Italy has a chequered history when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Homosexuality was legal in 1890, decades before legalisation was passed in some of today’s more “progressive” European countries like Iceland and Denmark, but formal marriage between same-sex couples is still not recognised today. There are obviously major discrepancies between the constitution and society regarding gay people, yet on the ground, in real life, every day, LGBTQIA+ people meet and fall in love.
The systematically patriarchal society we live in means that even of marginalised groups, the “acceptable” that leaks down into popular culture is often representative of a white and male experience. Lots of people are aware of the dating smartphone applications that gay men use, like Grindr and Scruff, but the lesbian digital dating experience is often overlooked. Florence is a city like any other, international and diverse, a place where people of all races, sexualities and religions meet. Is the digital dating app phenomenon applicable to the city’s gay women too?
With over 2.8 million people (source: statista.com) active on some kind of online dating platform in Italy, there’s most certainly a large sea in which to find your fish. Wapa is one of the most popular dating apps for women to exclusively meet other women as it’s unlike other providers that only offer a gay function as an option of their otherwise straight-orientated services. Many cite that on other dating platforms, like Tinder that has changeable settings so you can meet and chat with same sex users, lesbian relationships can often be sexualised or trivialised. Two of my interviewees named Wapa as a tool for lesbian women to meet in the city, but said that they faced the same issues that most dating app users have. The encounters are often trivial or strange, or the app conflicts with those looking for something more serious when it’s used for purely sexually gratifying purposes.
“The scene in Florence is very active,” Ludovica, a 22-year-old student, assured me. “Despite there not being any clubs or places founded by the queer community for the queer community, we still prefer to meet in person, like in the old days before online dating.”
This sentiment was echoed by another young queer woman resident in Florence, Matilde, 24. “Gay women don’t have a particular place here in the city where they can meet, but everything still happens very naturally. Groups are more mixed; for example, queer club nights welcome both a queer and straight audience.”
Perhaps this preference for face-to-face primary meetings has less to do with sexual orientation and more to do with a digital invasion of our everyday lives. Online dating platforms provide a useful service that is dictated by the inherent structure and nature of a smartphone application; it’s instantly gratifying and approximate of real life and therefore the experience it creates is often short-lived and superficial.
An app that facilitates the meeting of queer women can be created, but the issues that result from its use apply to users across a sexuality and gender identification spectrum. When your eyes meet across the room, your heart starts beating faster, and that person you think is perfectly imperfect accidentally brushes against your arm while chatting to you, meeting face-to-face in a social situation or through a friend may be preferable, regardless of your sexual orientation.
Tinder might be the most popular dating app, but there’s an entire set of crayons in the box.
Grindr: all the cool kids are here. Requires a gym membership
Hornet: Grindr’s less attractive cousin
Scruff: bears. But not the type of bears you’ve got in mind
Mr X: designed for gay men over the age of 30 that want to do their twenties over.
Romeo: a must have when you’re in Berlin on vacation.
Wapa: Grindr for the ladies. Gym membership required here too.
Her.: it has the “swipe” feature but girls actually reply after that. Talking to you, Tinder.
HINGE: connects friends of friends through Facebook. High risk of finding your friend’s ex.
Lots of people are confused about getting tested for STDs. You may think that it is included in your regular medical exams, but it’s not. Getting tested is quick, painless and sometimes even free. Azienda Sanitaria Firenze offers a free service without medical prescription. You can make an appointment by calling at 055 6936512; privacy is guaranteed. The local associations IREOS and Azione Gay e Lesbica also offer free tests, group meets and legal consults. Centro Java (via Pietrapiana) offers free anonymous HIV and HCV testing via saliva swab on July 2 and September 10 from 5 to 8pm. For further information, visit www.theflr.net/hivtestingflorence.