Most of us have heard the typical dating safety tips that can be found all over the internet. Meet in a public place. Take your own transportation. Text a friend if you need rescuing...and so on.
However, dating as a queer person comes with more complexities and risks and not all the usual safety tips apply when it comes to the queer dating experience.
Unfortunately, dating violence in queer communities is much higher than in non-queer relationships, with sexual violence rates skyrocketing among multi-oppressed groups, like Black lesbians, bisexual trans women, or queer folks on public assistance. In fact, over 60% of bisexual women have experienced sexual violence and/or stalking by a partner.
LGBTQ+ daters also face higher rates of harassment on dating sites. Pew Research reported in a 2020 study that “harassment on dating sites and apps is fairly common among LGBT online daters” – up to 69%, as compared to 52% of straight people.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to find love and community safely, so we wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of our top dating safety tips for the LGBTQ+ community that you can use starting today.
Note: The words “queer,” “LGBTQ+”, “LGBT”, and “2SLGBTQ+” are used interchangeably here. This decision reflects our desire to support the LGBTQ+ community in reclaiming and self-identifying with the word “queer,” which has historically been used as a slur. We recognize that not everyone identifies with the term “queer,” and we invite you to use whatever term feels good to you. Additionally, the prefix “2S-” is added to the commonly used “LGBTQ+” in order to center traditional Indigenous two-spirit identities in the diverse sexuality and gender identities under the queer umbrella.
If you choose to use dating apps, the first step to a safer dating experience as a queer person is finding the right online dating platform.
While most popular dating apps like Hinge and Bumble are queer-friendly, meaning they provide a number of preference options so you can specify who and what you’re interested in, there’s a bit more you should consider before signing up.
Some queer humans may struggle with the privacy concerns that come with using dating apps, and while some apps like Tinder allow you to block your phone contacts in the app, most don’t – and there’s nothing worse than swiping on your ex or revealing to your family that you’re queer via your profile.
There are a few precautions you can take to make your online dating experience safer:
It can be scary to approach someone to ask for their number, not knowing whether or not they’re queer, homophobic, or somewhere in between. Queer dating apps can be a great way to connect with other LGBTQ+ folks in a lower-pressure environment where you don’t have to guess someone’s sexual identity.
There’s options for queer men, queer women, nonbinary folks, and all of the above. Some of the most popular queer dating apps including Grindr, HER, and Lex were explicitly designed with queer people in mind.
HER is a lesbian dating app, which has since developed into an app free of cisgender men. Grindr and Scruff are dating apps for gay men, and Lex is an app built for the LGBTQ+ community to meet new people for both social networking and dating purposes. Archer was announced in June 2023 as a “a “social-first” dating experience for gay, bi and queer men” by Match Group.
All of these apps are more likely to include more diverse sexual orientation and gender identity options than mainstream dating apps to foster inclusivity so users can be more truly themselves.
Online dating comes with some inherent privacy risks for everyone, but these risks become more critical for queer folks who maybe aren’t out to everyone in their life or may live in an area or country that is not queer friendly.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a great article titled “Security Tips for Online LGBTQ+ Dating” which we think is a must read for any queer person thinking about joining a dating app which contains important, but often overlooked small privacy details, such as being mindful of images that might accidentally give away your location or identity, potentially using a temporary or disposable phone number when signing up (especially for lesser known or more niche dating apps).
Grindr and a few other gay and queer dating apps are known for their location-based services - and it’s important to understand how this works and your options prior to downloading and signing up. Many apps also have an option called “incognito mode” that allows you to only reveal your profile to a selective group of users.
It’s also important to know that geolocation data can be stored in the images you send, which can sometimes be used to find your location, and that reverse image searches allow virtually anyone to find other sites where you’ve uploaded a photo – which means your potential matches can search the image and find your social media profiles. Additionally, disappearing messages (like Vanish Mode on Instagram or Snapchat’s messaging feature) are never truly deleted and can be screenshotted by anyone, often without your knowledge.
Protect your safety by only sharing information you feel comfortable sharing and limiting your app’s location features - which is especially important for those still not out to the public or their friends and family.
