Looking for a cute date this Friday night? Curious about who else is queer in your neighborhood? Online dating is a great way for queer people to find connection and community. Whether you’re looking for true love or company for one night, dating apps connect you with queer people and queer social networks in your area.
Surfing Mainstream Dating Apps As A Queer
Most mainstream dating apps weren’t created with queer people in mind, though queer people do often use them successfully. There are pros and cons to different apps:
- OkCupid has been pegged as one of the most queer and gender-inclusive online dating options, thanks in part to the broad range of gender and sexuality options you can select when setting up your profile. You can choose multiple terms to describe your sexual orientation. Likewise, you can choose multiple gender identities, including “two-spirit,” “transfeminine,” and “pangender.” Plus, this site has an “I don’t want to see or be seen by straight people” option. Not bad, OkCupid, not bad.
Most mainstream dating apps weren’t created with queer people in mind, though queer people do often use them successfully.
- On Tinder, profiles only have pictures and short text, so you have to go with your gut when you swipe. Tinder does not require you to choose your sexual preference, which is great if you’re questioning or evolving. You can always mention this detail in your text description.
Tinder has finally caught up with OkCupid in terms of the multitude of genders you can choose from for yourself, but unfortunately, your options for who you’re interested in is limited to men, women, and both. And it’s a little tougher to avoid meeting straight people, if that's what you want.
- On Bumble, only women can message first: This may set it apart from other dating apps, but it's not much of a draw for queer women—even if it does mean you won’t be hearing from any cis men. And you only have 24 hours to message—not so easy for shy queers!
Queer-Specific Dating Apps
Some apps are specifically LGBTQ-friendly or cater to a queer audience. One major difference between the experience on mainstream apps and queer-specific apps is that they are designed to find not only dates, but also friends and community in general. Here are some popular choices:
- HER: In spite of its pronoun-based name, HER is a dating app designed for and by queer women and non-binary people. A benefit of HER is that it suggests queer events in your location which can be a great way to make a new friend or go on a low-stakes date. It also has a social network home site that provides LGBTQ news and allows you to “friend” other folks.
- Grindr: Originally designed for gay men, Grindr has opened its doors to queer folks across the gender spectrum in recent years. Customizable gender identity and pronoun options, FAQ articles on treating trans folks with respect, and trans “tribe” filter have made Grindr one of the most trans-aware apps available.
Grindr is typically viewed as the closest thing to classic gay cruising (going out explicitly to find a hook-up) that you’ll get online. A “Right Now” option allows you to see not only who is currently online in your area, but also your potential hookups’ preferred role during sex (top, bottom or “vers”, meaning that they’re versatile and into both), their HIV status, and the last time they were tested for STIs, if they choose to disclose.
OkCupid has been pegged as one of the most queer and gender-inclusive online dating options, thanks in part to the broad range of gender and sexuality options you can select when setting up your profile.
- Thurst: Looking for an app that caters to queer people of color? Thurst is a dating app for queer people of all genders designed by queer black folks and queer people of color. Many dating apps do not have explicit rules about how they handle harassment online, but Thurst has a no-tolerance policy.
- Personals: Wish you could love online dating as much as you love posting to Instagram? Now you can do both at the same time. Personals (@_personals_) and QPOC personals are two match-making Instagram accounts featuring text-based personal advertisements.
Like the personal ads in the back pages of queer magazines in the past, you can write a short blurb about who you are and what you’re looking for, whether it’s lovers or friends or collaborators. You can check out most advertiser’s profiles pretty easily to get a glimpse of your favorite advertiser’s cute face.
Take note: Personals has a once a month submission deadline and a $5 fee for general submissions, however, queer people of color are welcome to submit at any time, for free!
Finding Your Person, Finding Your People
Now that you’ve seen the apps, let’s get started! In queer online dating, you’ll often see how the person identifies as well as the gender identity the person is seeking. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some terms used in the queer community.
- Butch and Femme: Terms used within queer communities to describe and identify queer women and nonbinary people who take a classically masculine or feminine approach, respectively, to clothing, hairstyles, and sometimes behaviors.
There are variations on these terms that, in their simplest understanding, range on a spectrum from butch to femme. Soft butch could describe someone who leans towards the butch end of the spectrum but incorporates more androgynous or femme aspects. Hard femme, on the other hand, could describe a femme person/look/thing that incorporates butch highlights or undertones.
Terms such as masculine of center (MOC) or feminine of center (FOC) are more often used to describe gender identity rather than just gender expression.
- Top and Bottom: Used in every kind of relationship—queer, kinky, both or neither—these terms indicate which partner prefers to call the shots in the bedroom (the top), and which prefers to surrender control of the play to their sexual partner (the bottom).
Top and bottom also sometimes refer to who is giving and who is receiving, respectively, sexual pleasure and/or penetration.
A switch or vers (more often used in gay male culture) is comfortable in both roles.
You can choose to identify in any of these ways or more, or to express your interest in finding someone who fits them. You don’t need to define yourself in any way that doesn’t suit you, however, and you can always change how you feel or what you want. That said, it’s also okay to not have a specific dream-match in mind. Being open to gender-diversity is a great way to expand the horizons of your community as well as your love life.
Queer Dating and Messaging
One of the trickiest moments in queer online dating is messaging. The queer community doesn’t tend to have norms that dictate who should message first, which can be both liberating and nerve wracking! Matching with someone can feel like a standoff where you wait to see who messages first. As with real life, if you have a good feeling about a person, you may as well take a risk and say hello. But in real life, making the first move can be risky for queer people; dating apps can be a safe way to openly meet other queer people. If you’re concerned about safety, make a plan to meet your date in a public space and let a friend know where you are and check in with them later on.
When it comes to online dating, it’s okay to not know everything you want, whether it’s who your dream date is or what you’re looking for next weekend, so long as you’re upfront about it. Queer online dating is a great way to find out what you like and what you want, and to find your people along the way.