How Do I Make New Friends?

I’m rebuilding my social life after some hard times that included changes in where and with whom I spent time.  So far so good, though I’m still shaky and shy on the inside a lot. But I’m taking steps and seeing good initial results. Now I want to find places to hang out with other genderqueer and/or kinky folks for conversations and laughs and deep talks and probably tea.  How do I find more of my ilk?  And how do I keep from chickening out? Because I can be such a great big chicken sometimes.

Signed,
Only Confident on the Outside

Dear Only Confident on the Outside,

I’m going to tell you a secret. I’m only confident on the outside, too!

I’m of the ‘fake it ’till you make it’ philosophy, which works great except for when it doesn’t. And for me, at least, when it doesn’t is the moment it’s time for me to leave the house and go meet new people. So I’m going to suggest some online ways to do this and some tricks for IRL House Leaving Damnit.

Do you have a profile on FetLife? If not, you should definitely make one. I would also highly recommend you create yourself an account at Meetup, as there are tons of discussion groups and get-togethers for genderqueer, trans*, and non-binary folks in cities all over the US.

I’m guessing, though, that what you might really need is more of a pep talk rather than information on where to find likeminded people.

I can’t tell you what to do, so I’ll tell you what I do when I’m going somewhere that I am sort of anxious about: I promise myself that I only have to stay for 10 minutes. Just 10 minutes.

Nearly every time I go out to do something and I think I’m too tired or too chicken or too nervous, I just tell myself sternly: 10 minutes.

There has been ONE get-together that I honored this for myself. Most of the time I find myself in conversation with someone and it goes swimmingly and I am well past the 10 minute mark. But if you tell yourself that you will only be anxious and insecure and awful for 10 minutes (and you know you’ll follow through if it’s really not for you), you might find it easier to get out of the house.

Good luck! And good for you for branching out and seeking new friends after having a hard time. I think sometimes we put extra pressure on ourselves in these situations, like THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR MY RECOVERY or EVERY PARTY IS A MOMENTOUS OPPORTUNITY I MIGHT MISS.

But I think if you think of it — truly think of it — as just a cup of tea and some conversation, and you give yourself a bit of a way out if you need it to gather your strength for the Leaving of the House, new friendships and connections can sneak up on you.

This letter originally appear at bitterempire.com on February 17, 2015.

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