Dating as a queer person can at times be particularly challenging. Dating as a queer person in a conservative town during a pandemic? Even more so.
Many folks live in environments that are not welcoming or are even toxic to their mental health. The pandemic has trapped a lot of people in precarious situations, and this can be particularly harmful for people who identify as LGBTQ+. The need for connection to other queer people is necessary and often life-saving.
During this pandemic, LGBTQ+ folks have had to get creative with how to access the love and support of the community. Dating apps can be one solution, but in an increasingly fast-paced, disposable world, the instant gratification from getting matches is overshadowed by the radio silence of a ghosting. People sometimes face harm from dating apps as well.
Though the LGBTQ+ community has made strides towards inclusivity, there is still a lot of anti-Blackness, fatphobia, transphobia, misogyny, ableism and a host of other problematic ideals that can make dating difficult, and sometimes dangerous. Virtual events are another way to seek out queer comfort and content. With a little bit of research, people can find virtual panels, podcasts, drag shows and more that can help ease the loneliness. Another fun way to connect is to join a speed dating event.
Queer in Oakland hosted a Femme4Femme Speed dating event meant to bring together queer femmes and those who love them on Dec. 3. The event was free, with a suggested donation.
Queer in Oakland, created by Gabrielle Hooks, is an organization that seeks to match queer people in the bay area with events throughout the community. Hooks self-identifies as a queer, Black femme. The organization was created “by Oakland’s queers, for Oakland’s queers.” Though Queer in Oakland is made to highlight events in Oakland and the surrounding area, the transition to a virtual modality has made the events accessible to people around the world.
There were people from many states in attendance. Femme4Femme speed dating began on a site called Icebreaker, with a chill main chat room where participants were able to chat with Hooks and each other, answering typical ice breaker questions as well as some more scandalous ones.
Hooks began the event with some general housekeeping, informing the participants that this was a safe and inclusive space. This meant no anti-Blackness, fatphobia, ableism, transphobia was allowed. It calmed the participants’ nerves to know that there were moderators ready to remove agitators and people who were not aligning with the event’s values.
Once a good amount of the participants had arrived, everyone was split into one-on-one rooms for four minutes, armed with flashcard questions to break the ice, so to speak. People were matched 10 times, and at the end of the event folks had the opportunity to message each of their matches through Icebreaker. Many participants noted how lovely it was to be communicating with queer people back to back to back. Some folks were sheltering in areas that are not LGBTQ+ friendly, so the virtual event was a tiny safe haven carved out of an otherwise tumultuous environment.
There was, of course, a prompt about zodiac signs and which one was best, which led to some gentle teasing and many declarations that Scorpios ruled them all. Some questions were earnest, such as “What do you look for in a partner?” while others were made to make one blush, such as “What’s your kissing style.” All in all, the event was a fun way to unwind and make connections with other femme queers.
This event centered around femmes because oftentimes, dating in real life can be difficult for femmes. The term itself can be open ended, as some people can present themselves as feminine, but have a gender identity that doesn’t stereotypically align with that presentation. The event was open to all people, inclusive to all gender identities.
It can be difficult dating as a femme because other queer people might not necessarily pick up on the fact that we’re queer. Sometimes, people struggle with living too much in the binary and not opening up to the fact that just because a person looks a certain way, does not necessarily dictate any part of their identity. Some of us take to decorating ourselves with rainbow apparel, Tegan and Sarah merch or constant references to shows like “The L Word” or “Vida” in order to signal to other queer people that we are a part of the community. Events like Femme4Femme speed dating are helpful to bridge that gap and provide queer femmes with an opportunity to meet others who love and appreciate the myriad of queer femme identities that can exist.
It is also extremely beneficial that Queer in Oakland is very strict about the core values of their events. This helps provide a feeling of security, allowing folks to let their guard down and simply enjoy the night.
Queer in Oakland has tickets to their events on Eventbrite. To check out some upcoming events, including speed dating that centers queer and trans People of Color, check out @queerinoakland on Instagram, or give them a follow on Eventbrite. For those looking for queer community in a time of unprecedented loneliness, be sure to check out these events.