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 the first event, the Dating Preparedness Kit, tonight, Tuesday 1/12, at 6pm PT | 9pm ET!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that no one has ever told their kids that they met because “I saw your mom was only 12 miles away.” You have to actually say something in your profile on dating apps! You just do, I’m sorry. At this point, just having a photo and a location is like showing up to a party your crush is at and then standing in a corner facing the wall the entire time before going home mad that you didn’t talk to them. If you’re going to do this dumb app thing, actually do it and write a few sentences about yourself.
You Have to Say Something, Seriously
Ideally, your profile lets someone know something about you, and gives a sense of what you’re looking for and if they fit that. This doesn’t have to be like, a whole thing; it can be a few sentences, and it’s a good exercise to articulate what you think you’re bringing to the table and what you’re looking for. Pick a few adjectives to describe yourself and say a little something about your interests or how you spend your time, and try to articulate why you’re here — do you want to meet your wife? A regular hookup? A one-time hookup? If that’s what you really want, it’s great to just say that! As Archie says, “If they lay it all out there into what they’re into (“leather pup looking for daddy”) I’m like REAL INTO THAT.”
Some of you perhaps think you can circumvent the challenge of figuring these things out and then actually saying them with words by having an enigmatic, one-word profile, or possibly just a quote or pop culture reference. First of all, you are not allowed to have a profile that just says “hey” or something similar. That is worse, somehow, than saying nothing at all! Prohibited. If you are going to have a cryptic, tongue-in-cheek profile that attempts to somehow preserve your invulnerability despite the fact that you’re using this dumb app and therefore clearly just as lonely and/or horny as everyone else, fine, no one can legally stop you. BUT you have a moral obligation to then be the person who messages first, because you have made yourself truly impossible to start a conversation with, and that was your own choice.
Have someone else write it
This option seems tempting! Having a friend who loves you write something for you, with their outsider perspective on your charms and also the fact that they’re removed from the situation meaning they can be chill about this. This is true, but also your friend doesn’t quite sound like you, and your friend’s favorite things about yourself might not be yours. Before someone meets you, all they have to go on are pictures and your voice in your profile, and if your friend writes your bio one of those things will actually be someone else — have you not seen Must Love Dogs? You don’t want that!
Use only emoji
The appeal of this is undeniable. It’s like using words to describe yourself without having to use words or describe yourself, and this is somehow easier, much like how hunting for the egg in a pan emoji for two minutes is somehow easier than texting “brunch?” Unfortunately, the context is different from texting your best friend an egg emoji and their knowing it means you are hungover and want brunch; without knowing anything about you, seeing a string of rainbow – waterski – puppy – pineapple – leaf – pizza is meaningless. If you really have a hard time letting go of this format, try using it as an outline; the emojis can be a jumping off point for writing, you know, actual words.
Include a long lists of don’ts
Truly, everything is terrible and more than ever love is obviously a lie; however, you are not meaningfully combating these realities by including a screed against people who behave poorly as part of your profile. It’s one (arguably advisable) thing to address common misconceptions or preclude unconstructive interactions — if you regularly have people, say, who seem to have the profile of a single person but then message you asking if you want to meet their boyfriend and that isn’t your thing, then it could be worth it to make clear that you’re not open to that. However, long lists of perfectly subjective and fine things that you feel vehemently opposed to, or enumeration of the way other people on Tinder have wronged you (“why even bother matching with me if all you’re going to say is “hey!”) are not helpful. They aren’t going to stop anyone from doing those things — it’s the wild west out here! It’s an emotional demilitarized zone! — and they will just make everyone else feel defensive and prickly before you ever talk to them.
The more concrete and specific you are about yourself and what you like, the better this will work — both because someone will know if they’re a good fit for you and because it makes it so much easier to say something, anything, to you. Everyone likes hiking and craft beer! (Well, not everyone, I don’t, but that actually makes it worse.) Valerie put it really well: “‘I like traveling and watching TV’ means nothing to me but ‘I love vacationing in countries I don’t know the language and sci-fi shows with strong female leads’ I can work with.” Just give someone something they can respond to or ask a question about! “I love craft beer” is hard to work with; “I love [this beer] and would love recommendations for others like it” is easy.
