Being a Queer Single Woman in My Early Thirties

I am thirty-three and have been single all of my life. Every once in a while I’ll date someone, but nothing has lasted longer than a few months. I have had some big crushes on [infatuations with] people, but being in a relationship just for the sake of it is not something I have pursued. I do have close friends who play partner-type roles in my life, and my life has a lot of closeness and connection in it. But I still find it challenging to build a life as a single woman in a world built around romantic partnerships.

I can think of things that set me up to be single: some terror and loneliness from experiences in the hospital at birth; some negative first-time sexual experiences, including abuse from a close female friend at age fourteen; and just a whole bunch [a great deal] of terror about sex and my body. Fat oppression also plays a role, in both how I see myself and how other people see me. Also, not being single is something I haven’t prioritized.


I began to identify as Queer when I was in college. I went to an all-women's school, and the combination of being away from men and beginning to identify as Queer gave me more room for a lot of things.  I could talk with people about my anger at sexism and male domination, in a way that I'd never felt I could before. I also felt much less pressure to date - anyone - and to follow a "nuclear family" model. I felt I had permission to make my female friends the most important people in my life and to figure out how to do things I wanted to do without a traditional romantic partnership.

Most of my Queer female friends are not single. However, few of them have lives that look like the “normal” lives of my partnered heterosexual friends. Some are in polyamorous relationships [sexual/romantic relationships with more than one person], others are in long-term relationships that don’t involve cohabitating, others live with a partner but with other people as well. Very few of them have children.


I spent several years living with roommates (close friends as well as random people) and then moved into my own place a year and a half ago. Although I currently live “alone,” that is not quite an accurate term for how I live. In the first year in my new apartment, two friends stayed with me for a few months each while they went through big life transitions, and I spent two months living and working at a summer camp. I spent only about four months living with just me in the house.

I spend a lot of time with my female friends, including having frequent sleepovers. I also talk to my sister (who is heterosexual, married, and a new mom) on the phone every morning as I commute to work (and sometimes at other times in the day). I also have several friends scattered across the country with whom I have frequent phone dates.


I tend to have a lot of feelings when my friends get into romantic partnerships or make decisions in their lives that take them away from me. I can feel like all of my friendships are temporary, like at any moment any of them could be “stolen” by a relationship.

My feelings can mirror what I see other women going through during bad breakups. They are clearly feelings, but also friends do tend to be much closer to me when they are single. A newly single friend recently apologized to me for disappearing while she was in a relationship and told me she was committed to not letting it happen again no matter whom she dates in the future. The fact that she noticed—that perhaps it wasn’t just “all in my head”—was a huge contradiction to my feelings that I’m “crazy” for wanting my friends in so close and believing that friendships could ever be as important as romantic relationships.

At the same time, I have fought to stay close with my friends and my sister even as they have prioritized romantic relationships. This has not always been easy. I’ve had to discharge feelings of hating them, feeling like I just want to abandon them like they’ve “abandoned” me. It’s been worth it to do that work. I’m glad that I still have my friends and my sister close, even as they’ve become partnered. And I still have more work to do.


I have set up my life so I am around a lot of young people. I’m a postpartum doula, a nanny in the summer, a middle and high school counselor during the school year, a godmother of seven, and an aunt of an infant. I play an important role in many young people’s lives. I also very much want to raise my own child. I can get excited thinking about becoming a “single mom by choice” and building my own “village” to support my child and me. At the same time, do I want to knowingly take on [accept the burden of] multiple humongous [huge] oppressions?


While I see more room for singlehood in the LGBQT community than in the heterosexual world, being single in the LGBQT community can still be quite isolating. I don’t feel very connected to the U.S. LGBQT movement’s focus on marriage equality, which seems to me like a way to further cement privileges given by marriage rather than fighting for rights that should be universal. (For example, I don’t think we should need to be married to get decent healthcare, avoid deportation, or visit someone in the hospital.)

I am slowly, slowly trying to move some of my material [distress] about sex and my body that keeps me avoiding romantic relationships. While I’m sure I am actually terrified, the main emotion that comes up when I try to even think about dating someone is boredom. Why awkwardly hang out [spend unstructured time] with a stranger when I could hang out with a friend I already know I like? Or have a session? Or go to a political meeting? Or—I don’t know—literally anything else?

At a young adult workshop, I was in a topic group for “women who have been single for a long time.” Three of us, who were all from different countries and had three different primary languages, attended. The contradiction [to distress] of just being around each other and noticing there was nothing wrong with any of us led to lots of discharge for all of us.

I recently got a text from a dear friend whom I have known since we were eleven and I currently see about once a year. She wrote, “Dating is the worst. I need your level-headed perspective on what society tells us we need and why it’s all bullshit [nonsense].” I like that I can hold that perspective out for people, and for myself.

“Taylor Swift”

Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list
for leaders of women


Last modified: 2019-05-21 23:34:25+00