Reach Othrs on Your Phone: Why I Have a Screen of Gay Lady Dating Apps

Modern society is a lazy, impatient beast. We want instant gratification for very little work. The mobile dating app sector isn’t any different; Skout, Badoo, MeetMoi, Zoosk and Grindr are flying off the proverbial shelves of the App store and Android market. The Washington Post cited a Flurry Analytics report, saying that “the number of people using dating apps is growing faster than the number using all apps.” Juniper Research predicts the mobile dating apps will be worth $2.3 billion by 2016. As people become busier yet still want to make connections, downloading an app and chatting during a commute makes sense.

Grindr is the big daddy (sorry) of gay mobile dating apps. In a press release on its third birthday, Grindr boasted 3.5 million daily users in over 192 countries. Few dating apps have made international headlines when they went down, but Grindr sure did. Following its success, developers have flooded the m4m mobile market with specialized apps such as Mister, “Scruff, u2nite, iDate, SpeedDate, Hornet, SLAM, nearox, ManCandy, Gaybook, Purpll and Adam4Adam.” In fact, OutMilitary just released their mobile app earlier this week.

All those gay apps out there makes it seem that the gay agenda’s taking over the mobile market. But not so fast there, speedracer. These explosive stats aren’t echoed in sapphic dating apps in the slightest. I’m only one among many who’ve asked where our apps are for the past year. As Brittani noted, Grindr attempts like Qrushr have disappeared and failed to fill the void.

So what’s happening here? Like all social media, if the trend isn’t broadly adapted it’ll fail regardless of its ground-breaking technology. Remember Diaspora? Or Google+? Chances are you don’t. Even though they were supposed to let us flee the dreaded FBook, they never gained enough traction to start creating converts. (The torch lies with you App.net!)

Even though Grindr is advertised as a way to hook up with random dudes down the street (or in the alley or at a cafe or at the Olympics), it really is a bit more than lightspeed CL personals. As a mobile app, it gives people a better sense of who’s around them. Grindr use has become such an everyday thing that guys feel comfortable whipping it out (that’s what he said) over coffee or beers or brunch.

I did this for you ladies.

Does mobile community and digital gaydar sound like something queer women want? Hansen valiantly offered to help me try our app offerings.

GirlDar was released earlier this year, championing itself as a way to “connect queer women for networking and friendship purposes.” Hansen, Ali and I downloaded it last month and in terms of functions, it’s remedial at best — it’s just a wall. Krysten, the developer, has repeatedly posted that it’s still in its infancy and needs the support and patience of its members. In July we held off on criticizing it and decided to see how it grew. As of today it has 100-500 downloads in Google Play.

One app that has kicked around for a while is Brenda. It has an intuitive user interface and makes a point of emphasizing the app as a safe space for queer-identified women to chat with others. The users on Brenda seemed pretty happy with what they had, but really there just weren’t that many people using it. Pink Sofa is an Android app that seems to be working out, but again, there aren’t many people on that couch. They are both great for talking to queer ladies in faraway lands, but if IM-ing locals was what brought you to the app store in the first place, in their current incarnation these apps aren’t doing the trick.

This is exactly what I was looking for.

Apps like LGBT Chat and Lesbian Chat are just chat rooms, bringing all the discomfort of 2001 Yahoo chats to the convenience of your iPhone.

So what’s left? Hansen and I looked at some of the apps that the Washington Post and NPR say are revolutionizing relationships for men and women. Although these apps are primarily getting straight strangers to talk, some are supposedly throwing us a bone. We hoped that these popular social networking/dating apps might house the ladies missing from the queer apps. Keeping in mind that these apps weren’t designed specifically for us, I gave their binary nomenclature a pass (for now). We looked at the apps for ease of use, word choice, required sharing, filtering abilities and whether they actually let us find queer women in our area. Oh, and they had to be free. I was definitely not paying for this.

Blendr lets you “make new social connections and meet people who share your interests or background and like to visit the same places you do.” You like Chinese Food? I love Chinese Food! We are going to talk about so many things! I was drawn to this app since it lets you clearly state straight, gay/lesbian or bi. Besides your name and gender, you choose exactly how much you’d like to share.  Going through a checklist of pre-defined interests, you can hopefully find people with common ones.

