• How do I express my boundaries around substance use without sounding judgemental?

    A portrait of Darien leaning up against a doorway. He's smiling with his arms crossed.
    Darien Sutton|he/him
    You have to remember that everyone’s story is different and the reasons behind substance use are often multifaceted and nuanced.
  • I matched with my ex’s ex, but we’re still friends. How should I approach setting up a date?

    A portrait of Masami looking into the camera, They're expression and posture almost as if they're listening you talk.
    Masami Hosono|they/them
    I think the trick to avoiding any awkwardness is just being super transparent.
  • How do I talk about the importance of my faith with someone who might not be on the same page?

    A portrait of Phillip leaning up against a wall. He's smiling with his arms crossed.
    Phillip Picardi|he/him
    You have the power to allow your faith to act as a bridge and not a barrier.
  • I’m demisexual. What’s the best way to set expectations around waiting to get sexual?

    A portrait of Shahem leaning in and looking directly into camera. Their face feels serious but intentional.
    Shahem Mclaurin|they/them
    Create opportunities for you and your potential partners to better understand each other’s emotional needs, desires, and limitations.
  • I’m hesitant to be someone’s first queer experience. Is that fair?

    A selfie of Tara looking down into the camera. Their head is slightly tilted and their expression is confident.
    Tara Raani|they/she/he
    I would definitely want to move with extra intention.
  • How do I recover from accidentally misgendering while trying to flirt?

    A close up portrait of Mimi. They're looking straight at the camera with a subtle, soft smile.
    Mimi Zhu|they/them
    Take accountability immediately, instead of pretending it didn’t happen.
  • How can I start dating if I’m not ready to come out?

    A portrait of Masami looking into the camera, They're expression and posture almost as if they're listening you talk.
    Masami Hosono|they/them
    I learned coming out is a process and you shouldn’t feel the pressure from anyone to rush it.
  • How can I better affirm my gender in the early stages of dating?

    A close up portrait of Mimi. They're looking straight at the camera with a subtle, soft smile.
    Mimi Zhu|they/them
    Even though transparency in dating feels simple and foundational, it is surprising how difficult it can be in action.
  • Shahem Mclaurin|they/them
    A portrait of Shahem leaning in and looking directly into camera. Their face feels serious but intentional.

    Whether you’re demisexual, asexual, or wanting to explore celibacy, having conversations about sexual intimacy can be tough. How would I go about this? Boundary setting!

    Boundaries are a great indication of healthy relationships with others. We often view setting boundaries as placing walls up between us and the people we love, know, or want to know. But, reality couldn’t be further from that.

    Boundaries are bridges, not fences. In setting these expectations, you create opportunities for you and your potential partners to better understand each other’s emotional needs, desires, and limitations.

    These conversations can also spark other ideas of nonsexual intimacy.

    My advice in setting these boundaries? Just think GLAD PASS, an acronym I often share with all my clients as a therapist.

    Give yourself permission to set boundaries.

    Lean with love while doing it. It is a loving gesture to want to better connect with someone, after all.

    Advocate for your needs in advance, avoiding reactionary boundary setting.

    Directly communicate what you need for you to feel good in the relationship.

    Prioritize yourself. Your needs and your boundaries should be all about you!

    Assess why you’re setting these expectations.

    Seek out support that will help you remember you have people who will love you with all of your boundaries.

    Stay firm in your personal desires!

    Being demisexual, asexual, or choosing to be celibate doesn't mean you can't connect with others. Acts of nonsexual intimacy can be powerful in any relationship, and boundaries help us do that in meaningful and healthy ways. Boundaries operate like a compass, guiding you towards folk who will love and support you without trying to own or control. Don’t forget to give yourself some grace through this process. No one was born knowing how to ride a bike—boundaries are no different. You got this!

    Follow Shahem here:

  • Darien Sutton|he/him
    Darien Sutton

    We are all allowed to set our personal boundaries around substance use. In every relationship, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation about each other's feelings around the topic. To avoid sounding judgemental, you should first evaluate your feelings around substance use and why these feelings exist. Take time to understand what associations you draw with substance use and where these associations come from. Substance use is often stigmatized, as many draw an unfounded association to low moral standards.

    You have to remember that everyone’s story is different and the reasons behind substance use are often multifaceted and nuanced.

    When having the discussion with a prospective partner, you should be sure to practice active listening and continuously remind yourself that you have not lived in this person’s shoes and be fully open to understanding their story.

    It’s perfectly acceptable to want to choose a partner that shares your boundaries around substance use. You should be able to articulate that your boundaries don’t come from a place of judgment—but from a place of wanting to share a life and a lifestyle together. It’s good to be honest without having to resort to being hurtful.

