The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Can’t meet ‘the one’ in bars anymore? A queer’s guide to online dating

Navigating dating apps as a member of the LGBTQ+ community
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email
A handy guide to navigating the waters of dating apps. JUDY YUE/THE VARSITY
A handy guide to navigating the waters of dating apps. JUDY YUE/THE VARSITY

If you’ve never tried online dating before, 2020 is your time to shine. Meeting people in the wild isn’t really an option when you have to keep a two-metre distance, so more and more people are hitting the apps. 

Navigating online dating can be intimidating for anyone, but as a bisexual woman, I know firsthand how confusing it can be when you’re LGBTQ+. We turn to online dating at a higher rate than our straight counterparts, which should come as no surprise given that dating apps take inspiration from the LGBTQ+ culture of cruising and personal ads. 

Despite their popularity, most dating apps are designed for heterosexual monoamory and have limited information and options for users who are LGBTQ+.

If the pandemic has inspired you to tackle this challenge and give online dating a shot, have no fear. Three years of being single and queer in Toronto have left me with plenty of stories and some solid advice to share.

I’m here to get you started on the new normal of dating with a couple of key tips geared toward LGBTQ+ folks. Here’s my three-step guide to hitting the apps during COVID-19.

  1. Pick the right app

There’s a lot out there when it comes to online dating, and every app attracts a different crowd. Whether you’re looking for something casual or more long-term, picking the right app is the most important step. 

To help you out in the process, I’ve rounded up some of the most popular apps out there and looked into how they compare. If none of these meet your needs, there are dozens of other apps out there, but here’s a breakdown of my top five.

AppCaters toCasual or long-termProfile formatSwipe or like
TinderHeterosexual monoamoryCasualFocused on photos, short bio, first name, ageSwipe
HingeHeterosexual and homosexual monoamoryLong-termPhotos, question prompts and lots of stats including smoking and drug use habits, height, political leaning, and whether you want kidsLike or comment on photos or prompt answer; reply to or like back people in the “Likes You” section
BumbleHeterosexual and homosexual monoamoryLong-termPhotos, bio, question prompts, and lots of stats like HingeSwipe
FeeldPolyamory, group sex, either for singles or partners seeking a third personCasualFocused on photos, “imaginary name,” bio, sexual orientation, interests, desiresLike or skip profiles, and select from who likes you
GrindrHomosexual monoamory CasualPhotos, first name, short bio, and ‘tags’ that describe you; can also add your position, HIV status, and date of last STI test in the appDisplays a three-column tiled page of photos to scroll through from nearby profiles; “tap” someone to like or send them a message
  1. Know your settings

Getting started on a dating app can be intimidating for anyone, but when you add sexuality and gender identity into the mix, putting together a profile can be a huge source of stress. The biggest piece of advice I can give is simply to explore the settings in whichever app you choose. 

Different apps have different options for listing sexual orientation and gender, and each of us have our own preferences as well. 

Whether you would rather lead with your pronouns and sexuality or leave the discussion for when you meet up, it’s important to know the options you have in each app. Here’s a breakdown of the settings for the five apps.

AppSexual orientationGender
TinderSeparate space for sexual orientation on profile, ability to change “show me” settings without making publicCan choose gender in app, and can make public or private, but not clear to whom you are shown
HingeNo spot to make sexual orientation public, only in personal preferences in settingsCan choose gender in ap, and can make public or private, but not clear to whom you are shown
BumbleNo spot to make sexual orientation public, only in personal “seeking” settingsCan choose gender and specify to whom you are shown — “people seeking men/women” — in ap, and can make public or private
FeeldLots of options for setting sexual orientation in app, always public and on your profileLots of options for gender in app, always public and on your profile
GrindrNo official category for sexual orientation; you’re always shown all of the profiles around youLots of male, female, and nonbinary options as well as a custom field; extra spot to specify pronouns; always displayed on profile, not private
  1. Stay safe!

Last but not least, remember to stay safe! Whether you’re looking for a long-term relationship or casual sex, many LGBTQ+ folks are at a higher risk of sexual violence than the general public. 

If you’re meeting up with someone from an app, make sure that a friend or family member knows where you’re going and who you’re with. If you’re looking to keep things anonymous with your dating app partner, use an app like Red Panic Button or share your phone’s location with a trusted friend. 

Additionally, make sure you’re being safe and following COVID-19 protocols wherever you may be. Many platforms have an in-app video call function, which is a great way to assess if your match is worth an in-person date or not. 

However, we’re still in a pandemic. Don’t put yourself and your loved ones at risk for a booty call — there are plenty of ways to have fun and be safe.

That’s it for my tips, but if you do try these out, don’t be afraid! Online dating isn’t for everyone, but it can be a great way to explore your sexuality and gain confidence in the dating world. 

Despite their reputation for being shallow and sex-focused, dating apps have been a huge part of my personal and sexual journey. Hitting the apps helped me come to terms with my sexuality and gain the confidence and social skills that I needed to be who I am today. 

Dating as a member of the LGBTQ+ community during COVID-19 doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Take this as a new opportunity to figure yourself out and have some fun along the way.