Dating Download: Three Lesbians Try the XO Dating App So You Don’t Have to

Dating Download is a new ongoing series where Shelli, Dani and Drew try out the latest or most overlooked of dating apps so you don’t have to. Today they’re giving you the full download on XO.

But first, why are they even doing this, and what can you get out of it?

Here’s Shelli to tell you:

Aside from being able to work with Dani & Drew and creating one of my new favorite slack channels — I love dating and I love learning about all aspects of it. I give a lot of sex and dating advice and need to stay up on what’s occurring in both of those spheres. I have used dating apps in the past but not as my main source of meeting people to kick it with. I am very comfortable going up to the person at the party that has caught my attention and flirting with them until we at least exchange Instagram handles. When I go dating in the digital realm I use social media instead. Sliding in DMs and quote tweet flirting to my hearts’ content.

By using social media as a pseudo dating app in the past, I was able to get a little background on the person beyond their photo and a few lines in a profile. When you’re on the apps they can be a major miss when you’re a queer, lesbian identifying, black woman. You don’t know who is fetishizing you, if someone is trying to use you as a tool to undo their learned racist behaviors or honestly if a girl is going to match with you just to say 3 messages later her cishet boyfriend just wants to see her with a girl.

The pandemic started basically at the beginning of outside seasons. The opportunity to go for walks and lust in person at a distance was more attainable. But now that we are about to learn what Miss Rona’s twice removed cousin Influenza is about to bring to the party we need to be extra careful. So since using apps is truly the safest way to meet people and fulfill your dating needs, I wanna see what it’s really like out here in these digital streets.

Shelli’s settings:

Distance – 50 Miles // I won’t feel bad about not giving you gas money up to this distance.

Age – 32-45 // The closer to 45 the better.

A selfie of Shelli looking at the camera with lips parted, wearing a scarf wrapped around her head over faux locs and a nameplate necklace with her lips parted; the photo is dreamily edited with the HUJI app.

My main app pic


I am fascinated by dating apps. I prefer to meet people in person and I find I connect with people easier when meeting them in person — or at least on Instagram and Twitter — but the fascination with dating apps continues. I think I like the reminder of all the people out in the world. I like to screenshot absurd profiles and send them to my friends. I love the excitement of a match, the fun of the first flirts. I’ve only met two people on dating apps that led to good experiences and neither was anything serious, but I continue to love the act of using dating apps.

Pre-pandemic dating apps were very much just a supplement to meeting people in person. But now it’s basically all we have except DM slides. The past six months I’ve been on Tinder constantly. I’ve met so many people — people who I’ve talked to for hours via text, on the phone, on FaceTime and Zoom. Ultimately, sure, I guess I’m looking to fall in love and be like wow can’t believe that happened on Tinder. But I don’t really expect it. Even during the pandemic it’s more the fun of possibility and meeting a new person and having a reason to put on makeup and get butterflies in my stomach.

One of my two positive dating app experiences came from when I was reviewing a shitty dating app earlier this year. So while I’d love to say that I’m just participating in this for research or because it’s fun to work with Shelli and Dani, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a tiny voice in my head that thinks whether an app is good or not I might meet someone. And for that to happen under the guise of working? Well, I am a Capricorn!

Drew’s settings:

Distance – 10 miles // I used to have my distance settings wider because LA is so spread out, but when someone travels too far it increases the stakes. I don’t want to feel pressured to have sex with somebody because they drove an hour to see me. I’ll save my long distance flirting and pining for Instagram and Twitter.

Age – 26-44 // I match with way more people when I lower the age and occasionally I do — I think maybe people in their early 20s are more comfortable with transness — but I’ve always been someone who prefers to date older. My ideal is 28-34. It’s not that I would never date someone a year or two younger than me, but I think it’s unlikely I’d meet them on an app.

Drew is leaning up against a wall, with one foot propped up against the wall behind her; she's wearing black skinny jeans and ankle boots with a an open blazer worn over a black bra.

Drew’s go-to photo

Dani Janae:

I’m very interested in dating and dating culture, especially the stigma that exists around meeting people online. I find that in people my age and older, we were around for the genesis of dating apps. From those old ads for to the fevered, swiping culture we exist in now. Things have changed vastly but there is still this feeling of “oh you met on an app? As if meeting people in person has more merit and guarantees a longer lasting relationship.

I myself am an app hound. Everytime a new one drops I’m on it. I find online dating and apps to be more accessible to me. I technically have four jobs, most of them being in creative fields. That kind of work takes a lot out of me and at the end of the day the last thing I often want to do is go be around other people. Dating apps give me the unique and tailored experience of getting one on one interactions with people who I think are hot and interesting. In fact we’ve both mutually agreed we find each other hot and interesting. Much of the guess work is done! I think it’s so cool and fun, even when I don’t enjoy every aspect of the app. When that happens I at least have something to tweet about.

