepping into spaces that have been discovered and navigated before. The LGBTQIA+ community is full of people who are ready to be the family you want and need.
Offering your time, skills, and energy benefits others, but volunteering can also help connect you to a larger community. It’s also a great way to meet older mentors in the LGBTQIA+ community. Local Pride centers or online LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups are a good place to start. Queer Youth Assemble is another site that connects you with people collaborating to make the world better for queer youth.
If you are still struggling with challenges related to your gender identity or sexuality, it’s important to reach out for support. Reach out to The Trevor Project, a leading national organization providing crisis intervention services for LGBTQIA+ youth, by texting START to 678-678 or calling 1-866-488-7386.