How Tinder Empowered My Identity As A Queer Girl On The Dating Scene

by Linh Le

Tinder gets a lot of sh*t. I get it; I was on straight Tinder for a while and guys can be assh*les.

I told a guy once that I was going to an anime convention that weekend so I couldn't meet up for a date and he asked me: “Ooh, are you gonna wear sexy cosplay? Send pics plz ;)”.

Unmatch. Immediately. 

From all the articles I've read, especially the infamous one from Vanity Fair, I found that these articles tend to be overwhelmingly about straight and monogamous men and women.

They also tend to fall on two extremes: hookups and long term relationships. It's hard to find something that's in-between.

I'm a queer, polyamorous, and demisexual woman. I currently have one primary partner who is incredibly supportive of me as I discovered my poly-ness early on in our relationship.

I date both men and women, and since I'm demisexual, it's almost impossible for me to hookup with someone. As a demisexual in an incredibly stable and happy relationship, I've confused several people over this past year whenever I answer the “so how's your love life?” question.

It's strange because despite its infamous reputation and what appears to be a mismatch in values, I love Tinder.

The first Tinder date I went on with a girl was during my last semester of college.

She was a graduate student, so we met at a popular bar near campus where grad students hung out for a few drinks. She had short hair and an androgynous look. We sat and talked for a couple hours about how she studied abroad in England and my obsession with the Myers-Briggs personality test.

I tried to get as drunk as possible because I wanted to ask her to come home with me, and I was too nervous to hook up with a girl sober.

We went to a shady bar right underneath my apartment for a couple more whiskey sours and then trekked up to my room. I sat in bed next to her and told her I'd never been with a girl before, so she leaned in and kissed me.

I awkwardly kissed her back and lied down because I was so tired. I wasn't feeling it at all. I'm sure she knew that because she pushed me away after a few minutes and said, “We should go to sleep.”

She woke up at 9 am the next day, we hugged goodbye, then she left. I didn't text her. She didn't text me. I discovered after this that I was indeed, demisexual, and my Tinder journey was just going to get more complicated.

The next time I got on Tinder was during the summer of 2015. I had met my partner at my first job out of college in January, and by June our relationship was becoming serious, stable and amazing.

He knew about my queerness and possible polyamorous identity. Instead of feeling insulted or that he wasn't "enough" for me, he encouraged me to explore that part of myself. So I did.

My new Tinder adventure stepped away from getting crazy drunk in bars with the goal of sadly hooking up, to having deep and meaningful conversations, followed by several dates to see if it could lead somewhere more.

I went on a date with this rad girl once. She was vegan, liberal, studied music and had an awesome witchy style. She was also in a long-term relationship with her partner, except she wasn't poly. Rather, she wanted to open up their relationship to date other people.

We talked a lot about veganism, queerness and video games (we met at a gaming bar).

We clicked and I told her I'd like to see her again sometime. She said, “Great! By the way, my boyfriend is picking me up, do you mind walking me to his car?” "Sure," I said.

I didn't realize that I also agreed to meeting her boyfriend.

This made me and later my partner VERY uncomfortable. Maybe some people can shrug this off and be cool with it, but this set off my anxiety. I also saw how they interacted with each other and realized that their relationship was one I didn't want to get involved with in any way.

I texted her the next day telling her how I felt and ended it right there.

I learned that if I was going to be poly, especially with someone else who's non-monogamous, we'd have to set up explicit boundaries. Polyamory is complicated as is, and a life of non-monogamy requires open and honest communication.

Also, getting along with partner's partners, or paramours, would be incredibly important to me. 

Around August of that same year, I began to fall in love. I met up with this woman at a cozy bar and we spent hours sitting on their red velvet chairs sipping our amber drinks and conversing intimately.

We talked about being queer and poly, our aspirations and dreams and intersectional feminism. She was tall, had bouncy medium-length hair and a dazzling smile.

We went back to my car to smoke and listen to music, then ended the night kissing in front of her car before I watched her drive off.

Everything seemed perfect.

I wanted to get a bit more serious so, after a few more dates, she agreed to meet my partner. We went wine-tasting in the Santa Cruz mountains because both she and I had never been wine tasting before, but the three of us all adored wine. We sipped, talked, laughed and then the three of us later ended up in my partner's living room watching "Peaky Blinders."

I started kissing her then she started kissing my partner. I asked her if this was OK and she responded, “Yes” with a smile.

I felt so happy because my partner really liked her and she seemed really comfortable around him. I always knew that I'd be open to my partners becoming intimate, but seeing it just confirmed that for me. The thought of being in a triad relationship with the two of them made me so lightheaded, I didn't know it was from the wine or from my happiness.

I texted her the next day and didn't receive a response.

I followed a few hours later with a nudging question mark text. She responded with a break-up text.

She felt that we had gone too fast and she wasn't ready to date someone with another partner right now, despite our previous conversations where she said she was OK with that. 

While I was learning about myself on Tinder, I realized other girls were too. We go in with this notion of what we want and what our identities are, only to experience it first-hand and realize it's not what we want after all.

I realized that I'd often been on her end of the phone, the one who cuts it off with someone they realized wasn't compatible for some reason. Being on the receiving end was painful. My chest felt heavy as I excused myself early from work to go home and cry.

I sat in my car and messaged my partner. He was working, but he comforted me as best as he could. I messaged my friends and they were also busy at work. I turned to Tinder and started talking to some other women, looking for some comforting words. I messaged this girl who was also queer and poly to tell her what happened.

She said what any other person would say to you after a breakup, but there was a comfort in knowing that she had been through the exact same experiences as me.

I knew I was drawn to girls who were also queer and poly, but what I didn't realize was I'd stumbled onto this nice and niche community of women I'd never have the courage to talk to anywhere else.

I never  felt "gay enough" to join LGBTQ+ groups, but never "straight enough" to feel fulfilled only having dated men. I was a part of this awkward in-between, and Tinder filled that void.

People say dating is dead because everyone hides behind these screens, but I found that it's on Tinder where people are their true selves.

There are couples openly ask for a third, straight-passing men and women talking comfortably about their queerness and people who admit they're lonely and just want a cuddle buddy.

There might be a creepy dude or robot catfish that you swiped right for, but there are also people just looking to talk and make connections -- romantic or not.

I know of Tinder's faults, but I think there's a beauty and charm to it, too. For those of us just wobbling to discover our sexual identities, Tinder is a gift.