Twice As Many LGBTQ+ Singles Use Dating Apps As Heterosexual Ones. Here's Why That Matters.

Dating apps can help uncover LGBTQ+-friendly spaces and hidden communities.

If you're a heterosexual single out on the modern dating scene, you might use any number of apps to make the process a little easier. For many, it can all seem like a fun, easy game, but for members of the LGBTQ+ community, dating apps can serve a larger, even necessary, purpose. Even as society has become more accepting of LGBTQ+ people, dating apps can provide a sense of safety and community they might not have otherwise — something their heterosexual counterparts often take for granted. 

For these reasons and more, it may come as no surprise that a new survey shows nearly twice as many LGBTQ+ people use dating apps as heterosexual ones. This survey, conducted In June 2017 by Clue, a female health app, and the Kinsey Institute, was one of the world's largest international sex surveys. Translated into 15 languages, it received responses from more than 140,000 adults in 198 countries. 

But while the results may not come as a surprise, they are very meaningful to the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. To find out why, A Plus spoke with lesbian matchmaker Dr. Frankie Bashan of Little Gay Book.

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Courtesy of Clue 

"Think about it — it's been harder for us to meet each other," Bashan told A Plus, noting that before dating apps, LGBTQ+ people depended on bars, lounges, and people's houses — options that have historically been (and still continue to be) few and far between for LGBTQ+ people. Apps, however, can transform anyone's phone into a virtual gay bar where, even if they don't make a lasting love connection, they can still make connections with fellow LGBTQ+ people and uncover potentially hidden communities. 

They also help clarify who is available, and who isn't. "You don't have to have the fear of being rejected because you find out that this person's actually straight or to offend somebody when you approach them and you express interest," Bashan added.  

And while all daters can expect a rejection now and again, heterosexual people often don't have to fear such a rejection turning violent. Though this certainly isn't always the case for LGBTQ+ people, information collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation has consistently shown that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, as well as those perceived to be those sexual orientations, "are attacked more than heterosexuals relative to their estimated population size in the United States," according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. For this reason, Bashan added, dating apps offer an additional level of safety for typically marginalized groups. 

The importance of feeling safe cannot be understated for the 54 percent of LGBTQ+  people who said they were concerned about being the victim of a hate crime in a 2006 poll. This fear is in stark contrast to the general population: less than one in 10 of the general population (6 percent in 2007) "frequently worries about hate violence."  The HRC notes that "anecdotal evidence also suggests that hate crimes against LGB and transgender persons are underreported in the United States," because some victims do not want to be identified, and therefore "outed" in police reports. 

That same year, sexual orientation was ranked as the third highest motivator for hate crime incidents (17 percent of total attacks), after race and religion. Violence against transgender people, in particular, has been on the rise in recent years. Advocates tracked at least 22 deaths of transgender people in 2016 due to fatal violence — the most ever recorded. According to the HRC, these crimes were committed by both people known to the victims, including their partners, and complete strangers. While each case differed in detail, HRC noted that, statistically, fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color because they are the most vulnerable members of the community, due to the intersections of racism, sexism, and transphobia that often deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities. 

This, Bashan added, may explain why transgender people tend to "be even more conservative" when it comes to dating and putting themselves out there — because they have the most to fear.  "They're used to being discriminated against and marginalized." They are, Bashan believes, the least likely members of the queer community to try dating apps and would instead be more likely to put themselves in a secure and trusted database for a queer or transgender matchmaking service. 

This cautious manner couldn't be any more different than that of many men who, regardless of sexual orientation, use dating apps with the same carefree approach as Candy Crush. While Bashan currently only works with lesbian and bisexual clients, she has anecdotally observed that gay men are the most likely members of the queer community to use dating apps because they "are more comfortable putting themselves out there and ... taking risks." 

Women, on the other, hand are more conservative when it comes to dating and often don't feel as comfortable using dating apps, or even hiring a matchmaker, because "they feel like there's something wrong with them," according to Bashan. That's not to mention that, as Bashan added, "Men early on are taught, 'It's OK to date' [and] 'You have to search to find a partner.'" Regardless of sexual orientation, only men are encouraged to sow those wild oats, and dating apps created specifically for gay men like Grindr are, with five to six million monthly active users, unsurprisingly popular. 

oneinchpunch I Shutterstock

Besides increased safety, dating apps can also offer LGBTQ+ people increased specificity when looking for a potential partner. "Within the queer community, there's so many labels and ways to describe ourselves that I don't even know them all," Bashan said. 

Some sites, she noted, do a better job in providing these additional options than others. One of the biggest complaints Bashan has heard from her clients — many of whom, granted, have moved away from using dating apps recently —  is that "they can't indicate on the butch-femme spectrum or the masculinity-feminity spectrum" the desire range they're attracted to. "A lot of sites don't offer that, and that's a big difference between a heterosexual matchmaker and a lesbian matchmaker," she added. 

All that said, people of all sexual orientations are subject to the common pitfalls of online dating, such as misrepresentation and ghosting. Those are two of the main reasons Bashan's clients have cited leaving the online dating scene in recent years. Though there may be many unique benefits of online dating for LGBTQ+ people, which could explain why they're seeking it out at a higher percentage than heterosexual people, Bashan believes that traditional, face-to-face forms of dating in LGBTQ+-friendly spaces — whether it be going to bars, dinner parties, or group meet-ups — will always prevail. 

"I think we're all starting to see the negative effects of technology on our ability to socialize, on our ability to be present," she said. "... I hope that people will push themselves out of their comfort zones and start making more of an effort: going out there, attending events in-person, and staying off of apps." 

Cover image via Tom The Photographer I Unsplash

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