As of this morning, dating app OkCupid has officially opened up their pronouns feature to everyone and not just LGBTQ+ users. This initiative encourages all users—regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation—to share their pronouns visibly on their profile.
While this is undoubtedly exciting and a huge step, it’s about damn time for them—and every! other! dating! app!—to encourage all users to normalize sharing pronouns.
Because when pronouns are listed on a dating app with the same casualty as your name and age, sharing your pronouns becomes a casual and normalized thing.
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When gender equity is baked into the interface of the app, users are able to show their authentic selves from the start. And in the event that someone has never heard of pronouns or doesn’t yet understand the singular they, seeing this on an app may inspire them to think more critically about gender and encourage them to investigate their own bias and stereotypes.
The first time I was ever asked for my pronouns was amid a cheesy icebreaker during the first day of college orientation. I still remember how confused I was. Though I’d dealt with gender funkiness forever, I hadn’t yet come out as non-binary.
Had I not gone to a college that normalized pronouns sharing in 2013, I wonder how long it would have taken me to eventually learn about the limitations of the gender binary? How many more years would I have spent feeling isolated and pathologized, unable to name and validate my gender dysphoria?
If I wasn’t asked for my pronouns, (and then promptly taught what the eff that even meant), I’m not sure if I ever would have thought about gender in a critical way.
In September of 2018, the team at OkCupid rolled out a feature where queer uses could share their pronouns. This was a big deal for a lot of reasons, but mainly, because it validated and normalized the idea of being open with your pronouns on a dating app and encouraged users to not assume their match’s identities.
Creating space for queer/trans daters to share their pronouns on the app was a great first step, but the responsibility of normalizing pronoun sharing (and otherwise dismantling gender stereotypes) shouldn’t fall solely on queer/trans people.
Though trans people undoubtedly endure unique forms of gender dysphoria, limiting ideas and stereotypes about gender affect everyone—regardless of your actual gender identity. Dismantling harmful gender norms is everyone’s responsibility, especially on dating apps, where everyone is leaping to all sorts of wild assumptions on who each other is, based on a couple of pictures.
Establishing that only queer people ought to share their pronouns on dating apps establishes that a person is assumed to be cis until proven otherwise—until opting out of the pronoun that would be assumed for them.
This way of thinking totally reaffirms the idea that being cis/straight is the default and being trans/queer is disruptive or abnormal, and puts the responsibility entirely on trans people to mark ourselves as “other.” Something that’s already sensitive when it comes to dating.
Further, getting in the habit of asking pronouns stops people from making harmful and limited assumptions about someone’s gender—solely based on their appearance.
In the simplest of terms, getting clear on pronouns with the people you date is similar to asking your match about their dietary restrictions before choosing a place to meet up. It’s respectful, sure, but it’s also just practical.
If I know you’re sober, vegan, gluten free, whatever, I’m not going to suggest we meet up for dollar drafts and hamburgers, putting you on the spot to explain why you’re not ordering anything, and totally destroying our first date.
Similarly, if I know you use they/them pronouns, I’m not going to refer to you with she/her, putting you on the spot to explain why I’m misgendering you and completely undermining your identity, and again, totally destroying our first date.
Dating is about getting to know someone for who they are, and misgendering someone means fixating on who they aren’t. Basically, if I include my pronouns in my dating app bio, you better too.
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