The Future of Gendered Social Apps

Where have all the single-gender social apps gone? They weren’t here in the first place.

The move for inclusivity might be happening more recently, but trans and genderqueer people have been on dating apps for as long as they’ve existed.They just haven’t been acknowledged or catered to.

Trans women, specifically, have a distinctively hard time using dating apps. This week, a student at the University of Texas recently tweeted about being banned from Tinder for being a trans woman and received hundreds of shares of both support and people commenting similar experiences.

When asked about how common this was, Tahlia respondedthat,“It’s happened to so many friends at this point it’s just a known thing that we’re not welcome on there… At least (6) I personally know and even more on Twitter.”

This issue is so pervasive that even I’ve been banned from Tinder. Famous trans women including Kat Blaque are no exception.

“Everyone is welcome on Tinder,”a Tinder representative toldBusiness Insiderin 2015. “Each banned account is individually assessed. If we find that a user has been wrongfully banned, then we unban their account. This includes instances when transgender users are reported byothers,but haven’t violated any of our community standards.”

In 2016, Tinder started to add more gender options on the app, yet despite trans people being able to have their profile match theirreal lifeidentity, users like Tahlia are still having problems with being reported.

“At Tinder, we take our community guidelines and user reports seriously,” a Tinder spokesperson toldINTO. “Please note that while we cannot share details regarding specific users or investigations, all users are held to the same standards and are removed from Tinder if they violate ourcommunityguidelines/termsof use.”

In November, the app HER, which describes itself as the “biggest (and best!) app for lesbian, bisexual and queer women worldwide,” gave Aydian Dowling, a straight-identified trans man, control over its social media for their Transgender Awareness Week campaign.

The takeover proved to beverycontroversial,as hundreds of comments denounced the decision poured in over social media. While most of the complaints were about an app putatively for women featuring a trans man, the reality was that the app already had trans men using it. As more people realize that gender and sexuality can be fluid, more apps, groups, and social spaces work to become fully supportive of trans people.

HER’s decision to feature a straight trans man comes with baggage. Trans women have historically been excluded from women’s spaces and featuring Dowling appeared to be prioritizing (trans) men. Dating can already be difficult for trans people–particularly trans women who are largely considered undesirable in queer spaces.

Transmisogyny remains rampant in media, social settings, and culture. Dowling’s takeover also came the week of Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors those killed in the trans community.This year, the majority of those memorialized in the U.S. were Black trans women. These facts show the deep need for a recentering of trans women within queer spaces, groups, and networks.

HERresponded apologetically, noting that they were already inclusive of trans people who weren’t women: “We want to clarify thatHERis not just an app for (cis and trans) women. We have always been open to non-binary and GNC people and as of 18 months ago, opened to trans men as well. We did this because we had people in our community who joined before transitioning and are part of our community, they felt supported and at home here, so HER is a place for them to stay.”

In trying to remain accountable to people who were once part of the queer women’s community, they overlooked the possibility of centering trans women during the week.

A few days later,HERfinally removed the term “women” from its social media handles. HER is noweffectivelyfor all genders except cis men. By restructuring in this way, they now center the multitude of groups who aren’t as dominant in dating and social circles as cisgender men.

Grindr, the most famous and popular app for LGBTQ+ people and, infull-disclosure, the parent-company toINTO, is no exception to this sweeping change.

Originally focusing on gay cisgender men, they decided to open up their gender and pronoun options last month following years of transgender people complaining about their inability to use the app. Although they introduced the “trans tribe” in 2013, trans users still faced a lack of pronoun choices, accessibility, or gender options.

In a press release, they explained, “As the largest global queer social network, Grindr has always had trans men, trans women, and non-binary users on the app.” This change does not shift whoisalready using the app but rather expands who it can be for.

Both of these apps’ moves are especially positive for nonbinary people who are excluded from the binary gendering of apps along with trans women who may be uncertain about our place using them.

While the transgender community does not have a widely used app of our own, we now have multiple LGBTQ+ options that have shown commitment to our usage. Many trans people have difficulty finding new communities to connect with. The opening up of these spaces will allow more connections for trans people around the world.

Last month, Jen Richards even hosted a conversation with several other trans people for Grindr’s Trans Awareness Month. In it, they discussed the hateful, intrusive, or cringe-worthy messages they’ve received on dating apps.

Whenever a trans person enters a gendered space, we ask ourselves if we should be there. By HER and Grindr opening their gender options, they’re telling that we should be welcome in these apps.

Of course, there are still users who demean us, ask us invasive questions, and ignore us. But, by showing that these actions won’t be tolerated, HER and Grindr are creating new options for trans users. With Grindr’s new Gender Identity resource FAQ and HER’s public statements committed to trans women, it appears as though these apps are finally stepping up to support trans people.

So then where have all the single-gender apps gone? Well, we never had them to begin with. There have always been non-binary people on these apps.

However, for the first time, they are publicly acknowledging the range of genders that are using them. By making the apps more explicitly friendly to trans folks, more people will be able to expand their networks and meet new people.