Tammy Shaklee Discusses LGBTQ Matchmaking Among COVID And Overbooked Lifestyles
Alright, so those of us within the LGBTQ community know that relationships are perhaps the rarest find when we enter into our adult lives. It’s not necessarily our fault. When you break it down, many of us can highlight factors, sometimes excuses, that have prevented us from finding our special someone. Some of us had to hide our authentic personalities for a long period of time, we may have fallen in love with someone who wasn’t ready to face the world out and openly, monogamy can be sometimes impossible, we weren’t legally recognized as marriage until a few years ago, hypersexuality is advertised directly to us… let’s be honest, we could go on all day.
Amid the current pandemic, random one-night online hookups turned tabooer than before. Cuffing season certainly came early…and is still around a year later. Loads of us have seen people quickly couple up, while others did not really change their former lifestyle, and we can’t forget of the ones who do appreciate their freedom staying single. While there’s a ton of us who want to blame society or the community for the reasons we’re currently single, sometimes we have to take a look inside ourselves and see what we should be more compatible with. There’s plenty who are simply too busy to date, aren’t interested in dating within their social circle, or basically don’t have the opportunities to meet someone who they may be able to pursue. That’s where someone like LGBTQ Relationship Expert and Matchmaker, Tammy Shaklee, comes in handy. Shaklee has been matching LGBTQ singles since founding her matchmaking company, H4M, for almost ten years. As a hopeless romantic and independently single person myself, I had the pleasure to speak with Shaklee about her passion for connecting gay people and seeing exactly what gets the wheels in her head turning in order to pair off the best in our community. Is she the reason there aren’t any fabulous, available men around?! Let’s hear what she has to say:
Mickey Keating: Okay, so I know people reading this may be curious why you as a straight, married woman are focused on helping the LGBTQ community find their special someone. Why have you taken such an interest in our community to help us find love?
Tammy Shaklee: I’ve always been an ally to the gay community. I referred a gay friend to the same matchmaker who helped me find my husband. I was stunned to learn that company didn’t take gay and lesbian clients. That experience led me to research various matchmaking companies and after that – then I would eventually start my own LGBTQ matchmaking company after months of focus group interviews. I was a client of matchmaking and it took me many matches to find my eventual husband. It was more traditional dating… since I don’t like to say old fashioned. But, it was the way folks used to get to know one another. It’s still the same type of matchmaking with a full background check. My clients don’t submit a questionnaire and I don’t need professional photos of them. I give them all the same introduction interview, I see them and get to know them. Most of my clients are busy people, they’re [high profile] executives, some are single parents.
MK: Your first interaction with them is a formal interview? Does it eventually turn into a therapy session?
TS: My version of matchmaking isn’t filling out something you’d complete for an online dating profile. It’s me getting to know them and who they are and I match accordingly. If I want to make a match, I don’t send a photo and write a blurb of who one another is. I call my client and say ‘I think I have a match for you’ and we talk it out. It’s very personal. If there’s a hesitation, we move on. My background is news, politics, and philanthropy. I approach it as what is your human-interest story. Let’s talk about family, career, education path, circle of friends – all of that makes you who you are today. Your challenges make you who you are today, whether that be your career or past relationships. Any kind of experiences that you’ve learned lessons from. I’m interested in learning that about you before we even start talking about ‘What are you looking for?’ it’s more of ‘Who are you?’. I focus on the present and moving forward.
MK: I read that sometimes you’ll have to unfortunately tell someone you cannot make a match for them and won’t work with them. That’s intimidating! Are there particular red flags you look for when building your clientele? What would have you turn someone away?
TS: What’s unique about my company is that we also do scouting. If someone doesn’t want to leave their city or if you have a preferred ethnicity for your partner, I’ll go scouting to find someone who will be compatible. But, everyone still has to do the same interview and background check. You don’t have to be my client to meet my client. What compatible means to me is that there’s a great likelihood that you and who I match you with will want a second date. I always give an initial, complimentary ninety-minute interview to see if I’d like to take someone on as a client. If I don’t feel like I can be successful with you, I’ll admit it. I’ll think about them for a few weeks, but sometimes I’m not the matchmaker for them. I’ll only take a client I will have at my Thanksgiving dinner table. If you use that as a barometer it defines what red flags are. It doesn’t have anything to do with financial success or education level. It is if you are a good person or not. When I ask about qualities and values in future partners, everyone answers the same: They want someone kind.
MK: Let’s talk about this eventual second date. Do you plan out a second date for them? What if your clients end up hooking up on the first date when you have them attend a happy hour? Do they get dropped from your service? You are matching gay men and hell, a lot of us don’t have monogamy in our vocabulary. Many are used to a swipe right and then hook up that night.
