how to make gay friends in san francisco

How to make gay friends in San Francisco

Are you looking to make gay friends in San Francisco?

Picture this. You’re feeling lonely so you decide to head out to a gay bar in the Castro by yourself. You walk in, get a drink and instantly it feels like the entire bar is silently judging you. Have you been there? I have.

It used to be that gay bars were one of the few places that you could go to meet other gay men, but that’s shifting. How are we navigating the shift as a community?

The history

If you’ve seen the movie, or the star-studded recent Broadway revival of Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking play The Boys in the Band, you can see just how far we’ve come as a community.   The 1968 play externalized much of the internalized homophobia and self-hatred that many LGBT people struggle with at times. From there, came the terrible sorrow and tragedy of the AIDS epidemic. And we wonder why it is challenging for gay men to be vulnerable and establish deep, meaningful connections.

But I digress…

The problem

If you’re having trouble making other gay friends, first off, it’s important to explore what’s getting in the way.

Have you recently relocated to San Francisco? Did you go through a break-up? Have some of your friends moved away?

New to the city

Moving to a new city can be stressful for a number of reasons. Chances are, you probably left a place where you had a more intact support network. Of course you can meet people through the hook-up or dating apps, but maybe you’re tired of that. How do you build up the courage to put yourself out there to meet new friends? Maybe you feel so overwhelmed you’re not even sure where to start.

Newly single

If you’ve recently ended a relationship, you may find yourself alone again for the first time in awhile. Sometimes in a break-up your support network diminishes, especially if you were used to socializing with other couples. Perhaps you’re not ready to date and you don’t feel like hooking up. What do you do? How do you meet new friends after being part of a couple?

Everyone’s leaving the city

In a city as dynamic as San Francisco, change is the only constant. With the cost of living on the rise, and the transient nature of the city as a whole, you may make friends only to have them move away. How do you drop anchor and find support in a place that feels as stable as Jell-O?

Do any of those situations sound familiar to you?  Can you resonate with any of those examples?  If not, take some time to think about what specifically and honestly is getting in the way of you making or maintaining the friendships that you’d like for yourself.

How to make gay friends in San Francisco

Like many things in life, once you understand the problem more clearly you can make a plan for change and growth.

Have you clearly articulated what may be getting in the way of making new friends? If not, talk with someone you trust and ask for their honest feedback.   I know for me, I can get stuck in my own story sometimes and it can be a challenge to see the forest for the trees.  Talking about it with someone else can help get your out of your own head.

Start with your interests

Making a change in your life is hard.  When thinking about a big change, I always look for win-win situations whenever possible. When expanding your community, look for the win-win.

For example, I love theatre. When I was looking to expand my community and make new friends, I got more involved in the local theatre scene. That way, even if I didn’t meet new, amazing people (which I have) I was still getting to do something that I enjoyed.

What do you enjoy? Sports, music, hiking, yoga, art?  The possibilities are endless in a culturally rich city like San Francisco.

If you do a quick search online you will find a number of organizations for gay men that are interest and activity based in San Francisco.  Here are just a few…

Give back

Volunteering is another win-win. You’re helping other people and yourself in the process. Again, there are many amazing places to volunteer in San Francisco. And helping others is great for your mental health!

If you’re looking for an LGBTQ organization to volunteer with, check out TurnOut. It’s a non-profit organization that connects volunteers with LGBTQ organizations and events.

Join a social group

San Francisco has a number of great social organizations that host events for gay men.  Take a look at their websites and calendars and find something that’s of interest to you. I’ve listed a couple below.

  • MAX SF is an organization that has been around for years and they host a number of events including cocktail hours, trips and dinners.
  • Bridgemen is a group for gay men that combines social events and community service. Check out their website for more specific information.


Meetup is an online platform where people can connect and find in-person events, clubs and social outings. There are a number of different groups for gay men that range from hiking to cooking. The great thing is, if you don’t find something you like, start your own group.

Sober spaces

Castro Country Club is an amazing resource for the LGBTQ community in San Francisco. In addition to recovery meetings and events, they host a number of social events throughout the year.

Action Item

Take ten minutes and do a quick search. Make a note of 2 or 3 things that look interesting and put them on your calendar.

Do you imagine it will be hard to follow through? Have you tried to put yourself out there in this way in the past and failed?

What gets in the way?

Trying something new can be hard. I’m asking you to change your routine, put yourself out there and try something that may be uncomfortable. It makes sense that you may have some resistance to this idea. In your mind, you may be making a million excuses as to why this won’t work for you. Notice that, and let it go.


Rejection is tough. If you’ve attempted to make new gay friends in the past and haven’t been successful, it can be hard to face the prospect of rejection again. The question I pose to you now is how can you pick yourself up from past rejections and push forward?


Loss is a difficult part of being alive, especially for those of us in the LGBTQ community. When you come out of the closet, you face the prospect of losing friends or family members because of who you are. Even if that doesn’t happen as much anymore, it’s still a threat and can be paralyzing.

We also lost an entire generation of friends, mentors and community with the AIDS epidemic. Think about this, if you lost most of your friends in your early 20s or 30s, how open would you be to putting yourself out there again?

Keep pushing forward

One of the hardest things about loss, rejection or any other sort of trauma is that it can paralyze you in the present. As a self-protective measure, our bodies and minds can prevent us from doing the exact thing we need to do in order to heal and grow.

If you’re facing pushback from yourself in this process of making new friends, I encourage you to keep moving forward. You may get hurt again. You may be ghosted or rejected. But if you keep pushing forward you will find your people. You will develop community again.

I can’t say it will be easy, but trust that things can get better and you can find your tribe.  If you need more support, find a therapist, counselor or trusted friend.  You can do this!

Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist with an office in San Francisco, CA. Tom feels passionately about helping people have better relationships. The purpose of this blog is not to provide advice or to take the place of working with a mental health professional. For more information please visit the homepage.