Article by Maya Vukovska

Being only 4.8 feet tall, I can tell from personal experience that this world is not designed for small people - you can hardly reach products on the upper shelves in supermarkets, and you have to rise on your toes to see your face in the mirrors in the public toilets. What's even worse is that you have to buy shoes from the kids’ department, because won't find anything in your size. But when it comes to getting matches on dating apps, it gets really tricky. I mean, how do you do a proper 69 if your partner is 6 feet tall?

There’s one specific demographic group that finds it especially difficult to navigate successfully their love life through the labyrinth of dating apps and sites. The thing is that even in the year 2022, the majority of these apps are not designed to accommodate trans and non-binary people because these people fail to fit the big tech’s gender mold. This, however, should not discourage any member of the trans community who is willing to try their luck at finding companionship, sex, and love online.

The ‘panic defense’ scheme

The main issue with dating apps is that most users almost never understand what exactly "being a trans person" means. It may seem like a good idea to give them a clue what it means in a short bio, but you’ll soon realize it’s not helpful at all simply because people DO NOT read bios. So instead of wasting energy and time educating ignorant users, you’d better invest energy and time into taking alluring pictures of yourself that not only will market your looks but will also give a hint about your personality and interests. Eventually, there will come the moment when you'll need to 'out' yourself to potential love interests, and you’d better do it before the first date in order to avoid “trans panic.” And it is as real as it can get!

In 2014, California became the first state to enact a law eliminating the so-called “panic defense,” which allows defendants in murder cases to plea to a lesser charge if they claim they were too shocked to find out their victim was gay or trans. Alas, the "panic defense" is still a valid legal strategy in 49 American states, so one can understand why "trans panic" is as real as it can get.

The owls are not what they seem

The first time I was totally shocked by the sight of a penis attached to a woman’s body was when I watched The Crying Game (1992). In the movie, Steven Rea’s character is no less shocked than the common viewer when he finds out that the exotic-looking hairdresser Dil (Jaye Davidson) he’s falling for has particular genitalia.

Dating as a trans person is not as simple as walking into a bar and start hitting on cute people with a husky voice and innuendos. For many trans people, especially if they are early in their transition, approaching people in real life could be awkward and even scary. They often get silly or degrading comments and questions that can be quite discouraging. Because trans people feel unsafe and insecure in certain social environments, dating online remains the best if not the only option for them to look for sex and romance.

What are you looking for: men or women?

The biggest problem with mainstream dating apps is not, as you may think, the users’ ignorance when it comes to understanding being trans. It’s bigotry. Prepare yourself to meet guys who, knowing you’re trans, will start verbally abusing you, but at the same time will admit that they are dying to sleep with you.

There is another problem, and it’s purely structural. Yes, many platforms have already introduced more gender and sexuality options, but once you’ve ticked your box, you’re presented with a more restrictive choice: “Show my profile to people looking for… men/women.” And you’re like, WTF!

So, what to do?

One possibility is to make multiple different profiles. Indeed, this works mostly for non-binary users, but is not an ideal solution. As culture moves forward and big tech responds, hopefully someday trans people can go shopping for love on apps that are truly made for everyone.