The Ongoing Impact of Gay Dating Apps

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Whether you’re looking for “the one” or a one-night affair, dating apps are a useful tool for meeting other people casually or romantically. For members of the LGBTQ community, dating apps have entirely changed the dating scene. Some users may have experiences that leave them swearing off dating apps forever.

Brie Sivy, a 20-year old sophomore studying social work at social work at Ohio University, met her girlfriend the way many her peers have also found love; online. Since she came to college, she has tried dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble.

“I own it. I say, like, ‘Yeah, I met her on Tinder,’ but we always follow it up with, ‘But we had mutual friends.’ Just to lesson it so that it doesn’t sound so, like, I don’t know, we met on Tinder, you know, the hookup app,” Sivy said.

Sivy’s partner, sophomore psychology major Courtney Cyrilla, only downloaded the app a few months before they met. During that time, she had a few forgettable dates — and always felt anxious about being “outed” by being on the app.

“While using Tinder I would sometimes scroll through girls that I’ve seen in my classes and never would have known in a million years that they were into girls, or gay,” Cyrilla said. “So that was a little bit shocking. It was kind of like, ‘Oh no, I’m going to see them in class and they’re going to know, you know, that I like girls.’”

So when she matched with Sivy and actually hit it off with her, it was a big relief.

“So me and Ellie, for like two hours, were like, ‘What am I supposed to say?’ and so we finally landed on I’m just going to ask her if she lives in my building, that’s super non-threatening, like, super casual,” she said.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Poll the number of 18 to 24 year olds in the US using online dating sites or apps tripled from two years earlier. In North America, Grindr continues to be the most popular app for gay and bisexual men,, while HER is the most popular app exclusively for queer women, according to a 2015 report from Buzzfeed.

But “mainstream” apps like Tinder, OkCupid, and Match.com, count plenty of queer people in their millions of monthly users. Apps have changed the way LGBTQ people find each other.

Connecting Before Apps

Betsy Kunsel, who is 31 and works in the college of health sciences and professions, says apps are a good way to meet others and have changed the way that young LGBTQ people are able to connect.

“Growing up, having part of gay or lesbian identity being behind closed doors at all times, it actually blows my mind we can connect in so many ways now, because that really used to just not be the case,” Kunsel said. “When I was fifteen and came out and had a high school girlfriend because there was one other lesbians in my high school and that’s who I happened to date, but being connected, that was a foreign thing. And when I was a teenager in high school, anyone I met who was gay or a lesbian, I just wanted to spend time with them. It was a very special thing.”

But Kunsel actually met her wife, Tiffany, in person.

“We actually met in Walmart,” she said. “Tiffany was working in the Occipital office…and I was in a panic over some glasses I ordered on the internet I could not see out of…Tiffany came up to help me, and we connected immediately over the twenty minutes we talked.”

“It was really funny, because I remember walking up to Betsy and offering to help her, and her sitting across from me,” Tiffany added. “The issue with her glasses was actually rather simple but we were so engaged in conversation that I kind of overlooked that on accident because I wasn’t really paying attention to the glasses. Betsy told her supervisor about me the next day, and her supervisor told her to look me up to the Optical Board Licensing website.”

A Darker Outcome

But while some couples are lucky in love, dating apps don’t necessarily make the search for love and friendship any easier.

Morgan Austin is a sophomore at Ohio University studying Performance and Production Design and Technology, and is currently single.

“It’s just hard sometimes when you see a lot of your friends in relationships and then you want to be in one,” Austin said, “But every time you think you’re going to end up getting into one, you end up not getting into one. So I go on Tinder, hoping to find at least someone to talk to, but it’s just, it’s frustrating.”

Austin also has fears of people she is talking to online not being entirely honest.

“For me, it would be easier to meet outside of the app because don’t trust very easily and I don’t know if they’re actually telling me the truth of who they are,” she said. “I don’t want to be catfished. But, for other people, sometimes it’s easier to be on the app and actually just like, set your like, your own persona without actually like, interacting with people yet.”

While dating apps do offer opportunities to meet new people for romance or friendship, there are a number of examples about people using dating apps to hurt queer people. Earlier this year, a Texas man allegedly set up dates online with the intention of assaulting and robbing gay men.

This underbelly of online dating is a reality that hits close to home for Sivy. Her uncle was a victim of a family who targeted gay men by sending their 16-year-old son to hook up with them and then reporting the men who unknowingly made advances on the minor.

“When it finally all went to court, his lawyer was like, ‘This is ridiculous, you have to agree to be 18 to be on Grindr. My client should not be facing these charges, he was under the assumption that this person was 22 and this is a scam against these people,’” Sivy said.

Stories like these are relatively rare, given that there are so many users. From the worst to the best experiences, and everything in between dating apps have transformed how LGBT people find each other.