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LGBTQIA + members Dating apps help us find companions and even come out July 05th, 2019 from Times of India

 LGBTQIA + members  Dating apps

Gaurav Singh, 25, owner of a social media marketing agency , was never convinced about the usefulness of dating apps for the LGBTQIA+ community and whether it was a safe space to get into. But his perception has changed in the last one year.

Over the last several months, app creators have been making special efforts to improve the experience of online dating for the LGBTQIA+ community and making it as safe as possible for users by introducing additional filters, among other things. Along with this, the inception of a home-grown dating app for LGBTQIA+ people, has led to a major change in the dating experience.
Often dismissed by many for promoting the “hook-up culture”, these apps, with the improved filters, are helping people find companions, mentors and friends. “I have friends who met their partners through a dating app and are now in steady relationships. Personally, I have found some incredible friends through one of these apps, which I have been using for more than a year now,” says Gaurav.
Ishaan Sethi, founder of “India’s first and only home-grown app for LGBTQIA+”, has a number of success stories to share about people who found their partners on his app. “We have so many heartwarming stories to share. One of them that I can recall is of two guys, one from Jalandhar and the other from Bengaluru, interacting on our app for the first time and then meeting in Chandigarh. They have been a couple for more than a year now. This is just an example of how a dating app has given a platform to LGBTQIA+ in not just metros but Tier-2 cities to find partners, friends and companions,” says Ishaan.

The popularity of online dating apps may be soaring, but the reason many preferred to stay away from them for long was “unwanted offers, comments and proposals for sex”. Ananya Vishwas (name changed) identifies as transwoman, and despite her profile clearly stating that she is trans, she would often “get lewd remarks, indecent proposals from men”. She says, “If you write you are gay, lesbian or trans on your dating app profile, almost everyone who comes across your profile thinks that you are looking for sex and many would offer to meet at odd hours and shady places! They think you are easily available. I have been using two different dating apps for nearly two years now, but haven’t felt safe enough to go and meet someone.”
As someone who has done his research and homework on LGBTQIA+ issues in India, Ishaan explains that the reason why most dating apps are seen as a hook-up platform is because of a sociological construct wherein being gay has been seen as a sexual deviance. “People think if a person is gay, he/she is open to having physical relationship with any person of the same gender. What they don’t realise is that gay people are looking for a loving, nurturing relationship. People need to realise that being gay is not a sexual deviance, it is sexual preference, it is the orientation you are born with. Even they are looking for long-lasting relationships.”
Anshul Agrawal, a 27-year-old marketing professional from Delhi, feels that the concept that one can find companionship through dating apps was never taken seriously. “The reason why I started using dating apps a few years ago was to look for a companion. Being gay and being out also means alienation from a lot of peers, family members, so one is often looking for companionship. But when I started using dating apps, I realised that 90% people who approached me were only interested in hook-ups. So finding companionship through these dating apps wasn’t easy,” he says. However, Anshul adds that while the probability of finding long-term companions may be low, but with dating apps that now cater to just LGBTQIA+, there is at least hope. “My experiences have not been great, but I have friends who have found some good friends and even mentors who can guide them,” he says.

Using the dating app as a platform to come out

A recent study by a popular dating app found out that 73% of Indian LGBTQIA+ adults believe that online dating and social media have benefited their community positively over the last five years and more than half of the respondents say that they have identified themselves as a LGBTQIA+ person online first, before formally coming out. Sanyam Sharma, marketing director of a gay social networking dating app, says that the use of dating apps was limited among young LGBTQIA+ as they feared coming out to their families. “What kept most of them away from dating apps was the reaction of their families. Youngsters would be scared about their family's reaction if they found out about their presence on these dating apps for LGBTQIA+. These are mainly youngsters who are still dependent on their parents for financial support. But there are winds of change with youngsters not only using these apps but also using them as a platform to come out. For many, the main aim is to get in touch with people who can guide them,” he says.
Ishaan adds that LGBTQIA+ dating apps are also helping many youngsters find the courage to come out. “The app gives you an opportunity to put yourself out there while maintaining your privacy. It is a fantastic way to connect with people. The Supreme Court's verdict on Section 377 last year was a great step, but social acceptance is still a challenge. People still fear ki log kya kahenge? In that respect, dating apps have been a great way for people to connect. Till a few years ago, the problem in India was that there was no home-grown app that would keep in mind the challenges pertaining to security that LGBTQIA+ people face here. But now, there are apps that focus on verified profiles, have multiple filters. When we created our app, the idea was to create a safe environment and come up with LGBTQIA+ inclusive app that focuses on bringing the community together,” adds Ishaan.

Challenges and safety risks on dating apps

Given the cases of blackmail, extortion, catfishing that often come to light, privacy and safety are big concerns in online dating. “When I moved to India five years ago, we had multiple horror stories of people meeting on dating apps and then being blackmailed to give money, forced to have sex etc. Even I faced a lot of things, with people using my pictures on their profiles. Despite everything, I would say apps give you the opportunity to be out there. But of course, one needs to be careful. We do share guidelines on our app which people must follow for their security,” says Ishaan. Anshul adds that one should always try to verify the account/profile of the person one is chatting with. “It is a good idea to verify the profile by checking the name of the person on different social media platforms. Never go out to meet a person without knowing him/her well. Always meet at a public place for the first time and never accept offers to go somewhere unless you are very sure,” he says.

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