A Very Sensible, Queer Guide to Sending the First Message on Dating Apps

We’re revisiting this classic Autostraddle piece on queer dating as we get back to dating basics in partnership with HER’s Queer Dating 101, a series of live edutainment events that brings in concrete how-tos, insights, experts and some of your favorite Autostraddle personalities to help you find love (or whatever you’re looking for) in the time of corona. Check out Autostraddle’s Dating Download writers, Shelli, Dani and Drew, talking Flirting 101 on Thursday 1/14 at 6 PST/9 EST!

Before I met my current girlfriend, I decided to master Tinder. I know Tinder is not a game. I didn’t necessarily want to win Tinder, but I did want to be good at it. And the reason was simple: I was terrible at dating. And the reason for that was simple, too: at the age when everyone else was learning how to date, I was extremely closeted.

I came out at the very end of college, and I struggled. I didn’t know how to meet girls. I have always been an extroverted introvert, a contradicting duality I often attribute to being a Gemini, which makes connecting with people difficult. But I’ve been connecting with people on the internet since high school. Some of my best friends today are people I met on tumblr years ago. There’s something about the structure and culture of the internet that makes it easy for me to open up to people, bond with them, and eventually take our relationships into the real world.

Dating apps immediately seemed familiar, and not all that different from other ways to build relationships online. Hooking up with girls and connecting with other local queer people no longer seemed insurmountable. Tinder can be exhausting, and my relationship with it was extremely love/hate. But I had some fun. And none of it would have happened if I hadn’t dived into the part of Tinder that can be the most anxiety-inducing: sending the first message.

Some Tinder philosophers maintain that you should never send the first message. I personally think that approach is bullshit. You swiped right; they swiped right. You’ve both expressed interest on a very surface level. Why wait? Send the first message! Don’t open with something generic or weak that isn’t going to prompt them to answer. Start with a question. My recommendation? Ask an absurdly specific and slightly bizarre question about pop culture. (If you don’t care about pop culture, ask a specific and slightly bizarre question about something you do care about, duh.) It’s an easy way to see if you have similar interests, to talk about culture and art, and to have a fun back-and-forth before making plans to meet up.

Below, some suggestions for Tinder opening lines. I’m not saying the following is an exhaustive list of every first message I sent,* but it does include the best. Borrow and go forth. Or suggest your own in the comments!

Tinder Opening Lines For Everyone

1. “Do you have a favorite Fast & Furious movie?”

This line was, without a doubt, my favorite way to start conversations on Tinder. Far too many of my matches did not have an answer, but they always replied, because in a sea of “what’s ups” and “how are yous” and “heys,” my first stab at striking up conversation stood out. One time, a girl gave a complete answer with reasons and everything… only to later admit that she had never seen any of the films and had made the whole thing up in a panic. If nothing else, this tactic at least led to some comedy. But to be clear: it also led to some dates.

good answer

bad answer

pretentious answer

weird answer

flirty answer

2. “Have you ever cried during Dawson’s Creek be honest.”

tinder screenshot that reads: “Have you ever cried during Dawson’s Creek be honest.”Honesty is a great quality in a potential sexual partner.

3. “How would you rank the noses of all the cast members of Cruel Intentions?”

tinder screenshot that reads: “How would you rank the noses of all the cast members of Cruel Intentions?”In college, an inside joke with one of my friends about the structure and integrity of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s nose spun wildly out of control when I made a password-protected blog dedicated to the matter (the password is “nose”). A few years later, and the joke was still wildly out of control, seeping into my Tinder presence. Sarah Michelle Gellar has a lovely nose. Cruel Intentions is a great movie. At some point, I decided this was a perfectly reasonable question to ask people I was trying to make out with.

4. “What’s your favorite scene from Bend It Like Beckham?”

tinder screenshot that reads: “What’s your favorite scene from Bend It Like Beckham?"This one led to some of my favorite Tinder conversations.

5. “Serious question: How do you feel about the Grey’s Anatomy musical episode?”

tinder screenshot that reads: "Serious question: How do you feel about the Grey’s Anatomy musical episode?”I am 100% serious when discussing Grey’s Anatomy (or any Shonda Rhimes show for that matter), so this question started with an important disclaimer. It is very important to be totally upfront with matches about your interests, even if those interests are slightly embarrassing or otherwise chip away at the very cool and sexy exterior of your Tinder profile. There’s nothing wrong with being a little earnest and a little goofy. And there’s nothing more earnest or goofy than the Grey’s Anatomy musical episode and my unironic love for it.

6. “Do you want to watch the back-to-back airing of Maid in Manhattan on oxygen with me on Monday?”

tinder screenshot that reads: "Do you want to watch the back-to-back airing of Maid in Manhattan on oxygen with me on Monday?”This message served two purposes: finding out how they feel about Jennifer Lopez’s acting career and also suggesting an actual date.

7. “How do you feel about Jennifer Lopez’s acting career?”

tinder screenshot that reads: “How do you feel about Jennifer Lopez’s acting career?”Sometimes, you just gotta get straight to the point.

8. “How many times have you watched Rihanna’s iHeartRadio Music Awards performance of ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ today?”

tinder screenshot that reads: “How many times have you watched Rihanna’s iHeartRadio Music Awards performance of 'Bitch Better Have My Money' today?”I think I threatened to unmatch anyone who said zero.

