How do lesbian, queer or bisexual women find partners? Are you one the many queer women who struggle to find a date or a relationship even in this age of internet? How do lesbian and bisexual women navigate various offline and online dating spaces? As a queer woman, I have had my various shares of problems in finding a date.
There are hardly any lesbian/bisexual women offline dating spaces in cities like Delhi where every week there is more than one ‘gay’ party. Even on dating sites, it is difficult to find another feminine lesbian woman if it is not visibly mentioned in their profiles. The lack of online and offline spaces to find romance is an important issue that lesbian women face everywhere. On my dating profiles, I clearly mention that I am queer and interested in only transmen and other female assigned at birth people. However, my inbox in dating sites is filled with friendship requests from cis and straight men.
To explore this, I chatted with three queer women in Delhi. I asked them about their issues with dating in both offline and online spaces. The three women are from different backgrounds and age groups. Sasha* is in her forties, Nancy* is in her thirties, and Neha* is 25 plus. (*Names have been changed.)
my inbox in dating sites is filled with messages from cis, straight men, even though I’ve mentioned that I am a queer woman.
On Online Dating Spaces For Queer Women
Sasha identifies as a ‘femme’ lesbian and is interested in other ‘femme’ women. She specifically mentions that in her profile on OK Cupid and Tinder. She has been quite successful in finding dates online. She is also concerned about her growing age and how she only seems to find dates that are much younger than her. People of her age, according to her are already committed. Young queer women do not want to get settled and she feels that she needs to get ‘settled’ with someone.
She is also of the opinion that ‘butch’ women might find it difficult to find partners in these spaces. However, I am of the completely opposite opinion that butch women, because of their masculine gender expression, might find it easier to find dates in these online spaces.
Nancy has a profile on OK Cupid and Tinder. She mentions a site called Pink Sofa which is an old site where earlier queer women used to find dates. However, it is free only for a month and afterwards, one needs to be a paid member. Since it is expensive, many queer women do not have profiles there.
Neha has profiles on OK Cupid, Tinder, Findher and Only Women. Findher is an app which was made using the same logic of Grindr (a GPS based app for gay men). Howver, it is not as effective as Grindr.
Both Nancy and Neha mentioned how they get many messages from men or couples seeking threesomes. In fact, Nancy mentioned how on Tinder, cis men have fake profiles as women and they seek out lesbian women for fun. She mentioned how many times, after several conversations on Tinder with ‘women’ they had come out to her as cis men.
To avoid this, Nancy now prefers to share her number with the people she chats with on these online sites or apps. She recognises the risk of it, however, she feels that if she talks over phone, then she can better find out if the person is fake or not.
Also Read: NotOK, Cupid! Misogyny in Online Dating
Offline Dating Spaces And LBT Parties
All three of my respondents shared almost the same thing while talking about offline dating spaces and LBT parties. Queer women and trans men’s spaces (which we refer to mostly as LBT spaces) are very limited. Since the community is pretty small, everyone tends to know almost everyone in that space.
Ladies’ Night at a popular Delhi pub has become a queer women get together point.
Sasha said that she hardly meets any new people in these LBT parties. Nancy talked about the sub-groups within the LBT community. She says, “There is the intellectual group, the party goers group and young people’s group. There is an unseen wall amongst these groups and people don’t mingle much outside of these groups.”
Neha laughingly reminded me about the incestuous nature of our community. Everybody is somebody’s ex. “Well if she comes, then I won’t come” becomes an important criterion for people attending these party spaces.
Neha mentioned the name of a famous pub (which I’m sure the LB community in Delhi knows about) which has free Ladies’ Night twice in a week. She has managed to see and meet quite a few queer women people and couples in that space. This place has unknowingly become a queer women get together point. There was a time when we would invariably bump into someone or the other from the LB community in that bar/pub.
Many queer women have spoken about the blatant misogyny and sexual harassment in gay parties and gay pubs. Once four or five of us (queer women) went to a famous gay party. Some “gay men” started dancing closely with us. When we resisted, they said , “Arre yaar! Hum to gay hain!” (Relax! We are gay!). It was shocking for us because regardless of whether someone is gay or straight, we do have the freedom to choose our dance partners. When we said no to dancing (physically closely) with someone, we had not given our consent. Sexual orientation had nothing to do with it.
In another incident, one of my friends was groped at one of these gay parties. Many gay parties have conditions about entry. Some of them mentions, “decent” dress codes and “decent” behaviour, with a strong elitist vibe. After these incidents, I have avoided going to gay parties.
Of course, I should not end this with such a sad note. There are issues and challenges faced by queer women in offline and online dating spaces. This does not mean that queer women do not date or form relationships. Sasha, Nancy and Neha all spoke about finding dates online and offline. I remember when I was in college, I used to go to these Yahoo Chat rooms in search of another ‘real’ queer woman. I was not successful! However, with Facebook, Twitter, and many dating apps and sites, queer women these days find it little easier to navigate spaces and find dates for love and romance.
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