As we sat down brainstorming about what course we were going to take next for As You Are (AYA – A dating app for queer Indians) that we are are working on, we received a call from a friend. Another queer friend of ours who wanted to vent. She has been trying hopelessly to find the right partner on dating apps for months. The truth is, nothing exists just for her. After all, the Tinders, Hinges, Bumbles, and Coffee & Bagels of the world include queer dating only as an afterthought.
In fact, that’s one of the reasons why we started AYA. It was disheartening as LGBTQIA+ allies, to see so many of our queer friends suffer loneliness while cis-hetero couples were getting married, showing off their partners, publically displaying their affections, and succumbing to the pressures of social norms as well as feeding into the same social and peer pressure of dating. We have both seen enough lesbian and gay friends trying to fit in to the heterosexual paradigm by trying to ‘be at least bisexual’. After all, ‘shaadi to karni padegi na’ (marriage is inevitable). On the one hand, we felt lucky to be confidantes to our friends. On the other hand, it made us wonder what more could be done about these issues and in what they are rooted.
That’s how the idea of AYA came about. We wanted to design an app that would provide a place where people could network, be themselves, date people with a compatible sexual orientation, and NOT feel pushed to come out, not feel unsafe. That’s why we invested in an extensive protocol.
We remembered how unsettled we were when our friends first came out to us. We wondered why they needed us, two straight women, to know. We could understand their need to come out. We could eventually also appreciate that they wanted to come out to us, their friends. However, we still had subconscious biases; we wondered if our lesbian friends would now hit on us. We worried about how our friendships with them might be affected. We wondered if we would now have to ward off women just as we had to ward off men. We echoed each other in these feelings. You see, that’s what it boils down to: judgment, fear, ignorance, assumption, and conditioning! As young people, we barely receive any comprehensive sexuality education. The best we get is learning about the reproductive system, the occasional course on sex education, and the current generation gets a dose of ‘good touch/bad touch’ early on. However, that’s mostly it!
Children today are precocious. They have access to information, they read things, they watch stuff (no matter how many parental controls you put in place), they play games designed to stimulate the imagination, and they discuss stuff among themselves. That being said, information isn’t wisdom.
Now imagine understanding queerness in the midst of all this. Imagine how sexuality can be confusing, with raging hormones and meagre and/or different information, and how sometimes queerness might be the ‘cool’ thing to do rather than be an expression of their authentic identity, especially during this phase of their sexual development.
This made us wonder about what it is that we needed to do. What is it that can be changed? How can it be changed and is there a way out? It’s easy to hold a Pride parade for adults, it’s easy to develop an app for people who are legal adults, but what about young people?
What about providing adequate information to children so that they grow up with a comprehensive understanding of sexuality? Conversation, indisputably, is key. As is getting rid of judgement and the biases we hold as parents, teachers, relatives, and caregivers to children. Unless we get rid of our own biases, how can we hope to answer their genuine questions in plain, simple, unbiased words? The medium of communication might vary, its tools can be different. Wisely designed visuals, graphics, and simple, lucid, easy-to-understand content is one of the major tools. In face-to-face conversation, the ability to provide safety and comfort, and build confidence in young people is essential.
Are the answers we can provide them easy? Well, no. Are these answers the only answers? Are they rigidly defined? Will they never change? Not at all. Are these answers the only answers? Certainly not. However, isn’t that what questions are meant for? Exploration, problem-solving, and transformation?
Then perhaps, one day, we won’t need an app exclusively for queer people. That day, we will not treat queer dating as an extension or an afterthought but as a natural, organic part of the dating landscape. Despite being the founders of a dating app for queer people in India, we will celebrate the day when young people will understand and practice inclusivity.
Cover Image: Pixabay