Be direct and yourself
Know what you want and say it! That doesn’t mean you need to describe your perfect partner in detail, but knowing what kind of dynamic you’re looking for is really helpful, both in attracting people and weeding them out. It sucks to meet someone you feel like you could be really into and find out you want totally different things and that they’ll never overlap! As Vanessa put it, “I want our needs to match up — so anyone monogamous looking for true love rn is a no for me. I understand that’s specific to me but I think everyone has that thing — where you read it and if you’re being honest with yourself you just know right off the bat your needs are NOT gonna be met.” This includes how you want to be wooed or dated — in keeping with not having a long list of don’ts, try phrasing for things you do want rather than things you don’t. If you’re in a place in your life where you know that all you’re really open to is someone buying you dinner and telling you how cute your cat is when you show them pictures on your phone, you can say that. You’re right that some people will decide that’s not them and keep swiping! And that’s great, because they weren’t a good fit.
Have fun out there!
That’s mostly a joke because it is objectively difficult to maintain an openness to the joy of potential human connection in this dark era of the anthropocene, but also, seriously, be kind to yourself about this and in general and look for opportunities to be nice to those other humans. At worst, some people have good memes.
Want to learn more? Register for the Dating Preparedness Kit event tonight with HER host Nicole Lim and Autostraddle Managing Editor Rachel Kincaid, and check out the other upcoming Queer Dating 101 events!
I’m actually going to put in a plug for having a friend *help* you write your profile (not do it for you)–four years ago I ate Indian food with a friend while we collaborated on my OK Cupid profile and then a few months later I met my future wife, so that worked out well! I had a tendency to be a little too earnest on dating sites/apps and my friend helped temper that, I think.
+1 for this — I did all the actual writing and they just looked it over with me and made suggestions, some of which I took and some of which I didn’t (because those changes made it not feel as much like me)! Highly recommend.
Well I’m going to put a counter-plug in your plug for being earnest on dating profiles, because that’s something that I personally tend to appreciate and also it helped me get my first girlfriend.
(But yes, having a friend look it over before you post can be helpful)
Agreed times x100! One of my besties offered some very constructive (and also brutally honest) feedback on my draft profile. The content was all me, but she helped make it less abrasive and somehow more true to what I was trying to communicate. Shortly thereafter, I met my spouse using the rewritten profile.
“At worst, some people have good memes.” Rachel I fucking love you. Should that be my first tattoo?
“…like showing up to a party your crush is at and then standing in a corner facing the wall the entire time before going home mad that you didn’t talk to them.”
Thank you for this valuable service. I hope lots of people take your advice!
Yes on quirky specifics! Putting yourself out there in your whole messy glory and finding that there are other lovely complicated humans who you can connect with as your selves, not as exhausting images.
For me I found it was helpful to think about who I was and what I wanted/ what mattered to me, rather than having an idea of who I wanted. Being clearer about myself meant others could be clearer too!
Or to put it another way: who I want has to first be myself. And then I’ll have something to share, and be able to want to connect with someone else for who they truly are, not as an emotional bandaid.
Wow, I sound so serious lol. You never would guess that I’d connected with someone amazing recently over convos about world revolution and making (the new) underlings massage manatees 😆
I’ve been doing online dating on and off for years. I was one of thoese people that had a long list of requirements, really long, looking back I thought it was smart to single out women that way but it’s the wrong way to go about it and I could be missing out on someone really great. I deleted my OKCupid account last summer and haven’t I’m still debating if I should make another account but if I do I’ll limit it to only a couple of things like I’m allergic to fur and no smokers.
On another note I can’t stand when a woman’s profile has all those instagram filters as their pics!
This was helpful, can we have a follow up on what the heck types of pictures I’m supposed to be using for my profile? I feel like all selfies are a bad thing, but I also feel weird demanding my friends take a bajillion candids of me until I get a good one.
Hi, a Leo here. THAT IS the entire purpose of friendship!!! I don’t think selfies are bad unless 5/5 of them are different angles from the same selfie session or 5/5 are in the same pose in the same bathroom but the outfits vary. Also like, 3 pictures is fine. So then what we’re talking about here is 1 selfie (sounds like you’re golden), 1 perfect candid from your friends (they OWE YOU THIS), and honestly, the last picture could be an excellent meme or a instagram of a tweet you wrote or just a picture of something you love! Wishing you all the very best.
Yesss we all need to hear encouragement from Leos on the subject of selfies and candid photos!
Asking Leos for advice about being a Better Me has never been a bad call for me. Everyone needs a coterie of lions having an ego for them!