Another barrier to safe dating online is that it can be hard to “vibe-check” someone until you meet up face-to-face. This is why we suggest scheduling a video chat before scheduling an in-person date, and if the vibe is off, the date is called off too! Even if you prefer an in-person vibe check, a video chat is a great way to quickly verify that someone is who they say they are.
While it can definitely be awkward or feel out-of-the-norm to ask for a video date prior to meeting in-person, you do what makes you feel safe! If the other person is meant for you and you’re meant for them, they should accept that this is a personal safety boundary for you! You can limit it to a short time (even 5 minutes!) and utilize either in-app technology or a software like Zoom where you can blur your background in order to avoid sharing identity details you might not be comfortable with sharing yet!
One of the best ways to ensure your safety is to tell someone you trust where you’re going, who you’re going with, and when you expect to be home. It is never okay to share someone’s dating app profile information or pictures publicly - but sharing screenshots of someone’s profile with a trusted friend before meeting up with them IRL is something people do for safety.
The important part is that someone knows where you are and, ideally, who you are with. Although we fully understand that there are still taboos associated with online dating and that some queer dating apps are focused on anonymous interactions and hookups - you gotta put your safety and boundaries first!
If you’re not out to your family or friends, try a panic button app! Applications like Life360, Red Panic Button, and Silent Beacon allow users to quickly contact emergency contacts or emergency services should the need arise.
It’s also important for your date to know that someone knows where you are. You can casually mention that your friends know about the date / IRL meeting because you are meeting friends later (even if you’re not actually) so they know that someone knows where you are.
Choosing a safe space to meet is a crucial part of planning a fun date - especially the first date!
Not everyone is out, and not everyone is comfortable being openly queer in public – even if they are out and proud! Some safer places include somewhere you won’t run into people you know, like a neighboring town, a new restaurant, or somewhere your friends, family, and coworkers don’t frequent. Coffee is another great option, as people are less likely to assume you’re on a date than if you went to a sit-down dinner! Wherever it be, feeling safe should be a priority.
This is a great time to feel out the other person and find a spot that works for both of you. We also know that a lot of LGBTQ+ folks don’t meet in public because of safety fears. The place they live in may not be queer friendly or they may not want to be seen in public as a queer person. If someone says they want to meet at their house, a hotel/airbnb, or somewhere that is not considered “public” (yes, even that park at night!), we would suggest asking them why they want this and seeing what their reasoning is. If it is truly the above and you feel they’re being honest, you can decide if you want to do that.
If they are unable to say why, they give a random reason that makes no sense in your head, they seem embarrassed of you or they’re trying to hide a relationship with you, or that they are clearly looking for a hookup and that is not what you want, etc... you can choose to not meet them or say that you want to meet in public where you both feel safe first. Your life = your boundaries!
This brings us to tip number six: negotiating boundaries around “out-ness” and other things!
Knowing what’s on and off the table when it comes to talking about sexuality and relationships in general is an important step to creating an environment of safety and mutual trust. One of our favorite dating violence prevention resources, Love is Respect, offers some important questions for queer daters, specifically those who are closeted:
It’s also crucial to cover things like expectations of time commitments, monogamy or non-monogamy, conditions of the relationship, consent, kink, safer sex, and anything else that feels important to share and make agreements on. Of course you don’t want this to feel like an interview or interrogation - but by having these kinds of conversations, you not only learn important boundaries, you also can react to their responses and make informed decisions about if and how you move forward. For example, if someone doesn’t want to talk about these things at all - that can be a red flag! If someone answers in a way that maybe you aren’t comfortable with, that also enables you to make truly informed decisions about the types of relationships and people you allow into your life!
The reality is that there are many places around the world that are unsafe for the LGTBQ+ community. The levels of potential harm vary - but are very real - whether it’s an entire country with explicit bans and severe punishments to towns across the US where queerness is often met with vitriol and violence. We also know that increasingly, dating apps have been used as a way for those who want to cause harm to find victims - from government agencies attempting to identify and arrest queer individuals to dangerous individuals using them as a way to find new victims.
Wherever you are traveling to, we recommend researching the local laws and also overall friendliness to queer identities. There are sites like GayTravel or Wolffy that offer guides and travel information including hotel and destination recommendations to help queer travelers around the world. Typically you can also find Facebook Groups or other online communities that talk about either traveling while queer in general or groups specific to cities or regions.
