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The meaning of the U-Haul in queer dating

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Aug 18, 2023

The meaning of the U-Haul in queer dating
  • I recently got into a lesbian relationship myself. A long-term, long-distance, low-commitment girlfriend, to be precise. 

    I had to update my mom, who is also a queer woman, and when I told her my new girlfriend was considering moving across the country to live in my city, she had some words for me.

    “Caity, do you know what U-hauling is? Do the lesbians still do that?” 

    Yes, mom, we do. 

    In the context of queer dating, the U-Haul symbolizes how lesbians move notoriously fast in relationships. It can sometimes be quite literal. I’ll admit to having first dates that have lasted more than a day and leaving a toothbrush at a partner’s place after less than a month. I’d also say it represents a lot of ways that queer women and nonbinary people bond quickly and deeply, for better or for worse. 

    Sometimes, the stereotype makes us a punchline. Still, within the queer community, it can be a way of understanding how queer relationships are unique, moving intentionally to learn lessons from past mistakes and poke a little fun at ourselves. 

    U-Hauling is a tradition passed down through generations of queer women. It is our emotional legacy/burden, depending on who you ask. We have not evolved past it. In some senses, we’ve only become stronger post-pandemic, aided by technology. It has a rich queer history — before queer liberation, gay couples could still live together. (And they were roommates.) The U-Haul appears in queer classics like Stone Butch Blues: 

    “Within a month, we rented a U-Haul trailer and moved into a new apartment together in Buffalo.” 

    And to be fair, we started the joke. In 1988, comedian Lea DeLaria famously said, “What does a Lesbian bring to a first date? A U-Haul.” Lea played Carol on Friends, and the one and only Big Boo on Orange Is the New Black. Also, she’s still not a U-haul brand ambassador. Can we do something about that?? 

    Source: Instagram

    Is the U-Haul lesbian stereotype true? 

    Like all good jokes, the U-Haul stereotype may come from a kernel of truth. I will admit to being a little U-Hauly in relationships. One time I was talking to a close straight friend about a man she was seeing, and she told me they had been getting to know each other for three months before being official. 

    I responded, “Wait, you mean you haven’t already hopped in a relationship, met each other’s parents, and said I love you??? Wild.”

    Maybe queer women and nonbinary folks do move quickly in relationships. I’ve seen friends do it. I’ve seen my parents’ friends do it. 

    On one hand, we can reject any heteronormative prescription for a relationship timeline. Being queer means that we can reinvent love in ways that honor us as emotional creatures who deserve love and connection. 

    But on the other end, there is a darker side of U-Hauling that can verge into Love Bombing territory, where the grand gestures early in a relationship don’t come from an authentic place, even a place of manipulation or control. 

    It’s important to fall in love with the person, not the fantasy. It takes time to learn about each other.  When I feel that urge to abandon my life and live in my new girlfriend’s apartment for a month, I remind myself to savor the beginning of a relationship.  And also I have friends and family and a job. 

    Ready for Cohabitation? 

    I don’t know! I don’t know your life! I say this as a disclaimer that relationships are beautiful snowflakes, and each is different. I would be no better than the heteropatriarchy if I told you what to do. 

    If it feels right, I guess? Do you want this person to smell your farts under your comforter? Are you ready to negotiate who’s going to clean the shower? Are you ready to wake up next to them daily and feel your heart melt when they roll over and smile? 

    These are some of the signs I use for myself to gauge whether or not I’m ready to take that next step and move in with a partner:

    • Be clear on the why:  Is it because you want to spend a summer abroad? Is it because this is one step closer to a life-long partnership? Is it for financial reasons? Is it because it just feels right
    • You talk about the future: Everyone is clear on what everyone involved wants and hopes for in the long term. Your plans align, and you feel safe having the scary talks. Yup, I’m talking credit scores, and all.
    • You’re comfortable being yourself: Everyone deserves to feel safe to be themselves (always) but especially in their own home! Is this someone you feel you can let your guard down with?
    • You respect each other’s boundaries: Your partner knows you need an hour or two to decompress after work – and they don’t mind! You know that loud music after 7 pm drives them nuts, and that’s not a dealbreaker! 
    • You love them for who they are, not their potential: Moving in because you think it will change who your partner is, is a big risk. Sure, it’s possible. But I always say, err on the side of caution and try to solve any “big issues” before making the big move.

    Take what resonates, and leave what doesn’t! Give it time, whatever that means to you. Have a real conversation about why you want to live together, what you’re excited about, and what hesitations you might have.

    And then rent that U-haul!  

    U-Haul Lesbian Memes

    1. So you don’t have to sign a lease together to have U-Haul tendencies. We call this “playing house.” If you’re going back to your place just to pick up more clothes, if your friends are starting to wonder if you’ve gone missing, if you have a 60-hour first date, I’d say it’s U-Haul adjacent. 

    But when she pulls out the coffees for her girlfriend AND ALL HER GIRLFRIEND’S COWORKERS… dear god, pray for this woman. 

    1. U-Haul found its target audience! That is a lesbian couple if I’ve ever seen one.  
    1. The Queer Ultimatum was not doing anything to deny the U-Haul lesbian stereotypes. The whole premise is that they live with someone else in new couples to decide if they want to move on or go back and marry their ex. I mean…come on. 

    This is another reason why I think queer people are great for reality dating shows because The Bachelor, Love Is Blind, Love Island, etc., are all straight people cosplaying U-Hauling.  

    1. The gay urge to upload your consciousness to San Junipero on the first date. 
    1. I believe that to get my money’s worth on rent, I need to spend as much time as possible in my apartment, so if I’m going to move in with someone I’m dating, I have to consider renting out my room!
    1. But also, please be respectful and leave the restaurant. 


    Whew, we really unpacked this U-haul. It’s okay to want a partner. It’s also okay to want to date casually. It’s okay to make mistakes and get your heart broken and be a stereotype and learn something about yourself. It’s all a bit of a paradox. 

    Just remember it’s easier to break up if you don’t live together or share pets. 

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    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.

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