By now, we all have a fair idea of what dating looks like for straight, cisgender men and women. There’s the flirting, the ‘will-they-won’t-they’, the late-night gossip with friends, ‘The Date’, and the rest, as they say, is history. But for gay men, Karan* tells YKA, it’s worlds apart. And more so when it comes to using online dating apps.
Karan, who is an international politics researcher, says “Homosexual men are more open and forthcoming about what they are seeking. There is a relatively lesser sense of judgement about open relationships, hookups, or multiple partners.”
In many ways, this is a way out of the usual heterosexual-monogamous script. “It is extremely easy to find someone to just have sex with, and I do not think that it is a bad thing,” he continues, referring to how things go down for many gay men. He himself is all about the emotional touch, and the companionship, “but then, I think I am old school that way.”
On the note of being old school, though, Karan departs quite a bit in one important aspect – in that he doesn’t believe in hiding who he is: “I have been fairly open and out. Why should I hide my identity on a dating app when I want to find another boy to date?”
And it makes perfect sense. But as much as we want people to be able to express themselves without compromising on their safety, it’s a goal we’re still working towards. Initially, this posed a huge challenge for Simmy, a trans woman from Delhi, who works with customer support, as well as with Mitr Trust. “Very few people are open in our country,” she tells YKA. But the shift eventually came. “I am what I am and I feel proud about it. So no need to hide anything anymore!” Interestingly, Simmy says that being online has actually made things easier! “In real life, people feel so hesitant, but on a dating app they can freely connect.”
With more and more people going online to connect with others, there appears to be a turn in the tide. At the same time, there is a need to make these spaces welcoming of all people. In her online dating experiences, the hardest thing for Simmy is when matches ask to explain her gender identity. “Transgender is a umbrella term,” she begins every time.
Encountering a lack of awareness like this must be tiring! But Simmy is resolute. “After the recognition of the ‘third gender’ in India, people are very curious to know about it,” she says. “As a trans woman, it’s our duty to educate other people, and get them to respect our identity.”
The situation in the outside world certainly filters into the online experience. Simmy believes that things post the Section 377 judgement are really looking up. That the highest court in the country believes in the right to love and the right to live one’s life truthfully means that we are on the path to inclusion and respect for all identities in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Karan notes that while most people use online dating apps strictly for dating, it does provide a way to build community. “It is easier for gay men to open up to other gay men under the cloak of anonymity online, and that is a start,” he tells us. “Eventually, they garner more confidence and step out of the closet in real life.”
At the end of our conversation with Simmy, she tells us that she hopes apps, people, and societies will follow Tinder’s example, and accept the multiple identities that exist in the world. And isn’t that the kind of world we should all be living in?