Image by OutWrite
So I’m on OkCupid.
Originally, I saw my roommate on Tinder and thought that it looked fun to collect hot people but my Windows Lumia phone couldn’t support the app. Recently, I found the knockoff version of Tinder for Windows, or 6tin, and quickly became bored with it. Social anxiety coupled with not much information to go off of does not leave me very conversational. So now all of my mutually liked people are hanging out in my message folder and I have no motivation to message any of them. Except for maybe the professional chef.
My OkCupid experience has been a lot more interesting than my short lived Tinder experience. A few months ago, the website began offering more options for gender and sexual orientations. These are the options you get to choose from when creating a profile:
As you will see at the bottom of the screenshots, the plethora of gender identities do not extend to who you get to decide you want to see or who you want your profile to be seen by. When I first created my profile, I viewed this as OkCupid essentially humoring our identities but ultimately giving us no choice but to abide by the binary, which isn’t surprising. But then I came across this new “interested in” list which I thought was a new feature and step in the right direction but at the moment I can’t seem to access it again. So I will continue to be half annoyed and offended until further notice.
One of my favorite options on OkCupid is the “I don’t want to see or be seen by straight people” option.
As an experiment, I turned off the protect me from the gaze of straight people option and immediately my matches were overwhelmingly men. Literally everywhere. Like real life. I then went to brush my teeth and returned to twelve new visitors to my profile. My experience on OkCupid was similar to my experience with Tinder where I had to turn off the I want to be seen by men option if I wanted to see any women/non-binary genders at all. From this experiment, I realized that swarms of straight men also use OkCupid and that I prefer to keep that box checked.
Something else newsworthy occurred on the first day that I made an OkCupid. As I was glancing through my matches, I saw a familiar face. There’s nothing like accidentally coming out to your friend by getting matched with each other on a dating website. We’re a 90% match and only 1% enemies, which makes sense. I give the website a commendation for that. It led to a good conversation and her calming down my anxieties in messaging anyone.
For my sexual orientation on the site I chose Queer and Asexual because panromantic was not an option. During the time that people who identify as straight were able to view my profile, someone asked me what exactly asexuality means and how I came to identify with it. I was slightly on guard but he was understanding so I told him about my experiences and linked him to resources.
That was my first encounter where OkCupid served as a sharing and learning ground for queer identities.
Another conversation I had with someone on the site resulted in us gushing about korrasami from Legend of Korra and exchanging queer television and book recommendations.
This was an encounter where OkCupid shared as a space to share queer media.
Something else on the website brought up the question for me of where is the line drawn for identifying as queer? I viewed the profile of someone who is agender and demisexual who had selected interested in women. When I turned off my straight settings I could no longer view their page. I discussed this with them and they would also prefer for OkCupid to have a more extensive “interested in” list of gender identities available. Our conversation also extended to our personal gender identities, pronouns and names.
I’m also interested in/want to complain about the racial/ethnic identity component of the website. The boxes available to choose are: Asian, Middle Eastern, Black, Native American, Indian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latin, White, Other.
So if you are uncomfortable with others choosing potentially problematic and socially constructed identities for you, if your racial/ethnic identity is not available, or if you identity with multiple races/ethnicities then you may find yourself choosing Other or leaving it blank. I’ve come across several people who chose Other as I did or left it blank.
This adds to my argument of the necessity to provide for self identification.
There is power in naming and it should always be an option. OkCupid expanded the gender identities and sexual orientations available but they do not allow for people to write in their identities or racial/ethnic identifications; this would be another positive addition to what they have already offered.
At the end of the day I’m here wondering if I’m only on these websites to feed my ego as I log on to four new visitors on my page. If anything, it makes me feel validated to see people who identify as queer or as anywhere else under the queer umbrella nearby my geographical location and to have conversations with them about anything from gender identity to favorite ships. Outside of the internet, it may be near impossible or dangerous at times to have conversations with people who identify similarly with you; I love that OkCupid can be that safe medium to connect with them.