Select your language

Download HER

Let’s get into the discourse about baby gay

Avatar photo

Sep 19, 2023

Let’s get into the discourse about baby gay

“Baby gay” is a label for someone who has just come out. There are lots of shared experiences of coming out that might fall under this category. Feeling butterflies in a gay way for the first time, sobbing at pride parades, and purchasing rainbow accessories — these are all experiences that I would associate with that time in my life. 

It’s never too late to come out, and as you come to terms with your identity, maybe “baby gay” feels accurate to your experience of navigating the newness of your sexuality and/or gender. 

But I’ve also found the term “baby gay” can be used in a catty or condescending way. We can be so rude to people who admit they don’t know things in this world, and it’s weird. Stop being weird about learning! I’ve also noticed it’s a label we assign mostly to women, trans people, and nonbinary people, as another way to dismiss the queerness of anyone except cis men. 

Maybe you’ve heard someone say something along the lines of “I’d never date a baby gay.” Not cool. Not only do I find this statement rude and condescending, but I’m also of the belief that these types of generalizations are going to make you look foolish. As soon as you say something like this — trust — the universe will bring you the most empathetic, beautiful, newly-out gay person to prove you wrong. 

Everyone has a first time, and no one wants to be belittled or shamed when they’re coming out. The same is true for the other side, no one wants to feel like they’re being used as an experiment as the more out queer person. It’s the golden rule, y’all. Be kind to each other. 

I should also say, I didn’t exactly come out myself. I was extraordinarily lucky to grow up with queer parents — to be a literal baby of gays. They are always the voice in the back of my head, reminding me that I deserve queer love and joy. It is our birthright.  

That’s my little spiel about “baby gays.” That being said, there is a wealth of art, knowledge, and advice that queer people are creating everyday to make the world a bit easier for each person who comes next. So if you’re just coming out, I’m so happy you’re here. Let’s talk about dating!

5 dating tips for ‘baby gays’ 

For folks who have recently come out and are ready to venture into the world of queer dating, these are some tips to build your confidence. These are lessons I’m still learning. 

Yes, they are flirting with you

Two androgynous people holding paper coffee cups, and laughing.

This is still something I know I’m figuring out. What does it look like to flirt with a woman or nonbinary person? 

But looking back on times when I was flirting with someone, it was…not subtle. In the moment, my mind was racing, trying to decide if we were just friends or something more. But we were comparing the size of our fingers. We were talking about Patricia Highsmith and June Jordan. She asked to see the tattoo on my ribs. Like, come on. 

The queer women and nonbinary people in my life are often too modest to admit when someone is flirting with them, and by the time they even say something out loud, it’s probably pretty obvious. 

So yeah maybe they’re flirting with you. Or if they’re not and you say, ‘hey can I kiss you,’ the worst that can happen is they say no — and then you’ll have clarity.

Yes, you should make the first move 

This is my advice for anyone, regardless of sexuality, regardless of age. Be bold. Make the first move. It’s hot. 

We can all agree the foundation of any relationship is communication. So start there and be clear about how you feel and what you want from the beginning. In queer dating, you are released from the gendered norms of who asks who out. 

I almost always make the first move. In my first relationship, I sent a letter confessing my crush on my best friend via email. They left me on read for an ENTIRE DAY!!! I thought I had lost my friend and also all of my pride.  Just thinking about it makes me lightheaded, even 8 years later. But the next day, they said they had thought about it a lot — and they wanted to be together. We dated for two years. So yeah, shoot your shot! In the words of our lesbian Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates — the band MUNA — if you never put it on the line, how am I gonna sign for it?

Yes, you look gay enough 

There is no one way to look gay. It’s exciting to find new ways to express yourself and embrace a new part of your identity and culture. When one of my best friends from college came out, of course we went shopping for a pair of overalls. These are rites of passage that allow us to heal our inner queer child. 

But this is a little tough love that we all need sometimes. The politics of queer visibility are sticky. I always want to remind myself that there are too many LGBTQ people who suffer violence because they are all too visible. There is a reason the conversation about visibility is driven overwhelmingly by white, cis gay people. We need to move past visibility and invest in the collective liberation of all queer people.   

So express yourself, try new things, but allow yourself to go deeper in your own coming out process rather than focusing on your appearance.  

There are no rules to being gay. The LGBTQ community is unique and diverse, and that’s the best part about it. I care about queer people treating each other with respect, and we all have things to learn from each other. 

Yes, you can learn gay sex 

A femme queer couple embracing each other and smiling.

I won’t get into the bees and the bees and the birds and the birds right now — you can read about tips for your first time having lesbian sex here. But suffice it to say, if you want to have gay sex, you can learn gay sex. It’s never too late to experiment with your sexuality, and great sex is different for everyone. 

Yes, it’s scary

A woman holding a pride flag in the middle of a sunny parade.

We’ve established that I am not the biggest fan of the “baby gay” term. But to be fair, sometimes coming out does feel like learning to be a whole new person. That’s terrifying — and it’s lonely. 

While I was lucky to have a mostly positive coming out experience, one thing I did hear was this idea that my life would be much harder. I know a lot of friends around my age who experienced a similar reaction from some loved ones, that we were going down a road of agony and loneliness.  

To be queer in this world does mean navigating discrimination in health care, housing, marriage, custody, work, and more. Anti-LGBTQ legislation is on the rise in the US and around the world. Or it’s even just being in a room full of straight people and experiencing a loneliness that they’ll never understand. 

I say this not to linger on the pain, but to validate the courage it takes to step into this as someone coming out. If you take anything from this article, remember that you don’t have to navigate coming out alone. Claim your community and resilience — it’s how we made it this far. 

Exploring queer pop culture 

Outside of dating, there are endless ways to explore queer culture. The internet is your friend, of course — perhaps that’s how you found this little article. But for the pop-culturally inclined like myself, here are some recommendations for movies, books, and TV shows to get into: 

My non-exhaustive list of pop culture for the baby gays 


  • If you like a fun, flirty romance: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
  • If you are into literary fiction: My Autobiography of Carson McCullers 
  • If you want a celebrity memoir: Pageboy 


  • Teen drama vibes: But I’m a Cheerleader
  • Camp on a budget: D.E.B.S. 
  • Long walks on the ocean, longing stares, and no electricity because its the 1700s: Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  • Why are gay women obsessed with Cate Blanchett?: Carol 

TV Shows 

  • Silly but it will also break your heart: Feel Good
  • Lesbians that will be in your nightmares: Haunting of Bly Manor, Yellowjackets
  • Family drama with amazing sex scenes: Vida 
  • Messy reality TV: The Ultimatum: Queer Love

When do you stop being a baby gay? 

In a heteronormative society, we certainly never stop coming out. But that also means you decide when you stop being a “baby gay.” If you don’t like the label, you have every right to reject it and push back when someone forces it on you. If it feels right at the beginning of your coming out, wear it for as long as it fits. 

There are no rules to being gay. The LGBTQ community is unique and diverse, and that’s the best part about it. I care about queer people treating each other with respect, and we all have things to learn from each other. 

Avatar photo

Catherine Henderson is a journalist based in Chicago. She has worked at a wide variety of newsrooms, including The Denver Post, Chalkbeat, Business Insider and In These Times, covering education, career development and culture. Catherine holds a master’s and bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, exploring Chicago, reading LGBTQ lit, and analyzing internet trends.

Newsletter Sign Up