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Dating Apps: Queer & Disabled

Shortly after ending my last big relationship, I knew I was done with dating men. I stopped labeling myself as bisexual and decided to embark on my lesbian rebirth. My only issue was that I didn’t have many local queer friends to help me get back out there. My only option seemed clear… Tinder. Navigating the intricacies of dating apps like Tinder or OK Cupid are rough for most singles, but when factoring in disability status and queerness, things get complicated. Queer men have Grindr for hookups. But was there anything out there for queer women? And if there was, I didn't think I'd want to use it. I wanted to take things slow and serious and look for my Princess Charming.

All of the searchings yielded positive results. In addition to Tinder, I eventually found OK Cupid, Match, Hinge, Bumble, and Her. I had trouble deciding on how I wanted to present myself to the world. I felt like I wasn’t queer enough. I didn’t look gay enough. So I dug through all of my selfies, Facebook, and Instagram photos looking for the right fit. As we were in the middle of the summer of 2016, I like everyone else was caught in the middle of the Pokemon Go craze. So, I posted one of my favorite recent photos, taken by my good friend and former crush, who I called the night of my mind-numbing breakup. We went Pokemon hunting at the Ballard Locks and got incredibly high, and she snapped a shot of me with Goldeen, who I had decided was a good option for my first post-breakup date. The day the photo was taken, I don’t remember if I brushed my hair or my teeth for that matter. I was still numb from my breakup only twelve hours earlier. But hanging out with my friend that day, I had more fun than I’ve had since high school. And in that picture, I look truly happy. You’d never know I’d spent the previous night crying. Plus it was a full body shot and I didn’t look too fat, so on to Tinder (and all of the other sites), it went!

Since I was feeling insecure about my queerness, I proceeded to plaster it all over my dating profiles. The fact that I clicked the “woman-woman” option apparently wasn’t enough proof that I was indeed looking to date women. I was still feeling like I had to prove that I was now gay enough to be dating women seriously and exclusively. So, I spent hours uploading photos and filling out profiles on at least six different dating apps. I even paid for a membership on Match. I labeled myself as a liberal feminist artist who was always looking for a great happy hour and loved all things yarn. Did that sound queer?

And then there was the whole issue about how much to disclose about myself. It was bad enough that I knew I was in for the third degree about my dating status with women. While I had slept with and dated several women, I had never been in a committed long-term relationship with a woman. That would inevitably lead to questions about my queerness and the lesbians were sure to ask if I was just taking a vacation from men, or if I had indeed moved into the new area code for good. Questioning my authenticity was bad enough, so do I deal with putting my disability out there? On one app, OKC, I said “As a person with MS, I am an active volunteer for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.” Maybe that’s why I had fewer matches on OKC than all of the other apps. Or maybe I’m reading into it.

Dealing with “occupation” was another big stumbling block. I had no occupation, at least not anymore. I used to be pretty successful and had a great career that my identity and self-worth revolved around. I was a property manager, and constantly telling people how much of a big deal I was. I didn’t just manage a few units, I oversaw new construction projects, renovations, and condo conversions. It was a big deal! Did I already say that? But there I was, on disability and just barely starting to work part-time again. I had recently accepted a position at a cannabis processor as a General Manager. Translation, I rolled joints all day. So listing my occupation as “Cannabis Industry” made me sound pretty cool. I guess. Or a complete red flag for some people. I was hoping I sounded edgy, instead of putting out there what I really felt about myself “Disabled loser who can only work a few hours a week and has no way to identify herself as a person without relying on her career.” Who was I really? I was about to find out.

 

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