Over the course of the pandemic, students have had a difficult time forming platonic and romantic relationships. This is especially true for LGBTQ+ students who are hoping to meet other LGBTQ+ students. 

LGBTOUT, a U of T LGBTQ+ student organization, organized a Valentine’s Day matchmaking event in response to this need, hoping it would facilitate socialization between LGBTQ+ students. The event is taking place on Valentine’s Day, and executives will manually pair up students to form a safe space where LGBTQ+ students could begin building a community. 

Matchmaking events

In an interview with The Varsity, the organization’s executive-at-large, who asked to remain anonymous because she is not out yet, and Alex Drakopoulos, LGBTOUT’s administrative director, explained that students could sign up for the matchmaking event through a questionnaire. 

The questionnaire included questions about the person’s gender, sexuality, dating preferences, and personality. The organizers use the questionnaire answers to manually match up event participants. The executive-at-large acknowledged that they are not experts and added that the event is simply meant to be a fun way for LGBTQ+ students to meet each other. 

Drakopoulos explained that LGBTOUT decided to hold the event because it was unable to fully execute its usual event — the opportunity to send ‘homograms’ with a card and candy. While the club will still send virtual homograms, they wanted to do something more for students. 

“We had a lot of requests from people to do events where we facilitate a space for them to meet other queer people on campus because the pandemic has limited people’s ability to do that,” Drakopoulos said. As a result, LGBTOUT’s executives decided this would be a fun way to follow through on that request and celebrate Valentine’s Day. 

Students also had the option to indicate what they would like to get out of the event, whether it be platonic friendships or romantic relationships. “If we have a lot of people that remain platonic and just make some new queer friends on campus, we would be more than happy with that as well,” Drakopoulos said.

Finding community

LGBTOUT’s executive-at-large noted that many first- and second-year students have not gotten much opportunity to meet new people because of the pandemic, something even more apparent for LGBTQ+ students wanting to meet other LGBTQ+ students. 

Moreover, Drakopoulos said that university is often the first time that LGBTQ+ people might be away from a homophobic or transphobic environment. Consequently, it’s also a time when they are able to explore their sexuality and gender. As the executive-at-large pointed out, feeling a sense of community can make that process less lonely. 

Besides the matchmaking event, LGBTOUT has also opened a Discord server to replace their pre-pandemic drop in centre. Students are allowed to remain anonymous and the server will stay up even after the in-person drop-in centre returns, since, as both executives noted, some LGBTQ+ students might just be more comfortable with reaching out to others online. 

LGBTOUT is also looking to hire trained student volunteers who can answer questions on the server as a form of peer support. When asked about whether the club felt the need to offer peer support because of a lack of support from the university, Drakopoulos said that mental health resources were lacking in general, especially for marginalized groups like LGBTQ+ people.

“I think… peer support [representatives]… [offer] that specific experience of being a queer person themselves, and that they’re able to sort of fill that gap that is missing from our professional services,” Drakopulos added.