Gay & Sober: 7 Ways To Build LGBTQ Community That Don’t Involve Bars

Four male friends taking a selfie

It sounds obvious, but it bears repeating—building an LGBTQ community is one of the best things you can do as an LGBTQ person. Having LGBTQ friends makes you realize that the roller coaster of emotions and experiences that come with being LGBTQ are completely normal and shared. 

In the past, having these kinds of LGBTQ confidants was unrealistic, if not impossible. For years, LGBTQ people did all they could to keep their identities a secret—not exactly ideal for making friends.

That started to change in the 1950s and 60s when underground bars became refuges for gay men and lesbians. Because of this history, gay bars continue to be a cornerstone of the LGBTQ community today.

For many, these watering holes are the first place they feel comfortable with their true identity. Being surrounded by other queers definitely helps with this newfound confidence. But more often than not, it’s the liquid courage provided by the cheap and plentiful drinks. 

This is troubling, not only because it excludes those who are underage, those who dislike bars, and those who are sober, but also because of the high rates of substance abuse in the LGBTQ community. 

Indeed, recent studies have found that 20 to 25% of the LGBTQ community have a moderate to severe drinking problem. This percentage is only 12.7% In the general population. 

What’s more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that LGBTQ people start drinking earlier and continue drinking heavily into the later years of life.

Given these statistics, it seems both irresponsible and ill-advised to suggest that LGBTQ people rely solely on gay bars in order to make friends and build community. 

That being the case, we’ve come up with 7 alternative places to make LGBTQ friends. Read on to learn more!

1. Build LGBTQ Community On Social Media

Social media is likely one of the first places most LGBTQ people think of when trying to make LGBTQ friends. And they’re no doubt a great place to start. 

In fact, data from the start of 2021 found that there are 4.2 billion social media users around the world—or about 53% of the global population. Plus, the number of social media users surged in the past year, with 490 million new users joining social media between January 2020 and January 2021.

Of course not all new social media users are part of the LGBTQ community, but given the sheer number of new accounts, it’s not much of a stretch to say that these spaces are welcoming more and more LGBTQ users. 

There are lots of ways to tap into the LGBTQ community on these platforms. Here’s how to do it on each site:

Facebook – Search “LGBTQ” + [Your City/Closest Large City] or Queer Exchange [Your City] to find groups of LGBTQ people in your area. You can also search “LGBTQ” + [A sport, hobby, or interest] to find like-minded LGBTQ people around the world.

Joining groups, commenting on posts, and providing advice are all great ways to interact with the community and make friends. 

Instagram – Search LGBTQ-related hashtags, follow a few accounts that attract your attention, and engage with other users by liking their posts, leaving comments, and responding to stories. Responding to stories is a particularly useful way to start up a conversation with someone you hope to befriend. 

TikTok – Use the Discover tool to search for LGBTQ-related videos by keyword or hashtag. Like and comment on videos, follow users who inspire you, and send direct messages to people with who you connect the most. 

2. Meetup

Meetup is a website and mobile application that organizes online groups to host in-person and virtual events for people with similar interests. Although it can be a bit hit or miss, it’s worth searching terms like LGBTQ, queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender to find groups near you. 

Depending on where you live, you’ll find LGBTQ book clubs, improv troupes, softball teams, hiking groups, and more. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, most events remain virtual. However, that means you can access events all over the world right from your couch. Talk about an easy way to build LGBTQ community!

3. Dating Apps

Another way to meet LGBTQ people online is through dating apps. Before you roll your eyes or sigh with exasperation, hear us out. Dating apps aren’t just for hookups or flings—if you know which ones to use that is. 

While it’s true that big names like Tinder and Grindr have the reputation of being a bit of a meat market, there are tons of smaller apps where LGBTQ people can go to find friends. 

For example, sites like Bumble and Chappy have designated friend modes, meaning your profile will only be visible to other users seeking friends as well. 

Lex is another up-and-coming app designed as a digital space for lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, and non-binary women to meet. The app allows users to post pithy personal ads and talk over the built-in messaging platform. Users appreciate the lack of images, as it means interests, energy, and personality are prioritized over physical appearance.

4. LGBTQ Sports Leagues Are A Great Place To Build LGBTQ Community

LGBTQ sports leagues are way more common than most people realize. Not only are they a great place to build LGBTQ community, but they’ll help you fit in the workout you’ve been meaning to do. 

So whether you were the star of the varsity soccer team in high school or are more of a Frisbee-dabbler, try searching online for an LGBTQ sports league in your area. These leagues typically meet once a week and are open to everyone—even complete beginners.

5. Municipal LGBTQ+ Websites & Advocacy Groups

While it’s true that many towns and cities don’t have municipal LGBTQ resources for residents, a surprising number do. These sites can be excellent resources for finding local LGBTQ events and organizations. 

Depending on where you live, you may find queer culture centers, social clubs,  racial or ethnic affinity groups, or LGBTQ advocacy groups. A simple Google search will show you what sorts of organizations and advocacy groups exist near you.

6. Blogging Platforms

Blogging platforms like Tumblr and Reddit are another great place to build LGBTQ community online. These sites feature message boards and forums about a wide range of topics, including quite a few about LGBTQ rights, issues, and pride. You can hop on an existing conversation or start your own in order to share content, get advice, or interact with others as passionate as you are. 

7. Alcohol-Free LGBTQ Spaces

Spaces like LGBTQ cafes and bookstores are excellent places for LGBTQ people to come together and build community. That’s especially true for those who are sober, those who aren’t of legal drinking age, and those who prefer having a quiet conversation over thrashing around in a nightclub. 

For example, Queeret is an organization that brings together queer introverts for quiet, queer social gatherings called qalms. Check out this article to learn more about this growing trend and to see if there’s a sober LGBTQ space near you. 

La Fuente Helps Build LGBTQ Community

Located in Los Angeles, La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center is one of the United States’ only LGBTQ-affirmative addiction treatment centers. 

We take this role seriously. That means we do everything we can to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in addiction treatment. In addition, we’re committed to providing information to members of the LGBTQ community and to other addiction treatment centers. 

Our mission is two-fold. First, we aim to empower LGBTQ people to seek substance abuse treatment so they can live happy, productive, and sober lives. Second, we hope to educate other addiction treatment centers so that they can provide better, more culturally competent care to their clients.

If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community and are seeking a treatment center designed around your needs, please fill out the form below. A member of our staff will be in touch with you within 24 hours. 

If you’re an addiction treatment provider, please feel free to browse other topics on our blog.

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