If dating apps like Tinder had never become so widely accepted, I’m not sure I would have ever come out. Of course, that’s a bit oversimplified, and easy to say now that I’m out. But I think it would have taken me quite awhile to scrounge up enough confidence to walk into a New York City lesbian bar by myself. And it definitely would have been alone, because there’s no way in hell I would have said to a friend, “you know what, I think I might be gay. Would you please accompany me to a pub that caters to homosexual women?” Instead, I was able to simply change my discovery preferences to “women only” and digitally flirt with ladies in private, from the comfort of my own home. Now, three years after I came out, countless Internet dates, and one long-term relationship later, it sometimes feels like my entire queer existence depends on dating apps. But in an effort to get better at making real connections, I'm deleting my apps this month for App-less April (#ApplessApril). And needless to say, I'm pretty nervous for the challenge.
Before I moved from Missouri to New York, the only femme lesbian I’d ever seen was a photo of Portia Del Rossi in People on her wedding day to Ellen Degeneres, no joke. When I initially logged on to Tinder, I suddenly didn’t feel so alone. Twenty-something queer ladies like me, that wear dresses and makeup, actually exist! Tinder is where I first met people who picked something other than “gay” or “bisexual” off the queer identity menu. The second woman I ever went out with from Tinder is now one of my BFFs. When people asked how we met, my first girlfriend and I proudly recited giggle-filled stories about our OkCupid messages. And when we eventually broke up, it seemed only natural to hop right back on the online dating train. Not just to move on, hook up, or find a new relationship, but to simply keep being queer.
Compared to the 30+ gay bars in NYC, there are only two lesbian bars in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn (but if you think you’re getting this Harlem girl to Park Slope on a Friday night, pinch yourself, you’re dreaming). In fact, spaces for queer women are disappearing all over the country. So it seems only rational that women have filled that gap with dating apps. Certainly queer spaces, both brick-and-mortar and in the cloud, are for hooking up and settling down (if u-hauling is your thing). But it also feels good just to meet people like myself. Plus, most of the time, I don’t want to get wicked drunk in a dive bar, gay or not. Where’s my lesbian-filled coffee shop? The L Word lied to us, and now we're turning to the Internet for meeting women without the haze of cheap beer and Christmas lights.
But let’s put the tragedy of disappearing lesbian bars aside and get personal for a second. Of course I like meeting women with similar queer experiences, kumbaya, womyn-power and stuff, but I mostly use dating apps for hookups. I actually think it’s much easier to find another woman-on-a-sexual-mission at 1 a.m. at the Cubbyhole, an aptly named girl bar in the West Village, but there are a few issues with that for me. One is that I’m pretty self-conscious about going up to girls if I don’t have quite a bit of liquid courage in me. Another is that I’m trying to avoid drinking to help curb anxiety these days. Hiding behind a screen is so much easier than dealing with self-doubt! Swiping right for an hour without getting a match stings, but even the possibility of getting rejected in-person stops me in my tracks. On the other side of the coin though, I think over-swiping for the purpose of casual sex often leads me to treat the people on the other side of the profile as objects. That’s really not cool. There’s already enough objectification of women in this world without me adding to the problem.
With this in mind, I’ve set some nerve wracking but totally reachable goals for myself this month. First off, spend a sober night at a lesbian bar and face my dry flirting fears. Secondly, if I do go out on any dates this month, make sure to treat my date partner with nothing but respect. Even though I’m definitely scared for #ApplessApril, it’s for a good reason —#ApplessApril is going to push me out of my comfort zone. And if something doesn’t scare you at least a little bit, it’s probably not worth doing anyway.
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