By Prarthana Mitra
In a historic announcement for India’s growing online dating network, Tinder opened its app to welcome everyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, with an update to its binary gender settings.
With this inclusive move, Tinder India now seeks to empower and encourage queer and trans people to put themselves out there and partake in online dating, just as much as the next cishet person. But the question of cyber safety remains, which the wildly popular dating app is expected to address along the way.
For now, the massive update aims at expanding the available options for gender identifiers, to allow prospective users to add more information about their gender, and express their non-binary preference or orientation without the fear of being banned.
In an official statement, Tinder further apologised to anyone who may have been wrongfully removed from the app in the past, due to gender nonconformity and dysphoria, and invited them back with the promise of a more sensitised support team this time.
Tinder just became trans and non-conforming inclusive
The app scores further brownie points for reaching out and seeking the help of transgender and gender non-conforming users and consultants to build the new feature. Among those who offered valuable insights were The Humsafar Trust, India’s oldest LGBTQ organization working for the health and human rights of the LGBTQ community since 1994, and famous gay rights activist and author Parmesh Shahani.
In an official statement, the popular dating app wrote on its a blog this Monday, “Every new person in your life expands your horizons in some way. Inclusion and acceptance drive this expansion, and we want Tinder to reflect the world that surrounds us every day.” Referring to the illegality of homosexual relationships in India until the colonial era-Section 377 was repealed very recently, Tinder India admitted not having “the right tools to serve our diverse community in the past, but that changes today.”
Yet, Tinder users have always had the option to enlist themselves as interested in both genders or enter their interest in bisexual people, which is what led Priyadarshini Chitrangada to conclude that the app has always been semi-inclusive. A student of gender and media at the University of Sussex, Priyadarshini spoke to Qrius about her experience on the app before the new feature rolled out. “Even though the new feature screams inclusivity (and will obviously fetch them more users), a part of me wants to acknowledge the fact that Tinder wasn’t strictly heteronormative from the very beginning,” she said. However, she expressed her discontent with women being propositioned by other women on the app, mostly for threesomes.
Then there is the important question of adequate safety measures to flag homophobic abuse over the app’s messaging service. When asked about whether a call for inclusion is the first step in starting a conversation about safe online spaces for the LGBT community, Priyadarshini replied, “As a cis queer woman, who is, of course, more privileged than people who identify as trans or non binary, this feature will only help me identify myself more properly. For my trans and nonbinary friends, it is a good feature in many ways. They do not have to explain their gender identity as an epithet on their bio anymore. So yes, in more ways than one, this is how inclusivity begins.”
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“I’ve always known that I wasn’t straight, that was the only statement I could make with any certainty. I think where the confusion crept in was looking for something to identify as, maybe bi? I was attracted to both men and women growing up. In 2014, I was 15 and was dating a girl. More than a romantic relationship, what I saw was a friendship and nine months in, I told her about my confusion. I distinctly remember watching Big Boss at this point and their representation of people outside the binary. I started exploring, reading and learning everything I could about gender, being gay and identities. Today I identify as genderfluid, this means I don’t conform to a particular gender, whether within the binary or outside of it. I come from a conservative family, so around them, I act completely straight but in college I can be myself, I can be gay. Society has a heteronormative narrative and it makes you ask yourself if not male or female what are you? Being able to find yourself, find an identity that represents you is empowering and gives you more freedom. Tinder has helped express my identity and orientation, my experience with people on Tinder has been nothing short of positive, people are genuine and I’ve made so many friends. One night while swiping I matched with this guy who looked really interesting to me. The next morning I had a very formal-ish message from him, very basic ice-breaking conversation. After an initial exchange, I learned that he had a great sense of humour and was amazing with words. One and a half months from then, we were in a relationship. I usually take things slow, but something just clicked between us! For me the questions of gender equality don’t arise: I don’t view people as male, female or trans, I think of them as human beings. And I think this outlook would help everyone be better to each other." . #SwipeStories
At a time when dating apps like Delta and Grindr are attracting the LGBT community with their safe and reliable spaces, Tinder had been receiving a lot of flak and feedback for failing to provide the best experience for its transgender and gender non-conforming users. “It was time for us to start fixing that,” Tinder CEO Sean Rad had said in 2016, before revamping the app with 37 new gender options. “It’s harder for [non-cisgender users] to get what they are looking for. We have to modify our experience to address that,” he said explaining the driving force behind the move towards inclusion. Only time (and better safeguards) will tell if this feature improves online dating experience for the LGBT community in India.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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