If you are going to use dating apps in places that are more unfriendly to queerness, especially countries where there are explicit bans on anything related to being LGTBQ+, use extra caution in every part of the process - from who you swipe or match with, what you say, what information you share, and if and how you choose to meet up with them.
Dating can be hard, and it can be even harder as a LGBTQ+ person, whether or not you’re closeted, out and proud, in a committed relationship, or meeting someone for the first time. Seeking support from friends, family, and professionals who affirm and validate your identities and experiences is crucial to maintaining your mental well-being during the tumultuous parts of gay dating. The Trevor Project is one of our favorite helplines aimed specifically at queer folks! You can also gently encourage your partner(s) to seek affirmative support either with you or individually – because everyone deserves to be themselves.
There are also a lot of communities, workshops, books, and other resources available to help both you and a partner navigate the various aspects of queer dating. There may even be in-person community spaces depending on where you live - which can help you both find community beyond your relationship as well.
Whether you’re transgender, queer, gender-nonconforming, straight, or unlabeled, talking through expectations, desires, boundaries, safety, and consent before any sexual activity is a great practice that will not only help keep you safer but also offer a unique opportunity to build intimacy before things get physical.
Some gay dating apps definitely have more of a hookup culture where anonymous or semi-anonymous hookups and first-time meetings are done in private and/or with the intention of sex. While it can definitely feel awkward at first to have these types of conversations in a hookup context, folks who are respectful and transparent will have no problem with these kinds of questions. You can’t rely on the other person asking - because they probably feel its awkward too - but you can take the lead for your safety and theirs!
Ideally, you can ask these questions prior to going to a private place with this person, like their apartment or house, as it can help you set boundaries before you are in a more vulnerable position where physical harm could happen. It’s cliche - but consent is sexy and this is a great way to actually set the mood!
Remember that you aren’t required to disclose your identities to anyone, but it’s often recommended to share identity details prior to the first in-person encounter, as doing so it can help keep you safer in the long run. Trans folks who let their dates know ahead of time that they’re trans can prevent being alone with someone who gets aggressive when they find out you’re trans.
If you do wait until the first in-person meeting, disclosing this kind of information is best done in a semi-public or public place, so you’re surrounded by people in case things go south. If you’re uncomfortable or unable to have this conversation in public, make sure you have an exit strategy and know how to protect yourself.
The most important thing in the world is your safety - which includes your physical, mental, emotional, and digital safety. Dating as a member of the LGBTQ+ community can come with many challenges, but your safety shouldn’t ever be put in jeopardy.
That’s why we definitely recommend researching your potential date as much as possible before the first in-person meeting. Even if it’s a hookup, there are some quick things you can do to help keep you safer!
Searching your date(s) or partner(s) on Garbo allows you to see if they have a history of violent and/or criminal behavior. It might feel counterintuitive to background check someone you’re supposed to trust so deeply, but so often in romantic and sexual relationships – especially queer ones – there are more potential dangers than the average human connection.
Put yourself first and search your dates on Garbo either before you meet them IRL or if you get a weird vibe after meeting them in person! We offer sliding-scale payment options starting at $2.50 per search credit to make Garbo as accessible and community-driven as possible and to minimize the financial discrepancy that disproportionately affects marginalized communities.
There aren’t a lot of resources that exist specifically for LGBTQ+ folks who are dating – especially in a world turned so reliant on technology. Some of our favorites are Love is Respect, The Network La Red, and our very own blog.
As we always say, the number one tool for safer dating is trusting your gut and going at a pace you are comfortable with, while setting the boundaries you need to feel safe.
Doing your research on potential dates is a great way to help ensure safer choices and safer first dates. It’s not that a criminal record is a definitive reason not to meet someone offline, but at Garbo, we’re all about informed consent and autonomous choice. The more you know, the safer you can be. Make these safety tips a practice, and go find the love (or loves) of your life.
Happy queer dating!
We work with online platforms to help proactively protect their communities through our innovative background check system. Get in touch to learn more about how we can integrate Garbo or help you proactively screen users at sacale.