Transphobia in Tinderland: Online dating must be more inclusive

Dating while trans is never easy and transphobia lurks with every swipe and notification.

dating transphobia a phone screen displaying the app Tinder

Dating while trans is never easy. However, with the updates dating apps are pushing out to be more inclusive of trans and nonbinary identities transphobia still lurks with every swipe and notification. As I have sought a connection here are some things I have noticed that dating apps get wrong, and that can amplify distress and dysphoria.

Hopefully, we shall see some further updates down the line that can help us better filter transphobic behaviour and make dating apps affirming experiences for us all.

Laziness

No matter how much apps allow us to display our gender identity most app users are just downright lazy. They don’t read, and they don’t really put any details into their profile. Based on photos, you either swipe right or left. Which leads to awkward conversations. I’ve unfortunately had to start every conversation with, “You did read I am trans, right?” Now as soon as I write this and reach out it results in getting ghosted, see the user unmatch, or the typical “Oh, I didn’t see it” and then radio silence. Now at first, this seems like not a big deal, but when every single day trans people fight for recognition people can at least have the decency to read our profile before swiping. One of the things that social media apps and dating apps, in particular, rely on is the endorphin release when we get a notification or a ‘like’. Dating apps amplify this because for those of us that are looking for a connection there is a moment of excitement. Rather than having a chat that may naturally end with two people seeing they might not share some of the same interests and choose not to meet up, trans people are left having single-sided conversations with users that give up before getting to know us.

It’s unfair that even in a dating app that is working to be inclusive we are still being reduced to our body parts. It’s even worse when we have put the time and the effort to make sure we are sharing openly. Some people may say, well, why do you lead the conversation with that? My response, have you not been informed of the rate of violence against trans women from dates? This same trauma is now infiltrating our dating apps because we can’t even have a conversation without having to ask, over and over again, “Did you read that I am trans?” In a world full of transphobia, harassment, discrimination, and microaggressions we are seeking a connection that is just bringing all the trauma back to bear every time we get a match. This is counter to everything the app is designed for, dating apps like Tinder, and Bumble, and Hinge all thrive on the idea of creating a spark, finding love, and connecting with your person. For many of us in the trans community, these notifications have just become nothing but alarm bells of ghosts entering our lives.

Gender 101 

Worse yet even with our information laid bare, dating apps for me, have become yet another tedious task.  The apps make me feel like I need to be giving a Ted Talk, or presenting a Gender 101 lecture to every message. Over the last few weeks, some of the worst comments I have gotten from trying to be open are. “Trans, as in your a man” or “Sorry, I want someone with female internal organs”, nothing makes me want to not be on an app quicker than those romantic quips, am I right? So even though I have spent time writing in my bio I am trans, have selected I am trans on the gender options I am still being belittled by ignorance. Not only did this person I matched with not bother to read, now they expect me to give them an education as well before they ghost me. My account says trans woman, so no, I am not a man. 

 

Chasers 

Thirdly, chasers. If I get past the notification of accounts that are catfish, the others that will ghost me when they see trans and filter out the class roster for Gender 101 I find the majority of the accounts are hook-up oriented chasers. I get the oddest messages like “I’ve always wanted to experience both genders at once” or “I’m down to experiment with a [slur]”. These accounts also get blocked and ignored. But they show that for some people they are using online dating for a double life, or simply want to not do the emotional labour of getting to know someone. It also shows they still see trans people based on the porn they watch, and I am nothing more than a niche fantasy to try out.

So I think it’s time to give it up on dating apps. I don’t have time for lazy people! If you can’t be bothered to read a single paragraph about a person maybe there is a different app for that? I don’t have time to deal with your bigotry, your transphobia and I am not your fantasy. I’m sure there may be someone worth my time on these apps, but the sheer fact that the notification brings up nothing but trauma, or apprehension, means there are far better things I need to be doing with my life. If you are on a dating app, please read, and please understand you are talking to a person. Okay, you may have skipped over the profile, but if you see someone share something so vital, respond with kindness. It’s bad enough trans people have to fear if they will make it home from their work because of violence. It’s even worse when we are on a dating app and have to be belittled or ghosted by someone that doesn’t respect our basic human dignity and see us worthy of respect.

Éirénne Carroll is the CEO of TENI.

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