Before today, people on Tinder only had two options for their gender: male and female. Three years after Tinder CEO Sean Rad told me the company wanted to be better for trans and gender non-conforming people, Tinder has added a feature that will let people provide more accurate information about their gender identity.
“Well, look, it’s not a race,” Rad told me. “It’s about getting this right and that takes time. I think particularly with these features. About six months ago, we really realized there was a big issue with harassment toward transgender people. Our immediate reaction was this is unacceptable we’re going to squash this. As we went on this journey, we started peeling back the orange and realized it was a complex issue.”
The update makes it possible for people to specify gender identities like transgender, trans man, trans woman, gender queer or any other term that matches their gender identity. No matter how people identify, they can choose to be included in searches for men and/or women.
The first step in the update, Rad said, was to put together a “dream team” with a community of influencers, activists and people from organizations like GLAAD, which aims to lead the conversation around lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in the media.
“I really do think that when a major company like Tinder, which has tens of millions of users, sends a message that trans people are welcome and won’t stand for bullying or harassment, it really does send a very important message,” Nick Adams, director of transgender affairs at GLAAD, told me.
GLAAD spent a lot of time working with the team around what the flow would look like for inputing gender identity, how the discovery function would work, and what the language would entail.
“We helped make sure the app had language that would send the message to trans people that Tinder was listening and would develop an app to meet their needs,” Adams said.
GLAAD and Tinder also had discussions around whether your gender identity would automatically show or not. They ultimately decided that it would be best to give people the most options and ability to be private on the app if they wanted to. Although the update doesn’t get rid of gender binaries in the discovery function — the app still requires that you specify if you’re looking for men and/or women — Adams said it was less of an ideological decision as it was a “way the app works” decision.
“We’ve had so much discussion about that and a variety of other things,” Rad said. “There is no consensus over what is the right way of doing this. The important thing is, we got the right people in the room. It’s the right first step.”
The other important thing is Tinder’s determination to stop harassment, Rad said. Under the hood, Tinder did a lot of work on its community moderation tools, and now has tools in place designed to detect harassment early on and address it much more quickly.
Tinder hasn’t generally been a very trans-friendly place. Last June, reports of trans people getting banned from Tinder surfaced. It appeared that they were getting kicked off the platform because other users, presumably cisgender ones, were reporting them upon realizing they were transgender.
“Tinder’s decision to update the app to include and welcome transgender people and to not stand for bullying or harassment on the app was important before the election, but I think it’s even more important after the election,” Adams said. “I think that statements from the private sector and companies like Tinder about inclusion will be very important as we move forward under this next administration.”