9. “How do you feel about Dana Scully?”

tinder screenshot that reads:“How do you feel about Dana Scully?”A sensible question in all scenarios.

10. “What’s your favorite season of The Good Wife?”

tinder screenshot that reads: "What’s your favorite season of The Good Wife?”My Tinder bio at the time read: “Looking for the Alicia to my Kalinda.”

11. “If you were a Shonda Rhimes character, who would you be?”

tinder screenshot that reads: “If you were a Shonda Rhimes character, who would you be?"This is a really easy way to find out if they are a sociopath.

12. “Do you have a favorite Terminator movie?”

tinder screenshot that reads: "Do you have a favorite Terminator movie?"T2 is the right answer, but T3 is the gayest.

13. “Have you ever subscribed to the Goop newsletter?”

tinder screenshot. first line; hey sexy, wanna light things on fire together??? with the response: "Have you ever subscribed to the goop newsletter?"I just need to know.

14. “Who would you cast as the Halliwell sisters in a Charmed reboot?”

tinder screenshot that reads "“Who would you cast as the Halliwell sisters in a Charmed reboot?”"People have some STRONG OPINIONS about this one. I love it.

Want to learn more? Register for the Flirting 101 event with HER host Nicole Lim and Autostraddle’s Drew, Dani and Shelli on Thursday 1/14 and check out the other upcoming Queer Dating 101 events!

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Miami. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 391 articles for us.


  1. I’m dreadful at dating, both online and in person. I feel like I come across as “desperate” just because I ask actual questions. You know, I seem like I actually read your profile. Or like they do respond and it’s a “yep.” F that. AKJH:ELASHJEIO:HEIOHEOIE

  2. I would only really have an answer for the Scully question, but I’d never be able to fit it into a Tinder message. Is there a text-length limit on those things?

    On the other hand, if someone were to ask my favorite type of dog I would want to meet them immediately.

  3. I can confirm this approach works. My one successful online dating experience started with me receiving the message “who is your favorite member of one direction?”

    That was on OKC, not Tinder, but I think the theory holds. Also obviously my answer was Zayn (simpler times).

  4. i always open with “tell me about the [animal] in your profile picture.” this works because i don’t swipe right on people unless they have an animal in their profile picture.
    the best first message i ever recieved was “have you ever read ‘orlando’ by virginia woolf?” we got coffee and made out. thank you, virginia, wingwoman to queer gals everywhere.

  5. I probably couldn’t answer most of that but I imagine a question like “Do you think that Prince could have worn higher heels and still danced like a rockstar?” would be great.

    Or a cute game of ‘Would you Rather”; ie; “Would you rather drink tea from a balcony in Italy or go on a hike up a wicked high mountain?” would also be fun.

    For reference; Answer 1 is YES!!! because….Prince.
    Answer 2 is also Yes and the sentence should nix words like “would you rather” and include words like “let’s” and “and”.

  6. Reminds me of the “ice breaker” questions the HER app uses to try to get the conversation going. A lot of the times the questions are so ridiculous that I had to respond by saying that I did not ask cuz I am not THAT dorky – which prompted my match to reply. Thus began a 3 hour conversation that went nowhere. Haha

  7. Hey Kayla this is a great article but do you think you could remove the joke about sociopaths from #11? In the mental illness advocacy community it’s generally seen as not a good thing to say because it targets people with antisocial personality disorder (what was once referred to as psychopathy/sociopathy)

  8. I’m not even familiar with most of these things but I would still 1000% prefer any of these questions to just “hey”

    I always passive aggressively say nothing but “hey” back and then we never speak again

  9. #14: KStew as Prue, so we get to kill her, Laverne Cox as adopted sister Paige (insert episode or two about how she got powers from Prue), Amy Adams as Phoebe.

    David Tennant as recurrent bad guy. Ellen Page as a Cole(tte).

    I’m still stuck on who should be Piper

  10. A sample of my opening lines recently before I decided that love is trash :

    -Do androids dream of electric sheep?
    -Who is your favorite serial killer?
    -Do you know that Rob Lowe has a new reality show in which him and his sons investigate paranormal mysteries?
    -Do you have cable and can I come watch it?

    Obviously I am still alone.

  11. A great satirical piece. Although your story is certainly an outlier, gimmicky questions are highly unlikely to help you attract someone who is right for you. Sadly, we all know that physical attractiveness is the best predictor of responsiveness on these superficial apps. If the person thinks you’re cute by their standards, you’ll most likely get a response. If they don’t, you most likely won’t. It doesn’t matter how funny you think your messages are.

  12. These are all TV show and movie references. Some people prefer to live life in the real world and talk about actual life. Having your first impression be related to a pop culture reference makes you look shallow. Kind of sad to see this presented as “good” advice.

    • If this had been one of the 2017 comments I’d have scrolled on by, but you wrote responded in late 2020 – how many people are getting proper “real world” time?

      I mean, I get the general complaint because I’m not much of a tv person, so these questions wouldn’t work for me either (although I have my other pop culture pleasures), but it seems silly to complain about a lack of real world questions when it’s not like people can go out and do things without facing a fine (at least where I am, at this moment in time).

  13. My go to lately is, “What’s your favorite type of bread? If you could only eat one kind for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?” The people who are into it are super into it, the ones who aren’t immediately unmatch from me. I don’t want them ANYWAY because that’s a perfectly good question.

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