It’s safe to say the coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot about everyday life.
As anybody who is single will attest, the dating landscape has been flipped on its head in light of the lockdown.
The contrasts in pre and post coronavirus dating are even more apparent in the gay community.
A piece of global research found that one in three gay men feel “unsafe at home” during the COVID-19 lockdown.
That, in large part, is down to the lack of support many men feel from their families, according to gay social networking site, Hornet.
Yahoo UK’s new video series ‘Dating At A Distance’ saw both sides of this in a recent episode with Steve, 46, a carpenter/builder and Brad, 27, a bouncer from Leeds.
The pair put their virtual dating skills to the test and although their experiences of coming out to their families were very different, both have very similar views on this new way of dating.
“It was quite a tough story when I came out because I tried it with a guy the eve before my dad died,” Steve admitted to Brad during their virtual date.
“My dad died the following day and he was homophobic, he was a stereotypical dad that watched football on a Sunday.”
Steve said that he went “back in the closet” after his dad died, seeing it as a punishment for having his first gay experience.
That discomfort impacted both his dating and family life for a long time, with the 46-year-old admitting that “being gay went against everything that felt right for years.”
“I didn’t feel comfortable it was exciting and scary but it took a long time to accept that dating a guy was actually possible,” he explained to Yahoo UK.
The pair, who got off to a great start with their mutual love for dogs had very different experiences of coming out.
Brad’s family were supportive from the offset.
“I knew I was gay from a pretty young age when I understood about ‘liking boys and girls’ and I just knew. Mum and dad always had a feeling. I tried covering up my sexual orientation by having the cheeky ‘girlfriend’ here and there but my acting was shocking,” Brad told Yahoo UK.
His mum decided to ask Brad whether he was gay during an episode of ‘This Morning’, which he remembers fondly.
“There were no tears, no nothing. She just gave me a hug so did my dad and they said ‘you’re my son and we love you for who you are’.
“I’m blessed to have a family like I have. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Bless ‘em!
“When I hear or read other people struggles it makes you appreciate and respect that person, because it’s not as easy for other people and they may have people in there lives who ‘don’t agree’ with it or even accept it themselves.
“I have massive respect for these people and I’m always a person who would listen because it costs nothing to be kind. Spread a little love, we have enough doom and gloom in the world.”
Amen to that, Brad.
Despite the contrast in their coming out stories, they shared a number of similarities, the first being their typically “male dominated” jobs.
“Every time I go to a building site I have to come out again,” Steve explained to Brad in relation to his carpentry and building career.
“They ask ‘what’s your girlfriend’s name or what’s your wife’s name?’”
Although he has to come out at every new job, Steve said he has never found his job has held him back from meeting people.
“I’ve never had difficulty meeting anyone because of my job it’s been more the opposite a lot of gay people find a male dominant job very attractive. I do feel that my job keeps me grounded and and because I’ve had girlfriends in the past I’ve seen it from both sides,” he explains to Yahoo UK.
Brad’s experience is very similar, “people assume I’m straight.”
“I get hit on by lasses more than I do lads. It doesn’t bother me at all just one of those things I suppose you just get on with it! Some say a blessing others say a curse. Is what it is suppose.”
Read more: Dating website sees rise in virtual dates
Their similarities didn’t end there, with both Brad and Steve sharing relatable views on how dating for the gay community has worked during the coronavirus.
Like many people, they’ve found it frustrating to get on with somebody virtually but then not be able to meet them in real life.
Before trying ‘Dating At A Distance’ Steve had put dating “on the back burner” during the pandemic.
“I felt very comfortable. The biggest thing was that you are not physically with them so there was no hidden agenda of having to go with them or kiss them if you don’t fancy them or even reject them or be let down yourself,” Steve shared his experience of dating over video chat.
They both admitted that in lieu of sexual tension, they could chat more freely and being able to see each other on camera helped them to feel more “connected”.
“I like to work people out so it’s good to get a vibe from someone,” Brad explained why he preferred to date using video over using apps than be a “keyboard warrior”.
This new type of dating doesn’t come without its challenges, though, and both Brad and Steve are looking forward to the opportunity to get back out there again.
“Your senses are disabled,” Steve explained, “which makes you unsure if they really did like you or not because there was little body language to pick up on.”
“People use online to create a mirror image of themselves that they aren’t. So I wouldn’t like to be in a situation where I’m getting really into a guy and then we meet and it’s someone completely different.”
It certainly seems like there are negatives and positives to the new and unexpected dating world we find ourselves in and the differences and similarities we have with each other seem to have no bearing on how easy we find navigating this new experience.
“Would I do it again? YES WHY THE CHUFF NOT,” Brad concluded.
Want to give virtual dating a go? Get in touch by emailing, firstname.lastname@example.org.