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Written byNadia Hassim

Images byBontle Juku

Finding Community and Connection in Queer Speed Dating.

Dating is difficult.

As I’ve grown older I’ve found it incredibly hard to find somebody organically. I was too busy fighting for my life in high school to pursue anything at the time and I had a glorious two years of university crying over coding before COVID struck so there wasn’t any time for dating then.

My friends and I are introverted at heart so when we go out, approaching people to ask them out is almost an impossible task. It has not stopped me from trying, even though it has done nothing but build character and give my friends something to laugh at later on.

Naturally, I gave Tinder and Hinge a try. But, as I’ve mentioned before, if you add being queer into an already complex recipe, your cake is going to flop. The most you find on Tinder if you’re into women are couples looking for an ‘adventurous third’ so listen, nobody can say that I haven’t tried everything now.

This is all to say that Valentine’s Day is generally a normal day where my friends and I treat each other to baked goods and small gifts. This year went a little differently. One of my best friends found a queer speed dating event for me to attend and while I may not have found my match, I did find something I lacked severely- community.

Mwanji Phiri, one of the co-founders of Fruity Rendezvous, experienced something similar. Being single after two years of unbecoming relationships led their best friends and now cofounders (Maphemba Tshili,  Motsei Rangata and Gaëlle Lonji) to joke with them about how they should hold a speed dating event just to find Mwanji a partner.

The joke became more serious once all the members realised how important it could be to provide a safe space for queer people to meet each other.

We take what we do seriously and want everyone to feel respected.”

I was fortunate enough to attend the Valentine’s Day event Fruity Rendezvous hosted and was pleasantly surprised when a spectrum of people in the LGBTQ+ community arrived at Bad Manors in Parkhurst. As an anxious and socially awkward person, the experience was a lot to take in.  Each ‘date’ was five minutes, leaving very little room for me to overthink. There were also very helpful cue cards on the table with prompts that provided a crutch when my mind went blank. I didn’t find my soulmate (wump wump wump) but I did make friends that made me feel welcome. The set-up is a little messy and chaotic, as queer people are, but something I admired about the space was its safety. 

“We imagine our own safety in a space, and that informs us how we communicate and value our daters’ safety as well,” Mwanji says when I ask about how they ensure the safety of everybody attending the event. “We take what we do seriously and want everyone to feel respected.”

The team establishes house rules at the beginning of the event and tells everybody to report to them should they feel uncomfortable at any point in the night. All the founders can be seen zooming from one spot to another throughout the event to ensure everybody is seen to and comfortable.

Mwanji stopped to talk to me a few times and made me feel more than welcome. They also helped me approach somebody which might have flopped due to reasons I Cannot mention but I felt very seen by them and the rest of the team. In between breaks from dating, people were chatting with those who caught their eye and dancing to the music provided by DJs hired for the event.

There were way more people than I expected (which, honestly, made me wonder what I had been doing to only land up with straight friends) but this wasn’t always the case. “We’re thankful to have found overwhelming support which has allowed us to keep going platinum,” Mwanji says, comparing their success to a pop star trying to get their next hit.

Upon being asked about whether they intend to expand further than just speed dating, Mwanji says that while even the stars aren’t the limit, right now their focus is to bring the idea of conventional dating to life for marginalised groups in a safe environment. “We also hope to see a couple of Fruity Rendezvous marriages, polycules, and love-matches from our daters,” Mwanji adds. “But really, there is no limit or obstacle to what we can and hope to do.”

‘We also hope to see a couple of Fruity Rendezvous marriages, polycules, and love-matches from our daters, but really, there is no limit or obstacle to what we can and hope to do’ – Mwanji Phiri

While they already do have a steady following and a sponsor such as Cannameister who has partnered with them since the beginning of their journey, Mwanji says the best way to support them is to follow them on Instagram and TikTok as well as to pull through for their various speed dating events. They’ve even held one for straight people because #ally.

This was probably the first time I didn’t feel isolated and ostracised on Valentine’s Day. 

For that, I have Fruity Rendezvous to thank for creating a space for me and other queer people to feel safe. I’m so excited to see where they go and what they do in the future.

I also have to say thank you to my straight best friend who goes to enormous lengths to find anything gay-related for me. I would not have found Mwanji, Maphemba, Motsei and Gaëlle’s brilliance without her.

Every queer needs a token straight like her.

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