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 in lockdown 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 bigots, but at the end of the day genital attracted individuals will always be out there and we need to continue to build resiliency against their ignorance.
One, no matter how much apps allow us to display our gender identity most app users are just down right lazy. They don’t read, and they don’t really put any details into their profile. It’s pictures, 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?” To get ghosted, see the message disappear because they unmatched, or the typical “Oh, I didn’t see it” and then a ghosting. 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 happiness 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 to stop conversations before they start by announcing again what’s in our pants.
It’s unfair that even in an 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 in to make sure we are sharing openly. And 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? Men in particular can claim panic defenses when they beat, and murder us if we don’t disclose our genital makeup early enough. This same trauma is now infiltrating our 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 harassment, discrimination, and microaggressions we are seeking a connection that is just bringing all the trauma back to bear every time we get a like. Which is counter to everything the app is designed for, 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.
Worse yet even with our information laid bare dating apps for me have become yet another tedious task that makes 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 not, I am not a man. Also, what the heck are female internal organs? Is there a female lung and a male lung now? Also I think that person may have been a black market organ collector.
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 with Shanna I find the majority of the accounts are hookup oriented or 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 the app for a double life, or simply want to not do the emotional labor 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. I don’t have time for lazy people, if you can’t be bothered to a read a single paragraph about me move along. I damn sure don’t have time to deal with your bigotry, and thirdly I am not your fantasy. I’m sure there may be someone worth a damn 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.