College is famous–or perhaps infamous–as a place for experimentation, self-discovery, and reinvention. For many young, queer people, this seems like a dream come true. It’s a place away from our families and old friends where we can find ourselves in peace, and is sometimes more tolerant than the places we’re coming from.
College is also rife with the pressure to find romantic relationships, and this pressure can be particularly acute for queer students. For many of us, this is the first time we can openly pursue queer relationships, and we are often eager to do so. However, we are not always successful in finding those relationships, which can be a disheartening and even invalidating experience.
Some people come to college still unsure of their identity. For these people, not being in a relationship can cause them a lot of doubt and anxiety. They may worry that they are actually just imagining their queer identity. These fears are further reinforced by a society that routinely asks us to prove our queerness and still assumes that everyone is straight until proven otherwise.
Queer dating also presents unique challenges. While the myth of “gaydar,” or the ability to tell another person’s sexuality just by being around them, is persistent, it is hardly accurate. Many queer people face a lot of anxiety about flirting with others for fear that the person we are interacting with may be straight and take offense or see us as predatory.
There are plenty of other valid reasons for not being in a relationship, as well. Some people may have experienced trauma related to relationships in their past, which may cause them to hesitate at the thought of pursuing another one. Others may simply feel that their time is better spent focusing on their studies and on themselves.
There are lots of elements in our culture that encourage us to see our queerness as directly related to our relationships. But we don’t assume that straight people can’t be sure of their identities until they’ve had relationships with people of a different gender, so why would we assume that of queer people? It’s important to remember that your identity is valid, and no relationship or lack thereof will affect that.