By Forest Riggs
Do gay people still date? Perhaps they do in larger cities and communities, but not so much in Galveston.
Recently a friend from out-of-state talked at length about his possibly leaving Denver and moving to Galveston Island. In the conversation he mentioned that he has recently read some articles about Galveston and the strong LGBTQ community that exists on the Island. He was curious about the “dating scene down there.” Our being on telephones, he could not see me laughing.
Inside I was thinking, “a dating scene…in Galveston?” I hesitated to offer any answer but eventually managed to say, “Uh, it’s complicated.”
Complicated is an understatement. “Dating” on the Island is virtually non-existent and for multiple reasons. I thought, before I deter him from his dream of living on an island, I had better think on it a bit, ask around, and get back to him.
Having lived in Galveston for many years now and having experienced just about everything island life can offer, I have to admit that “dating” in the sense that most people know it, does not happen. Or, if it does, it is very infrequently. It is true there is a huge and active LGBTQ community on the Island but that does not necessarily result in a lot of dating. As might be expected, there are many reasons for this. However, first and foremost is the fact that Galveston is an island! People come, people go. As the locals like to say, “The freeway ends here!” That in its self creates a curious set of circumstances. Islands are an easy place to run to and hide or even re-invent one’s self, especially if there is a need to do so. Galveston has certainly experienced its share of these type individuals and all the “hoop-la” they can bring with their sometimes hidden baggage.
Because Galveston is a small island and members of the community are so connected with each other, dating can seem almost incestuous if not just weird. Friendships are very strong and although interests may stray into squelched romantic feelings, it is very rare that romance blooms between friends. Besides, if the feelings or attraction is not reciprocated, one can always use the excuse, “Us? Date? Oh no, we are too good of friends…like family.”
In truth, it is like family. Gay Galvestonians hang out together, drink together, flit about in groups and, for the most part, really seem to enjoy each other’s company. All is good until a “newbie” crosses the causeway and gets seen. The locals joke about a few in the community that “spray ’em before they get across the causeway.”
I’m not so sure this is true. However, given the lack of available and willing persons to date, any new person, visitor, or other that does come aboard, especially if “hot,” is quickly sought after by the local tribe. Circle the wagons, boys and girls!
Don’t get me wrong: There is a lot of “hooking-up” and it happens quite often. A fling, vacation romance, a trick, or just innocent flirting is more likely. Come to the Island, play, and go home. It is always fun to venture into unfamiliar territory and check out the offerings.
This type of activity, though prevalent, is not dating. Dating brings with it a whole other set of criteria. Even though the Island is chock-full of things to do, the bar scene seems to be the main way to meet, greet, cruise, kiss, and move on, if one is so inclined and enjoys window shopping. Older gays talk about the pre-HIV days and the thrill of going out, picking a “target” and bam! Times have certainly changed.
Then there is the age thing. After talking with several long-term LGBTQ community members and hearing their stories, it became clear that unless you move here with a steady, finding your dream mate might be next to impossible. The younger on the Island don’t seem to be interested in the older, and though a few will feign a friendship or some level of interest, usually this is for gain.
Remember the old phrase “gay for pay?” Now that gay is pretty much accepted in most circles, that phrase has evolved into “play for pay.” This is not unique to Galveston but is found in every community where there are LGBTQ folks.
I admit that I am bit jaded. At my “ancient” age, I still admire the younger set and occasionally the blind squirrel gets an acorn…even in Galvetraz. For the most part, excluding dating or pairing off, the age difference in friendships seems to be less of a big deal on the Island than in most places. Tables on any given night include friends with quite a varied age range, early 20s to early 90s — all having a great time.
On another hand, some gay guys just
The older are set in their ways, not often flexible, the young are not interested or have “habits” that the older guys just simply do not want to deal with.
So where does it leave folks on the Island? In talking with several older (that means 45+), that do want to date and are looking, it leaves them like a “duck out of water.” Again, this is not just in Galveston, but everywhere. The problem, again, is that Galveston is a small island with fewer genes in the pool.
Can you find someone to date in Galveston? Sure you can — they are here, but just hard to find. Some may not even know they are “available,” but that is another column.
Regardless of the dating scene, Galveston still offers a good time and the chance to meet and make new friends, and this is where it begins. If someone can look past “just sex” they might find a true companion and open doors long closed or explore something new that will bring great joy.
Happy hunting, and watch out for the sprayers! Forest Riggs, a resident of Galveston is no stranger to the adventures of life. A former educator and business owner, he enjoys Island life and all that comes with it. He says he is a “raconteur with a quixotic, gypsy spirit.”