Breaking glass

Gay man addresses issues that arise when dating in rural college town

Alex+McCollum+poses+in+front+of+Murrow+Hall.

EMMA LEDBETTER

Alex McCollum poses in front of Murrow Hall.

ALEX MCCOLLUM, Evergreen reporter

If there was one word I had to pick to describe gay dating in a small town with a big college, it might be “brutal.”

To preface, I am well aware that as a young, white, gay man, I can say with some confidence that I probably have an easy time dating, or at least get attention from other men. There are a lot of issues within the community of gay men regarding racial “preferences,” fatphobia and the infamous phrase, “masc for masc.”

Those issues do not affect me as much as they do others, but I am receptive to all discussions and perspectives relating to those topics. 

I spent all of middle and high school in the glass closet. Everyone knew I was gay, but I never came out directly. I had one serious relationship last year, but I quickly ruined it with my terrible communication skills and inability to talk about my feelings in a meaningful way.

First, you may be asking something along the lines of, “Alex, why are you even looking for a relationship while you’re in school?” 

To answer: I am not. I want to date casually and get some experience to identify my strengths and weaknesses, so I can bring that knowledge to a potential relationship in the future.

This is where I come to my first major issue: In my experience, young gay men in Pullman are either only looking for something quick and casual or for a long-term relationship. I want neither of those. It is proving difficult to find someone I click with and looking for something similar to me.

The second issue: the rural separation of each city on the Palouse. I grew up on the west side of the mountains, in an area where most towns and cities bled into each other. This is not the case over here. I have to date exclusively in Pullman for convenience, make the 15-minute drive to Moscow (which feels longer than it is), or drive 40 minutes to the next city.

How many times have I run out of Tinder swipes in Pullman and started getting suggestions from Spokane, Kennewick, Walla Walla or Vancouver, B.C.? Innumerable. How many times will I start a conversation with someone on Grindr then realize they live in Lewiston, Idaho or attend Gonzaga? At this point, I have lost count.

And the third issue: the potential homophobia of being in a small town in a conservative region. I experienced my fair share of name-calling in middle school, which I would like to be done with permanently. I am very apprehensive to ask anyone out unless I have spent time with them. This is another reason for my reliance on dating apps.

I have a lot to say about being a young, single and gay man in Pullman, and I hope there are others out there who can relate or are interested in reading more.