On She Goes

Queer Dating while Traveling Abroad Is Possible

I was certain that international dating would be a horrible experience, filled with people I wouldn’t be able to connect with and who didn’t match what I wanted in a partner.

Kayla Stewart
Kayla Stewart
May 15, 2017
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International dating can be daunting. Being abroad requires adjusting to a new culture and acclimating to a new place. Dating can feel like adding fuel to the fire of stepping out of your comfort zone. For a queer woman of color from the US, dating can become simply unbearable. Anti-Blackness is real, and anti-queerness is exhausting. Having ended an on-again-off-again toxic relationship once I arrived in Asia, I was thrown into the complicated world of unwanted and unrelenting dating. I was certain that international dating would be a horrible experience, filled with people I wouldn’t be able to connect with who didn’t match what I wanted in a partner. I’d loosely tried dating in Europe, but I wasn’t really proactive about it until reaching an opportunity for a new beginning in Asia. As a person who adores the commitment and security of relationships, I worried and wondered if queer dating was possible.

Anti-Blackness is real, and anti-queerness is exhausting.

Hint: It was. Dating as a person of color and identifying as LGBTQIA+ is challenging, but it is possible. Not only does dating abroad give you the chance to meet new people with unique perspectives, but it also forces you to reevaluate what you find important in a partner and how this could translate into reality. Learn from my experiences so you can meet new people, have awesome experiences, and, just maybe, find “the one.”

Borobudur, Indonesia
photo by Kayla Stewart

Safety is a priority.
Looking for flings or that lifelong love is awesome, but it doesn’t matter if you’re not safe. What’s happening in the US regarding regression in progress for equal rights and safety measures for queer communities is quite similar to what’s happening in other countries around the world—some of these cultures are regressing in progress and acceptance. Living in Indonesia means keeping my identity under wraps unless I feel completely safe. Indonesia has a somewhat “don’t ask, don’t tell” unwritten code. Queer folks exist, but, for the most part, no one says anything or bothers them. While LGBTQ activism is growing in Indonesia, many small communities simply do not acknowledge the existence of queerness, and there could be legal consequences for those caught engaging in queer relationships. While I live in a large city where the culture is a bit more accepting, I still stick out as a Black female foreigner. Everyone in town knows who I am, and that means that people with ill intentions don’t have to work too hard to find me. If you’re in a location that is actively anti-LGBTQ, you are under no obligation to share your sexual identity with others.

That said, it is often helpful to find safe spaces where you can truly be yourself. Finding the local bars and pubs where expats frequent will often lead to conversations with open-minded people who can lead you to support networks and meet-ups for queer folks in the area. Using Google and asking local friends are great ways to start your search.

Make your needs known.
I’m a monogamous, committed-relationship type of woman. However, the combination of having just ended another relationship and knowing that I would only be in Asia for nine months meant that this wouldn’t be the best time to develop a lasting relationship. Be honest with acquaintances and dates about what you’re looking for. Lay out clear expectations about what type of relationship you want, where you see things going, and the amount of time you’re in a specific location. You should also take this into account when listening to potential partners. Everyone has different wants and needs, and you can save yourself a lot of time and frustration by simply acknowledging and accepting what someone else is looking for. You avoid getting hurt, hurting others, and ending what could potentially be a good friendship.

photo by Kayla Stewart

Make dating apps your friend.
Dating apps get a bad rap because of hookup culture. Sure, apps can certainly lead to some lackluster encounters, but I’ve found that they open up unique doors for friendship and possibly more. Different platforms work in various countries, but apps like Tinder, OkCupid, and HER offer different benefits depending on where you’re located. I’ve personally found that Tinder is better for hookups, while OkCupid and HER can lead to more personal and long-term relationships. You can alter your settings to exactly what you’re looking for, and you’re sure to meet some interesting women along the way.

Be aware of cultural norms and barriers.
As an American queer, I feel like I’m from a community that is proud of unapologetically being ourselves. But for some folks, being unapologetically queer is a privilege. Many countries still don’t have laws to protect LGBTQ people. And the countries that have legislation to support queer folks often lack the social norms to keep up with the implemented laws. In the US, gay marriage has been legalized, but new bills are being introduced in various states almost weekly to attack queer livelihood and safety. If a date isn’t ready to hold hands down the street, make sure to understand their position in their culture before shunning them as someone who’s embarrassed about their identity. 

photo by Kayla Stewart

Fearlessness is your friend.
You won’t know if she’s queer until you ask. While safety is always a priority and should be taken into account, if you’re feeling that you’re in a safe environment, don’t be afraid to just ask. The fear of rejection is a part of dating in both queer and heterosexual relationships. If you’re digging someone while you’re out, ask them out to coffee! The worst anyone can say is no, and no will not destroy you.

Finding bae in big cities.
Major cities tend to have more progressive spaces. Whether you feel more comfortable finding your flirtatious vibes in a bar, bookstore, or coffee shop, there are more of those places in big cities. Oftentimes, larger cities have more inclusive spaces and laws that make queer dating a bit easier. Use travel websites and blogs like Travel Noire, Nomadic Matt, and even TripAdvisor to find information and threads about good, inclusive spots. Grab some friends and enjoy a night out.

Be mindful of the societal norms of the countries you’re visiting, but don’t let it deter you from all of the love and experiences you deserve.

Dating can and should be fun. Queerness should only add to the awesome experiences you’re going to have. While I’m fairly new to the dating game, being more open to learning how to date abroad has opened me up to new cultural experiences and has led to some fun experiences with interesting and intelligent women. Be mindful of the societal norms of the countries you’re visiting, but don’t let it deter you from all of the love and experiences you deserve. Be the confident, awesome woman that you are, and the right women will greet you during the journey. Grab life—and love—in the way you know how, and enjoy the folks you meet on the way!