    Follow Darien here:

    Shahem Mclaurin|they/them
    A portrait of Shahem with the sky behind them. They're mid laugh, looking down into the camera.

    When it comes to sensitive topics like drugs or alcohol, it’s easy for people on either side to walk away from conversations feeling judged or shamed.

    My rule of thumb is to have a solid understanding of why you feel the way you do about sobriety and communicating that.

    Is it personal? Health reasons? As long as your boundaries are about you, your emotional safety, and what you need—as opposed to your preconceived judgments about people who drink or do drugs—they can go a long way in helping people understand, and ultimately respect, your choice.

    Follow Shahem here:

  • Masami Hosono|they/them
    A portrait of Masami looking into the camera, They're expression and posture almost as if they're listening you talk.

    Hmm this is an interesting question! I think it really depends on the situation and relationship you have with your ex. Let’s say you’re both on very good terms. You’re the type of friends that talk once a week. If that’s the case, I would immediately go to them and say something like:

    "Hey, I matched with someone and think they’re cute. But, they’re your ex. How would you feel about me going on a date with them?"

    Asking my ex how they feel keeps things open and friendly for all interpretations! However, if you and your ex are friendly but not necessarily super close, I would probably say:

    "Hey, just wanted to let you to know, I matched with your ex and I’m going on a date with them."

    So, when it comes to going on a date with your ex’s ex, I think the trick to avoiding any awkwardness is just being super transparent.

    Because, WHO KNOWS! You might really get on with your ex’s ex and want to be partners in the future.

    No matter the situation, keeping it light, honest, and clear with all parties involved is the way to go.

    Follow Masami here:

  • Phillip Picardi|he/him
    A portrait of Phillip leaning up against a wall. He's smiling with his arms crossed.

    If faith is important to you, I think it’s crucial to have perspective on a couple things. First and foremost, we all know that religion has been wielded in societies to hurt people (and, oftentimes, queer people bear the worst of that hurt). If you start a conversation about religion with a relative stranger, you should be prepared to be open—and not defensive—about their personal experiences with their faith, and why they may have set boundaries around it. I know that most faith traditions teach us to lead with compassion when people have been wrongfully marginalized. So do your best to let your faith guide you appropriately in that scenario.

    Second, even in moments like these, you have the power to allow your faith to act as a bridge and not a barrier.

    When we distill our religious customs, beliefs, traditions, and stories down to their purest essence, we’re mostly left with a profound sense of how to live and accomplish justice in this world. Someone does not necessarily need to be a person of your exact faith to share those same values with you. If you talk about your faith from this vantage point, you might actually excite a potential partner who’s thrilled you’re being open and vulnerable with them. Who knows? That kind of conversation might ignite an unexpected bond. My faith tells me that leading with vulnerability instead of fear will reap a reward of love. Try it, and maybe you’ll find the same is true for you.

    Follow Phillip here:

  • Tara Raani|they/she/he
    A selfie of Tara looking down into the camera. Their head is slightly tilted and their expression is confident.

    I share this hesitation, but I’m very open! The same way I would be hesitant to date someone with little sexual experience or relationship experience, or someone much younger than me,

    I would definitely want to move with extra intention.

    This is not to take away from the person’s sexuality, but more so to protect my own heart and the success of the relationship. I personally went through a lot of shame and volatility during my first queer experience, and supporting another partner through that could be hard. It really just depends on the specific person. I’d want us to get to know each other well and understand each other’s perspectives, experiences, and intentions.

    Follow Tara here:

    Phillip Picardi|he/him
    A portrait of Phillip leaning up against a wall. He's smiling with his arms crossed.

    In a word: Yes! I was actually my partner’s first-ever boyfriend, and I had a lot of insecurities about it—all of which I placed right on his lap. It took a year until a friend intervened with some wisdom: Just because you’re insecure about something doesn’t mean it’s true. I was projecting so much onto him that I never really took him at his word—even when he was brave enough to say “I love you.” Boundaries are boundaries, so I respect yours.

    But I guess I’d say we shouldn’t let insecurities get in the way of receiving a good thing when it’s standing right in front of us.

    Follow Phillip here:

  • Mimi Zhu|they/them
    A close up portrait of Mimi. They're looking straight at the camera with a subtle, soft smile.

    I have accidentally misgendered lovers before, and I know that it is my responsibility to unlearn those conditions in my brain. Because it is my responsibility, I find it incredibly important to honour that and

    take accountability immediately, instead of pretending it didn’t happen

    because I feel uncomfortable. I also do not like to make a spectacle of my mistake, because that might make the person I am talking to more uncomfortable, or even obliged to comfort me.

