Dating App ‘Her’ Tells Transphobes to Leave
While there isn’t a foolproof formula for policing discrimination on dating apps, Her’s prioritization of inclusion over capitalism is a novel approach.
‘Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’
The dating app Her caters to women, non-binary and trans users with features and marketing intended to match queer people with each other.
In late April, users were greeted to a push notification from the app indicating in no uncertain terms that transphobic users were unwelcome on the app.
The first message on 27 April unambiguously told transphobes to leave the app.
This was followed by another notification on the following day telling them to, “Keep our name out of your mouth.”
Although some users found the announcement surprising, Her maintains a long-running stance against transphobia. In 2021, a man joined the app to out trans and non-binary users and decry their presence on the app. This resulted in Her issuing a statement re-asserting their stance on welcoming all women and queer people to the app.
The notifications weren’t released without context. They linked to a post by Her’s CEO and founder commemorating Lesbian Visibility Day. In it, she roundly criticized Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) for co-opting the word ‘lesbian’ as a vehicle for anti-trans discrimination.
She writes that, “Authentic gay liberation is inclusive. It recognizes that an assault on one member or group within our community is an attack on us all. It’s about elevating the voices and stories of those living at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, with love and acceptance as our driving force.”
The post notes that the word ‘lesbian’ has never had a concrete definition and has been used by many queer people to indicate their attraction. She criticized attempts to restrict ‘lesbian’ to people who are assigned female at birth as co-opting the term for exclusionary ends.
The post then re-affirms the right for trans and queer people to self-identify as lesbian and use the app while rejecting TERFs and transphobia.
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Picking a side
Dating apps face a persistent problem with transphobia and other discrimination. Openly transgender users on Tinder experience mass-reporting of their accounts, followed by automatic bans. Grindr’s sizable base of trans users also experience harassment for not ‘belonging’.
Besides transphobia, open discrimination is present on all dating apps to some extent. Grindr has been criticized by users for its formerly lax moderation policies enabling racism, colorism, and a range of other discriminatory practices.
This may be exacerbated by allowing Grindr users to list ethnicity, height, and numerous sexual preferences and searching users by the same.
Although dating apps have launched anti-harassment initiatives, they seldom inform a portion of their users to leave the app wholesale. Dating apps live and die by the size of their user pool and a loss of users translates directly into a loss of ad revenue and user interest.
Her’s unambiguous stance against transphobia may risk the loss of some users, while encouraging more trans and non-binary people to join.
The incongruence between forward-thinking dating apps and their sometimes openly discriminatory users is jarring. However, it speaks to the difficulty of moderation on large social media platforms. Moderation is either human, but slow to respond, or is delegated to flawed automated systems.
While all mainstream dating apps have robust policies against discrimination, implementation is still a sticking point. Her has made their stance clear, but the outcome of this announcement is yet to be seen.
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