The Hook Up: How to pick up a lady for friendship


I’ve recently moved to NYC and I’m working on getting my life together here—which includes building up a social life from scratch. I’m doing all the standard new-in-town things, going out with coworkers, looking up long-lost friends of friends. The trouble is, I’m not sure how to find a group of queer ladies to hang out with.

I’m out to anyone who’s bothered to ask, but I’m bisexual and I present pretty feminine, so I fall into the “presumed hetero” box a lot. I’ve tried a couple of bars and lesbian events, but it’s mostly just depressing trying to go alone, and conversations there tend to end with an attempted hookup rather than a budding friendship. How do other people do this?

Anna says: This is the eternal question, right? Where the ladeez at?! We are like urban raccoons, both nowhere and everywhere. It’s a paradox. (Paradykes?) I’ve had luck meeting ghey friends on OkCupid albeit, it was sort of by accident, but I do know many a queer who has successfully found platonic friends on dating sites, if you’re into pursuing the online route. As an aside, I also had an incredibly awkward ending to what I thought was an OkC date, only to find out after trying to kiss her that she was “only interested in activity partners.” I’ve met friends on the street, outside of gay bars. I’ve met them at coffee shops. I’ve met them the usual way—that is, I dated them, and then we became friends later.

There’s also work parties and house parties and friends of friends and friends of ex-lovers. There’s Meetup groups (as we talked about a few weeks ago) you can join or start. There’s bookstores with LGBT sections where many hellagays have lingered. There’s concerts—just attend any where a babe is holding a guitar; I assure you they will have a queer following. There’s burlesque shows (psst: this is where the hot bisexuals hang out). There are Facebook groups and film screenings and leather competitions and comedians (Go see Jessica Halem the next time she performs; she’s amazing and hilarious). Drag a straight friend or two out with you to a gay event and make them be your platonic wingmen. Ask friends for other friend recommendations. Ask your social networks. You never know what might come out of it. For instance, one time on Twitter I got an Amanda Palmer concert ticket and a shirt made of bamboo.

And don’t forget about volunteering. Lesbians love to save things: elephants, whales, rainforests, libraries, porn from the 1910s, many straight actresses’ careers, etc. Find an LGBT nonprofit that’s doing work you dig and you’re guaranteed to be put into contact with lots of other swell lady-lovers. Plus, it doubles as a good cause, so your heart and vagina will thank you.

AfterEllen readers in New York: Where have you met your gay best friends? Let us know in the comments.

I’ve been reading your Hook Up column for too long now, and have started slowly coming out to my friends back home in Southeast Asia. Since I’m 23 and by all definitions a virgin and I’ve only known four lesbian/ bisexual girls in my entire life, I figured once I come here to Britain to do my postgraduate studies that I could finally come out, see other lesbians and hope they would want me to. Since coming here, I’ve taken steps to come out by joining a gay girls group (it’s kind of secret though) and looked for the uni LGBT club, but their site and contacts seemed dead.

So last night, I went to the gay bar. Alone. After a while, I went to dance by myself, was sozzled a bit and ended dancing the night away with a Brit girl who I’m not into. I was just very happy to be dancing with a fellow queer in a gay bar. When we stopped for a smoke break, I kinda did the baby dyke thing where I tell her my entire story and coming out status and she says she’s part of the LGBT club, and proceeds to introduce me to all her friends there who are basically the entire club. I am so happy, and even share crazy religious parent stuff with one of them.

Then we’re sitting down side-by-side and I say I need to scoot off. Then she says she wouldn’t want to leave the club without kissing me. So I say OK but that it’s my first time. So she kisses me, and there is tongue. And I’m not revolted, but I feel nothing.

Now my dilemma: I really really want to try it with a girl. But I’m not into this girl, though I really want to know her better because she is part of the LGBT club, and I really need a gay processing group or somethinglast night simply talking to them was therapeutic. She sent lots of signals last night that said she wants me, she knows I’m new to the entire thing and it’s basically perfect for a first time. It’s just that reading your advice and the mail you get, it seems lesbians get emotional really fast and I don’t want to lead her on but I don’t know how. Anna, help, I need to know other gay people. I don’t want to burn bridges with an entire community simply because I cannot communicate well enough.

Anna says: Since you read The Hook Up regularly, you’ll probably also know that I don’t advocate sleeping with girls you’re not interested in just for the sake of losing your v-card.

Let me step back for a minute and say that you’re hella courageous for going out on your own and being vulnerable and meeting new people. That’s hard, even in places where you do know people.

It sounds to me like this girl (may I call her Brit?) may be a good resource, a friend, and a potential springboard for you to meet other gheys, but a sex partner? Not so much. “I wasn’t revolted but I felt nothing” is how you described the kiss you shared. Call me crazy, but it seems unlikely that such a lukewarm description will translate to mind-blowing sex. Or even good sex, frankly.

If you don’t want to lead her on, then don’t hook up with her. Trust your feelings on the issue and be upfront about them. “Hey Brit, you seem awesome and can twerk like nobody’s business, but I’m not really feeling it, romance-wise. But I just moved here and talking with other gay people made me so happy and can we be friends?”

I empathize with the difficulties of meeting queer people in new places (as the other letter writer this week can also surely attest), but you not sleeping with this one girl isn’t going to burn all the bridges or outcast you from the entire LGBT community. If anything, sleeping with someone you’re not into will only serve to complicate your life, and the lives of others. If anything, being untrue to yourself will have the most lasting consequences for you alone.

It’s possible that being honest with Brit might leave her ego-bruised for a bit. She might not want to be platonic mates or help you start your gay entourage in this new city and new life. But even if she doesn’t want to be besties, you’ll be OK. You’ve already proved this. You went out and faced your fears and bonded with strangers in a strange place. You can do it again. And again. However many times is necessary before you meet the people who will become your dearest friends and lovers.

So don’t worry about being inexperienced; worry about doing the right thing for you.

You may be the new girl, and that comes with its own set of challenges, but it also comes with advantages too. A fresh start. A clean slate. From here the distance looks like opportunity, the chance to flirt with the girl you want to be, to become the version of yourself you’ve only dreamed. It’s exciting and scary and you’re on the right track. Just keep the faith and keep climbing.

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your The Hook Up questions at