Tinder-loving queer

Tinder has become one of those cultural staples that define a certain generation. It seems hard to find a group of young people with smartphone among which not at least one isn’t using the dating app. (For those living under a rock that don’t know: This mobile dating app is connected to user’s Facebook and allows them to swipe left (not interested) or right (I’m interested) on other users in a chosen age, gender, and location pool using a few Facebook profile pictures and a short bio. If 2 users swipe right on each other, they’re a match and can message each other.) The simplicity of the app is one of the things people love about it, and for many it has made casual dating — and casual sex — something that it should have been all along: fun! It’s alluded to in commercials for hot sauce and the eradication of cigarette smoking in the corniest way possible. It’s heralded as solving the issues that women face with online dating, by finally creating a platform that recognizes that women aren’t actually falling all over themselves to get married, but also don’t want to be harassed online either. Tinder has helped destigmatize casual sex for the masses with it’s normalization.

Pre-Tinder, online dating was always a solo sport. Alone in your own home, with your privacy screen secure and a private browsing tab open, you created a profile, put yourself at the mercy of any user who just so happened to come across your page, spent hours scrutinizing and vetting potential candidates before even setting up a first date (which you treated like a covert intel operation, making arrangements with a friend in case you go missing). By linking the profiles to Facebook, and encouraging users to share moments – pictures – with all of their matches, Tinder has proven that online dating, too, can be a social activity to be shared with other people. For this reason, while it is known as prime real estate for casual sex, in my experience it is less sexually charged than other networking sites like Fetlife: it’s simply too public, too common, too shared, and too simple to be merely sexual.  When I see a Tinder profile that says the person is just looking for friends, I believe them.

I love that, while Tinder has normalized casual sex, it also draws the weirdos I love. At its worst, “weirdo” can be derogatory, coded language for people who don’t physically present heteronormative and/or vanilla. But for people like me, that’s what I love the most about Tinder: being able to intentionally construct a pool of friends, bae candidates, and lovers who are weird and queer like me. The woman with green hair and facial piercings, the man wearing a horse head mask thingy in his profile pic, and the person with long locs on a nude bicycle ride whose backside is the only visible part of their body are all matches I’ve made (ok the third one I made up but can’t a girl dream?). Audre Lorde quotes, polyamorous labels, and trap music lyrics have all been included in the bios of matches I’ve made. These are people who can’t/don’t sign up for Match.com, have no interest in E-harmony, and can’t deal with OKCupid’s complete lack of chill.

In other words, Tinder normalizes our desires without assuming they’re all the same.  They’re not always in line with heteronormative fantasy narratives, sexual modesty, traditional romance tropes that prioritize serious, monogamous relationships — the narratives that drive many other dating cites. And in my experience, Tinder has made it easy for me to identify the people, albeit through a whole lot of left swiping, whose normal aligns with mine. It’s a place where queer identified folks can be honest about who they are, what they want, and build community with people with a little less anxiety that they could be potentially meeting up with a serial killer.

And to be clear, I don’t think that Tinder did this on purpose. They could definitely have more gender options for people signing up for the app and the company has also been sued for sexual harassment and discrimination by a female executive. Nevertheless, I’ve been able to use it to identify the queer weirdos of my dreams and grow a community of folks who could possibly be the reason I get off tomorrow.


Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

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