Starting Over In Suburbia Building A New Lgbt Q Community

The temperature is well below freezing. I sit at my desk listening to my beagles, Silas and Tatum, snore at my feet and look out the window, watching the city plows roll down the street as they push aside unfathomable amounts of snow. “How did I get here again?” I wonder.

Actually, I know exactly how I got here. I moved. Again. I chose to trek across the country with my husband to support his career.  I chose to uproot what I knew as normal to go on another adventure. I don’t regret it. In fact, after three moves in eight years, I should be a pro by now. But at times, I still feel like a beginner.

As the newness sets in, I’m left feeling alone. My support system is virtually virtual. My family is across the country, and my career is once again at a starting point. So my real question to myself is, how do I face this change with hope and action?

When I was younger, making friends and creating a social support system was easy. Through the multiple environments of college, church and sports, I had a relaxed, natural, and unintentional experience of ending up with a group of people I called friends. Even as I came out, I didn’t have any trouble creating and maintaining friendships. I was a young gay man in a metropolitan city—friends were plentiful and out in the open.

Now, I’ve reached middle age and live in a suburb that doesn’t have an obvious LGBTQ+ community. Logistically, this wasn’t our first choice, but it was the logical one for my husband’s job.  I haven’t seen a rainbow flag or equality sticker on a car outside the city in several months. Our neighbors are all friendly enough, though we are the token gay couple in a sea of upwardly mobile families focusing on Cub Scouts, their children’s school activities, and upcoming visits from adult children and relatives.

So what do I do?

What does any LGBTQ+ person do in this situation? If you find yourself, like me, living in a city without an identifiable LGBTQ+ population, you may feel alone. Adrift. If you, like me, are not one to settle and become “besties” simply due to orientation, you may struggle with building connections and making friends, even if you never experienced difficulty in that area before.

The following have been beneficial to me in past relocations and are helpful again now. If you, too, are experiencing the challenges that accompany a move to a new community, these steps may also help you.

  • Join a Meetup group. This app, available on smartphones, can help people find others who have similar interests and participate in similar activities. It may take a while, but eventually you may be able to form a new friend group.
  • Volunteer. By volunteering, you can give back to the community and also find potential friends and/or intimate partners who also care about helping others.
  • Visit affirming churches, if you have spiritual interests. Doing so can help you create connections in a space that allows for both spiritual and social bonding.
  • Search online for LGBTQ+ organizations in your area. Facebook and other social media apps may help here.

In the process of restarting a practice, I have intentionally made the decision to take the train and commute into the city, hoping to create professional and social connections in a place where other members of the LGBTQ+ community may be more prevalent. This professional piece—networking, setting up my office space, building up a clientele, developing a credible reputation— I am more familiar with. I try to focus on these same skill sets as I work on my developing my social life, but the vulnerability here is far greater (If a similar vulnerability threatens to overwhelm you, making it difficult to begin the process of reaching out, consider speaking to a qualified therapist).

It is happening for my husband and me, albeit slowly: Last Sunday, we met a new gay couple for lunch and watched a football game together. They brought along one of their friends. We are meeting people and finding friends in the suburbs, and I am hopeful. But I am backing up this hope with intention and action.

It may be a slower process than I wish for, but I am grateful that it has begun. I intend to keep putting my plans in action, until it isn’t a new city any longer, until we are members of the community and not just “the new gay guys in town.”

© Copyright 2017 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jimmy G. Owen, LCPC, CDWF, therapist in Chicago, Illinois

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