Tough love no more

Nov 11, 2018, 08:45 IST | Aastha Atray Banan

Out and proud transpersons and gender non-conformists say finding company on generic dating apps is no longer hard

Tough love no more
Illustrations/Ravi Jadhav

Naina, 25, is in dating heaven. The assistant restaurant manager met her partner of one year on OkCupid last October. That Naina is a gender non-conformist - she is a woman, but doesn't want to conform to either male or female gender roles - didn't seem to be a problem for her partner.

She answered a detailed questionnaire on the dating site - as many questions as she could from close to 1,000 queries put to her - to find the perfect match. The questions ranged from how kinky she was, to her political opinions, to what her ideal home would look like. "They also have an option that says 'don't let me be seen by straight people'. So you can customise your search. Lameeya was a fan of Harry Potter. I started with a Potter pick-up line, and that's how we clicked," she laughs.

Debanjana Roy is a transwoman, waiting for her final surgery. She currently uses Happn and Tinder to date hetrosexual men
Debanjana Roy is a transwoman, waiting for her final surgery. She currently uses Happn and Tinder to date hetrosexual men

A spokesperson from OkCupid told us, "We understand that sexuality and gender is more than binary. We have 13 orientation and 22 gender options available-and we were the first to do this. You can pick from he/him, she/her, they/them, or type in any pronoun of your choice. We also have an intentionally longer sign-up process with several questions to contextualise potential matches better."

With Tinder set to add options for trans and gender non-conforming persons on their app, and the launch of Delta this year - touted as India's first homegrown LGBTQ app - the online dating scene for the queer community is gaining traction. But our conversation with some open, out and proud queer members revealed that most of them are using existing dating apps, and are doing just fine. "OkCupid worked for me, when Tinder didn't; I didn't want to just hook up," explains Naina.

Kiara Iyer, who was born male and transitioned to being female five years ago after a sex reassignment surgery, is in a non-committal relationship, and dates casually on Tinder
Kiara Iyer, who was born male and transitioned to being female five years ago after a sex reassignment surgery, is in a non-committal relationship, and dates casually on Tinder

Kiara Iyer, who was born male and transitioned to being female five years ago after a sex reassignment surgery, has been using dating apps for long. She has a partner, but since they aren't committed, she is on Tinder too. What works for her is that she is honest right from the start. "I am into heterosexual men.

I tell them about my sexual orientation and identity, and also my relationship status. It's clear that we are there for a casual meet up, and to have a good time. I do remain friends with most of them after we hook up. My best friend is someone I met on a dating app," says the 30-year-old. Iyer also does a background check before she starts talking to anyone. "So, if they have connected their Instagram or Facebook accounts to the dating app, I go check them out. I only chat with someone who I know understands the gender spectrum," she says, admitting that though she hasn't had any outright unpleasant experiences, there are men, who have backed off after they learnt she is a transwoman.

Naina met her partner Lameeya on OkCupid. Pic/Naresh Soni
Naina met her partner Lameeya on OkCupid. Pic/Naresh Soni

Even as other dating apps are working on evolving into more LGBTQ-friendly versions of themselves, Delta has already filled the gap in the market. Tech professional Ishaan Sethi, who identifies as gay and who returned to India from New York five years ago, was approached by Truly Madly founder Sachin Bhatia to spearhead the idea.

"I had to do it. It stemmed from the frustration I felt as an openly gay man in India," says the 27-year-old. Delta asks a set of 12 questions, to make sure the user meets an appropriate match. "We ask questions like 'do you believe in the hook up culture or do want a relationship?' and 'is it okay if your partner is not out?'." For now, the LGBTQ community seems to be making the most of dating online, and the response has been positive. Freelance interior designer Debanjana Roy's dating story proves it.

The 29-year-old, who is waiting for her final transition surgery, is pleased with the number of heterosexual men messaging her on Happn and Tinder. "I have explained my current situation in my bio. I have been inundated with messages," she says, adding, "People meet me, chat, hook up, knowing exactly who I am. That's all I ever wanted."

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