I came out as a feminist before I came out as lesbian. I realized that finding a space for myself within the so-called progressive and inclusive queer movement would be easy, but I was wrong. I had to explain my life choices to my queer counterparts more than my cisgendered heterosexual ones. One of the things that I had to constantly explain was my sexuality, and the various nuances it adhered within itself. I belong to the generation of millennials for whom there is a constant negotiation with ideas of love, kinship, courtship and at times non-committal sexual desires, and one would think that coming of GPS based queer dating applications would make dating easier, but boy was I wrong!
Pink Sofa and OkCupid: Women seeking women
Dating remains an uphill battle, despite the cafeteria based approach to choosing a partner which one comes across on all the dating sites and constant hetero-normative stereotyping of romance; dating for queer women, can only be compared to a recurring nightmare. Be it political mobilization or creating safe spaces for PAGFB (person assigned gender female at birth) queer, lesbian, bisexual women and trans* men and women, the task of occupying spaces remain a herculean task, and online spaces remain to be extension of the same.
Attempts to find like minded queer women led me to my first dating website called Mingle2. It was one of the earliest prototypes of a dating website and was largely aimed at the heterosexual counterparts. Couple of failed flirtations later, I discontinued my account. Then came Pink Sofa, a website which solely aimed at making dating easier for queer women, except that it wasn’t. The accessing of profiles meant upgrading your profile from basic to premier membership, which cost a lot of money. What also bothered me was the fact that a website like Pink Sofa that largely served a female clientele usually operated on the classic and at times heteronormative ideas of love and monogamy. One of the pop ups on the website read as: “Write a good profile and get a good girlfriend.” While gay dating apps like Grindr and Planet Romeo are known for its hyper-sexualization, and at times explicit content including nudity, dating apps catering solely to women adhered to ideas of homonormativity and discouraged seemingly licentious behaviour like polyamory or only sex seeking profiles.
The members, unlike on the gay (male) dating apps, seek approval and legitimacy for their relationship or even friendship on the website. Also, Pink Sofa, unlike its male gay counterparts like Grindr and Planet Romeo, has strict membership codes which includes uploading decent profile photograph and frowns at nudity and profanity in the user’s profile description.
Later, I found myself on OkCupid – a website which claims to be a queer friendly site and is primarily based on finding match for their members through algorithm. I had a couple of interesting dates through this app but of course things eventually fizzled out. Also, the amount of details one needs to fill for the application to get good matches is ridiculous, since no one has the time to answer around 150 questions!
The world of online dating remains a tricky terrain. The most common phenomenon that every queer woman has experienced is coming across fake profile of men posing as women. I have been constantly catfished by profiles which I genuinely thought were of interested women, only to be trumped by the fact that behind it were sleazy men, whose only intention is to objectify lesbian sexuality and get off from it.
Tinder is the night
Then came the age of Tinder. The thought of judging someone on the basis of a few photos and a brief bio seemed shallow, but I decided to give it a shot. Tinder—remains to be one of the most widely-used dating app worldwide—has a huge user-base in India. Tinder went a step ahead and lauched a sanskari advertisement of a mother encouraging her seemingly cisgendered heterosexual daughter’s choice of partner, which still remains a distant dream for many Indians. However, things remain equally complicated on Tinder as well.
While, one gets the illusion of numerous choices available, the harsh reality is the dating pool isn’t a pool but just a dried-up shallow. Tinder remains an app where you may filter your choices to only get women as possible matches, but whether these women identify as queer, is a different tale altogether. I, for one have struggled through various fake profiles to finally come across couple of queer women’s profiles.
Also, there remain various issues that prevent me from nose diving into the queer dating pool. Firstly, non-availability of openly queer women, and the fact that it took me a lot of time to come out of the closet and accept myself for the way I am, I don’t want to become someone’s dirty secret. I don’t think I have the bandwidth for that, and secondly, that the queer circle within India is so small that wreaks of this incest (not that I have any issues with that), as almost everyone has dated or slept with someone I know, hence making it even more difficult for me to seal the deal.
The way forward…
My experiences on various queer dating website have made me more determined to reclaim more spaces that were originally meant for heterosexual counterparts as well for queer men. I now have profiles on Grindr, Planet Romeo, where I am constantly bombarded with unsolicited dick pictures, along with Tinder and other so-called queer dating websites and mobile based apps. While, many question my choice of being on dating website, solely meant for gay men, it gives me immense confidence to navigate these sites as a queer cisgendered woman, and opens up an array of multiple possibilities. That’s what being queer is for me, allowing myself to be open to the world and not get stuck in the binary that has been created. It is to break this binary, that I have to say, that I am a lesbian and a proud one too. The beautiful thing about failure is the queerness that is embedded within it, many friends that I have gained from those dates, and the feminist solidarities that I have established, reaffirms my dream of smashing patriarchy and imposed binaries.