Dating has never been easy for queer people. Historically, due to fear of violence and persecution, and more recently from a lack of available and accessible spaces. This year, the City of Peterborough saw an event that strove to make courtship a little easier for queer women and transgendered inhabitants of the Electric City.
As a part of Pride Peterborough, the website “doyouknowellen.com”, in conjunction with Black Honey, hosted the queer speed-dating event titled “Quick, Queer, Meet-Cutes”. Starting at 6 pm, the warm, enveloping space was alight with conversation as members of the queer community came together to participate in this unprecedented event.
The format of the evening was inspired by traditional speed-dating protocol. Tables were lined up in the cozy cornerstone of Peterborough’s arts community. Participants of the evening were assigned one side of the row and moved in a counter-clockwise fashion to ensure that everyone was able to meet everyone else; a distinction from the traditional heterosexual speed dating model.
Doyouknowellen.com is the brainchild of founder Melanie Dubois. It was created with the intent of creating a space to facilitate missed connections between queer folks in the city of Peterborough.
Dubois spoke to her inspiration for the event and website.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. When I created the website it was Valentine’s day, 2014. I was sad the girl I was dating didn’t text me back. Ellen Page had come out publicly that day. This idea had been floating around my brain for a while, and that sparked me to finally do this. So I registered the domain and started building this website for real. I wanted to base it on Ellen Page, but also Ellen DeGeneres, in reference to the popular site afterellen.com. My website isn’t just about pop culture, it’s also about missed connections, as well as creating events for queer people in Peterborough because I think there’s a lack. At the time I was creating it, I was thinking, “it’s Valentine’s Day. I need a date! This is the last Valentine’s Day that I’m drinking alone with my cats. So I decided to find a way to get queer folks together”.
In addition to queer dating, Dubois hopes to create a space of community and solidarity. Future plans include creating queer-specific nights at local clubs and bars to create safe physical spaces specifically for queer folks to socialize within; something that the community has always lacked. “Most of these events happen during Pride weeks, and there’s nothing during the rest of the year”, Dubois mentions. “One of the best times I’ve ever had at a nightclub was a completely queer-friendly place. That night it felt normal and awesome to be out in a place and not attacked by straight men who don’t ask for permission to touch you. The way I felt that night is how I want to feel all the time”.
Due to the normative assumption of heterosexuality in public spaces, queer people are often mitigated to online spaces which can be more dangerous. Because of the deception possible in these spaces, queer folks are put in a more vulnerable position and can be exposed to potentially predatory online users.
“Its important for it to be safe because even online, anyone can pretend to be anyone. Here, you’re meeting someone in a safe place that is structured”, says Dubois. “No one here should feel obligated to share their contact info to anyone other than the organizers. Someone else will take care of it”.
The queer population of Peterborough has recently seen a marked increase in initiatives for community building. With spaces like this one, and others like the safe space for LGBTQ+ people, QSquared, coming to life, hopefully Peterborough will continue to grow into a place where the needs of the community are recognized and acted upon.