The past few weeks, we’ve discussed how bodies–especially genitals– change on hormones, fab sex toys for trans folx, and why we’re fans of erotica. This week, it’s about finding other people to explore those things with: we’re talking about the best apps for dating/hooking up for trans and queer folk.
To be honest, I haven’t had a profile on a dating app for years. YEARS. My online dating days were pre-swipe era. My relationship agreements do not restrict me from seeking out other partners, but my dance card is full, so I haven’t had a need or desire to do so.
That said, I love flirting, and the anticipation of likes and pings and messages and the curiosity of who lies beneath that photo or username is very fun for me. Dopamine bursts for DAYS.
But… this project is research first, fun second. My original list of apps and sites to check out included
Lex, Grinder, OKCupid, and Bumble.
OkCupid is relatively old school (hey, I had one of those!), and I think it’s relatively well known that it has good options for describing who you are and who you’re looking for. Grinder is also well known, I think. But, there are some new players on the field: Butterfly and Feeld. I decided to focus on Bumble, Butterfly, Feeld, and Lex.
What’s Important for Queer and Trans Folk?
The things I was thinking about included:
- does registration allow for a multitude of genders, sexualities, and relationship styles?
- does searching allow for filtering by a multitude of genders, sexualities, and relationship styles?
- platform: web, app, both?
- interface style: swipe, gallery, other?
- how much can I personalize my profile?
- can I restrict who sees my profile?
- what are the safety measures in place?
- what do I have to pay for?
- what are the barriers to actually chatting with people?
- is there anything that squicks me or feels off?
- what is the community vibe?
I described myself accurately: age, gender, sexuality (as best I could.)
I added real and recent photos.
My about me information clearly disclosed that I was there for research about dating apps for trans and queer folk, not for dating.
I did not contact anyone without first receiving an acknowledgment that they were open to talking about their experiences on that app. In one case on Feeld I messaged a couple who indicated an interest in me and it seemed likely that they had read my profile. They did not reply.
Let’s Dive In To the Dating Pools:
See my hastily made yet prettily colored spreadsheet for details (images of each tab below):
My Impressions: Proceed with Extreme Caution
- A very long list of genders to choose from, but can be very unfriendly from there.
- Could be fun if you want to queer things up, but you may have to weed through a lot of profiles. Strong impression that nobody read my details.
- App and Web are inconsistent. The app has more functionality.
Strongest ICK: I had to choose to be featured in searches for “Women” or “Men.” Um, I’m neither.
What I think of the people who liked me: many, too many, conservative cis straight men who probably did not read a thing. A lot of hiking, skiing, rock climbing, and other stereotypically Pacific Northwest hobbies in the profile images.
Favorite moment: a profile with the text “I hate hiking.”
My Impressions: Great Potential, Needs Work
Butterfly is a transgender dating app. Everyone there is or has indicated an interest in dating a transgender person.
Likes: a fake name is practically required.
I love the idea, but some implementation choices felt odd to me:
“Flirts” – a flirt is a message that is sent to everyone who fits your search criteria. Text is manually reviewed by staff, and sending can be turned off by you. However —- I don’t want to automatically send the same message to everyone who matches my search parameters. I certainly don’t want to get a message from everyone for whom I check off the ticky boxes. I received several flirts: there’s no way to know if those profiles even saw my profile.
Very little ability to personalize profiles. The bubbles in the image below were multiple-choice options. No free text field is available. Here’s my profile text:
There aren’t a lot of choices to describe yourself or what you are looking for, and some of the options are…odd.
Strongest Ick: You can block other members. However, blocks expire in 90 days. That does not feel safe to me.
My Impressions: Not For The Unadventurous
Feeld is focused on polyamorous or other non-monogamous dating options. Strong consent culture is at play. Lots of great examples of clear communication about wants, needs, desires, and boundaries at work. Queer kinky polyam people to the front, many genders represented in my feed.
Things I liked: huge About Me free text field (1500 characters.) Large selection of genders and sexualities to describe yourself. Making up a name for yourself is encouraged. Unlimited photos. “Looking for” includes a multiple-choice list of genders and couples configurations. You can select any or all.
Strongest Ick: more than a few unicorn-hunters. However, they are open about it.
My Impressions: Fiercely Inclusive, Sassy
Lex is modeled after the historic women-created (as was defined in the 80s and 90s) erotic magazine On Our Backs personals section. As an avid reader, back in the day, of On Our Backs – they did a great job!
Lex is text-based. When you log in, you see a feed of posts. You can filter your feed by keywords, age, and location. Gender, sexuality, and relationship style information are optional.
Things I liked: I interacted with several people! It’s free! Strong community feel. Clear no tolerance policy for transphobia. Photos are downplayed: you have to click into a profile from the post to see photos and details. Confession: I love personals and missed connections. Lex is a lot of fun for me.
Best Moment: I recognized someone I knew within the first 20 posts in my feed. Small queer world.
What Other People Had To Say:
I had hoped to chat with people on every platform but wanted clear consent to talk about dating app experiences. Due to platform design and time, I only chatted with Lex users. So here’s what some Lex users had to say:
“What I like about Lex is that it is a lgbt+ safe space which I don’t have to worry about possible homophobia/transphobia. Which does relieve a lot of stress on that end. I like the option of that you’re able to list like if you’re into making friends, attending events, dates, etc.”
“The thing that I am not a big fan of lex and this does apply to more dating centric apps…is the whole hookup culture aspect of it. For myself personally dating wise I’m looking to be with someone long term and a serious relationship….I do want to expand going onto gay dating apps, but I am worried about experiencing possible transphobia from the cis gay community.”
A “happily married polyamorous transfem”:
“An active user base! There are three bazillion dating apps out there and hardly any have active users.”
From Shannon: (with my favorite quote)
“Lex feels less like a dating app and more like a social, which is nice to scroll thru. I like that it’s not centered on pics or just sexual attraction so it’s easy to strike up a conversation. I like that there’s no swiping involved! The best part of lex (and Her for that matter) is that there’s no straight cis men to deal with. Unsolicited dick pics and/or random mean comments about my looks/body/style has always been what makes me close and uninstall….Everyone is a wierdo on Lex, in the best way.“