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Let’s be real: No one ever knows the perfect formula to dating, especially not in college. Yet, like a swift autumn breeze, the season for finding a beautiful girl to cuddle with on those cold, lonely nights is upon us. Whether you’re just embarking on your journey of self-discovery or you’re a well-seasoned queer girl, we hope to answer some of your #queergirlprobs with this list!

1. The LGBTQ+ community on your campus is totally lacking

One of the main dating complaints collegiettes have, no matter where they fall on the spectrum, is the lack of options they have on their campuses. But when you’re trying to find a lady friend, that problem has the potential to become even worse. If your school doesn’t have an enormous LGBTQ+ population, it might be really hard to find a girl who isn’t your ex, your BFF’s ex or someone who’s connected to you in some other strange, distant way.

Dr. Frankie Bashan, LGBTQ+ relationship expert and coach, says that if your community is too small or practically nonexistent, you should look into lesbian-specific websites or communities for not only romantic company, but friendships as well. Sites such as Autostraddle and Curve have online communities in which you can talk to other queer women from all around the world whom you might be able to connect with.  

Another potential way to meet new girls is dating apps. Whether you’re trying to find your Tinderella or just someone to talk to, dating apps can be great for connecting with people who might not be on campus but are still just a few miles away.

2. You’re not sure if your crush is into girls

So there’s this girl you’ve just met, and you can’t get her out of your head. You talk all the time, and you have a bunch in common. You’ve started making subtle yet flirty remarks to test the waters, to which she giggles, but never quite reciprocates. Here lies one huge problem: You have absolutely no clue whether or not she’s into girls.

There are a bunch of subtle ways to figure it out, such as testing her knowledge of queer-girl culture or Facebook-stalking to see what she’s interested in. But Dr. Bashan warns that the only way you’ll know for sure is if you straight-up ask her.

“This process can get dangerous when it comes to stereotypes,” Dr. Bashan says. “You can’t trust these assumptions all the time. I’ve seen cases where a girl might look more masculine, but she’s straight, and I’ve also seen girls who I could’ve sworn she was straight, but she was into girls. You really can’t know unless you ask.”

Dr. Bashan also warns that in your early 20s, the topic of sexuality is very charged, and you should tread lightly when it comes to asking about her preference. Make sure you’re a person whom she knows that she can trust, and when you do decide to ask, make sure you’re both sober so you both are making the right choices.

3. You’re still struggling with being out

While coming out is liberating for some, we don’t want to undermine the fact that coming out can be a difficult process for many people. Coming to know this part of yourself can be scary, especially if you come from a family or any type of background that isn’t accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. This directly affects your dating life, especially if you’re dating someone who is out and wants you to be out along with her.

Dr. Bashan suggests that you try coming out slowly but surely to people whom you know you can trust.

“If this person can hold information in confidence, then you should try coming out to them and see how they react,” she says. “Ask them to be respectful of your privacy, but also ask them for advice or help if you think they can assist you.”

Another thing Dr. Bashan suggests is finding resources on your college campus, such as peer-led coming-out groups or a therapist who can talk through these issues you might be experiencing.

“Even if you don’t have these resources available to you on your campus, books and websites can also help you get a better understanding of yourself,” she says.

However, if you’re already dating a girl who is out, she might be trying to push you to be out of the closet. Maya**, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, admits that she has tried to pressure her partner into being out.

“I would be passive-aggressive about it,” she says. “I wouldn’t actually say that she needed to be out, but I would tell her how hard it was for me to not be able to tell my friends I was seeing someone. I could tell it hurt her feelings that I wasn’t trying to see it from her perspective.”

This is when you need to set boundaries and let her know that this is a decision that you need to make for yourself.

“We all go through our own process, and if you’re not ready to come out, nobody should be pressuring you,” Dr. Bashan says. “You need to be comfortable enough with yourself to let her know that it’s not okay.”

Make sure your girlfriend understands that this is something that is very personal and not something you’re comfortable with doing right now. While she may have been perfectly fine with coming out, everyone’s coming-out journey looks different.

4. Girls are constantly judging you for being bisexual or questioning

Whether you’re for sure bisexual or you’re bi-curious, you may be nervous about telling this to anyone in the LGBTQ+ community for fear of flat-out rejection. Queer girls are wary of hooking up with bi girls and often might respond negatively if you come out to them as such.

“When I date someone, regardless of gender, some people do not know how to handle the fact that I am bisexual and are either confused by it or, in some cases, rude about it,” says Claire**, a senior at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Bashan says that one of the biggest issues that she sees college women facing is trying to figure out where they fit on the sexuality spectrum.

“Many people in college are still trying to come into their own and find out where they fit in the community,” Dr. Bashan says. “Labels can be frustrating to people, especially when it comes to bisexuality. Those who identify as bisexual face lots of discrimination.”