IF YOUR FRIENDS WON’T TAKE LITERALLY A BAJILLION CANDIDS OF YOU UNTIL YOU FIND THE PERFECT 2-4 PHOTOS TO PUT ON YOUR TINDER PROFILE / INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT / OK CUPID SITUATION THEN WHAT, I ASK YOU, WHAT IS THE ACTUAL POINT OF FRIENDSHIP IN THE YEAR 20 BI-TEEN, TRULY TRULY TRULY?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
(i’m kidding but also like, am i kidding? i’m not, no…)
Honestly, it’s a little cheesy but I think you should just pick pictures that you feel confident and happy about! (I’ve never personally understood the anti-Snapchat filter/anti-bathroom selfies people, so to each their own!)
It also helped me to choose pictures that reflected what I was looking for – I leaned more heavily towards sexier/funnier pictures when I wanted a hookup, and more towards cute/interesting pictures when I wanted more conversation and friendliness. You can also kind of tell your story through the pictures – have you done anything cool or been anywhere #aesthetic recently? Have a neat job? Have a really niche interest? Post a pic of it! If you choose pictures that people can ask about, this also helps with the dreaded “What do I say to this person on Tinder” decision lol
rachel are you available to review my tinder profile
This is great, thank you for affirming many opinions I had on my own and had never thought to share with another person – online dating is such a solitary experience! I particularly always find long lists of don’ts a big turn off, it comes off as really negative.
I also like the point about being specific – so many people like travelling and coffee! Sometimes I’ve given up trying to message someone who looked cute because I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say, and the opposite has happened where I haven’t necessarily been that attracted to someone but they’ve put something in their profile that I just have to ask about.
But here’s my problem with being specific about what I want – I’m on Okcupid and numerous co-workers, friends and acquaintances have popped up on the match thingy, I don’t particularly feel comfortable revealing to them exactly what I’m into…Also I think I know what I want but I’ve been wrong so many times before its hard to be sure…
My girlfriend and I met on a dating app a year and a half ago and to this day she still recites the little bio I wrote about myself! It’s a little embarrassing because I was so earnest, but it just endears her to me so much and it proves how much of an impact your profile can have!
true story once i was complaining about my lack of success on dating apps and my friend rachel looked me dead in the eye and said ‘it’s because you have a ridiculously long list of requirements to even swipe right and then you’re scared of girls who like you back’
and never before have i been so roasted
Thank you for this I just adjusted my tinder bio. OKC is a tougher one as that has way too many different questions and has kind of worked out. On the other hand I really hate it when a person has one emoji or no bio at all on tinder. I feel like it’s a power move but maybe I am wrong.
ooooh, loved this! can a sequel include examples? 👀 i SUPER enjoyed that thing where you showed all the AS staff’s tinder bios (maybe that was A+? idr)
Fuck it I’m going to just share what I’ve got on the bumbles and the tinds.
Bumble, because Strict Fucking Character Limit:
“Short, fat, nerdy pan NB with a filthy mind and a creative spirit. If the lovechild of Nanny Ogg and Casanunda sounds like your type then we’ll probably hit it off.
I have an allotment, a cat and too many hobbies. Looking for some relaxed ethical non-monogamy. Need to click on personality.”
Tinder, because I forgot to mention the pan NB bit in my first draft and never got around to changing it, but DID remember how much I love kinky shenanigans:
Short, fat nerdy goblin creature and enjoying every second of it. Looking for fun, creative people I connect with on personality, for some strictly non-monogamous fun and explorations of kink. Especially fond of nerdy lefty folks with big hearts and an interest in kinky shenanigans. Ethical Non-Monogamy Only. FWB is ideal.
I kinda like both are specific enough but also not too open, and honestly I’ve actually had the most luck meeting lovely kinky partners on Bumble and FeelD, rather than on Tinder, in spite of not including it in my bio. Fellow perverts don’t seem to be as hard to find on that site as I expected!
Oooooh, I’d swipe right on those – short fat nerdy non-monog goblins are one of my many types. I like how it’s very clear on what you’re looking for, especially a fan of the “I have a cat and too many hobbies” part of the bumble bio.
My tinder bio says:
“Seattle based Burt’s Bees butch non-binary lesbian iso friends and flings who are down to watch dark comedies, do needlecrafts, visit public parks, and be ~affectionate~ with me.
Moving to Portland in the fall, only interested in casual rn, strictly non-monog always. Being tall doesn’t mean I’m top (but sometimes I am).
Tell me about what you’re creating and your thoughts on Jennifer’s Body.
No men, no cops, no terfs, no prescribed hierarchy, no harry potter tattoos.”
And I think it may be too long/detailed?
Oh I like it though!
Perhaps a little long, but to be fair you’ve got to cover the moving to Portland thing, and everything in the bio reads as something important or essential about what you’re looking for.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged…” 11/10 for the P&P reference, Rachel!
