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Center on Halsted Offers LGBTQ Speed Dating

A popular area within the neighborhood of Lakeview, better known as “Boystown,” is home to the Center on Halsted, one of the largest LGBTQ community centers in the nation. Famous for its annual gay pride parades held each summer, the area is also known for its off-the-wall nightlife and inviting ambiance. The Center on Halsted works to bring LGBTQ community members together and introduce single people to one another in a unique way.

The center, located at 3656 N. Halsted St., will host four speed dating soirees throughout April and June 2010. Two of the four get-togethers will focus on lesbians while the other two are geared toward men.

The programs cost $10 in advance and $12 at the door. The second women’s event is scheduled to take place June 17 — the first was held April 8 — and men will have an opportunity to speed date on April 29 and June 10. All four will begin at 6:45 p.m. and end at 8:45 p.m. Proceeds will go toward general funding and programming for the Center on Halsted.

“We like doing the speed dating events because a lot of people [who come] don’t want to try to meet people through the bar or club scene,” said Christine Forster, intern for transgender and women’s programming at the Center on Halsted and a senior at Loyola University. “It’s a nice alternative for people who are a little more shy, who aren’t into heavy drinking and who aren’t into that sort of scene.”

Many people think it’s easier for heterosexual men and women to find dates than it is for homosexual men and women. Even though society has come a long way since the days of Anita Bryant and the unforgettable Christian-based slogan, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” many cultures still don’t accept same-sex relationships.

“I definitely think dating is 10 times easier for heterosexual men and women,” said Donté Rogers, 21, a resident of the Greektown neighborhood. “I feel like our history and our traditions have been shaped around a heterosexual view. There’s more straight bars than there are gay bars, there’s more areas where you’re going to have heterosexuals living in because there aren’t necessarily that many gay communities. It’s based around the way our society’s governed.”

Since blind dates can sometimes be a potential formula for disaster and online dating services attempt to create chemistry based on profile pictures, regular, old-fashioned dating seems like a thing of the past.

“I absolutely think homosexual men resort to online dating much more than heterosexual men,” said Alex Johnson, 22, of Old Town. “It’s harder to ascertain a man’s sexual preference, and it’s more dangerous to go up to a man in public.”

Santay Powell, 24, of downtown Chicago, on the other hand, feels that “heterosexual women prefer online dating more over lesbian women because most women don’t like to make the first move.

“If no one is making moves on them, going online gives them more opportunities,” Powell said.

Supporters say that speed dating serves as a fun and social alternative that takes men and women out of uncomfortable situations and encourages them to meet a large number of people. Instead of going on one long date with one person, participants go on a number of quick mini-dates.

“It offers a low pressure, low awkwardness moment to just meet people,” Forster said. “It’s quick, it’s fun, and there aren’t many queer-identified spaces that aren’t bars or clubs where people feel very comfortable going to.”

Forster also said that it’s quieter at the Center on Halsted than it is in bars, allowing speed daters the chance to really talk to one another.

The Center on Halsted has not yet conducted a bisexual speed dating event, but Forster said it is something she might consider. “There’s no point in having gay men and lesbians in the same room together because then it would be like straight speed dating,” she said. “Men expect to meet men and women expect to meet women.”

“I don’t think I would go to a bisexual speed dating get-together,” Johnson said. “It might be fun if I was looking for maybe some new female friends, but if I’m serious about it and I actually do go looking for a date, I’m going to want to be surrounded by gorgeous men, not women.”

The meaning of the word “date” has changed drastically in recent years; people nowadays can be described as a “friend with benefits” or even a “cuddle buddy.” Countless online dating Web sites are misconstrued and used for hook-ups and random sex, and some are precautious or suspicious that a speed dating rendezvous would offer the same.

“No matter what, your hormones are there,” Rogers said. “Some people are better at hiding them, but others are like,‘I need it,’ and if there is a quick way to meet somebody else who feels the same way, then why not? It’s really a personal thing and it can go either way.”

According to Forster, past events have had very high satisfaction rates for both the men and women, and there hasn’t been a situation where things have gotten too risqué.

“I’ve never actually been to one, because I’ve already got someone,” Powell said. “It would be interesting to mingle, get to know new people and see what happens. I might have to go see what they’re all about.”

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