I know from first-hand experience that people treat you way worse online than they do in person—especially if you happen to be a mixed-race LGBTQ person. I wish I could match with a white person on a dating app and not have to immediately check all their social media to see if they have friends of color. Some people filter themselves out in the first few messages, saying they want to "taste every color of the rainbow." I think it's typical for people to not be honest about their intentions on dating sites in general. During this pandemic, for instance, the number of virtual dates and happy hours I’ve been to that have turned bad is ridiculously large.
The ever-growing dishonesty and online harassment have even caught the attention of app developers themselves, as more programs are being introduced to help curate a better user experience. Grindr has removed ethnicity filters, and Bumble has partnered with the National Domestic Violence Hotline to help stop abusive relationships. These changes have the potential to help, but personally I’m doubtful they’ll have a long-term impact. These platforms were literally designed for you to objectify people based on hotness.
Don't get me started on how fucked up the algorithms are for anyone who looks like me. People won’t match with you because they’re racist, or they’ll only match with you because you fit their fetish. They’ll say they’re an ally and have #BLM or Pride photos in their profile, but they won’t actually date people of color or queer people. In person, I can choose to avoid and not interact with these types of people—but online, it’s not so easy, from having to deal with people who don’t think race is important, to people randomly dropping their emotional baggage into my DMs. Each and every time I’m put in a situation where I’m exposed to racism, discrimination, or anti-Blackness, it hurts. Actively having your existence be up for debate is exhausting.
When most systems are set up for people who aren't like you, it's even harder. I admit that as a queer non-binary person, I’m like a blue moon to many people—even within the LGBTQ community. In real life, I’ve been told I’m “not gay or straight enough” or that I need to “pick a side.” There are, of course, many conversations I’ve had as a masc person that don’t happen to my femme counterparts. Unlike queer women, I don’t get invited to unsolicited threesomes or have men say they can turn me straight. But still, the point stands: my experiences online have told me that I’m not worthy of love or desirable because I don’t fit the mold.
A lot of times, I get placed into the Gay Best Friend™ role: perfectly fine to be used as a prop to "support" at Pride, but not hot enough to fuck—since I'm not the "perfect 10" white gay man that's desired in a lot of the LGBTQ community. Gay culture is often extremely white, status-focused, competitive, hierarchical, and exclusionary. I don't know what’s a worse feeling—being excluded from the places that hate you for existing, or getting the same treatment in your supposedly loving "community.”
Being online has given me and many others an outlet to explore, find community, and safely express my identity behind a screen. On the internet, hostility doesn’t have the potential to physically harm you. But still, finding those spaces where you can feel free and worthy is hard. I want to believe people like me can have a happy and healthy ending, but in order to get that happy ending, we have to treat other people better.