I’m interested in reviewing these apps because hey, why not? It might help someone with a busy life such as my own narrow down what app works best for their lifestyle. I’m so interested in seeing how friendly these apps are to people identify like me: fat, black, lesbian women, and those that don’t hold those identities. Now that we are in a pandemic, apps have become my primary way of communicating with people, friends or current/potential lovers. My twitter and instagram DMs are always open but I like committing myself to the dating app experience. I’m definitely hoping to find someone during this little experiment so we’ll see how well that goes. Will I find love? You’ll have to stay tuned.

Dani Janae’s Settings:

Age: 26 – 47, I’m 27 so 25-27 is like the lowest I will go comfortably. The older the better in my opinion so when a person gets close to that 47 I’m not concerned.

Distance: 159 miles, I had to go out this far because there was no one near me. Even with these settings I get a person come across every couple days and then nothing for a while.

A closeup selfie of Dani looking directly into the camera wearing red lipstick and leopard print glasses frames; her hair fills the rest of the frame around her head, and she's wearing a black and white patterned high-neck top.

My go to dating app pic

What’s the app?

This week we are reviewing the new dating app XO! A dating app that wants to rewrite the rules of finding love online by using games as its main source of helping users find connections. It’s one of the newer dating apps on the scene and what truly intrigued us most was their promise of prioritizing inclusivity. The creators encourage playfulness as a way to build a more authentic bond from the very start. We downloaded, added our photos and got to flirting – well, attempted to anyway. Read on for our reviews!!

A screenshot reads "Challenge Shelli: Which set should they Kiss, Marry, Fight?" The options below read "Dan Humphrey, Blair Waldorf, Serena van der Woodsen"; "Donald Glover, Donald Duck, Donald Trump"; "Bicycles, Motorcycles, Unicycles". The last set just contains three question marks and reads "Write your own."

Write your own: Bette, Alice, Dana


I was expecting XO to be sort of like all the others but with the added help of using a game as an icebreaker instead of, I don’t know — saying hi?

Right from the start, I loved the minimalism of the app. It’s pretty clean, the graphics are simple but cute and it’s very user friendly. After that, most of it went downhill for me.

When I started swiping I ran out of options pretty fast. My settings aren’t all that wild so I just chalked it up to it being a newer app on the scene that may not have had many users yet. When I opened up my settings a bit more though, I started getting cishet men in my deck of users to swipe on. When I signed up, I specifically selected to not see or be seen by that demographic but soon they were all I was seeing, which made me want to not use the app anymore and question its inclusive stance.

I rearranged my settings so that I could match with Drew and actually play some of the games. The few we played wouldn’t exactly encourage me to start up a conversation though, it felt more like I was on Words with Friends as opposed to a dating app. The quizzes were fun, they reminded me of the early Buzzfeed days! Some of them, like “Which dictator would you be?” and “What kind of emotional terrorist are you?” might need to be removed though.


Over the years I’ve used Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, Her, and Fiori — but only the first two for significant periods of time. Generally I just stick to Tinder. It has the most people and I find that it can be whatever you make of it and I like that. But it’s obviously not the most palatable place for a queer trans woman and I’m interested in higher concept apps so I’m always intrigued by new options.

XO’s concept is that games can function as an icebreaker over a potentially awkward first message. Whether you’re someone who is hesitant to message first or not I do think there’s something to the kinds of original conversations that can be born from an activity. It’s why pre-pandemic museum dates were my favorite kind of date.

Every app calls for different pictures and a different tone so when I first try a new app I may default to my Tinder usuals, but then I’ll quickly adjust. With XO I decided to cut one of my five pictures and not add a bunch of info beyond the bio I use on Tinder. I stopped selecting a gender on apps long ago because “transgender female” always felt like a warning or an apology and it should be neither. My transness is important to me and it’ll likely come up quickly, but for me personally having it on my profile centered it in a way that started to feel wrong. I think I’m pretty visibly trans anyway. But sometimes I do match with people and when they realize I’m trans they unmatch. I think maybe part of me wants to experience that to validate what I can sometimes only sense. That said I did appreciate that XO left space to write in any gender you want.

Dani Janae:

In general, I have very little hope for dating apps. The last person I had a meaningful relationship with I met because she was at an event I performed at. My last few months of dating app interactions have left me certain that I won’t find anyone on an app and will have to go back to meeting people in person. Well, in the middle of a pandemic with all my performances getting cancelled or going online, I’m heavily back on the apps. I usually keep it to Tinder so I was super excited to try a new app with a different gimmick than other ones I’ve seen.

The general layout of XO is pretty cute. I like that it moves away from the swipe right, swipe left model of other apps, even though my fingers have that impulse when I’m scrolling. I think the font is a little cutesy but I’m picky about that kind of stuff. I do like that there are games, I’ve only played a few of them, they take up a pretty small amount of time and would be a great ice breaker. I haven’t actually matched with anyone yet so I’m hopeful to see what its like to hinge a conversation around one of these games.

