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Body shaming, dating apps and forming relationships in P.E.I.'s LGBTQ2S+ community

Timothy O’Brien stands outside his home in Charlottetown. O’Brien says dating options are limited in a small province the size of P.E.I. especially for those in the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Timothy O’Brien stands outside his home in Charlottetown. O’Brien says dating options are limited in a small province the size of P.E.I. especially for those in the LGBTQ2S+ community. - Tony Davis

Timothy O’Brien exchanged messages with another man over a popular dating app.

They sent images of themselves to one another and planned to meet up. O’Brien was excited to meet someone new, but when he arrived at the gentleman’s home he opened the door, looked O’Brien up and down, scoffed and slammed the door in his face.

“There is a lot of shaming types in the queer community, there is a lot of shaming types in all communities. A lot of it is body shaming,” O’Brien said from his home in Charlottetown.

“Shy of dating apps and websites it is hard to meet people in person because we live in a digital age.”

With the rise of apps like Grindr and Tinder people are missing the spontaneity of just interacting with someone in the real world. Most romantic interactions begin online, O’Brien said.

O’Brien is a self-described queer man, making his dating options limited in a province the size of P.E.I.

Over the years he has matured and realizes a lot of what people say to him is exactly what they hate about themselves.

“A lot of it is projection,” said O’Brien.

“They are projecting an insecurity, an inconsistency in their thought, an ignorance. They are projecting something on to me.”

Heather MacMillan is a life coach in Charlottetown. She has had LGBTQ2S+ clients.

MacMillan thinks relationships are the same across the sexual spectrum.

“For anyone, relationships (can be) an issue,” MacMillan said.

People who identify LGBT2S+ might not feel comfortable coming out.

“If the self is not in alignment with the self you will have conflict with any kind of relationship.”

Jocelyn Claybourne struggled with finding herself.

Growing up on P.E.I no one really made her feel like being gay was something wrong but, “there was no one saying it was OK either,” she said.

“I pretended to be homophobic,” said Claybourne, adding that she thought if people didn’t like gay people she shouldn’t either.

Claybourne sees dating apps as a good way to break down barriers.

“Having social anxiety, I think it is a good thing. You know people’s sexuality right away. It cuts out the obstacle of ‘is this person gay?’”

She went to Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown with her now wife, Alyssa Perry- Claybourne.

Claybourne came out when she was 17 but neither of them knew the other was interested in women. She found out about her partner’s sexual orientation through social media, Claybourne said.

“We introduced ourselves at a bar.”

The couple married on June 22 and are now living in New Glasgow, N.S.

O’Brien knows dating apps and social media work for some people, but he is outgoing and is looking for something more natural, like his first relationship. It was a long relationship, the two met through mutual friends.

“My first relationship started in high school. I was only 15, so I started learning about my queer identity early.”

Outside perspectives and influence can be hard while trying to form any relationship.

Claybourne said she thinks that LGBTQ2S+ relationships are similar to straight relationships, but a major difficulty she had while engaged was people constantly assuming she was getting married to a man.

“I was prompted to come out of the closet again and again.”

Something that could take away the awkwardness of inquiring on sexual preference would be a space dedicated to the LGBTQ2S+ individuals.

O’Brien said he wishes there was more opportunity to meet people in the community face to face.

“Meeting someone in person without any preconceived notions is the most organic way to do it.”

There are definitely open and accepting spaces in Charlottetown like cafés and bars, O’Brien said “… but as for a place to call our own or an LGBTQ2S+ life centre, it doesn’t exist.”

However, O’Brien’s outlook is becoming more positive.

“I’m starting to stop caring what people think. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter. As long as I am happy with what I am putting out into the world that should be enough.”


A note from the editor: This is the first in a series of stories The Guardian will be publishing this week, as part of Pride Week 2018, taking a look at the issues facing P.E.I.’s LGBTQ2S+ community. Watch for more coverage online and in print throughout the week.

www.theguardian.pe.ca

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