I am a white, middle class, cisgender, queer, and non-disabled female. I acknowledge the impact my positionality has on my understanding of the subject matter in this article.
Tinder: the app that changed the world of dating, maybe for the best, but probably for the worst. When our parents were our age, dating was different. Relationships began with “meet-cutes” and stolen glances from across the library. Now, however, we connect through swipes and meticulously thought out texts. When I first downloaded Tinder, I was still deep in the closet. I knew that I was somewhat interested in women and had kissed women before. Still, I told myself repeatedly that I was “just experimenting” and that, in terms of a romantic or sexual relationship, I only liked men. Thus, when I entered the world of Tinder, I only interacted with its male users. I quickly learned what pictures created a good profile and what bios men commented on and found funny. I had a carefully curated selection of photos: my best photo, a picture with my friends, another pretty decent photo of myself, and a picture of myself chugging a bottle of wine. My best friend, who I refer to as my “Tinder expert,” informed me that the last photo should be something funny or notable.
The aspect of my Tinder profile that caused me the most concern was the bio, as bios always stress me out. I was one of those people in middle school who changed their Instagram bio every couple of days, stating very intelligent things like: “you can never have too many fandoms” (with my Tumblr linked below), “the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell,” and “Nicholas Cage is #bae.” Therefore, the prospect of creating a bio for a dating profile was a terrifying concept to me; however, I selected something profoundly generic and short and moved on.
After fully coming to terms with my sexuality and switching my preferences to women on Tinder, I realized how different the two worlds genuinely are. The rules that I had been taught concerning crafting a profile did not apply to the solely female side of Tinder. No one had pictures with other people, no one had any silly pictures of themselves drinking or with a pet, and everyone had a long and informative bio. When I saw this, I realized with horror, that my profile made me look remarkably straight and, as a result, I was getting no matches. When I had been perusing Tinder’s male side, I was getting plenty of matches and messages, but I was having no luck with women. I decided to change my approach. I got rid of any photo on my profile that contained another person. It seemed as if having pictures on your profile containing your friends, no matter how platonic, made it appear that you were either in a relationship (if you had a picture with another woman) or straight (if you had a photo with a male friend). I also swapped out the picture of myself in a bikini for one in an art gallery and then switched the image of myself drinking in favour of one of myself holding a squash. I found that this more conservative and “artsy” profile was a lot more successful than the profile that I had used when pursuing men on Tinder. It was then that I realized how tricky navigating Tinder, especially as a bisexual person, really is.
The vastly different bios and photos already distinguished my two Tinder experiences from each other, but the most remarkable difference between talking to men and women on Tinder was the subject matter of the messages. I believe that these two examples illustrate my point: “Hey, baby girl, you’re looking pretty sexy” is a message that I received from a man. Meanwhile, “If we were to move to a small fairy cottage together, what kind of woodland creature would you want as a pet?” is a message I received from a woman. I’ve never received any sort of pick up line from a woman on Tinder, yet I have witnessed men type out complex innuendos, spanning one or two paragraphs long. Therefore, both of these realms of Tinder have very distinct vibes and unspoken codes, but I don’t feel as if there has been enough discussion about navigating Tinder, and dating apps in general, as a queer person.
Due to the lack of normalization of queer relationships in society, until university, I had never been exposed to women talking about sexually pursuing other women. when I entered the world of queer dating, I had no idea what to expect or how to go about it. My mother had always talked to me about her previous relationships and how she met her past boyfriends, but over the past year, I’ve quickly come to the realization that a lot of the advice that she gave me does not apply to homosexual relationships. As a bisexual woman, it is difficult to simply approach another woman at a bar or a club, because it’s hard to tell whether they are into women. While I like to think of myself as a particularly confident person, I would find it quite daunting to go up to a woman and say: “Hi there, are you by chance into women?” It seems like such a simple thing to do, but as potentially embarrassing as approaching someone of the opposite sex is, approaching someone of the same sex is putting yourself in an even more vulnerable position. This is because same-sex relationships and bisexuality are not normalized enough in school, in the media, or by our parents. There is still part of me that equates my relationships with women as taboo since Tinder is one of the only places where I can confidently pursue women, as I know that the individuals I meet are interested in women. In the future, I would love to see the media showcase queer culture and queer relationships in mainstream programs (outside of shows such as Queer Eye and Ru Paul’s Drag Race). I want more children to grow up hearing about relationships that aren’t just heterosexual. It can be extremely confusing and lonely getting launched into the queer dating world as a bisexual; often, I feel that I’m not gay enough to date other women, but not straight enough to commit to dating men fully. In terms of Tinder, I have felt out of my depths in pursuing men and pursuing women, but I hope that other people in the Queen’s community can relate to my experiences. The best thing for us to do as a part of the LGBTQ2+ community, and as allies, is to normalize queer relationships and talk about them! Relationships and dating can be confusing, especially as a queer person, but we are in this together. Happy Pride everyone!
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: OkCupid ‘DTF’ Ad Campaign: https://www.adweek.com/creativity/okcupid-redefines-dtf-in-striking-ads-that-are-like-little-works-of-art/