When I finished having sex, I lay with my naked body entangled with my hookup, only illuminated by my fairy lights. Even though the rain had stopped, it was still cold outside. But our bodies, still warm from the sex, kept us comfortable. For maybe 15 minutes, we rested in silence, only disturbed by slow breathing and the occasional exchange of a few words. While I held no feelings for this random stranger in my bed, for a brief moment I felt that I could stay in that position forever.
After regaining our strength, we slowly got up and put on our clothes. While my hookup had shown no interest in talking to me before having sex, he seemed more open to chatting after. Although our conversation was rather brief, I was able to take a glimpse at his life. I learned that he moved from Vietnam and missed his friends and that he was hoping to transfer from a community college. Even though I knew that I would never see this man ever again, I still felt compelled to know him, or at least a part of him, after we had exchanged something so intimate.
He left my room with a puffy jacket on, and predictably, I never saw him again. While I was sexually satisfied for the moment, I felt a looming sense of self-inflicted emptiness. I did not long for my hookup to return, but I recognized my desire for someone to want me and for me to want them. The people whom I hooked up with possibly felt a similar way given our brief yet intimate exchanges of words, but we both knew that a one-time sexual meeting could not develop into a meaningful relationship.
As a queer man, I suffer from a similar issue as other members of the queer community: loneliness. It seems that I am in a perpetual state of romantic isolation, punctuated only by the occasional hookup, which only serves to briefly quell my desire for something more. However, I recognize that, as a queer person, I am bound to be isolated — or at least feel isolated — from other queer people when interacting with the general population. And while isolation and being alone do not necessarily equate to loneliness, they still greatly contribute to the sometimes hopeless desire many queer people feel for genuine connections with each other, romantic or otherwise.
While I can’t completely blame dominant society for the lonely conditions of queer people — given that they are bound to feel some level of isolation as gender and sexual minorities, the social conditions that queer people are subjected to force them into isolation. Queer people are not afforded the same luxuries as cisgender straight people in that they can’t pursue romantic relationships without taking several safety precautions. Not only is there a fear of being physically harmed, but there is also the constant fear of social rejection. In combination, physical and social fears as well as a strong desire to be loved and accepted lead to many queer people using dating apps.
Dating apps are not exclusive to the queer community, but many young queer people, including myself, feel the need to use them for validation and end up engaging in sexual relations as an inadequate substitute for romantic connection. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with casual sex — after all, I sometimes use these apps purely for sexual release — but this is to point out that hookups should not be the only available option for queer people, especially when they are feeling vulnerable. In some ways, I felt forced to engage in sex because I understood that I could not form much of a genuine relationship with people on dating apps.
The desire for a genuine romantic or even platonic connection of queer people on dating apps leads to these brief and somewhat bittersweet conversations I have had with my hookups after sex. I so desperately wanted to get to know them and to form some sense of meaning even if only for a few minutes. While small and seemingly insignificant to other people, these exchanges of words indicate to me that the methods in which queer people meet each other are not enough and can never be enough if they are to remain the same.
I am not advocating for the deletion of these dating apps because I don’t think that queer people, or any people for that matter, should be deprived of the ability to have casual sex. Rather, I am advocating for a shift toward a safer environment for queer people to find each other. Certainly, there are queer clubs and groups in places such as universities, but unfortunately, for several reasons, many queer people can’t or don’t attend, leaving them as isolated as before.
Instead, it is important to change dominant society and the way it creates a hostile environment for queer people in the physical world so that perhaps my chatting with other queer people can take place outside of my bedroom.
Joaquin Najera writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact him at [email protected].