Fried pickles, board games, and pre-COVID orgies: Philly’s best queer love stories for Valentine’s Day

A sampler platter of LGBTQ romance.

This couple got engaged in the exact spot they met on their first Tinder date

This couple got engaged in the exact spot they met on their first Tinder date

Courtesy Em D’Arcy
michaelawinberg-2020-2

💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.


It’s time to honor Feb. 14 the way Saint Valentine always intended: by celebrating queer love in your own community. Just kidding. That guy died in 270 A.D., so he was probably homophobic.

But it doesn’t matter that he was actually the patron saint of beekeeping and epilepsy, or that Hallmark popularized and commercialized an otherwise regular winter day. We could all use a little love in our lives, and an excuse to celebrate never hurts.

The LGBTQ community has a lot to worry about on a day-to-day basis: threats to our ability to get health care, to play sports, to maintain stable housing, and to live and love freely.  We’re giving you a hall pass to take a deep breath and celebrate your queerness.

To help you get in the V-Day spirit, Billy Penn collected love stories from queer and trans Philadelphians young and old, all over the city. Now we’re sharing them with you.

Here are stories from 12 of your fellow Philadelphians on times they’ve dated, broken up, fallen in love, hooked up, grieved, and made lasting lives together. Consider this a sampler platter of LGBTQ love.

These stories have been lightly edited for clarity.

Bonding over poetry and fried pickles

In the fall of 2019 I was the marketing coordinator for “Roxtoberfest”, the Ridge Avenue equivalent to Oktoberfest. Amid juggling vendors and stein-holding contests, I had a few brief encounters with a blonde woman in Wayfarer Ray Bans who I found myself gravitating toward throughout the day. Her name was Tricia, and she was there with a friend by pure happenstance. Over the span of the next 24 hours we connected over countless concepts, from beat poetry to frickles (fried pickles, if you’re in the know). Fast forward to the exact day one year later where we found ourselves married (mid-pandemic) surrounded by our closest circle overlooking the Schuylkill, atop the Mercury Pavilion at the Art Museum. So to all those wondering when love will hit — it’s true what that say about least expecting it!

Brooke (she/her), 35, Philadelphia

In simpler times

My girlfriend and I met at a queer orgy that took place a few days before we learned COVID was in the US. (Simpler times.) When we heard about those first superspreader events in Boston and Seattle, we hoped the orgy wouldn’t be Philly’s patient zero event. We went on a few blissfully ignorant dates before the world shut down, then a lot of weird cautious ones after it opened back up, with some sexting in between. Hard to fall in love during the apocalypse, but we made it happen.

Louise (she/her), 31, West Philly

Single women roommates for 10 years?

We met in our 20’s in the military in the 1980s (which never happens)
We became “roommates” (single women roommates for 10 years? Hmmm)
We “straightened up” when visitors came to our house (hide the pictures!)
We had a spare bedroom that was “hers” (because, you see, we’re only roommates)
We were apart for many holidays (let the married people be with their families)
We silently supported each other through higher education and distinguished careers (and made it through without being outed)
Thirty-five years later, retired and living in Philly, our love is still strong (yes, it can be done)

RozzieV (she/her), 62, Newtown Square

Keeping the love current

When I was 19, I met the man I would fall in love with working at a gas station mini mart. He was about 25 and extremely handsome, very intelligent. He was in graduate school and working nights at the gas station. He tried to teach me how to skateboard, telling me it would help with my anxiety. We eventually fell in love, but in 2017 he was hit by a car while changing his tire. He died a few weeks later from his injuries. I have since tried to take on all his good qualities, his propensity for random kindness and his love of helping the less fortunate. He had a way of helping people without ever acting condescending. I try to emulate him as a way of keeping just memory alive and the love he had for me current.

Joseph Morrone (he/him), 42, East Oak Lane

Like every other Tinder meetup, except it wasn’t

On Jan. 5, 2021, I stood on the corner of 18th and Walnut waiting to meet my latest Tinder match. I was unusually anxious — this was just like every other Tinder meetup, except it wasn’t. My latest match was a Trans man. I had only ever dated cis straight men up until this moment, but something about his smile drew me in. After our initial conversations, we determined we were complete opposites and decided it would only be a winter thing. But on Sept. 5 — in the exact same spot and at the exact same time as our initial meeting — I asked him to be my forever. He said yes.

Em D’Arcy (she/they), 34, West Philly

queerphillylovestories-02
Courtesy Em D’Arcy

I felt so sure about her, then…

She flew down from Boston to meet me, one December weekend a couple of years ago. We’d been set up by a friend. She arrived early in the morning, gamely joining me for a sprawling, day-long date: a morning walk through the farmer’s market, then over to the Woodlands with our cups of coffee. We wandered back to my apartment to make lunch in a cozy kitchen, talking about our families, past loves, favorite vacations, and aspirations. We ice skated at City Hall, grabbed a drink nearby, and went for ramen. No topic seemed too simple or too serious. The night ended with the two of us curled up on my couch, mugs of tea in hand, just talking and listening to music, until she kissed me. The next morning, we said goodbye and she told me I was special. I felt so sure about her. Then… she ghosted me, and I never saw her again. But no matter the disappointing ending, that day on its own was a perfect first date. That’s how I’ll remember it.

