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Just Out Online Dating Primer


An online dating primer for those who’ve recently come out of the closet… heed this smart advice.

By Stephen F. Milioti

f you’re entering the dating scene and are recently out, you may feel as if you’re facing a daunting challenge. You may feel like everyone knows the rules of the game but you... or that everyone can tell you’re unsure of yourself. But remind yourself that you are not alone. “There are plenty of men who are ‘sort of out,’ but not all the way out,” says Ritch Savin-Williams, Ph.D., chair of human development at Cornell University and author of And Then I Became Gay: Young Men’s Stories, among other books. Typically, these guys hang back a bit: “A man just emerging from the closet might be willing to go on a date but not hold hands, or might open up to some personal friends, but doesn’t want it generally known. They use ‘gay’ to describe their sexual behavior, but aren’t yet comfortable with it as an identity.”

So how exactly do you get used to dating as a gay man? How do you explain your situation
Some people over 30 bust out rather than come out.
to the guys you meet? Here are a few more tips to help you segue into the out community.

Come out about being “just out”
Being newly out is something to share with a date once you’re sure you like him—especially if, say, he wants you to march in a pride parade and you’d rather have a root canal. The simplest approach is to explain that you haven’t been out of the closet long, and, while you accept who you are, you want to work more on that in a private arena first. As you get to know the person better, you can reveal the details and reasons for your late-breaking emergence. That’s what Anthony Hogan, a newly-out airline technician from Washington, D.C., does. “When it comes up, I tell guys I meet that I just came out a year and a half ago. Most guys are totally OK with it.” If your date isn’t, know that his reaction says more about him than it does you. “One guy almost jumped out of his seat and yelled, ‘You’re almost 40, and you just came out? That’s insane!’ It was obvious he’s not exactly the supportive type,” says Hogan. Just consider it a favor that he made it clear he’s not the guy for you. “If someone accepts himself, yet isn’t comfortable outwardly expressing his sexuality in public, that’s not a terrible thing,” says Savin-Williams. “It’s different if someone is clearly self-hating—now that’d be a problem.”

Date around
Jumping into a relationship right now might be really tempting—you get to duck out of the gay dating scene, which might feel like a relief. But if you’re newly out, it’s important to meet different people to see what you want and what you like. After all, would you want to now be married to the first girl who had a crush on you in junior high school? It’s better to set casual dating goals and have fun in your new identity than expect to find something permanent right away.

Come out of the closet calmly
One common occurrence is that a just-liberated person won’t exactly come out of the closet quietly, says Jeffrey Chernin, Ph.D., (www.jeffreychernin.com), a psychotherapist who specializes in gay issues in Los Angeles. “Some people who reveal their sexual orientation after 30 don’t come out, they ‘bust out,’” Dr. Chernin says. While often mature in other ways, these people are basically adolescents in the world of dating and relationships. “They often ‘fall in love’ with the first person they date and develop ‘waiter-crushes’ that are cute when you’re in your 20s, but in your 30s and 40s look a bit different to those around them.”
If there isn’t sexual chemistry, it’s OK to say no thanks…
Of course you’re going to feel frisky when you’re finally out of the closet, but there are better ways to express it than by becoming a 40-year-old party boy. How to know if you’re going overboard? “It’s hard to check in with yourself, so you may have to rely on trusted friends or talk to a therapist,” says Dr. Chernin. “You should be able to come out of the closet and still take advantage of your age and wisdom.”

Take your time finding your sexual comfort zone
Sexual expression happens in many different ways for gay people, just as it does for those who are straight, so give yourself time to develop a sexual personality. If your sexual chemistry doesn’t click with someone, it’s OK to say “No thanks,” instead of “Well, I guess this is what gay sex is going to be like.” If you don’t want to go all the way yet or find you don’t like a certain type of sex, rest assured there are other gay people who feel the same way. “Take your time and get to know the other person first before introducing sex,” says Dr. Chernin. “Be willing to talk about sex, what turns you on, your fears about HIV and how to minimize the risk, and whatever else is going on in your mind.”

On the other hand, you’re not a “bad gay” if you find out you’re into someone sexually but not emotionally. “People can click sexually but not be turned on personality-wise,” says Chernin. He calls this type of relationship a “sparkler” —something that starts out hot and heavy but burns out fast. Regardless of myth and peer pressure, your identity doesn’t need to conform to any stereotype—all that matters is what works for you.

So take your time, honor your own limits, and congratulations—we think you’ll like it out here.


Freelance writer and editor Stephen F. Milioti contributes to New York and Salon.
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