LGBTQ community in India reacts to Tinder's update allowing 23 new gender identity options

Popular dating app Tinder has announced that it will now give its users the ability to add information about their gender outside the binary. Users now have the opportunity on the platform to identify as any gender that they believe represents them most authentically.

Until now, Tinder users in India were offered only two options when selecting their gender: man or woman. For users who identified as transgender, gender neutral or somewhere between or outside the gender binary, that limitation posed a challenge. The app has now added 23 new genders to its list.

Tinder, with a user base in more than 190 countries across the world, in a statement said that the company instituted an advisory panel comprising The Humsafar Trust, India’s oldest LGBTQ organisation and LGBTQ author and inclusion advocate, Parmesh Shahani who helped guide local development of the update, help be more "inclusive with indigenous gender identities and to reflect cultural nuances of the community in India".

Tinder. Reuters/Mike Blake

Tinder. Reuters/Mike Blake

Taru Kapoor, General Manager, Tinder India said, “Inclusivity, acceptance and individuality are core values of Tinder. Users are best to assert their own identity, and our latest update gives them the opportunity to decide how to express themselves authentically. I think it is vital to be reflective of our time, and it has been a good year in India for gender, sexuality and personal autonomy. What has been crucial is the assistance provided by The Humsafar Trust and Parmesh in customising the update for our community and including indigenous identities. Ensuring users feel like their true selves while using the platform is paramount.”

The update came as a welcome change for many. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, a 21-year-old transwoman, said "Being trans is hard enough to deal with, but dating takes it to a whole new level. Dating apps for long have been exclusive to cisgender and heterosexual folks, only representative of what attitudes in society have looked like for decades. It's wonderful that Tinder, an arguably popular dating app is trying to change that. While people don't change overnight, policies absolutely can - and perhaps that paves the way for more inclusivity."

"I think it’s amazing that a huge corporation is finally taking note of the fact that it has a diverse user base and is catering to them," says Taksh Sharma, a 23-year-old trans model said.

"The gender options have always been there on Grindr. I don't think the feature is going to affect the gay community as such because I don't think people in the gay community go on Tinder that much unless they are looking for something classier than Grindr perhaps. But I definitely think this will be a big change for straight people who have not experienced this. They will have to sort of change their outlook on gender which is great," says a 23-year-old writer who wishes to be anonymous.

Sakshi Juneja, the co-founder of Gaysi Family, says, "This is a much needed and welcome update and is apt to celebrate the winds of change the country is going through. It's good to see brands living up to their word of being allies of the community. Adding more options for people ensures they have the power to self-identify, it creates a sense of comfort and trust while personalising the tinder experience for people all over the spectrum."

Shweta Vaidya, who prefers to be represented as genderfluid or non-binary, recounts joining Tinder after the SC verdict to decriminalise same-sex intercourse came out. "I had a short bio with a couple of pictures for a few weeks. But then I decided I should disclose my gender identity clearly in my profile. Not more than 24 hours of sharing my real gender in my bio, I logged in to see a message that read, "You have been reported by users too many times. We are reviewing your account".

"This message stayed for months. I really had no idea what I could have done to offend someone (though the reason was quite obvious)," Vaidya says. "It's not that Tinder is transphobic. But the people on it are. They (men) feel trans folks are out there to cheat people or mislead them, or are seeking money and what not. Tinder just did not have any protocols to protect trans and non-binary folks against casual hate. And one thing was very clear about their policy: guilty until proven innocent."

"I wrote them a long email telling them how messed up things are, and how I could partner them in bringing change. It was a fantasy I was chasing. But I had to try," Vaidya recalls. "I got no response for weeks. So I just uninstalled the app and vowed to not look back."

Then the news came about that the platform has more gender options as a move to be more inclusive. Vaidya says the company apologised and acknowledged that they didn't have measures to deal with trans folks' profiles being reported and that they could have done better. "They even publicly appealed to trans folks who were banned to come back, and that they will do right by them. Someone like me really needed to hear that. I installed the app again, updated my gender, and started swiping. Just like I never left."

Vaidya says the move could certainly encourage more transgender people to join the platform, but much will depend on how open the people are about their identity and how visible they would like to be; and worries that a geo-location based public platform like Tinder might still be intimidating for them, at least in India.

"It does set up a more inclusive stage to acknowledge people for who they are. And that could mean the world to someone," Vaidya says. "Who knows? The proverbial love of their life might just be a swipe away."

With inputs from Suryasarathi Bhattacharya.

 

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Updated Date: Nov 18, 2018 16:32:12 IST

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