Dating while queer and immunocompromised was already difficult for me before a global pandemic hit, and dating apps haven’t made things any easier.
Dating apps are one of the most popular ways people meet nowadays, and only became more popular during the pandemic where for months no one could visit people outside of their household. As a non-binary queer person, though, I often find myself excluded from even using these apps.
That’s because most dating apps only offer male or female as options for gender on a profile or for who someone might be interested in. This can be difficult for someone who identifies as non-binary, since that option is rarely offered. In the past I’ve had to put non-binary in my bio which seemed to be an instant way to lose matches for some reason. As everything is geared towards those who identify as male or female in the dating world, this often excludes those of us who fit outside of the traditional gender binary.
OkCupid is one of the only dating apps that I’ve found that allows you to change the gender option on your profile to something other than male or female. The app still doesn’t allow you to choose non-traditional gender preferences for potential matches, but it does give you the option to choose both male and female, or one or the other.
The dating app Bumble is also unique because it gives women the option to message someone first. However, this also has a potentially negative impact on those who identify as bisexual, pansexual, or queer as we still tend to get grouped in to one gender category or another that doesn’t truly define us.
Navigating online dating can be exhausting because of this. I find messaging back and forth with strangers can take up a lot of time and often leads nowhere, particularly as I don’t feel comfortable going in person for dates as someone who is immunocompromised and living with someone who is also immunocompromised. Even as life slowly begins to open up, more and more people get vaccinated, and we settle into our new normal, dates will most likely have to stay virtual for those of us who are waiting to be fully vaccinated and don’t yet feel safe going out in public without a mask.
Right now, because of these challenges, I’ve personally needed to take a break from dating. My advice to anyone who is finding that things aren’t going well in the dating world right now is to try taking a break from online dating and just have fun with your friends. Take a pause from talking to strangers online and just enjoy the people you know. Have fun with friends and just wait until you are comfortable dating again.
And for now, if you are queer and interested in dating, I suggest having dates that are safe for both parties. Don’t feel bad about insisting on wearing masks if that makes you more comfortable. If you decide to keep things virtual, the internet can be a great way to connect with people with similar interests outside of just traditional dating apps too. Try finding a community you are interested in and start talking to people. This is a great way to meet friends from around the world and other queer people that you never would have met otherwise.
Maybe one day soon I’ll try another dating app or in-person dating when I feel comfortable again. But for now, to all my friends in the queer community who are going through something similar, my advice is to just enjoy yourself in whatever way is comfortable for you, especially when it comes to dating on apps or in person. Just make sure to take care of yourself during these tough times.