We quickly realized the orientation admission was for naught. The chat options displayed everyone based on interests, regardless of who you wanted to talk  to. As I checked out profiles, I realized it displayed your orientation in the same way you may profess your love of Walking. So if you’re planning on just talking to people for the sake of talking to people, this could work; but to specifically seek queer ladies, not so much.

MeetMoi “turns every occasion into an opportunity to connect with the people around you.” Every occasion? That sounds promising!

At least this app asks if you’re a girl or a boy and whether you’d like to talk to a girl or a boy. Its design is comparatively plain and some of the menu buttons annoyingly switch locations. You build your profile (or sign in from Facebook) and specify your ethnicity, height, body type and education. It’s “the #1 app in making introductions to great people nearby” which is great in theory, but fell flat for me. If two nearby people are interested in one another, they get to share an hour long chat via an Intro. If no one wants to talk to you then you’re out of luck. Alternatively, you can pay for the privilege to talk to someone from the Browse menu. Honestly, I’d rather spend $7.99/month on Nutella than pay to chat with faraway strangers; I can do it here for free! 

Skout lets you “find your party anytime, anywhere.” I love anytime parties! The interface was clean and, although it was slow, it seemed to work pretty well. I spoke to a few ladies (generally from further away) that seemed to like it. When I was looking at the Meet People, it actually showed ladies that wanted to talk to ladies (or ladies and men). Given my luck with the past apps, this made it stand out. It also messages users to contact newbies so you don’t have to stay a wallflower forever.

One of Skout’s major downfalls was that men could see or message me even if I only wanted to speak to women. Although they weren’t showing up as one of my options,  I was showing up as one of theirs. The mobile harassment issue has definitely come into play, so I asked other users what steps they’d taken to identify who’s actually on the other side of the screen. One girl suggested becoming friendly with the block button and another suggested asking the user to send a photo with today’s paper if identities were in question.

When asked if anyone would use these in a Grindr-like capacity, few people were down. Most preferred it as an instant chat instead of a quick introduction before an offline meeting. Some liked the relative anonymity and used it when they just wanted to talk to someone. Others used it when they were bored. A few said they managed to make friendships that eventually entered the real world. Queer women shying away from instant hookups (digital or not) may just be a fact for now, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, for the lady that simply wants to talk to other queer ladies in her area, we’re moving in the right direction.

 

Badoo “is great for chatting, making friends, sharing interests, and even dating!” As the last app that I tested, I found that it managed to miss the pitfalls of the other apps. Since it is popular (158 million users worldwide ) they have the money to design a slick app. Again, you can link it to your FBook profile or build one up independently with as much information as you’re comfortable giving (including orientation). Most importantly, when you choose to talk to women, you can actually talk to women. For the time I was on there, I didn’t have a single guy message or view me which really says a lot.

Obviously, there aren’t any perfect options out there, but of the ones available, some do have potential. If you like a particular app, why not spread its name? Developers will pay attention to the needs of queer ladies if they comprise a significant part of the user base. For all we know, one of these apps will take off soon, so instead of lamenting the lack of lady-Grindr next year, we’ll just say, “There’s an App for that!”

Profile photo of Kristen

Hailing from Vancouver, Kristen's still trying to figure out how to survive Montreal's Real Legitimate Canadian Winter. So far she's discovered that warm socks, giant toques and Tabby kittens all play a role in her survival. Her ultimate goal is to rank higher than KStew in the "Kristen + Autostraddle" Google Search competition.

Kristen has written 140 articles for us.

42 Comments

  1. Thumb up 7

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    Brenda sounds like a birth control pill, why do these apps have such terrible names? I like pink sofa, it’s a bit more ‘community’ than solely dating-centred (which is nice for a person who just need some queer friends like myself). I am in one of those places it’s popular though.

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    I love OkCupid!You can have a profile, chat, message, and identify yourself as lesbian or bisexual. You can choose who you see and who sees you. I’ve had great luck on there.

  3. Thumb up 23

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    How to find the perfect woman:
    Step 1: Join OKCupid!
    Step 2: Mention Autostraddle in your profile.
    Step 3: Search other lady-lovin’-ladies’ profiles for “Autostraddle”.
    Step 4: Peruse the options.
    Step 5: Meet hot/intelligent/perfect/etc Autostraddlee of your choice.
    Step 6: Get hitched.
    SIIIIIMPLES!!!

  4. Thumb up 1

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    OkCupid has a “locals” option on their app that I’m pretty sure is meant to function like grindr. It shows you who is in your area, and has a chat option. Like the rest of okcupid, it only shows profiles for people whose genders and orientations you want to see, and you can still hide yourself from straight-identified people.

