For non-binary people, there are no good dating apps

Last year, after vacillating between being fetishized for my height and pushing back more than my fair share of villain fatphobic messages, I’ve finally reached my limit. I declared bankruptcy of the dating app and deleted them all in one fell swoop. During this time, I was also facing a lot of internal turmoil – accepting to be queer and not being sure of my gender.

After a healthy period of soul-searching and working on my gender dysphoria with my therapist and friends, I came to the conclusion that I was a non-binary female – not identifying with either sex, but likes to present the woman to the outside. My newfound comfort in my identity coupled with my ever-present libido made me feel ready to step into my main character arc as an enby villain. So, I decided to give online dating another chance, only to be quite disappointed with what I found.

Many dating apps have added gender and referral options, but their filters don’t always work as expected.

I redownloaded a handful of apps – Feeld, OkCupid, BLK, and Tinder – to get a full range of experiences. While Feeld isn’t the most racially diverse platform I’ve used, I’ll say it was the first to feel comfortable with identifying as non-binary on apps. , because the platform was already fairly inclusive and offers a range of gender options.

On OkCupid, I was able identify me correctly as enby and also choose to show only gay men, non-men and non-cisgender people – people who would have a better understanding of my identity and my experience. However, straight men were still put on my radar left and right as potential matches, a filter issue that other users have also reported.

The BLK app allowed me to correctly select my gender, but I couldn’t select who I wanted to be seen by. As a result, I had an influx of likes from cischet men wearing technical Nike overalls and Timb boots whose profiles advertised they were looking for “real women”, followed by further transphobic comments and comments. ‘an alarming amount of emojis in their bios.

Most apps had clearly taken steps to improve their genre options and referral filters since I last used them a year ago, but in my experience making those selections haven’t drastically happened. affected who I saw or who saw me.

“Being able to filter partners by sexual orientation and gender is literally the bare minimum,” says Sonya G, a 26-year-old basketball educator and coach. “If I only want to be shown to women or non-binary folx, why do I want cis men to be able to message me?”

Some dating apps, such as Tinder, apparently have a visible presence of non-cis people, but that comes with a problem. Bianca L., a 24-year-old graduate student, finds the app reductive in the way it displays a person’s gender.

“Tinder has a lot of options when it comes to gender and sexuality, but at the end of the day it’s like, ‘We know you said you’re trans, but do you want to be in the female category or the man ? “You have to make that choice, and it categorizes you,” says Bianca.

Emotional toll of being different on dating apps

For Lauren D., a 30-year-old program host, being openly non-binary on dating apps has led to vile interactions with other users. “I have received a handful of extremely negative messages on Hinge. One of them specifically said, “Non-conforming sex? It’s sick people like you who are ruining the world ”.

With the endemic transphobia occurring in these online spaces, many people like Geneieve G., 28-year-old content creator, feel uncomfortable disclosing their gender identity on dating apps and completely avoid platforms.

“When I was on [the apps] I’ve never even gone far enough with anyone to reveal my gender identity. They certainly do a disservice [to non-cis people] and can even be scary as you could be put in violent situations [for coming out],” she says.

For many enby people, these types of interactions are an all too familiar part of online dating. On the Hud application, a cishet, a white man especially liked my profile just to tell me that my pronouns were she / they because I was big enough to be several people. I quickly deleted my account and called the app both in an Instagram story and in a comment on a Publish, but they haven’t responded yet.

The lack of protection, accountability and support on these platforms, however, seems to be a common thread. With the exception of Bumble, on Tinder, and other dating apps, the reporting features seem like a dead end rather than a system put in place to keep its community safe. Once a user is flagged for harmful behavior, there is no follow-up message to ensure that the person in question has been removed.

Dr Akua K. Boateng, a registered psychotherapist, sees this as one of the many manifestations of the failure of these apps to achieve their primary goal: to create opportunities for all users to log in.

“Representation helps us feel seen, included, and fosters a sense of belonging,” Dr. Boateng explains to Bustle. “The lack of sufficient gender identities for non-cishets on dating apps ensures a sense of being altered and excluded in a space meant to connect. “

Sex blogger and dating expert King Tatyannah Okay. “[It’s great] that OkCupid, Tinder, and Hinge now have multiple gender options, ”she said. “But having the gender portion of the personal information section configured as ‘male / female / other’ almost implies that identities that not entering the bounds of cisheternormativity is not normal. The options are there, yes, but they are presented in a way that further marginalizes the enby people.

As a fat, black, non-binary person, I am constantly faced with two ends of the attention spectrum: being fetishized for who I am or being completely invisible. It is extremely tedious and degrading to explain who you are to people who ask for judgment, without trying to get to know you. For me, being able to successfully filter people who see me on apps isn’t a nice feature, it’s essential.

Reinventing a more fluid world

The ability to hang out and connect online is crucial for the people of enby, especially in geographies where there aren’t a ton of options for meeting people in LGBTQ-friendly spaces. Getting to know someone online before meeting IRL goes a long way towards feeling secure on a date.

And while the current online dating landscape is not very welcoming to non-binary people, there are some glimmers of hope. Sophie Mona Pagès, CEO and founder of LVRSNFRNDS and non-binary themselves, has established a platform that embraces fluidity.

“At LVRSNFRNDS, we strive to create this kind of space for people to connect through conversations, with friendship as the benchmark. Our space is safer, operates on diversity and inclusiveness, and embraces fluid identities, ”they say. “The team and members decide which new members to let in based on a series of questions about their intent and values, and members are not defined by a fixed profile in which they tick boxes.”

I’m not sure if the company will ever fully wake up from our collective dream of cisheternomative fever, but one thing is for sure: these apps have a lot of work to do to make their spaces safer and more inclusive for the people of Enby.


Dr Akua K. Boateng, graduate psychotherapist

King Tatyannah, sex blogger and dating expert

Sophie Mona Pagès, CEO and founder of LVRSNFRNDS

About Jimmie P. Ricks

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