Being single is often seen as a problem to be fixed. If a person were looking for it, they’d find an endless stream of reading material that promises to explain why they remain uncoupled, and what they can do about it.
For some Winnipeg singles, there’s a lot more to it than that.
“It’s hard to find someone in Winnipeg,” Zane Hansell says.
Hansell is 22, a floor leader at Lush and a well-known social butterfly, especially among LGBTQ+ club-goers.
“There’s not a lot of people, especially if you’re gay. You’ll be dating someone and you’ll be like ‘oh wait, this is my ex’s ex.’ It’s hard to get to know people, because if you dated somebody or went on a date with someone, it kind of cancels out four other people,” he says.
Many are surprised to hear that Hansell has trouble finding a partner. He says due to his expressive personality and love for social interaction, people think he’d have no problem meeting someone to start a relationship with.
“Probably because I do go out and party a lot. Not drugs, but I do get drunk,” he says. “I’ll wear tiny little shorts and like, almost no shirt to the club. But that’s just fun to me, and that’s loving my own body. It’s not like I walk down the street like that every day.”
Stephanie Poruchnyk-Butler is a 21-year-old artist, zine maker and retail worker.
Stephanie Poruchnyk-Butler is a 21-year-old artist, zine maker and retail worker.
Identities and acceptance
Stephanie Poruchnyk-Butler, a 21-year-old artist, zine maker and retail worker says she has also felt Winnipeg’s LGBTQ+ communities are a bit scant, though she is grateful to have found acceptance here.
“When I came out and tried to find a community (in Winnipeg), I felt really limited, because I felt like I more identified as an artist,” she says.
“There were so many other things I identified more with than being gay or queer, whatever. The community I felt most welcomed by felt really limited. It felt like everyone was only friends because of their sexual orientation.”
In Toronto, she says she met many people with similar interests who happened to be gay or queer without that being their entire identity, though they did wear their sexual identity with pride.
In Winnipeg, Hansell says, it seems people who aren’t part of the club scene want to blend in.
“I don’t want to believe it, but I feel like if you’re a masculine gay guy, you don’t want to be around feminine guys or people that are too eccentric because it outs you,” Hansell says. “But I mean like, girl you’re gay. Get over it. Stand up for it. Love it. Live it.”
Poruchnyk-Butler has done a lot of self-exploration since high school. At one point, she identified as asexual but now finds that queerness resonates better with her.
She is currently finding a home for herself where those two identities meet in the middle, and she’s happy with the results so far.
“I feel like a whole, complete person,” she says.
Poruchnyk-Butler says she sometimes feels the pressure to out herself in Winnipeg.
“I feel like it maybe is internalized homophobia, but I always feel like I have to explain to a new friend that I’m queer but that I want to be their friend, which shouldn’t happen. That shouldn’t be something that’s embarrassing to me that I feel like I have to clarify … but somehow it is,” she says.
While Hansell acknowledges that dating is probably a challenge everywhere, he says in larger cities, there is more for LGBTQ+ people to do beyond club culture.
He eventually plans to move to a larger city with a more expansive, vibrant community.
Church Street in Toronto comes up as Hansell talks about a recent visit that opened his eyes to a different scene.
“Super attractive, really nice, met so many different guys,” he says, “and it was so easy to meet people just walking down the street not even trying.”
Lianne Tregobov, owner of matchmaking service Camelot Introductions, says she’d love to hire someone to work with LGBTQ+ people in Winnipeg but feels it is beyond her personal skill set.
“I’ve been looking for the right person to add that division, but absolutely positively there needs to be a service for that group,” she says.
According to Tregobov, age is definitely a factor for singles. Her current roster is ages 28 and up.
“In my opinion, when you’re in your early 20s, more often than not you’re not ready,” she says.
Tregobov sees Winnipeg as a challenging terrain for all singles.
“I think there’s a big gap. Once you’re beyond the bars and before the legion, there truly isn’t a whole lot to do for single people here,” she says. “Our weather isolates us for many months out of the year, where people don’t want to get out there and look for somebody because it’s cold. So they hibernate, and they would rather hibernate with a partner.”
Tregobov has met many people who have been on what she calls “disaster dates” through different sites.
Winnipeg’s less diverse population can make online dating a little dull, Poruchnyk-Butler says.
While she found apps like Tinder and OkCupid to be “extremely fun” in a larger city, she no longer uses them here.
“The amount of times that I would get to the bottom of the list and there’s nothing left,” she says, “and so you open it, and it’s just that little circle that has those waves receding … I think that I was more familiar with that tiny circle with the waves than I was with meeting people.”
Hansell has had no trouble meeting partners for temporary fun on dating apps, but his interest in that kind of lifestyle is waning.
“Back when I was 18 to 20 I would go on a lot of dates and meet a lot of people,” he says. “Sometimes I would just go on dates because I wanted something to do.”
Hansell says he would prefer a long-term relationship, though he isn’t sure where to find it.
He says he had false expectations of possibly meeting someone to date through Grindr or Tinder and feels that deleting those apps is a healthy step toward starting a relationship.
Although, Hansell notes, in his experience, monogamy is on the way out.
“I feel like the gay scene in Winnipeg is really hook-up oriented and party-oriented,” he says.
As Hansell observes the move away from traditional norms, he says he would describe it as bittersweet.
“If you’re not following the expectations of society, that’s cool,” he says. “But at the same time, gays fought so hard to have the right to be married and to be seen as equal, and then if you’re not even going to take advantage of that, it’s kind of sad.”
On the other end of the spectrum, he has met people who get too serious too quickly and don’t want to get to know a person before jumping into a monogamous relationship.
Hansell says he finds himself somewhere in the middle.
“Even now, it’s still fun to go out and have fun, right? But I would never say that’s something I strive for in life,” Hansell says. “I feel like that’s putting myself back to (my) 18-year-old days.”
He says he would like to meet people in a more relaxed atmosphere than the club but isn’t sure where to start.
“I don’t know of any events where you can just go, chill and talk over coffee,” he says.
The colder weather does seem to bring out people’s desire to nest, Poruchnyk-Butler says.
“For me right now, I’m taking this winter opportunity as a time to think about what it is that I want and try to articulate it,” she says, “and then hopefully come out in springtime with better ideas of what it is I’m looking for.”
Through in-depth conversations with close friends, she has started to learn more about what approach to relationships may suit her.
“I’ve started to unpack the reason that I haven’t been able to settle down with someone,” she says. “I used to think that it was more about not finding the right person. Recently, I figured out that it’s actually me, I don’t want to be in a committed relationship with someone. I think I finally realized that you can accept love in so many different ways.”
Poruchnyk-Butler says it can be hard to put what she wants into words, because it might look more intimate than just making friends.
Though she is interested in sex, it simply isn’t what drives her to get close to somebody.
“I am currently interested in platonic intimacy,” she says. “I think that it’s strange to explain that to a lot of people, but I think it also makes a lot of sense.”
As for advice from friends, Por-uchnyk-Butler finds a lot of well-intentioned advice to be a bit absurd.
“Most of the people in my life have seen me be single for so long that they want me to find my dream partner, and there’s a lot of conversations that surround the way in which they feel I deserve it,” she says. “That I’ve worked hard enough and I now deserve it.”
She says she finds the notion of “leveling up” to be laughable.
When thinking of an ideal romantic situation, Poruchnyk-Butler looks to her parents, who are each artists in their own right, met later in life and enjoy their passions both separately and together.
She says much of their success both as a couple and individuals is the fact that they knew themselves very well by the time they met, so her current internal work can only lead her in a positive direction, she says.
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