    I think a very small portion of women use this app. Maybe because we are socialized to be more wary of relative strangers. For queer women, maybe because this type of interaction is still so far removed from local queer lady dating culture (not sure about different cultural dating norms internationally).

  5. Thumb up 1

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    I use Lesarion, it’s more for Germany but I travelled to China and I talked with some girls over there cause it shows you the closest ones to you. It’s only for girls and you can talk or date interesting people in there .. doing it right now with my favourite Air Force girl.

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    Hey! Im the founder of Dattch which is indeed launching soon! Just a UK/London focus for the first few months so if you’re based in the UK – register on the site – http://www.dattch.com! Looking for our Founding Members now who will get the first invites to share. See you on there :)

    ps. Great summary of all the apps – will hopefully be able to add Dattch to there soon!

  7. Thumb up 1

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    Zeller looked at me so questioningly when I was downloading these apps “for research.” Now I can show her this article and be like “See?! I have Skout and Blendr and GirlDar for legit purposes.”

    In other news, I am really dumb about dating apps and I can’t work them. GirlDar was the worst set up and I didn’t even want to bother with it. Blendr was the most confusing for me and had pictures of girls with big boobs. Skout wasn’t user-friendly or aesthetically pleasing to me, so I didn’t bother too much with it, either.

    I am all for OkCupid like the rest of you guys — just you wait.

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    Ladies we are about to launch LezFindr. It is very similar to the apps that alot of the gay boys currently have! No need to do a long registration as it will sync to your device directly! Check us out at Las Vegas pride or at LezFindr.com! And keep your eyes on iTunes as we expect to be live in 2 weeks or less!

  9. Thumb up 1

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    Which of those are any good if you live in the Netherlands? I have OKcupid, had some luck.. but not as much as I would have liked. Maybe others are better.

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    In my experience, it hasn’t been a problem with smartphone apps; most women are just more wary of “hooking up” or meeting up. I’ve had endless conversations with girls that lead to nowhere, which is silly because the point of these apps/sites is to meet people.
    My gay boys, on the other hand, are/were hooking up left and right via Grindr, Scruff, Jacked, dlist, manhunt, etc. They don’t really have to worry if the user on the other end is some creepy old guy pretending to be a lesbian.
    I’ve given this topic a lot of thought, and if there was a successful female version of Grindr, I feel like a bunch of straight guys would create fake accounts (although I hope I’m wrong) to creep on girls.

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      Exactly, I think that’s always a problem. When you’re a woman you always feel like you have to be extra cautious about meeting strangers off the Internet (and with good reason, too). This is especially true if you’re a queer woman. There are lots of troll accounts, not to mention creepy people who can be actually hurtful. The only way around it would be to require some sort of identity validation but that would sort of defy the point and not everyone is comfortable giving away their personal info (I know I wouldn’t be). It could also be invite-only, so that trusted members would invite other people they trust and so on, but that would suck for lesbians stuck in small towns who don’t have any queer friends and want to join these sites to meet them.

  11. Thumb up 2

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    straddlr, scissr are good ideas!

    privacy settings and the reach (perhaps invitation is the best way to start) seem to be the most important things to consider.

  12. Thumb up 1

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    If you’re in NYC, there’s this dating site called “coffee meets bagel” that pairs you with friends-of-friends (via facebook). I didn’t really a get chance to use it because I left New York shortly after hearing about it, so I can’t provide any testimony, but it sounds like a cool concept! I’m not sure if they have an app though?

    https://coffeemeetsbagel.com/

  13. Thumb up 1

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    I would be so happy if Autostraddle had their own app!

    Here in Brazil we don’t have any apps that might work. It’s really unusual for us to meet people from another website besides Twitter/Facebook or Last.fm. When I was living in Massachusetts even got to know some girls through OkCupid tough. Most of them were okay.

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    After reading this I typed in Lesbian in the Iphone app store to see what came up in terms of social networking…Has anyone heard of the new app called “Findhrr” it’s a UK based App that was just released about a week or two ago?

    The design/function of the app is awesome, but I haven’t looked at many of the other features yet.
    http://www.findhrr.com

    Also this is not a plug for the app, I promise! hahaha Just curious for anyone’s opinion of it!

  15. Pingback: Queer Apps for gURLs | ☺same great taste☺

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