One thing that might be controversial but that I really liked was the option to put your race and ethnicity on your profile. As someone that strongly prefers to date other black women or WOC, it’s nice to have someone self identify so I don’t have to do the guess work. It could of course. My big issue with the app is that there’s no one one it, and the people that are on it are too young for me. I got big mommy issues and love older women so putting my settings down to where they are was a big deal for me.


XO seems to be more for those who have a hard time starting a conversation, but if that’s everyone on the app I feel like y’all are just going to keep playing games and no one will actually talk, save for a LOL or two during a game.

The Wingman option, where an unknown third person is dropped into the chat to boost it if it stalls, seems like too much pressure and simply doesn’t translate well into a digital space. I do see it possibly encouraging people to not ghost and be more upfront about not continuing on if the initial interest doesn’t go past a few messages.

It also skews way younger, feels like it’s more for the TikTok youth of the world. The sort of app you use when a few friends are over and could use a cheap laugh after your 3rd Smirnoff Ice.

I prefer it if there were just one or two games; there are too many options and the games need to be more personality-based. You drawing a chicken and me guessing what it is will not help me learn if you’re going to look at me disgusted when I ask you to spit in my mouth.

This app isn’t for me; I don’t like the game aspect. It’s a bit too cutesy and unless you’re bored with swiping and just want to play literal games, then I doubt it will be for you either.


I am not the target audience for this app for a couple reasons. 1) I agree with Shelli it definitely skews younger and 2) I’m not someone who is too scared to message people on dating apps.

THAT SAID. There are things about this app I like. Mainly I think the game aspect provides an activity and given the pandemic preventing normal dating an activity of any kind might be welcome. Shelli and I matched so we could play some of the games and I do think they’re the right brand of silly for this kind of thing. I also really like how your profile can prominently display your sun sign with a cute little graphic. In fact, I enjoyed all the cute little graphics and the general layout of the app.

The biggest problem right now is there just aren’t that many people on the app. I even majorly extended my age and distance settings and still quickly swiped through the available people. I’m not sure how a new dating app attracts the needed customers to make it usable but XO doesn’t feel like it’s there yet.

This would never be my app of choice, but I can see its appeal for people who feel trapped in dating app small talk — especially if more people joined.

Dani Janae:

Once this app gets more people on it I think it will be pretty fun. It’s easy to rely on the familiarity and the comfort of a Tinder or OkCupid but giving these smaller, more adventurous apps a try might be the way of the future. The app seems to be popping with the 18-21 age range, probably because of the game aspect, but once more people hear about it I’m sure the range will get a little wider. I’m still using other apps way more than this one, and as I’ve said, haven’t found a match yet so it definitely won’t be my go to but it has potential.

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  1. This app looks interesting but if it skews younger as Shelli & Drew are saying that rules it out for me. Though Autostraddle talking about could mean more people checkng out, which is a positive. Does the app require a fb log in or can one use their phone number?

    Side note: I think the app is Forri with two Rs.

  2. I like your review but I’m still stuck on the first screenshot where it seems like it wants you to fight/kiss/marry bicycles, motorcycles and unicycles and what is that supposed to mean? I guess I’d fight a unicycle because it’s inconvenient and I’m scared of clowns but I don’t want to marry my bicycle and wouldn’t know what part of a motorcycle one should kiss.

  3. True service journalism! Question: is there an app you all WOULD recommend? I’ve done Tinder to varying levels of success and was considering getting back into OkCupid (not an app but heard it’s still pretty good). I think Tinder was slightly frustrating because I wasn’t looking for something casual, and I kept getting people who were. Maybe I need to be more specific in my bio…

  4. Having flashbacks to when I tried a dating app for the first time a couple of years ago.
    Wanted to get a sense of who was on it, so decided to flick through.

    Reader, I swiped left on LITERALLY EVERYONE because I didn’t know you couldn’t go back. EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN MY AREA.

    And this is why you need new apps sometimes.

  5. I really appreciate this info but please include some reviewers that are polyamorous. There are some very basic requirements for apps to be useful for us, and y’all didn’t mention any of them.

    • What makes you think none of us are polyamorous? That is a genuine question, not a gotcha, because I’m genuinely interested in what you’d like to see mentioned in future entries.

  6. I think it’s funny that people are hesitant about dating apps, but I’ve always been a low social skills nerd so the internet is pretty much my only option. I’m definitely not going to meet my fellow low social skills nerds at events or parties LOL. So many people in my life came from okcupid. Almost everyone I’ve dated or had sex with (a plentiful number since I’ve been actively polyamorous for 15 years) as well as a number of platonic friends. Oh yea, also my wife.

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