- 29 Jun 21
Hot Press spoke to members of the LGBTQI+ community about the effect of Covid-19 on their romantic lives over the last 12 months, with some finding successful partners while others were met with continuous dating frustration.
The dating game has been fundamentally changed since lockdown was first enforced in March 2020.
Singles swapped spur of the moment dates and nights of spontaneous physicality with slow-burning conversations and casual sexting as lockdown shut the door on love lives as they knew it.
Similarly to online college lectures and work meetings, sexual activity underwent a virtual revamp.
In a study by Grindr, a dating app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people, 71% of those surveyed said consensually trading pictures and videos on Grindr allowed them to feel physical intimacy during the pandemic, with 48% admitting to hooking up virtually during the pandemic.
Now that restrictions are easing and young people are somewhat unleashed from the restrictions that put their professional, social and love lives on hold for over a year; how has the dating scene changed?
Tate Doran from Dublin recounts the difficulty of building relationships with people - given the fact that bars and restaurants were closed - leaving slim pickings for date spots.
"Through the past year it was really hard to meet with people because of restrictions, obviously. No bars or restaurants were open, so it was impossible to do anything," he said.
"It was only when I got a job during the pandemic then I was able to meet more people and start to be on the scene again and now that bars and outdoor dining is open, it’s a lot easier to meet other gay people. During lockdown, I only went one date. That went nowhere, and it was at the very start when things weren’t so bad."
Navigating the boundaries can always be tricky when embarking on a new relationship, whether it be a casual hookup or a more serious connection.
However, the introduction of Covid-boundaries has made things even more difficult for singles as not everyone is as comfortable with face-to-face dating and physical contact since social distancing became an intricate part of our lives.
Garreth Browne, a 30-year-old from Meath, said that he has been taking extra precautions since re-entering the dating scene due to his parents not receiving a vaccine as of yet.
"I remember when I was doing the walking dates some people wouldn’t shake your hand or hug, which I understood because of the pandemic but it was definitely awkward. Whereas other people didn’t care and hugged you without even checking if you were alright with it," he said.
Some people are a little more comfortable and frankly, a little bit more fed up with the impact restrictions have had on their dating lives the past year.
20-year-old Caitlin Hurley from Wicklow said she met her girlfriend Rachel after contacting her about a TikTok video during the first lockdown.
"Covid wasn't really in my head at the time, I wasn't oblivious to it but I was just trying to not think about it. I was just like, 'I'm not sitting in any longer'," Caitlin explained.
Their relationship escalated quickly during the second lockdown when Rachel moved in with Caitlin for six weeks.
"We weren't going to be able to travel or see each other so Rachel just stayed with me, and we've been inseparable ever since," she laughed.
For those more nervous around catching Covid, the vaccine programme seems to be improving people's attitudes towards getting back out there since lockdown ended.
More than 40% of Ireland's adult population is now fully vaccinated, according to Professor Brian MacCraith, chairperson of the Covid-19 vaccination task force.
Those interviewed said that the vaccine rollout is having a positive effect on how they date, allowing them to feel more comfortable with physical contact and allowing their relationships to develop further past a virtual level.
Caoimhe Byrne, a photographer from Dublin, said that she waited until she received her first vaccine dose before meeting her current partner - despite texting and sending voice notes back and forth for a month due to Caoimhe's high-risk status.
Their relationship developed over time through takeaway pints, coffees and walks through Stephen's Green as they waited for restrictions to ease.
Caoimhe credited the success of her current relationship to both her and her partner being understanding of each other's boundaries surrounding Covid.
"Dating in the pandemic has been incredibly strange," Caoimhe recalls. "I'd been asked to go on dates with people from Tinder but I just kind of avoided it because I wasn't comfortable with seeing anybody outside of my bubble. I think it's important to make sure that the person that you're seeing is understanding... Because I was really afraid. I was like, 'What if she loses interest before we've actually had the chance to see each other?' but she was really understanding of my situation. I think that's really important."
Grindr also found that Covid has changed the way people treat the people they're dating, as 83% of people said they’ve been more supportive of others on the app during the pandemic
As restrictions ease and the vaccine continues to get rolled out, it's clear that the LGBTQI+ will be ready to make up for lost time when they're ready to kickstart their love lives again.
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