"Dear Comrade Femme," is an advice column meets queer theory daydream meets insurrectionary love letter. With her toolkit (working-class roots, queer femme modality, a PhD, and a little magic), Comrade Femme responds to your questions about politics, sex, identity, feelings, work, family, friendship, astrology, and the intersections of them all. Write to her at email@example.com and put "Dear Comrade Femme" in the title. xo
Dear Comrade Femme,
I am a 26 year old female. I identify as a lesbian. I have been out for around 10 years. Somehow i still feel like I’m an outsider to the queer community. Most of my friends identify as straight. I’m very much an introvert. I have only been in two relationships. I don’t know how to be part of the queer community. Anytime I go to a queer spot it seems there are clicks of people and I don’t seem to fit in anywhere. I don’t know anyone. I want queer friends. I want a partner in life. Yet, i don’t know how to obtain these things. I’ve tried all the dating sites and most everyone on there just want sex. Being a queer introvert has been difficult. It’s led to anxiety and depression. HELP!!!
So many of the letters I have received (and so many of the conversations I have had with other adults over the age of 22) have revolved around this feeling of not belonging. Of being community-less, of being lonely. If nothing else, please know sweet T, that you are not alone in the feeling of isolation. Indeed, under capitalism, alienation from each other is what allows the rich to get richer and the marginalized to say marginalized, and so it is no wonder that community is hard to find.
But T, you describe the particularities of your unique type of struggle: a lesbian without a partner, an introvert without an understanding kin. These are important distinctions, but they are not impossibilities. I have all the faith in the world that a partner is waiting for you, and that community is too. But how?
First I want to acknowledge the real-ness of cliques in queer scenes. You’re not imagining it and it is a challenge worth engaging. Even when I felt connected to queer community (in cities I’ve lived in previous to my current one), I would still show up in certain spaces and feel….out of place. Anxious. Like I was being judged, and like everyone was staring at me, wondering why I was even there. (Sound familiar?...Anxiety is a real asshole.) And although I think it’s absolutely true that most of the time, no one is judging you, and that most of the time people in these types of spaces would be open to welcoming you there, I’m not going to tell you to endure a space that makes you feel unwelcome.
Instead, I would suggest not dating sites, but other online platforms that have great potential to build connection. It may sound simple, but have you tried MeetUp groups in your area? When I first moved to Boston, I went on MeetUp.com right away and found a Femme Reading Group, a Queer Vegan Group, and more. Simple Facebook searches can also yield these kinds of geographically-specific queer groups. (I wrote about this in another letter, and suggested similar things for a lonely witch). Do some google-ing and FB-ing, and if nothing comes up, would you consider starting your own group? Perhaps, as an introvert, this sounds overwhelming, but if most of the legwork happens online, the in-real-life connecting can go so much smoother. For example, maybe you like to knit: why not start a Queer Ladies of [Your City] Knitting Group,” plan a meeting at a quiet coffee shop, and see how it goes. You’ll all have the excuse of your activity in case conversation isn’t coming easy (“Can’t talk now, working on a tricky loop!”). Or if not knitting, maybe a book group where you already have something to talk about (the book), or a board game night. I know these things may feel obvious or inadequate, but they actually might be just what you need to get the ball rolling on queer community-building.
You don’t mention where you live, but even the smallest towns have queer people. (We’re everywhere!) I trust deeply that there is a group of queers that would be a perfect fit for your special presence, and/or there are many other lonely queers waiting for someone to provide them a way to connect. With you, with each other. And if working to find your in-real-life crew takes time, don’t be afraid to find long-distance queer family. Some of my most special femme-sisters live hundreds of miles away (and many I’ve never even met!), but our heart responses on Instagram posts, our empathetic Facebook comments...they go along way to combatting feelings of despair.
T, these logistics and pragmatics are easy enough to suggest, but I think the bigger question at hand is actually how to cope with your feelings and mental health as you work to build the family you dream of. Anxiety and depression are insidious creatures, and I’ve dealt with both. If they feel insurmountable, I hope you are taking every measure to address them (therapist, medication if it feels right, and so on). And as you heal, and work to keep these pains at bay, I hope you will remind yourself over and over that you don’t have to believe everything you think. That the anxious thoughts that you’re not good enough are just manifestations of fear. And the depressive waves that lead you to feeling as though you will be alone forever? Also a fear thought, not a truth.
There is more and more research catching up to what marginalized communities have always known: that the reason so many minority communities experience mental illness is not because our brains are predisposed to it, but because it is imposed by the structural conditions in which we live. We are told we are less than, we are denied access to resources; we exist in scarcity. And so we reach and stumble for others like us, who understand, so we may take care of one another when the State will not. As Elizabeth Freeman notes in her theorizing on queer kinship and belonging: “‘Queer belonging’...names more than the longing to be, and be connected, as in being “at hand.” It also names the longing to “be long,” to endure in corporeal form over time, beyond procreation.” Arguably all humans are on a quest for community, but for queers the stakes are often higher; the stakes are survival. And while queerness is beauty and belonging, it can also be isolation and exclusion. It is okay for you to be craving.
T, as real as all the obstacles are, I hope you can err on the side of hope. Draw on your queer elders and remember that as much as we may be predisposed to illness, we are just as predisposed to resilience. As the brilliant queer writer and revolutionary, Leslie Feinberg, wrote in Stone Butch Blues, “power is something qualitatively more than strength.” Even if you are feeling weary and broken, you are part of a something bigger--you are part of a collective history of powerful endurance.
Which is to say this: you are queer and if there’s one thing queers know how to do, it is not only to survive, but thrive in the face of fear. We’ve faced down closets, and police, and disease, and neglectful governments, and we’re still here. You belong to a family even if you haven’t met us yet. Believe that we’re out here waiting for you. Trust the magic of queer energy, believe that it will lead you to your people and them to you, and then, dear T, use that faith to tap into courage.