If history means that you’ve had to keep your love or attraction secret, intimacy between two people has been difficult to come by. Sometimes even dangerous.
Today, we live much freer and even have hookup apps like Grindr and, while everything isn’t perfect, there’s a lot more time and freedom to experience intimacy. But it might be difficult to express and be intimate with others if you've grappled with societal and familial judgment.
Struggles for LGBT people in building intimacy
Kate Moyle, Psychosexual Therapist with six years experience, believes LGBT clients often struggle more in intimate relationships with family members, and that can make other close relationships more difficult. “I think that all couples can experience intimacy issues,” Kate said, “But, to be accepted by others aids self-acceptance and that is not always as easy or as simple sadly for people who have had to struggle to be who they are.”
Any individual who struggles with family relationships can find intimate relationships more difficult and can create attachment fears, Moyle adds.
While all couples could eventually struggle with intimacy, societal influences create unique circumstances for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. Psychotherapist and Director of Loving Men, Tim Foskett works with GBT men on building intimacy skills and believes intimacy is something you create rather than find.
In his Heartlands workshops, Foskett reviews some active relating skills that build intimacy including responding with empathy and sharing vulnerability. “Growing up LGBTQ almost always mitigates against developing these skills. In fact, to survive in a hostile family, school, and world we produce exactly the opposite of these skills,” Foskett adds.
Building intimacy can be a challenge for people from a variety of backgrounds, but specifically for LGBTQ people, Foskett says, “even in adult lives with proper support structures, the residue of how we survived our childhoods and adolescence still profoundly affects how most of us relate to others.”
How technology can help
While many LBGTQ people across the world face isolation, technology has given many LGBTQ people a lifeline and a way to communicate with each other. Whether it's online forums where young, closeted people can join under pseudonyms or apps like Grindr, new avenues of connection are opening up. But are these helping build intimacy?
On the subject of apps and intimacy, Foskett says that the pros of apps like Grindr allow individuals to express their interests openly and directly. However, he adds: “the cons are that exist are so numerous that potential intimate partners out there that it can be difficult to take the plunge and invest time and energy in developing intimacy with a particular person or people.”
So are apps a hindrance or a help toward intimacy? Kate Moyle is a therapist and also a partner of an intimacy app for couples (inclusive of LGBT people) called Pillow, which is one of the only apps on the iOS store that encourages couples to bond over activities guided by a narrator, rather than just message each other.
“I think Pillow is unique in the way that it offers real-time advice to follow along too, and that it takes all responsibility away from the listener to suggest, so they just listen and do,” Moyle said. Although the app involves kissing and other romantic things, the “episodes” don't require anything explicitly sexual so; they could work well for a variety of people. Could Pillow be a new wave of technology that allows people to connect?
Foskett mentions that app culture can be very focused on the external whereas intimacy is about focusing on the internal — but at the end, it's all about being willing to make a leap of faith with one another.
“Ultimately, I think it's about taking the risk to connect with someone beyond the superficial. This approach is a risk whether we do it on an app, in a nightclub or within a twenty-year marriage.”
Foskett added: “Intimacy involves reaching out and taking a risk whatever the forum.