For the first entry in our Pride Month series, we’ve interviewed Florence Low. Florence is a queer London-based visual artist who found love a little more than a year ago, right before the Covid-19 lockdowns started. We interviewed them about their experience starting a new relationship during such a fraught time, and how pandemic lockdowns actually gave them the space they needed to thrive.
To get started, could you introduce yourself?
I’m Florence, I’m a visual artist and graphic designer (and I’m available to teach your children art!). Oh, and with current events, I’d like to mention that I believe Palestine should be free.
From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.
I would like to plug my professional services, as well as the freedom and liberation of Palestine.
Yes! Before we dive into your love story, could you talk a little about your gender and sexuality?
I’m trans, non-binary, and very gay and queer. Probably bisexual. I’m attracted to people of all genders!
It's funny because lockdown meant that I haven’t had to use words to describe myself. It’s actually been a massive relief. The standard word I would use to describe my sexuality or my gender is just ‘queer.’
Before the pandemic, I inhabited this space that was very butch. I didn’t identify as a lesbian, but it was the community I tended to gravitate towards. At the same time, I’m trans and I don’t identify as a woman.
During the lockdown, I started to feel more comfortable with myself, and was finally able to acknowledge that it was fine to make decisions for myself - they weren’t affecting anyone else. I started hormonally transitioning, which has put me in a more feminine-masculine place that’s hard to describe.
You met someone just before the pandemic started - can you tell us about that?
A month before the pandemic, I had been dating a little bit, with the mindset of “I want to have fun because I don’t really understand myself and what I enjoy.”
I had some experiences where relationships became very intense before I was ready, which I wanted to avoid. I went into this with a more chill mindset, without wanting anything serious.
I was using an app called Lex. It’s a dating app for women, queer people, and trans or non-binary people. Everything is text-based, with adverts in the style of old-school classifieds, although it’s connected to users’ Instagram, so you can still see what they look like.
I had noticed Alice before on social media, so I sort of knew who she was when I saw her advert on Lex. She was super cute and doing really interesting work. I messaged her with a really boring opening line that I can’t believe she ever responded to!
We played cancellation chicken at first, where we both kept canceling because we were so nervous about the idea of meeting. Eventually, she put her foot down and said, “we have to meet!’
So how was your first date?
It was really wonderful and relaxing and fun. She was really cute and we kissed a lot. After that, we went on a few more dates, but then the lockdown happened. We went on a final date where we just walked around East London for a while, in the rain. It was depressing and we both kind of knew that lockdown was coming and we wouldn’t see each other again.
The next day she left my house and left me a little note that said “good luck with work and don’t get too weird in lockdown.”
So what did you plan to do during lockdown?
I don’t think we realized how long it would be. We thought it would just be a few weeks.
While we were apart, it was really lovely to have someone to chat to and check-in with. We both told each other we don’t have to force ourselves into it if we don’t want to, we can take a break if we want to, and see each other after lockdown. But in the end, we both wanted to stay in contact.
I think a lot of my dating has been characterized by anxiety. Romantic relationships have usually felt constrictive and uncomfortable to me, but being with Alice is freeing and so much fun.
Were there any challenges that stood out?
We were both living with parents, which we bonded over initially, but it also made it really difficult to meet up. Eventually, we both moved out (separately), which made it possible to see each other safely.
Alice moved out alone and I moved in with roommates. This made it possible to have a closed bubble situation, where we could feel safe meeting up. There were quite a few times that we've had to wait two weeks to see each other, like if one of us had to interact with people outside our bubble, and we’ve just been incredibly patient with that.
So when did you agree to meet again, after lockdown started? How did you stay safe?
After we both moved out, we made plans for me to stay with her for five days! I packed some clothes and then literally got on my bike and rode for an hour over to the other side of London, to avoid taking the train. We hung out and it was wonderful and so relaxing.
We also had a lot of cute socially distant dates. One of my more cheesy ideas was during the full moon. I messaged her and asked if she wanted to have a date hosted by the full moon. We went outside in our coats on and both looked at the full moon (although she has a balcony so she was cheating a bit!). Nowadays, we still try to have dates when it's a full moon - it’s become a tradition for us.
We also sent each other things! I gave myself a pandemic haircut and sent her a little piece of my hair tied with a ribbon, which she put into a locket. She sent me back a pressed violet, which is an old-fashioned sign of queerness that women would exchange with each other.
Do you think lockdown actually made it easier to date, in a way?
Yes! Because of lockdown, we both got the chance to have a lot of space and to avoid some barriers common to dating. We were able to commit enough time and energy, and we both got space to actively choose to date each other. Perhaps, if circumstances had been different, it wouldn’t have worked out.
She also supported me through my medical transition, which was something that I didn't realize I needed as much as I did. I feel very very grateful to have her. It was a lot of chance things that could have easily not happened. In a certain way, I do believe in fate because we are just so good for each other.
So now that the end is in sight, what do you both have in store?
I think we’re both incredibly stubborn and independent people, but despite the new freedom we have both chosen to stay in the same city so we can be together. I’m really excited about that commitment and our future together.
We’re more or less gay-married now. I think I’d describe our relationship model as “mostly monogamous but horny for hot people.” This last year was like an extended honeymoon period, but now that it looks like restrictions are lifting, I want to be a slut for summer.
After this past year, I think that’s true for a lot of us! Do you have any final message or advice for our readers?
When you decide to veer off the script, it means having a lot of hard conversations and discomfort, but it also builds a lot of trust. If you can get through the discomfort, finding a fulfilling relationship is amazing no matter your sexuality.