February 13, 2020

GUEST ROOM | The Pressures of Queer Dating at Cornell

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Note: I use queer and LGBTQ+ interchangably in this article. 

As Valentine’s Day descends upon the Cornell campus, students are suddenly and aggressively being reminded of their dating statuses. “Perfect Match” flyers can be found all over campus, ads for fraternity candy grams litter doors with pastel colors, the jaws of dating apps swallow students’ time. The bombardment of heteronormative love-themed events and recent talks with friends about dating has made me think: How different is the queer and straight experience of dating at Cornell?

My initial thought is that queer students are under different pressures than straight people; obviously, queer students are fewer in number than heterosexual students, and therefore have fewer options. Because there are fewer of us, meeting another person who’s queer, available, fits your vibe and is into you feels almost impossible. Because of this, when a connection is finally made, there’s an intensity about it which shapes the development of the relationship. A subtle pressure of perfectionism nudges its way into LGBTQ+ dating that, while similar to the anxiety of any kind coupling, has a distinct air of urgency.

I’ve slowly been figuring out why dating queer people often carries that feeling; the stakes are higher with queer dating because the chances of your love interest knowing (or worse, having dated) your friends are higher than with straight dating. Many queer people at Cornell tend to hang out in certain spaces (thanks, Lodge). We might not all know each other, but we definitely at least know someone who knows the person whose pants you want to get into. Being a part of a minority at Cornell brings us close, and this puts a spotlight on our relationships. A hookup for straight people seems more likely to disappear into the abyss of time and repressed memory. Sure, there’s the possibility you’ll run into your ex-something at Temple of Zeus, but you can easily bury yourself in your phone or laptop to avoid them. LGBTQ+ people don’t have that luxury because of our social networks — how dare you ignore your close friend’s close friend who happens to be your ex!

Adding to the intensity of dating women as a woman, for example, is that we have to be more conscious about being public with our relationships and seductions. Ithaca is a beautiful city of conscientious liberals. But no matter how progressive this land claims to be, PDA with a member of the same sex will always turn heads. Figuring out how visible I want my queerness to be in Cornell’s nightlife also confuses me — most Greek life and other parties are designed to set up straight hookups. It’s difficult to pursue someone of the same sex in heterosexually-charged environments without feeling like a spectacle. The first stages of queer dating are governed by an etiquette dictated by our place in a straight environment.

I get agita when I talk to my straight friends about dating. Though we do have much in common — from dealing with ghosting to heartbreak — Valentine’s Day for mingling queer students has its own set of pressures that straight people won’t ever have to deal with.


Emma Plowe is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. Comments can be sent to [email protected]. Guest Room runs periodically this semester.