I would also like to see examples (not to steal, but to use as models). Sometimes I think my lil’ profile sentence is too boring, or it’s too basic (sexuality, looking for, status, etc), or I get too creative (Can you have too many books or too many cats? Let me know!)(The answer should be neither, lol).
I like that I can write a full-on profile on OkCupid and I can fully read other people’s profiles to know what I’m getting into…but I think I overthink it less when I use tinder/HER and I actually talk to more people? Do you have thoughts on different kinds of apps? They do also vary geographically with how people use them and what kinds of people are using them in that area.
Even when I’m not actually dating, I love reading the dating content. Keep up the great work! <3
I have installed a new dating app from cokernutx. Thanks for your tips on writing a cool bio
I just want to say that people like to SAY they enjoy hiking (because they think it makes them sound adventurous or something???) but finding a queer who actually REALLY loves hiking took a hell of a lot of time and work on my part… and that’s in SEATTLE of all places! I did finally find them, though!
My biggest advice for actually finding love, sex, and friendships on apps is you HAVE to be willing to message first and be proactive about keeping conversations going/suggesting dates/etc. I know it’s hard, but it’s hard for everyone, and the vast majority of people on the apps are quite passive… it seems like 90% of people on there want to wait for love to fall in their laps and if you’re the person willing to throw the ball in their court you’ll have much better success. In real life I am shy but over the years I’ve desensitized myself to internet rejection… you’re really going to just have to keep throwing out conversation starters until something clicks with someone. Putting in the work does pay off though. I’ve met and dated SO MANY people from okcupid over the years, including my spouse… if I had been forced to meet people in person there’s just NO WAY I could be the slut standing before you today…
My other advice is to keep an open mind about who you talk to.. because in my experience almost everyone is TERRIBLE at describing themselves on the internet. So don’t just wait for the perfect profile. I think anyone who seems halfway decent (with no huge deal breakers of course) is worth a little chat with. Anyone who still seems kind of interesting is worth more chatting or even a first date. Your checklist in your head about your ideal relationship is a fantasy and I’ve fallen for and had long relationships with people who didn’t check all those boxes.. but something just clicked with us. Like my spouse is a gay-mer and a homebody and I’m a hiker trash goblin and yet.. it just works! I think that overall most of us have no idea what we really want and what’s actually good for us. So approaching dating with curiosity and an open mind is the best way.
“you HAVE to be willing to message first and be proactive about keeping conversations going/suggesting dates/etc. I know it’s hard, but it’s hard for everyone”
100% this! This is probably the biggest, best, most important advice for all internet dating for us. I wish more people would try
Wow, loved the article obv. but THIS! Very helpful!!
I don’t date but I’ve been entertaining myself writing a bio for my plants. Rachel – how’d I do?
Mature, unconventional Christmas cactus – some years I bloom in November, some years I bloom December through March. I love bright light and the changing seasons. Looking for friendship and possibly more.
so, are you cacti exclusive? cause if no, i’m 2.5 yo aloe with a virgo rising, but wish it was scorpio. i don’t drink much so i’m hoping you feel that way too cuz it kinda makes things easier, … but also not a deal breaker. i can be a bit prickly, but i think you might be able to relate. i love the sun and i’m told i can be very soothing. if any of this interesting, let me know. i’d love to throw a few leaves your way and see what happens.
Hi there! I’m interested in talking more. I do appreciate a plant who’s a little prickly or snarky on the outside but soft underneath. I’m also a light drinker.
i am not much of a bloomer. i come from south european stock, but my pots have been on the pacific coast. want to tell me about your roots? do you like music/what kind?
I come from Brazilian stock. My ancestors rooted in tree branches but I grow in a pot in Chicago. I don’t know much about music. What do you like?
i’m open to most things that aren’t screaming or mean. Heatwave has some wonderful classic vibrations. and always down to gel with Billie Holiday. particularly “Come Rain Or Come Shine”, “If the moon turns green”, “East Of The Sun”, “Some Other Spring”, “What A Little Moonlight Can Do”
loving the directness and transparency here! what’s their venus and mars??
Thank you Rachel. This may be my most favorite thread on AS ever!
Also, I don’t konw their venus and mars but I’m pretty sure they’re an enneagram type 4 (individualist).
feeling a bit shy. but would also like to lean into the mystery a bit so … :?
Yes, If you do not how to write a bio on lesbian app. You can search on eharmony, tinder or other place. Which one is better in eharmony, match and tinder: https://miscellaneousmischief.com/eharmony-vs-match-review.html
Not everyone like dating app.