The struggles of the dating world in the LGBT community

Crystal Stout, Centurion Staff

Jane Doe, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is a 20 year old lesbian who was in a parking lot one day with her sister, when they heard angry shouting.
“I heard a group of boys yell ‘hey f****t!’ at her because of her shaved head or floral pants. Sometimes I hear my peers at school say that word as well and I feel unsafe.”
LGBT people face this sort of harassment often. In a society rampant with homophobia, dating can be an especially perilous endeavor for members of the LGBT community. Luckily for these people, we live in an age brimming with dating apps and social media which have made LGBT dating and socializing significantly easier.
The world has come a long way since the days of viewing homosexuality as a mental illness, yet prejudice still lingers in the hearts and minds of many. Although some have adopted a more accepting and open minded attitude, others still are made highly uncomfortable by even being around someone with a nonconventional sexuality. This discomfort can even reach levels where it results in violence or harassment against LGBT people.
This can make life, and especially dating, a struggle. “In real life it’s hard to be out to everyone because of fear of stigma and safety concerns.” Says Doe.
Some people are frightened to even reveal their sexualities to their close friends, for fear of not being accepting, let alone announce themselves in a crowded bar in the slim hope of finding a likeminded partner. They’re more likely to be met with scowls, questioning glances, and whispered remarks. In this sort of climate, LGBT people can find it very difficult to put themselves out there openly enough to meet a romantic interest. For this, Doe says she goes “online to make friends with other LGBT people.”
“Some people are out online but not to their friends or parents in real life. Some of my family isn’t, or wouldn’t be if they know about my identity, exactly accepting. The internet can give anonymity that makes people feel safer expressing themselves about this issue online,” says Doe.
Gay bars can sometimes provide safe and fun meeting places for LGBT people. Unfortunately, even these have their flaws. Most gay bars and clubs are aimed towards homosexual men. Homosexual women who go to these places are often assumed to be the heterosexual friends of the gay males.
Women who frequent gay bars are also likely to become the targets of male predators, who see the places as great places to pick up women, with the lack of straight male competition.
With very few places catering specifically to lesbians, and gay bars being somewhat unsafe, LGBT people seeking partners are left with few options besides dating apps and social media.
It’s almost impossible to own a computer or smart phone and not have heard of apps such as Tinder, Grindr, OkCupid, or MeetMe. With an estimated 50 million users, Tinder has proven to be the most popular dating app of the age. It mostly caters to heterosexuals, though users can edit their settings to search for men, women, or both.
The LGBT specific counterpart to Tinder is an app called Grindr. But Grindr is aimed at homosexual males, leaving out lesbians. Attempts to make an app for gay women were never quite as successful, due to similar issues as those seen in gay bars. “I also heard that there were attempts to make a lesbian equivalent of Grindr but too many straight men preyed on it,” explains Marni Kessler, a bisexual female who has faced the gauntlet of online dating, with limited success.
“I mostly get requests from men asking for threeways but it is easier to find some girls who might be interested in women than it would be without the sites,” she says. Despite all of the “racist men, gross men, desperate men and sexist men” that women are met with on these apps, they do allow for ease of communication.
For Tyler Roney, an asexual male who identifies as female, it isn’t that difficult to meet other LGBT people “mostly because all of my friends are one of those. We tend to clump together. People tend to stay with people that have similar experiences as them. It’s probably an acceptance thing.”
Roney has accepting friends who are all over the LGBT spectrum, but not all people are that lucky. Even within the LGBT community, there are stigmas that can make dating difficult.
Kessler recited some of the stereotypes she has faced against people of her sexuality. “Bisexuals are greedy, going to cheat, confused, looking for attention, or only useful for threeways.”
Some people, both straight and LGBT, refuse to even acknowledge bisexuality.
With setbacks at every turn, it’s easy to see why many LGBT people turn to dating apps. “You can’t really network like straight people can. I never went to any school LGBT clubs or get- togethers because I don’t want to have to lie to my mom to attend them. That makes it hard to find other gay people,” says Doe.
Online, the ability to specify exactly what gender someone is seeking allows easy access to like- minded people. Women seeking women will find other lesbians. Men seeking men will find other gay men. Modern dating has taken the questioning out of being gay, eliminating the stressful moment of meeting a beautiful person and having to wonder about their sexuality.
Many apps, Tinder and Grindr included, work by matching the user with only other local users. This allows people to find others nearby without the hassle of seeking out gay venues.
Doe explains that “because LGBT people are a minority group it’s harder to find someone you click with in your area because there just aren’t as many people.” Location-based apps help this issue greatly. People can also feel more comfortable about their gender identity and sexuality on a dating profile then they could in a real life situation.
Modern technology has really eased some of the struggles faced by members of the LGBT community who are trying to find success in the dating world. Yet, there are always improvements that can be made.
Roney, as a non-cisgendered person, spoke out about the transphobia found even within the LGBT community, saying “ transphobia is especially prevalent within the community.
A lot of it I see on tumblr (a blogging site well known for its largely LGBT user base) and mostly it was from lesbians that don’t acknowledge trans women as “real” women.” With these sorts of opinions floating about society, it is easy to see why it is especially difficult for LGBT to meet others comfortably in public.
Although they absolute ease the dating process, to truly end the challenges faced by LGBT people, dating apps needs to become more inclusive of all genders and sexualities, while the members of society need to be more accepting of noncisgendered or nonheterosexual people.
Unfortunately, this is not the kind of change that can simply come from an app developer. Roney summed up the issue perfectly, saying, “For anything like that to change we’d need to advance as a culture and society first if you ask me.”
Dating apps and internet sites, while they have their flaws, have proved to be great helps to LGBT who are trying to network themselves and join the dating scene. One can only hope that, as society progresses, LGBT people will find themselves comfortable enough to no longer have to hide their identities behind a keyboard. Until that day, dating sites and apps are only a click away.