Coming out in Vancouver
Two steps to help you on your way
by Jude Goodwin for What's On Queer BC
A decade after my marriage had fallen apart, and around the time when my third teenager was ready to fly the coop, years after my last ineffective 'date' or my last 'boyfriend', at a time when most of my friends were gay and I spent a lot of time envying them, saying things to myself like 'I wish I was a lesbian', there came a long winter when something started to hum and I heard it, deep inside. It kept me up at night. It made me want to look at women (gasp). It made me set up a man's profile on LavaLife so I could creep the women there. Then it made me set up a woman interested in women profile on Plenty Of Fish, and then - it made me tell someone.
That was 6 years ago. Since then I've been married 8 times. Ha ha. Not really, but it has been a beautiful ride.
So maybe you're like I was, a woman coming out and wondering - what now?
Meet some women, date some women
Someone once said to me - I know I want to date women, and I have no trouble finding women who might want to date me, but I feel like the roadrunner. Once I have one in my arms, I have no idea what to do with her.
That pretty much describes where I was in that first year. But I was not to be delayed - after all, I had spent all my life without. So - Plenty of Fish and my first woman to woman dates. And here are some tips:
As soon as you meet someone online that seems to be a kindred spirit, set up a coffee date.
This will save you oodles of time and angst. If she doesn't want to have coffee, or if she is seemingly always busy, or cancels due to some unseen event more than once (OK maybe twice), move on. You've spent the last few years with imaginary women - you want real female company now, right?
Some good coffee date spots in the Lower Mainland
Everyone will have their favourites, and here are some of mine.
The sushi cafe in Horseshoe Bay. This is a great halfway spot if you're meeting someone from one of the Gulf Islands or up the Sunshine Coast. Or if you're from those ferry places.
A coffee shop on Granville Island. This is an awesome city spot because if you click, you can walk around a bit and see the sights and if you don't click one of you can walk east and the other can walk west and you'll need not bump into each other again.
Shannon Falls. OK, I liked this one because, at the time, I lived in Squamish and Shannon Falls is beautiful. I should also add in the walking trail around Brohm Lake, where my wife and I had our first official date. But that was after two 'coffee dates' - and I think it's wise to leave the long hikes for after the first date. The point is, a coffee date is just that - coffee and then goodbyes. It should be easy to part, and it should happen quickly and without discomfort.
BierCraft on Commercial Drive. This is a nice spot because it has table perches by the window, a menu for all hours of the day, and it's on Commercial. If you're just coming out, you might not know that Commercial Drive in Vancouver is a kind of lesbian mecca. At least for new lesbians. And young lesbians. And older lesbians who have cool little apartments in those big heritage houses. It's also the location of one of the year's best events - the Vancouver Dyke March. So don't be shy - set your first coffee date up for the historic Commercial Drive. You're gonna love it there. My wife and I had our first coffee date at BierCraft - it was breakfast. I had no idea where it was so she suggested we meet in front of Womyn's Ware. I thought that was probably a dress shop but my oldest daughter's eyes widened when I told her. Just so you know, Womyn's Ware is a sex toy shop. One of a few good stops if you're a woman looking for toys but that will be material for another blog.
Plenty of Fish isn't the only place to hang out online
A few other great online places to meet women are:
Meet-up is an online service that organizes get togethers based on groups. You join a group and then you get notices about events such as pub nights, pool nights, hikes, movie nights, coffee hangouts, that sort of thing. I met a lot of my lesbian friends through Meet up. There are lots of different lesbian, women-to-women meetup groups and you can find many of them at this link http://www.meetup.com/topics/Lesbian/ca/bc/vancouver/
Most of the people who show up at meetups are strangers to each other, so don't feel like you'll be the odd one. I meet new women at every Meet up. Give it a try!
There have been a few really good, and really big, Facebook groups serving the lower mainland lesbian and women identifying community. These groups can be fun, and I admit I have spent a lot of time on them over the years, but these days I find I'd rather actually be with women than hang out virtually. I find the FB groups do not encourage in depth discussion or connections. Some have good discussion starts, but these quickly get spammed or infested with banal and innocuous comment - endless selfies and silly comments. It's all good - for many women, this is what they want and need. But honestly, of all my friends and ex girlfriends, there is only one that I actually met on Facebook first. And that was just by accident. My advice is, don't while away the bulk of your time on FB - move on girl, move on!
When I was dating, I preferred OK Cupid to Plenty of Fish. But POF has made some great updates lately so who knows. OK Cupid has a fun interface that presents you with hundreds of questions (you don't have to answer them all, just a few at a time or ever) and then matches you with women who have answered the questions in a similar fashion as you.
This was once the go-to place to meet women in Vancouver. The site remains up, and it has a current date on its footer, but it doesn't seem to be operating the same way that it used to. However, go there for history's sake, then carry on.
Before long you'll have met and enjoyed coffee and dinner and perhaps a game of pool or two with many lovely women, some of whom will become your good friends.
For me, after the first year or two I felt I needed more than my online society. So one day I woke up and said "Jude, if you want to meet more people, make more friends and have more fun, you're going to need to go out of your house."
Many women complain about various barriers to getting out of the house. Events are too expensive, the schedules are undoable, they don't like to go places alone - but sooner or later you're going to need to step away from the keyboard, put on your best face, and walk out that door. You'll never look back.
The best way to get out of the house is to plan to attend an event. There are zillions of events in the Lower Mainland, from music and nightlife to arts and culture, sporty events and groups, and of course, festivals. Pride Festivals alone offer events every month from spring through fall. In one of my earlier blogs I share what I did on my first Vancouver Pride. It was a lot of fun!
But events around town don't stop at Pride celebrations. There's the Queer Film Festival, the Queer Arts Festival, Meet Ups (see above), Camping weekends (Wild Women, Vancouver Outdoor Club for Women, and others), BOLDFest, and more. And there's nightlife. I understand how it would seem daunting to just go out and attend a lesbian dance party or club - but a lot of the Meet Up groups will set up a table or meeting place at these events - this is a good way to attend and find people you can hang with.
And finally, consider volunteering. This is a fantastic win-win way to get to know people in the community and feel good at the same time. Take tickets at the door to a dance, help decorate, oversee a gallery for a few hours. In fact, right now, the Queer Art Festival is looking for volunteers, the Vancouver Dyke March is looking for volunteers. If you're like me, being in a strange place surrounded by strangers is a lot easier when I have something to keep me busy!
This website What's On Queer BC has a page called LGBTQ+ Resources - you can find lots of resources on this page.
I hope these suggestions will help you with your first steps into a brave new world. Welcome!