Tinder Wants Me to Be Alone… Because Someone Must Care For The Strays

I hate the concept of online dating. I’ve never been successful, mostly because I sabotage my own efforts. I half-ass it, to be honest. I’m not really committed to the act of committing myself to search the entire globe for someone to commit myself to.

That’s a lot of commitment.

I just want to point at someone I find mildly attractive and be like, “I pick you. Let’s get married.” Skip everything else in between. All the nonsense. Dating is for the masochistic anyway. Basically, you meet someone and have to hide all of your worst habits, traits and personal eccentricities until they like you enough to feel guilty if they bolt… or until they inevitably reveal their own and you have to decide if you still like them enough to stomach them picking their ass and smelling their fingers in long-term. Dating is an interview for someone of whom you can mutually tolerate.

When it gets to the meeting stage, I always chicken out, convinced they are probably a serial killer with the heads of past dates neatly organized, Tetris-like, in their freezer. It would be my luck. “There must be something horribly wrong with them if they like me this much.” That’s usually my thought process. What can I say? I’m your typical Gen-X’er brought up in a culture where being different is often targeted, definitely not celebrated. If I’m being pursued by a man it’s usually because I’m running. And I have. In high heels down Fifth Avenue from a group of guys yelling slurs. I can’t say I expect much from the human race in general.

I’m not yet eager enough to take that chance, thus, while I have dabbled in the online dating arena, usually during the lonely holidays while partaking from a box of Franzia, I might check in once a year, mostly out of boredom.

Of course, now we have dating apps. Attraction at your fingertips. There are apps for gays and lesbians, Christians and Jewish people, a whole catalog of them for straight, CIS gender people… none for people who fall outside societies firmly planted gender goal posts. Consequentially, we have to adapt ourselves into these narrow communities of folks who aren’t expecting us there. Parties we’re not invited to. Often, it leads to bullying, verbal assault, harassment and shaming. Not always, but most often.

So, Tinder is not new but it’s basically awful. The concept is this: The app shows you a picture of some poor random character within a radial area using your GPS location and you swipe right if you like them, swipe left if you dry heaved. And POOF! Immediately it displays a new individual to judge.

That simple.

Swipe their face. You don’t know anything about them. You don’t have to. It’s like that old website Hot Or Not. If you’re hot you have your choice of chatting with a plethora of potential suitors… if you’re not, well, I hope you like Cats. I have seven.

Thanks to instagram filters and a cloak of makeup so massively disguising it could have been bought directly from Diagon Alley, I figured I might have a little luck. I figure I’m a solid 8 while doused in foundations and powder to conceal myself. I just have to find someone who likes me enough to accept the 4 that I am when I wake up in the morning.

I decided to appeal to gay men first. Why? I know, as a Trans individual who presents mostly female that certainly no gay man is going to be interested in me, very obviously. They tend to stick close to their valley of gyms and vegan take-out joints, tanning salons and Gap stores. However, I know from experience that sometimes men with more fluid sexual interests, or those more sexually liberated often wander into gay oriented bars or clubs… whether with intention or insatiable curiosity, so I figured the anonymity provided online might create enough of a comfort zone to possibly run into one of those open-minded types. I approached this entire effort like I was Jane Goodall in some deep, ancient rain forest trying to communicate with native tribes.

I was pretty direct with my profile… which no one apparently reads unless you match. I offered to chat with anyone if we matched, and explained I was very interested in gender perceived through a photo versus reaction to gender via disclosure. I had a lovely profile, at least I thought, as I sounded incredibly smart and surprisingly professional! I’d have swiped myself right, anyway. I approached this genuinely, only swiped right men I found honestly appealing. (As a sidenote: Always look at the second picture, the first is usually them 6 years ago in masterful lighting back when their face was still taught.)

I remained true to my general taste. The gentlemen I swiped right had a median age of 30, all races. I quickly left swiped men with children in their photos, or what appeared to be loving spouses. While it seems there were a few couples looking to swing dance, I don’t know how. I was also very careful not to swipe favorably any guy who looked like he might have guns or want to kill me as a result of accidentally matching with me. Call me judgmental if you wish, but the entire structure of the app is to determine who is worthy of speaking to based solely on their level of attractiveness. I’m only doing as instructed. If they look like Hannibal or a hillbilly with three teeth and a backwards baseball cap I am stepping out of their lane. This is called self preservation.

Well, the gay side of things was pretty lonely. As expected. I had matched 3 times in two days. To match with someone, you both have to both swipe each other right to ignite your flame, get it? Tinder? Cute. I’d get excited when my phone would buzz saying I had a match and I’d scramble enthusiastically to see which of the fellows I liked took a shine to me as well, mostly because it so rarely happened. To be fair, I imagine if I were a CIS gay man and a picture of a female popped up, I’d sling her ass to the left so hard she’d fly off my phone. No hard feelings. I get it.

