Whether it’s to get into an intimate relationship, have a one-off tryst or even just to feel a little less lonely, dating can be extremely important to a whole lot of us. The act of dating helps us establish those vital connections that we need to make it through an otherwise cold and impersonal world moving at a dizzyingly frenetic pace. Which one of us doesn’t want to feel loved – to feel a little more desired?
Well, the bad news is that if you’re a queer person in India – or anywhere else for that matter – then dating isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Dating culture itself is quite new in India and the little that does exist strictly follows cisheteronormative rules. Section 377 may be history but public display of queer affection is still, for the most part, considered out of bounds by our society. Just try walking up to a person of the same gender to engage them the same way a heterosexual person would do in a pub or any other public place. Chances are you’d be met with ridicule. And that’s if you’re only gay or lesbian. If you’re trans, like me, your very visibility becomes an object of mockery, dashing any hopes of intimacy, warmth, comfort or love.
However, in recent years, digital spaces like Tumblr and Facebook have disrupted the ghettoization of queer lives, allowing a number of queer people to shed their closets of isolation and meet others like them to form a sense of community. Dating apps are relatively recent and, for the most part, cater to a predominantly heterosexual audience. This is exactly why I think inclusive dating apps can make such a huge difference to queer lives.
What would be the benefits of inclusive dating apps? Well for one, if you’re queer and not shy about the fact, you know that the outside world can be hell. Not only is it difficult to approach other people as a queer person but as a trans woman, every time I come out to a dating partner, I’m at the risk of facing violence if they think that I’m “tricking” them into dating me and bringing their sexuality into question. An inclusive dating app eliminates the need to rely on these traditional dating methods. I already get to interact with a potential partner before meeting up with them and that makes life considerably easier for me because I don’t have to worry about being attacked when I’m meeting them in person.
An inclusive dating app would also acknowledge and incorporate the diverse range of gender and sexual identities. This would have to include binary as well as non-binary categories. As a trans lesbian, it is extremely difficult for me to navigate the massive pool of options real world spaces present and filter out the people who may be interested in me. This could also easily be solved if the dating app incorporates a simple option like ‘trans woman interested in trans/cis women’ as a filter.
For someone like me who’s introverted and took some time to come to terms with their gender identity, dating has been an incredibly difficult experience. The only spaces where I’ve been able to form connections have been online ones. But those were not spaces specifically geared towards dating, just ones where I happened to get lucky to find others like me.
It shouldn’t have to be this way. Queer people, just like their cisgender heterosexual counterparts, deserve to have active love lives. There have been so many times I’ve longed for companionship and an inclusive dating app would definitely go a long way in making my life less lonely.
I look forward to the day when queer people in India no longer find it difficult to find love – to feel a little less lonely and more desired. I look forward to the day queer romance ceases to be some ‘dirty little secret’ and is celebrated with just as much passion and joy as straight romances. It’s time we stepped out of our virtual closets and inclusive dating app would go a long way towards establishing that.