How The Lesbian Community Is Reinventing Modern Dating
The number of lesbian bars is shrinking. There’s only one in the whole of London, and in most UK cities there aren’t any left at all. Having gay bars which welcome gay women isn’t enough, especially when lesbians report feeling left out of LGBTQIA+ events and spaces. Surveys even show that 79 per cent of gay women say there is misogyny in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Instead, lesbians are now meeting at sober events – with wild swimming and outdoor activities proving popular. That’s how Rachel Ashe met her partner, Cory. Rachel lives in Swansea and is the founder of Mental Health Swims, a non-profit swim group that hosts monthly swim meets across the UK. Cory attended one of the swims she saw advertised on Instagram.
“This is the closest thing to love at first sight I’ve experienced. It was a knowing at first sight. I gravitated towards her. I knew that I wanted to really know her,” Rachel says. “I wasn’t looking for it. I wasn’t looking to meet anyone. I was married at the time – to a man. I didn’t know this gorgeous woman was going to come along. But there are quite a lot of lesbians who come to our swims. I think it’s a very feminine thing.”
Rachel wants to be more involved in the gay community, and has even looked at moving to a bigger city to find one, but doesn’t miss the bars. “We went to London recently, and we did pass She bar and I just thought: we’re too old. We’re in our thirties. I don’t really want to go out to a club. I’d love to do something like a gay women’s cooking class, or a dinner party. We just need more events.”
That’s what founder of lesbian event group Out and About, Polly Shute, is working on. Polly was on the board of Pride in London for four years, and found it only catered to gay men. She gave up trying to change it, and instead, started her own events which are designed with gay women in mind. These include walking groups, as well as a monthly supper club in London with about 50 to 60 women attending each time.
“Our research says that 79 per cent of women want to meet others through shared interests, and the experience market is huge,” Polly explains. “Women don’t want to go to bars and cruise, and they’re also less likely to go out to clubs when they do get into a couple. I didn’t come out until I was 41, because I thought, ‘I just don’t fancy anyone.’” You don’t know where to go, and you focus on other things like your job. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.”