For three days I tried to make a friend. No one liked me. Even the three I matched with never spoke to me. I made it clear on my profile I wouldn’t initiate contact as a courtesy and invited them instead to open a dialog so they could do so of their volition and not feel backed against a wall of obligation to say “Hello,” or feel potentially provoked by my presence. Like Jane Goodall I’d sit in the bushes with a book and let them come to me. Some got curious enough to swipe… but it was clear we didn’t speak the same language.

After three days I changed my settings and identified myself as Transgender instead of male, and seeking a male. I felt more comfortable identifying as female, anyway, despite feeling like I’d have much less luck given that most men willing to date Trans women are so deep in the damn closet they’re in Narnia.

I’d left the gay Jungle and now was in the heterosexual belt. I kept my profile the same; Same photo, same information, same invitation to chat and gender disclosure.

My phone began buzzing like a nest of hornets on coke who couldn’t handle themselves in the matter of minutes. Every swipe I made was a match. I racked up hundred of matches on the first day. Look at me, Mom! I’m popular! Suck it, Heather Blackford from sixth grade who told me I looked like Dracula in Drag. They like me! They really like me!

And, then, I watched as each one of them subsequently “Unmatched” from me. Unmatching is a feature that allows you to unlike someone after matching them. Good for people with enthusiastic fingers who might right swipe someone they didn’t intend to, or realized just a moment too late it was a first cousin. Well, I was being liked and then unliked en masse. It was a very bizarre sensation, kinda like someone shaking your hand and then smacking you in the face. You like me? Nope. No, you definitely don’t. I watched through narrow eyes as my number of matches in the upper corner declined…. 89 matches… 73… 66… 59…

In the interim, I had three men actually message me. One kindly invited me to place things up his backside. The next was a young guy who wanted me to be his new best friend because he “loved my look.” The third guy was terrified that he, himself, may be Transgender because he loved to wear women’s panties. Meanwhile, as the hours ticked by, my phone was humming with more and more matches. And then unmatches. Some wouldn’t bother to unmatch, but instead pretended it never happened, like a fart in the freezer aisle at Walmart. I don’t know if they dropped their phone and ran to confession… or therapy. I was like a regrettable one night stand; A leper that had threatened to spread my contagion all over the pictures of themselves in their ray-ban sunglasses and department store hoodies.I had dirtied their swiping thumbs. No one bothered reading my Transgender Status, which, upon introducing, Tinder claimed would change the game.

It was a level of rejection I hadn’t ever experienced in such a short period of time… and by so many people at once.

My phone battery died, twice, from all the rapid fire matches that kept pouring in and so I left it plugged into the charger so it could continue to endure the vibrating abuse. It made me think that Tinder would be a great device for the guy who wanted things up his butt.

Another message arrived, and I was ecstatic. “You have a message from Zach!” my phone announced. However “Zach” informed me she was actually “Zooey” a gender fluid 22 year old who preferred female pronouns. We spoke at length about our experiences with Tinder and she informed me that hers had been largely the same when she tried being honest. Now, she kept her status a secret until she deemed it necessary to reveal. We bonded over that and had a nice long chat as I sipped green tea and we regaled our mutual love of Linda Belcher and bawdy humor. It was nice to spend time with someone who understood the terrain we were on- this cold, unfamiliar landscape upon which it was evident neither of us were welcome- at least, not as ourselves.

In three days on the predominantly heterosexual side of Tinder, I find it ironic that my first and only real fruitful chat was with someone more similar to me than I ever expected to find there. An ally behind enemy lines. Not a total loss.

I got up to let the dog out as my phone continued vibrating with the voracity and determination of a yipping chihuahua across the end table. Ten minutes passed… the dog takes her sweet time in the bathroom. So did my ex, but the dog smells better. Finally she comes back in and I head to the sofa to continue chatting with Zooey, only to be met with an obscuring pop-up:

I don’t presume my experience is exclusive. I think it’s apparent that Tinder, despite allowing an option for non binary people to self identify, forgets that no one reads the profiles, or even the gender status. Their decision to swipe left or right is made in 0.2 seconds based on their sexual attraction. They only delve deeper once you connect, and even then, sometimes not until you’ve spoken multiple times. Then, they browse your profile and they crap their pants, start saying their Hail Mary’s and report me for abuse- as if I’ve deliberately deceived them or challenged their heterosexuality so strongly that they had to switch over to lesbian pornhub to remind themselves they’re straight, despite me. Tinder has been kind to allow us a gender identity option, but they need to let men filter us out of their choices instead of creating a situation where, instead, they’re reporting us while experiencing an unnecessary sexuality crisis. The extreme intolerance fostered there among it’s Cis male users, should someone like me slip through the cracks and dare create a presence, does not make for a happy- or successful- user experience.

It’s just one more thing that keeps Trans people compelled to hide their identity, passively inferring they do not belong by refusing to allow them a seat at their table, even if we’re allowed a gender marker, it’s ignored in favor of an enticing photo.

Yet somehow, I’m sure the guy who wanted me to shove the entire contents of my kitchen up his rear end is still there, swiping away…

Actor, Filmmaker, LGBTQ+ & Women’s Rights Activist All work copyright phaylens@gmail.com https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co

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