When it comes to trends in dating, gays lead the way says a well-known member of Toronto’s out-and-proud community.

Shaun Proulx, host of the Shaun Proulx Show on 103.9 Proud FM, says while online dating is just now starting to lose its stigma in the straight dating scene, it’s been a standard hook-up tool in the gay community for quite some time.

“I certainly feel that I was aware of online for the better part of my 20s and 30s and I’m 40 now,” said the popular host of the afternoon talk radio show.

The difference between gay and straight online dating though is that in the gay community it tends to be less structured.

While there are many online dating sites for straight people — Lavalife, Match.com, Plentyoffish, to name a few — it’s tough to find a “dating” site that specifically caters to gays and lesbians.

Many of the mainstream dating sites have sections for same-sex romance but Proulx said people in the gay community tend to shy away from dating sites used by the straight community.

People in the gay community looking for love would be more likely to join a special interest group online (whether it be sex-related or not) and meet others with similar interests. If they’re looking for love they might indicate that with LTR for longterm relationship, said Proulx.

In an informal poll of his listeners last week, Proulx found that about 85 per cent from the gay community said they found dates online, while the numbers were less for straight listeners.

Daters in the gay community might also be slightly more resourceful than their straight counterparts, which is why they don’t need specific “dating” sites to meet a mate online.

One of Proulx’s listeners is part of a Facebook group called Gay, Disabled and Happy.

He wrote an email to Proulx with the following message: “I’m a disabled guy myself and I know how hard life can be, sometimes computers are our lifeline. This is a group for all that are gay, physically disabled and able bodied, to make new friends and meet new people.”

According to Julia Garro, associate editor of Toronto’s gay and lesbian community biweekly Xtra, another online tool for hook-ups in the gay community is craigslist. The lesbian community on the other hand seems to go a slightly different route for mating.

“Most people are looking to get out and meet people,” Garro said.

Some of Toronto’s most popular nightspots include Woody’s and Goodhandy’s, both on Church Street, while Slacks, another Church Street haunt, specifically caters to the lesbian community.