In the summer of 2010 one of my good friend Talia told me they knew someone who was also recently coming out and that I should talk to them about it, see if we could bond over it. Over the next few weeks I reached out and asked to meet up with Dustin. It took a few times of hanging out in a group setting for either of us to be comfortable to talk about our recent experiences coming out but eventually the hesitation gave way.
At the time I was living in Dubuque which did not have a gay bar and I was hesitant to use online methods as a way to meet other gay men. Dustin had started a relationship a number of months earlier with a man so he was more comfortable with his sexuality. My friend Talia and I would regularly plan trips with Dustin to bigger cities to see what gay bars where like. Coming out is a mix of strong emoting and “going out” as a newly accepting gay man can be just as nerve racking and exciting. Experiencing all these new emotions at a bar rather than, for example, a chaperoned high school dance can lead to some decisions being made while badly drunk. As I look back I realize having Dustin as a friend was invaluable for me at such an important time. It was great having a friend who wanted to be exposed to gay culture as much as I did, never leaving me feeling like he was doing me a favor by going out. All the trips we made and people we meet it meant so much to me to know I had someone to go to talk to about the choices I had to make. I didn’t always make the right decision, but I know I would have been completely lost without both Dustin and Talia.
If you are recently coming out and excited to jump into a romantic relationship it is important to first consider getting to know others in the community who will become solid friends. Establishing and building strong friendships was such an important base for me to find out who I was during that summer and as I continue to grow and change those friendships are still vital to keeping me grounded.