How to Make Friends in the Gay Community

03/25/2016 03:52 pm ET Updated Mar 26, 2017

To be completely honest, I always struggled to make friends in the gay community. Many gay men prefer to congregate at night clubs to drink, dance and flirt. When I've gone to clubs, I felt invisible in a sea of attractive men who looked and appeared so confident.

When I moved to a new city after college, I started to grow into my identity as a gay man. As my comfort level with myself began to flourish, so did my ability to socialize and meet new people. However, I felt like I had to get drunk in order to frequent gay clubs. I knew the only way I could get through the night was to take shots of vodka at my apartment before entering the dark, steamy, noisy halls filled with beautiful men; many of whom I felt inferior to.

I knew going out to gay clubs and putting myself out into the gay community was "the right thing to do." My dad always said, "you just have to put yourself out there!" The more I sobered up at gay nightclubs, these phrases haunted me and my social anxiety increased.

Thankfully I deal with hangovers pretty well, but it dawned on me a few years ago that I didn't enjoy this feeling. I didn't like the fact that I had to intoxicate myself in order to enter an environment with people of my own kind. I enjoy refreshing libations, but the consequence of an entire day due to a post-clubbing hangover was just not worth it to me anymore. I knew this felt wrong. My behavior was not inline with my values and interests.

There's an expectation that just because you're gay, you have to make friends with other gay people in the gay community. We feel shame and imperfect when expectations are not met, like something is genuinely wrong with us. This is the worst feeling to have, especially if we don't have any friends in our community to relate with.

Most of us resort to dating apps like Grindr, Scruff, OkCupid or Manhunt, all with the hopes of connecting with our community or meeting the love of our life. Just like gay clubs, this is a way to meet other gay men -- but it's not the only way. Again, these applications draw in people who are looking for something specific under specific circumstances. These circumstances usually include hook-ups, one night stands and questions like "Top or btm?" These apps can be a community in their own nature, but they often leave us feeling rejected and lonely -- especially when the hook up doesn't turn into a meaningful relationship or the first date doesn't turn out as you had expected.

So the question stands:

How do you make friends in the gay community?

The answer is simple: you either do or you don't.

You see, you don't have to make friends in the gay community in order to feel fulfilled and satisfied. You don't have to go to nightclubs or create a dating profile when you're feeling lonely, bored and horny. You don't have to put yourself in environments that make you feel uncomfortable. If you do, then you're doing yourself a disservice and causing harm toward your mental hygiene.

Mental hygiene is the way you keep your mind and your emotions clean and spiffy. Just like we need to stay hygienic with our physical bodies by brushing our teeth, taking showers and exercising, it's equally as important to place ourselves in healthy environments that support our happiness and social well being. If gay nightclubs and dating apps support your mental hygiene, than by all means keep doing what you're doing. But you don't need to keep putting yourself in circumstances that don't align with your values and comfort level.

You can make friends in a plethora of other places! All you need to do is ask yourself one question: "What are my values?"

Do you value health? Do you value education? Do you value giving back to communities through volunteerism and entrepreneurship? When you identify your values, then you can pick and choose communities that align with your values. There are plenty of gay specific communities that align with each and every value. There are gay sports leagues, gay hiking groups and even gay video-game groups!

There are many options to make friends in the gay community whether or not you're introverted, extroverted, shy or fearful to express yourself. All you need to do is identify your values, find locations where like-minded people hang out and introduce yourself to people in those communities.

When you have the opportunity to give back and do something for the community, you'll be of service to others and there's no greater feeling than knowing you're supporting other people in their growth and development. That's a sure fire way to make friends without ever setting foot in a nightclub while getting intoxicated or getting a message from some weirdo asking you for a blow job.

I hope you'll take the time identify your values and think about what's important to you in your life. You deserve to belong to a community that's friendly and supportive. Like I tell all of my students and clients: you have amazing qualities to share that people would be so lucky to benefit from. Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you to share your gifts with the world. If not now, when?

Max DuBowy is the author of the Ultimate Guide to Self Care for gay men who are ready to break from stress and anxiety. Are you ready to be confident, make friends and love yourself unconditionally? INSTANTLY DOWNLOAD A COPY OF HIS FREE GUIDE HERE.