If you’re bi-curious, you need to make sure that you find a partner who is comfortable with the fact that this is an identity you’re still in the process of exploring. If she understands from the beginning that this is something that is new to you, you will know from the start where she stands, and you can plan out together how you want your relationship to play out.

However, if you’re bisexual, it’s a different story. You already know whom and what you’re attracted to. You should have confidence in this, and if someone tries to judge you for it, then you should definitely see it as his or her loss instead of yours!

5. You run into your ex all the time at LGBTQ+ gatherings

Nothing sucks more than going to your LGBTQ+ club’s monthly potluck only to find your ex-girlfriend hitting on the new transfer student. You want nothing more than to scoff, roll your eyes and sulk off in the opposite direction as you contemplate “accidentally” spilling your drink on her later on in the night.

While most people feel like completely avoiding their exes or gossiping about them in these situations, Dr. Bashan suggests that you do the exact opposite.

“When you see your ex in a public space, say hi and be friendly,” she says. “Catch her off guard and be amicable. You don’t have to be best friends with her, but you don’t have to bad-mouth her either.”

Dr. Bashan also says to make sure you’re not putting pressure on your friends to choose sides. While you and this girl have gone your separate ways, you still might have mutual friends who aren’t interested in getting involved in all of your messy breakup drama. If you handle the situation maturely, you have the opportunity to maintain those friendships long after the relationship is over.

6. Girls you like aren’t interested in you because you’re a trans* woman

As a queer trans* woman, the dating scene is even more complicated to navigate in comparison to what queer cisgender women deal with. You might face transphobia from not just the general population on campus, but even from within the LGBTQ+ community.

“I think even in our society right now, I feel like transgender folks are going through what lesbians and gay men were dealing with 20 to 30 years ago,” Dr. Bashan says. “They’re even being discriminated against within the queer community. They’re excluded, even though we’re all queer, and we all know what it’s like to be discriminated against, whether we’re gay, bi or trans*.”

Dr. Bashan says in her experience, lesbians have been more accepting of trans* men than they are of trans* women. But she also insists that trans* women in college should prioritize their safety.

“On a college campus, there are a lot of risks,” she says. “They have to make sure first and foremost that it’s a safe environment to expose themselves. People in college are not fully evolved. We’re talking about young adults who may be less knowledgeable and threatened by [trans* women]. If there is a trans* woman who is trying to find a partner on campus, particularly a lesbian, safety should come first.”

Next, Dr. Bashan suggests finding a group of people you can trust, whether they be trans*-inclusive organizations on campus or online communities, as discussed earlier. When you’re connecting with allies, you’re more likely to meet girls who are supportive of your gender identity. What’s sexier than inclusivity, are we right?

7. You’re friend-zoned because you’re not masculine enough

Femme girls, we know you’ve heard this too many times before. You’re considered “not queer enough” because you prefer florals to flannels and heels to high tops. This can even apply to queer girls who don’t identify as femmes but don’t completely fit the butch stereotype. If you’re even remotely “too feminine” (whatever that means), you might run into trouble finding a date.

“I know that in our coming-out process, we go through phases,” Dr. Bashan says. “When I first came out, I felt like I was too feminine. People always thought I was the bisexual at the bar or the straight girl hanging out with my lesbian or gay guy friends. I got no respect or attention because I looked like a straight girl. I got really tired of it. I cut my hair off, I stopped wearing makeup and I wore looser clothes.”

Dr. Bashan says that it’s perfectly normal to feel the need to change ourselves to fit the mold of what you believe is expected of queer women. She says that she now identifies as more feminine; she has short hair but sports makeup and skirts and owns her femininity.

At the end of the day, what matters is that you feel comfortable and secure in your identity.

“I think people go through phases of trying different looks on to see what’s best for us,” she says. “We discover how our community responds to us and how we feel most comfortable wearing these different outfits. At the end of the day … accept who you are and accept where you fall on this continuum of femininity and masculinity. As long as you are confident in wherever you fall, that’s sexy. That is attractive. You’ve got to own it.”

After all, if someone thinks you should be a different person in order to be attractive, you probably don’t want to date her, anyway! Hold out for someone who will like you for who you are.

Queer or straight, dating in college isn’t easy. There’s still so much that you’re figuring out about yourself, as well as how you relate to everyone around you.

“I think the main point at the crux of it all is maintaining personal boundaries, believing in yourself and knowing that you’re at a stage where you’re comfortable enough to play with roles and appearances,” Dr. Bashan says.

If you make sure that you have the right support system and you’re confident in who you are and what you want, it’s definitely possible for you to have a fantastic dating experience. Happy dating, everyone!

*Names have been changed.

Barbara Gonzalez is a recent grad of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in Journalism and Mass Communications with a minor in Chican@/Latin@ Studies. She hails from New York City, and yes, that does mean Manhattan. Her obsessions consist of writing down anything that comes to mind, YA novels, and anything with pink on it. You can tweet her and follow her on instagram @ohhaibarbie