    Instead, I quickly apologise and correct myself, using the pronouns that make them feel the most seen and heard. If I do not know the person’s pronouns, then I ask them what they prefer and tell them that I will use those pronouns from then onwards. The beauty of intimacy is feeling safe and free in each other’s fullness, and I always want the people I like to feel completely free in their gender fluidity with me.

    Follow Mimi here:

  • Masami Hosono|they/them
    A portrait of Masami sitting, looking straight into to camera. With a soft smile and their head slightly upturned, they express an inviting confidence.

    I think it’s a struggle for many people. So, if this is on your mind, know that you aren’t alone. I grew up in a society that was not open to queer people. I knew in my mind I was queer, but I spent years not knowing if I was ready to come out. Through that journey,

    I learned coming out is a process and you shouldn’t feel the pressure from anyone to rush it.

    However, there are things you can do to test the waters without fully diving in.

    I think that if you’re ready to date, but aren’t ready to put yourself out there online, you can always make new friendships and relationships “IRL.” Go to queer-focused, local spaces: bars, the beach, queer-owned shops, queer author book signings, whatever feels comfortable. Introduce yourself to someone, make a connection, and see where it goes. Who knows, they might be able to match you up with someone! Personally, I met people through in-person events and work spaces!

    If you’re still figuring things out and not ready to date, just make sure you nurture yourself with good people around you so you feel comfortable when the time is right. The more like-minded people you surround yourself with, the more your confidence will grow.

    Follow Masami here:

    Tara Raani|they/she/he
    Tara's selfie. They're wearing headphones and confidently holding up their ponytail above their head and looking into camera.

    Coming out gets a lot of overemphasis in today’s discourse. I don’t believe coming out to your family/society/community should be a requirement. It’s often the first question people ask when you mention you’re queer. “Do your parents know???” Absolutely not!!!

    It’s a privilege to know me, and not everyone has earned the right to know the deepest parts of me.

    Especially for those of us from certain cultural backgrounds – coming out can have massive and potentially dangerous consequences. Those consequences can impact us forever. For many of us, we have to prioritize our physical safety, financial security, and housing before we can share our sexuality.

    I wasn’t out to the world for the majority of my life, and even now while in a serious three-year relationship, I’m not out to most of my family, including my parents. For me, it was more important to be seen in other ways by my loved ones before coming out. That said, having a partner and not being out has been an exercise in communicating boundaries. My partner is totally okay with me not being out to my family and not introducing her to my family at this moment because she understands the relationship I have with them and how I’d like to grow with them before coming out.

    Dating if you’re not out is totally okay!!! Just make sure to communicate to your partner(s) what your feelings are around coming out and boundaries you have with different people in your life.

    Follow Tara here:

    Darien Sutton|he/him
    Darien Sutton

    Society often makes us believe that we have to fit into a specific category to live our lives, but this isn’t true. Exploration of one’s sexuality is a journey that is different for each and every person. It’s completely ok if you’re not ready to “come out.”

    I personally think it’s probably better if you avoid labeling exactly who you are prematurely because it may block you from experiencing things you enjoy and achieving a full understanding of who you are.

    Simply be honest with your journey with whomever you’re interested in. Some may not agree, and that’s ok, just remember to prioritize yourself and your journey of exploration. You’ll know when you’re ready.

    Follow Darien here:

  • Mimi Zhu|they/them
    A close up portrait of Mimi. They're looking straight at the camera with a subtle, soft smile.

    Total transparency in the early stages of dating has allowed me to feel affirmed in my gender and its many dimensions. My pronouns are they/them, and I’ve had to exercise the muscle that asks me to be transparent from the very start with my lovers. I usually tell people on the first date how I don’t identify as a cis woman, how “they/them” makes me feel euphoric and seen, and how every day I feel different about how I wish to present.

    This felt like a scary thing to do, because there were moments where I felt unsafe revealing that truth, especially with cis men I was attracted to. For a long time, I allowed myself to be misgendered, even though it made me feel physically uncomfortable to be called a woman, lady, or girl.

    I am transparent on the first date because the person’s reaction usually allows me to discern the trajectory of our connection. While nerve-wracking, it allows me to feel empowered in my agency in pursuing meaningful intimacy. I wear an outfit that makes me feel the most gender euphoric of the day, and I put myself before the assumed desires of another. If somebody is uncomfortable with my truth, then it reveals more about them than it does about me. I prefer to get this done early, because I know how precious my time is, and how uncompromising I am about my need to be respected in my fullness.

    Even though transparency in dating feels simple and foundational, it is surprising how difficult it can be in action.

    While I unlearn many harmful standards of desirability, I have learned what I know for sure: I want to do whatever I wish with my gender, and I want to share my life intimately with somebody who wholly supports me in that. If they cannot provide that, then I cannot be with them.

    Follow Mimi here:

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