opinion

Mobile dating apps and online dating sites are quickly becoming the center of modern matchmaking. The internet has created countless new avenues for connection, allowing users to find partners from anywhere in the world, drastically increasing the size of the dating pool for everyone. It’s become a major industry as well, with the industry-leading mobile app Tinder expected to rake in nearly over 800 million dollars in revenue this year.

Companies like Tinder, Bumble, Grindr and Her often boast of their successes, highlighting those who have found long-term relationships on their platforms, but there are still detractors nonetheless. The most common criticism, of course, is that these apps are merely vehicles for one-night stands and other promiscuous circumstances. Although these criticisms are valid, they predictably understate the benefits to the LGBTQ community.

While everyone benefits from the wide net cast by online dating, the LGBTQ community benefits most acutely. Dating apps, including both mainstream ones like Tinder and Bumble and LGBTQ-specific apps like Grindr and Her, take the LGBTQ-friendly environment created by locales like gay bars and clubs and bring it to the rest of the world. This instantly expands the dating pool, especially for those in rural areas, or in cities that lack a prominent LGBTQ scene.

Safety is another major concern in the LGBTQ dating scene. Members of the LGBTQ community are especially vulnerable to violence, from both individuals and from governments. Just this week, Jussie Smollett, an openly gay actor, was the victim of an apparent hate crime in Chicago. Homosexuality still remains a criminal offense in 74 countries. In some of them, it can be punishable by death.

Dating apps create varying degrees of anonymity that can protect the LGBTQ community. They prevent those in the closet from being spotted going to LGBTQ-friendly bars and clubs, which can help them evade the discrimination that can accompany being outed. This is especially true of those that come from families or areas that are intolerant of LGBTQ people.

Similarly, these apps take the guesswork out of sexual orientation, preventing the types of violence to which LGBTQ people, gay men and transgender women in particular, have often been subjected.

The men responsible for the murder of Matthew Shepard, one of the most notorious hate crimes in American history, famously used a so-called “gay panic” defense at trial, claiming that they were so shocked by the advances of a gay man that they were compelled to viciously murder him.

In 2016, a transgender woman was viciously stabbed after she revealed to a sexual partner that she was trans. Clearly, LGBTQ-friendly environments will be invaluable until toxic mentalities about LGBTQ people are a thing of the past.

Dating apps create communities where LGBTQ people are expected and respected, where people can be straightforward about their sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, these safe spaces separate the vulnerable from those that would attack them. They prevent people from getting into dangerous situations in the first place.

Even if a predator were to attempt to use these apps to specifically target the LGBTQ community, the social nature of these apps allows for warning networks, allowing users to rapidly share news and information about the assailant so that they can protect themselves.

None of that means that there are no issues with LGBTQ-friendly dating apps, of course. As with any other online dating service, Grindr and its competitors can absolutely enable the same promiscuity that is often used as a critique of mainstream dating apps.

Regardless, LGBTQ people are certainly entitled to be as vapid and shallow as anyone else. When the alternative is loneliness, discrimination and violence, there isn’t much of a comparison.

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