Anna (she/her), 32, West Philly

We met in the Target parking lot

My husband and I met at Pride in 2005, in the parking lot at Washington and Broad where the new Target is. I was promoting an ice hockey club and he was promoting the Gryphons Rugby Club.  Some of the hockey and rugby players knew each other, so in all the mingling they all decided we liked each other. Here we are, almost 17 years later.

Ted Panczyszyn (he/him), 54, Fairmount/Brewerytown

The haunting thought of what could have been

Like all great “what could have been” stories, this one starts at an AA meeting, where I met Rachel (pseudonym). It was November, she had a girlfriend, I was in a situationship with a man who didn’t love me, and who I loved desperately, but that didn’t even matter; we called, texted, and kept each other accountable in our recovery.

The New Year arrived, and as if the universe was spreading its promises of possibility, Rachel was single, I was fresh into the 2022 dating scene. We ended up attending a meeting together at the Philadelphia Ethical Society, followed by an evening walk in Rittenhouse Square. Later, we went back to my place in Fishtown. About 15 minutes into the “Euphoria” Season 2 premiere, the sexual tension that had been brewing boiled over. What followed were days spent at the Ritz Five movie theater discussing our love of film, snow days spent in bed, home-cooked meals, and that terrifying thought of, “Is this a real connection or am I growing close to someone who I do not know and may never truly know?”

Alas, it was the latter. In typical wlw relationship fashion, we ended as fast and passionate as we started. I was hurt and reacted in poor form, [but then realized] that much of this connection had been built up in my head. It was a construct of romantic discord that I filled with hopes, expectations, and dreams. Being queer and in AA/recovery is hard — very hard. I am happy to share that Rachel and I patched things up and are friends now, still supporting each other’s recovery. I would be lying, though, if I said there wasn’t a hit of pain each time I am in her presence. The haunting thought of what could have been, what it means to truly commit to working on yourself, and the sacrifices that come with it.

Donna Fitzpatrick (she/her), 29, Fishtown

Love that lasts through quarantine

I found the love of my life two months before COVID shut everything down. We were both seniors at Rowan University, and Abby was the president of the LGBTQIA+ club. I went to my first meeting in November 2020, and we got to know each other more. Turns out we had the same exact birthday (we’re both Cancers) and we became friends. After the winter break we finally started seeing each other outside of school, and became inseparable. She turned into my best friend and I asked her to be my girlfriend in the first week of March 2020. Two weeks later the entire university shut down, and she helped me move back home with family. We ended up being apart for almost two months because of COVID. It was hard, but it made us closer. That next summer we had the opportunity to live together in Philly, now we’re looking to buy a house together. I’m lucky I found her when I did, she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Emily Kertis (she/her), 24, Stanton

queerphillylovestories-03
Courtesy Adrienne D'Agostino

Say yes to the random date

When your date blabs the entire evening about someone you “totally have to meet,” it’s awkward. But when it happens again six months later — it’s a sign. I finally checked out this mysterious “Pepper” on Instagram, but apparently I was already on their radar. For two years we kept quiet tabs on each other. Like catching glances across the party while dancing with someone else. This spring, after I gave up on love “for real this time,” Pepper messaged me out of the blue. After hearing so much about each other, it was time to see what all the fuss was about. We spent the entire first date denying that the girls who told us we’d be perfect for eachother were right — oh, but they were. Pepper is everything I’ve ever written about and more. So, say yes to that random date. Even if you don’t click romantically, they just might be your next matchmaker.

Adrienne D’Agostino (she/her), 25, West Philly

Manageable small talk → falling in love

We met at a bar down the shore, during the July 4th holiday five years ago. She was in a long-term, committed relationship, and I was casually dating someone. I came up behind her and asked if we could order drinks. We started talking about where we lived, what we did for work — manageable small talk while waiting for drinks. Not only did we both live in Philly but we had been working on the same floor in the same building for a little over a year and had never seen each other. We exchanged numbers, formed a close friendship, and fell in love.

Nic (they/them), 32, Kensington

Keeping the cute blonde boy a secret

I had a boyfriend once in my mid-twenties, but mostly I stumbled through (many) one-night stands, awkward first dates, and unrequited crushes. Maybe finding someone was not for me, but the pandemic interrupted that search and all other social activity for this former perennial student. It was lonely. So, I reached out to an acquaintance I guessed shared a mutual interest- board games. His partner and him invited me to a small, responsible, gathering to play games. That night, a cute blonde boy outplayed me, and we left together. We hid our affair from his, soon our, friends for several weeks. “We knew!” they would later exclaim. As cases rose after that late summer respite, we quarantined together, tackling a giant legacy board game I stashed to experience with someone. He’s my someone; my favorite person, and I’m not so lonely anymore.

Ross Kuskovsky (he/him), 36 (on Valentine’s Day), Rittenhouse

Let the news come to you

Billy Penn’s free morning newsletter brings you the latest Philly news that everyone will be talking about in your Slack channel.

Nice to see you (instead of a paywall)

Billy Penn’s mission is to provide free, quality information to Philadelphians through our articles and daily newsletter. If you believe local journalism is key to a healthy community, join us!

Did you hear that?

That was the sound of you being informed after reading another BP article. If you believe local information should be free and accessible to all Philadelphians, will you support Billy Penn today?

Informing Philadelphians, one story at a time

Your generous donation brought this article to life. Become a sustaining member today to continue Billy Penn’s work.

Bring a friend into the Billy Penn-verse

Thanks for reading another story! Know a fellow Philadelphian that would appreciate BP? Tell them about our newsletter.