Tech swipes right for transgender community

Tinder’s decision to let users define their own gender identity has proved ‘hugely popular’

 

The decision by Tinder to expand its gender identity features beyond ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in order to be more inclusive to transgender people has been “hugely popular” according to Sean Rad, CEO and Founder of one of the world’s largest dating apps.

“We originally made the decision to widen the gender category after our community moderators reported a growing number of harassment cases against trans people who were using the app,” Rad told a large crowd on the opening day of the annual SXSW Conference 2017, held in Austin, Texas. “They were being harassed and subsequently banned. Our moderating team didn’t know what to do.”

The online dating app used to look for three pieces of information from any user before being allowed to join: age range, location and if you’re looking for ‘men’, ‘women’ or both.

Gender identity

After working with LGBT advocacy and media watchdog, GLAAD, Tinder users now have the option to define their own gender identity, an addition which has been welcomed not just by the transgender community but also by a generation who “no longer see the world as simply male and female.”

“When tech companies like Tinder take bold steps such as this, it sends a clear message of acceptance to an already marginalized group,” says CEO and President of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis.

“The next generation are far more open and non binary in terms of how they identify themselves when it comes to dating and meeting new people,” she said. “They no longer subscribe to the idea of checking one of two boxes and seeing the world simply through male and female.”

While the strict lines of gender identity may be blurring for generations to come, the existing political establishment in the US has grown increasingly hostile towards the transgender community of late.

Bathrooms

In January the Texas State Legislature introduced State Senate Bill SB6 requiring transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, universities and government buildings based on “biological sex.” “Even as we’re sitting here in Texas talking about trans issues, our political leaders are specifically targeting trans youth,” says Ellis. “That’s the political landscape we’re living in right now. So when a dating app as large as Tinder takes this kind of leadership position in such an environment, it sends out a powerful message.”

Black transgender women were identified by the four person panel as perhaps the most vulnerable group of all. A total of 27 African American trans women were murdered in the US in 2016. Seven homicides have already been reported this year within a wider community which has historically been disenfranchised from society at large.

“There has always been a secret and concealed demand for, and consumption of, trans bodies in pornography and prostitution, two underground economies trans people are frequently forced into,” explained transgender artist, activist and TV producer, Zackary Drucker. “The demand usually comes from men but without them also being our allies. We hide in plain sight but this move by Tinder has been hugely important for moving gender identity politics forward.”