Modern online dating often gets a bad rap, and for good reason — between the unsolicited sexual messages, people dropping off the face of the planet, and being forced to make a decision about somebody based solely off of one mirror selfie, it can get pretty rough out there.
But one thing I must commend online dating for is how much easier it is to date while identifying as a marginalized identity… or five. As someone who is marginalized on multiple axes — as a black woman, as a trans woman, as a Jewish woman, as an autistic woman, as a woman with borderline personality disorder — it is more or less impossible to just casually meet other people in social settings like work or a party. Even if I hit it off with someone, I am much more likely to completely misread the situation or waste my time courting someone who will inevitably take issue with some major part of who I am as a person.
I have honestly lost count of how many women I have approached, built a solid rapport with, and even successfully flirted with, only to then find out that they are straight and that is just how they interact with gay women. Even beyond that, I have encountered situations with gay women where they are not interested in me because I am transgender, or because of the color of my skin. I have even dealt with women who are on board with everything else, but take major issue with my identity as a Jewish woman, particularly grilling me about my stance on Israel as soon as I tell them that I am not a gentile.
There are so many important issues about my life that can cause any prospective date to pump the brakes, and people who are not marginalized in the ways I am do not realize that since their experiences differ so heavily from my own. I am not entirely certain how I would have been able to date had I been born 10 or 20 years earlier. Dating online has proven to be integral in my quest to find a partner to share my life with.
That being said, I must admit that a lot of these problems still exist on platforms like Tinder, at least for me. I still deal with women who do not immediately realize that I am transgender until I tell them outright, even though I always make it very clear in my bio, and I wind up getting blocked. A lot of women will also hide their prejudices for the most part until much later on, sometimes even once a relationship has been formed. Dating while trans, as a general rule, can be very frightening and leads me to be overwhelmingly cautious with people, regardless of how long I have known someone or what they have told me in the past about their viewpoints.
My Tinder bio is lengthy, revealing, and something that I either add to or subtract from regularly depending on how my dates end up working out. After an awful date where the girl I went out with drunkenly belittled me for my political beliefs, I added to my bio that I’m a communist. My gender on Tinder is set to “trans woman” and I mention in my bio how I do not care for transmisogynists, yet people still regularly gloss over that to the point where anytime I have a very promising conversation with someone, I have to ask them, “Hey… you read my bio in full, right?” Some girls take that as my challenging them on how accepting they are or as some sort of commentary on how cisgender women view transgender women, but it’s not that. It’s absolutely a survival technique to help protect myself from people who might do violence to me for feeling “tricked,” and it also helps me reduce the amount of time I waste on someone who is only interested in me because they believe I’m cisgender.
For all of the success I have found on Tinder (one very serious relationship, some really great friendships, and a few casual flings), I have to deal with three times as many people who un-match me once I tell them I’m transgender, or once they’ve paid more attention to my bio, or who tell me, “I super liked you on accident” before un-matching. Unfortunately, a large amount of my messages are two equally unwanted extremes — women who call me a gross freak and a man for being transgender, and women who fetishize me and say things like, “Oh cool, I’ve never been with a trans before,” with zero awareness of how dehumanizing that is.
The advent of quick and casual online dating services has helped to make discerning the prejudices of potential mates easier than it has ever been. However, until a major culture shift happens, these tools can only have so much effectiveness to the people who are most in need of these platforms. I believe that such a day will happen, but it cannot come quickly enough.