The last few years have seen a seemingly small, but important, step in the discourse on self-determination and self-expression, at least among the online and anglophone population. People have begun adding preferred pronouns to their social media profiles and email signatures—like he/him, she/her, they/them, ze/zir—conveying gently but firmly that you cannot assume gender or sexuality based on given names or physical features.
This openness is reflected among Gen Z and millennial peer groups, even in the data that Tinder, the dating app, shares. The platform has now collaborated with the Gaysi Family, the Mumbai-based e-zine for queer desis, on Let’s Talk Gender, a microsite with a glossary of gender terms such as trans, agender, pangender, gender fluid, gender binary and gender variant, as well as hijra, kothi and thirunambi. The digital initiative was launched at the end of Pride Month in June.
“A lot of people, especially Gen Z and millennial people, are very actively exploring and expressing their gender through online interactions, whether on social media or on dating apps,” says Tejaswi Subramanian, one of the Gaysi Family editors involved with the project. “That’s where people are meeting, whether they are dating them, becoming friends, or forming some sort of community. These relationships become more complex (when) you have to engage with a person in a complex way, outside of the (heteronormative) binary.”
So a detailed primer that addresses nuances in identities was needed. With this microsite, gender-queer people “don’t have to do the emotional labour” of explaining what their identity might mean, why and how it ought to be respected, and why at all they chose to explore their energies outside the gender binary, explains Subramanian.
This is especially important in a scenario where it isn’t easy to go public with how people want to be known. It usually involves considerable introspection, coming to terms with and accepting themselves, and letting family, friends and other loved ones know they don’t subscribe to the usual understanding of gender and/or sexuality. Such disclosures also involve dealing with any fallout or negative reactions.
The collaboration with Tinder comes from the dating app’s own observations about people’s preferences. “Since 2018, Tinder’s LGBTQIA member base has grown at twice the rate of our overall membership, and ‘non-binary’ is the No.1 choice within the ‘more genders’ option (which has over 50 options) on the app,” says Aahana Dhar, the country director of communications at Tinder.
The microsite opens with a four-point introduction to basic concepts for a non-binary understanding of gender and sexual identity. This is followed by four FAQs answered in a friendly, accessible tone, and a hyperlink to the glossary of over 50 “different ways of experiencing and expressing our gender identity”.
Some of the questions are the ones even the most well-intentioned people find difficult to ask: “What does sex look like with a transgender person?” Or, “I am attracted to a gender-queer person. Does that mean I am queer too?”
Linger a moment on the answers and you will understand that your gender or sexual identity isn’t a proxy for open conversations with the person you are interested in—and/or with yourself.
Find the full glossary on Letstalkgender.in.