Words by Tess Becker
Finding community is important to everyone. Humans are social animals, and feeling a part of something is important for our mental and physical health.
Loneliness, especially following the pandemic, came into view as genuinely dangerous to people’s bodies and minds. A 2016 study led by Newcastle University epidemiologist Nicole Valtorta, Ph.D., for example, linked loneliness to a 30 percent increase in the risk of stroke or the development of coronary heart disease.
“Lacking encouragement from family or friends, those who are lonely may slide into unhealthy habits,” Valtorta said. “In addition, loneliness has been found to raise levels of stress, impede sleep and, in turn, harm the body. Loneliness can also augment depression or anxiety.”
This is very difficult for queer people, many of whom lose family and friends as part of their journey of self-acceptance and coming out. It can be a struggle to find others like them, and dating can be very difficult.
That’s where something like the Conscious Girlfriend Academy comes in.
The Conscious Girlfriend Academy is a resource supporting lesbians and queer women in conscious dating, relationships, and sexuality. The goal is to help women and femmes connect more with themselves and dating, and in turn, foster a community of people like them.
The co-founder Dr. Ruth Schwartz created the academy when she was playfully discussing what “certifications” her girlfriend had to date her. The idea kept spinning and eventually turned into Conscious Girlfriend.
“We decided to start offering some workshops for lesbians,” Ruth tells Smiley News. “At first we didn't know if they would be primarily for lesbian couples, but it turned out that most of whom came were singles, and we realize that there was an enormous need out there for lesbians and queer women who in particular had had a number of difficult relationships.”
A lot of that early work came to a head in 2020 when the pandemic hit. By that time Ruth had already written a book on the subject and had been teaching classes for years but when the pandemic pushed people online the Conscious Girlfriend had to adapt by offering classes online, officially starting the Conscious Girlfriend Academy.
“I literally thought maybe 15 or 20 women will show up but I had 67 women attending that first month. And then just more and more started coming and more and more wanted it to continue,” Ruth says. “It's become a global resource teaching about lesbian dating relationships and sexuality with women from 25 countries showing up and taking the classes.”
The courses are open to all types of women; trans or cis and other femme people along the gender spectrum. Ruth, through the Academy just wants to help teach people the skills to have healthy and happy relationships.
“I think also the way that two women tend to go about dating, relating, loving and having sex. We have particular challenges that aren't the same as heterosexual or gay male challenges,” she says.
It all circles back to finding a way to be seen and heard by people that understand where you’re coming from.
“I think for queer people in general, there's just a little barrier,” Ruth says. “It's like we have laid out lots of straight friends or do things in the straight world, but we don't quite 100% feel at home because you don't know when somebody's going to say or do something weird.”
“You don't get to really breathe and feel at home unless you're with people that are more like you.”
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
GLAAD. GLAAD is a massive LGBTQ+ advocacy group that helps fight for queer people across the US. Consider donating.
Lambda Legal. This organization helps fight in the courtroom for queer people. Find out more.
The Trevor Project. They focus on suicide prevention and mental health support for queer youth. Support them here.