Modern technology has certainly achieved remarkable milestones in the past decade by connecting people to each other, regardless of borders. One of these milestones is the creation of online dating apps, which offer a multitude of possibilities to people looking for romance, dating, or relationships. However, online dating apps have, after all, for a long time been a part of this cisgender-heteronormative world where we, queer people, every day and almost everywhere, have to fight the dearth of inclusivity. The need of the hour is to provide safe online spaces to LGBTQI+ persons. All people, queer or not, look for ways to make romantic connections with people on the same page as they are. However, for queer people, our online dating experiences are more likely to be a harrowing nightmare, owing to the disrespect, discrimination, breach of privacy, and lack of safety that have prevailed on online dating platforms.
It’s 2018! It’s time to shatter the historically heterosexual culture in the online dating world! Here’s how it can be achieved.
The spectrum of genders and sexualities is endless and diverse! This must be acknowledged and accepted in the real world. The same goes for the virtual world, with apps designing themselves in a sensitive and inclusive manner. It is time to get rid of the traditional three rigid options of “Men”, “Women”, and “Other”. LGBTQI+ persons are entitled to equal possibilities and choices, and it is absolutely discriminatory to have two distinct categories- “Men” and “Women” while clubbing all other genders in one homogeneous blob, “Other”. Rather, allowing us to mention our gender or sexuality, our preference(s), and then matching us with others based on such preference(s) is much more inclusive.
It is important for dating apps to understand that people identifying as LGBTQI+ are more vulnerable than others on online dating platforms. Queer people often end up being violated online because the internet allows anonymity to queerphobes and bullies, and these risks must be managed. In order to foster a safe and inclusive online dating culture, dating apps must have queer-friendly options such as “I don’t want straight people to find me”. Queer persons should be able to easily report profiles for cyber-bullying, and the reports must be regularly checked and acted upon by the app administrators. We will feel much safer on online dating platforms if these apps have explicitly stated inclusion policies and strict community standards to safeguard queer individuals against harassment.
Our autonomy and choices are important to us. Whether we choose to “come out” or be “closeted” is entirely our choice, and we expect dating apps to understand this simple fact. It is highly disrespectful to “out” queer persons against our will or when we aren’t ready. Such “out”-ing may cause LGBTQI+ persons grave harassment and trauma, and in any case, amounts to breach of our privacy. Having the option to not reveal our gender on the dating app can really help. The gender or sexuality-related information that we feed into the dating app must be kept confidential even by the app administrative personnel, if we so desire, and there must be strict measures against misuse of the information that we wish to keep private.
It is imperative that online dating apps are well-informed about genders and sexualities. Inclusivity can be achieved through sensitisation and awareness. Hence, it is important that the dating app administrative, development, and creative teams are sensitised on the issue. The app personnel must have a nuanced understanding of queer dating and seek to make it a good experience for LGBTQI+ people. The apps can also foster a queer-inclusive online dating culture by making use of gender-related authentic information in their content and promotions, thus urging cisgender-heterosexual people to be accepting of diversity.
Online dating apps can also be more inclusive by listing more gender identities, which will pique people’s interest in learning about the gender spectrum. The list should be based on intensive research on gender identities. In their promotional content, the dating apps should mention their recognition of diverse gender identities in order to encourage more queer persons to come forward and avail the opportunity of online dating. The apps should also be flexible enough to expand the gender options and encourage inputs of queer persons on that front.
Our dignity, integrity, autonomy, and privacy are dear to us, and inclusivity will help us reclaim our spaces in the online dating culture without any fear. Let online dating apps be queerphobia-free zones where there is no tolerance for shaming, bullying, sexism, and harassment because we, too, deserve the chances at making meaningful connections and safe romantic explorations.