TS: Oh, I’m not naïve! I don’t judge based on instant gratification. I need my clients healthy, happy, and safe – that’s what I make sure they had on their first date. The first date – I do extensive research to make sure they don’t know one another and I don’t give them a photograph beforehand, nothing. It’s a total blind date. After that second date, I don’t plan anything and let them take it from there. I plan the details to where you just show up and be the bachelor and get to enjoy someone else’s company. Throughout the years, the guys have told me that they have never been so excited to have a second date and then that third date on their own. But, my rules are that I can fire a client. But, My clients have invested in me and they don’t want to be fired so they abide to those rules. Can they kiss and flirt? Sure, I did when I was a matchmaking client. There’s a lot of anxiety on a first date. On the second date, both people show up so much more relaxed and I treat them to something more active. Gay men naturally have negative thoughts and will say ‘I don’t think he likes me’, but I’ll tell them that they told me something different! I have to coach my clients to get out of their own head and get to know the other person and vice versa. I take the worry out of my clients and let them have fun.
MK: Now I feel it’s common and almost appreciated if a couple tells that they met online. But, matchmaking seems like it would come with a sort of Scarlet Letter on themselves. Like, wow you really needed that much help. Do you understand the stigma that may be attached to it?
TS: I have friends who met online that still won’t publicly admit they met their partners over the internet. I understand that it’s no one’s business but mine. Most people say a mutual friend set up us – I used to say that, too, because I didn’t want people to know I was going through a matchmaking service. But, also, if my friends were good at having input in my relationships, why haven’t they been setting me up? My friends never asked me what I truly want in someone, like what I want to do in the evenings once I’m off work. A matchmaker discovers your lifestyle, sometimes your friends and online profiles don’t.
MK: Have you ever been invited to someone’s wedding that you’ve matched before?
TS: Matchmakers are often frustrated. We start measuring success with that first feedback call and then we get to the second date. I’m still teeing up their next matches, but then sometimes I get told they don’t want to have anymore matches because they are now dating who I matched them with. Then, they don’t come back to me because they feel matched. Matchmakers often call themselves a Love Agent. Rather than having your agent, if you were an actor, send you to an audition for a film, it’s auditions for a second date and sometimes eventually marriage. I’ve seen my clients get married on social media, but matchmakers aren’t often invited to the celebration. I will tell you that two of my female clients just invited me to their wedding that’s planned for next year. I think the women tend to give credit more than the men.
MK: I’ve been trying to figure out what H4M means – it’s nowhere on your website or anywhere for a matter of fact.
TS: H4M originally started out as He’s 4 Me, since I was only matching gay men. Now I match LGBTQ singles all over the United States and have interviewed in twenty-two other countries. Women think it’s labeled ‘Here’s 4 Me’, but also, what does it matter? Everyone is trying to find their person. The logo, though, tries to reflect that I represent everyone.
MK: After reading your testimonials, I was shocked to see people in their late twenties are also clients of yours. I would assume right away that your clientele would be people probably in their fifties.
TS: I was surprised too! My youngest client is twenty-three and my oldest is seventy-seven. [My] twenty-three…I was a little hesitant. I thought he didn’t need me. But, for example, one of my clients was homeschooled and another was a military parent who didn’t have a social structure. Some people are so busy with their blossoming careers that they knew they wouldn’t have time to find a compatible long-term relationship if it wasn’t because of me. They know my clientele is vetted and are real people who are looking to date.
MK: COVID-19 obviously rocked everyone globally. Did you think it was going to affect your career in matchmaking? I feel people are lonelier than usual so are you busier than usual?
TS: Think about this: No one has been traveling, paying big resort fees, buying lavish gifts, or entertaining. So, there’s almost like there’s two COVIDs. Those who have been saving and those who have been extremely affected by it financially. I was so busy in January. I now have clients who are younger professionals who now are reaching out to me because they have some money to spend. I told them as long as they want to do dates over Zoom and to meet when it’s safe, I had clients to match them with. Now that the vaccinations are out, everyone is excited to date again because they are getting vaccinated. We’re now picking socially distanced, weather permitting activities and dates in order to keep everyone safe. People are more excited than ever now to meet someone face-to-face.
Upon my first thought of connecting with Shaklee, I gave a bit of an eye roll. I’m a young professional living in Los Angeles and tend to think I know it all. However, after researching her and reading the bountiful reviews on her website, I became a little more curious to the point of nervousness before chatting with her. It’s likely many of us have seen Millionaire Matchmaker in the past and the gay episodes they would air were always messy, because that’s probably what the overproduced series wanted to showcase when it came to us finding love. After speaking with Shaklee, it made me take a step back and realize that wow, I don’t date within my social circle – so I’m already on a losing team. I am mostly trying to find guys online, but then I really don’t have an idea of what the other person’s intentions may be. As a busy young professional in Hollywood constantly hustling, I’m obviously way too busy keeping up with my appearance, reputation, and the next mountain to climb – figuratively and sometimes literally – that I am actually not making time to find someone who I may be able to fully connect with and be, as she boldly states, have compatibility. Shaklee doesn’t spew BS in any form. She’s quick to the point and sweet, like the maternal figure we may be lacking in adulthood to give us solid advice on how to treat yourself and others as we all are: perfectly imperfect.
If you’re curious in checking out Shaklee’s services, it’s highly recommended you head to H4M to see all the gritty details and prepare for your first interview with her. If we’ve been unlucky in love so far, and all we’re doing is logging on and getting off – what’s one more (low) risk, right?
Writer’s Note A: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.
Writer’s Note B: Quotes have been edited for clarity.