Lately, it seems like we can't go a week without a dating site ending up in the news for pissing somebody off.
First it was OkCupid, which asked its users to boycott Firefox due to its new (and since ousted) CEO's donation to the Prop. 8 campaign against gay marriage. Then it was revealed that OkCupid's CEO gave money to a candidate with a less-than-stellar track record on gay rights, and talks of boycotting OkCupid ensued. Then Match.com, OkC's parent company, made headlines for its shitty policy toward bisexuals -- namely that if a bisexual wanted to date both men and women, he or she had to create and pay for two separate profiles.
Now OkCupid is back in the spotlight, as queers recently called for a blackout to get the dating site to update its limited gender and sexuality options to include trans, queer, and poly people. On May 2, activist Ryley Pogensky asked queer users and allies to replace their profile photos on the website with a black box, and then to either log out or delete their profiles for 24 hours.
As it is currently, OkCupid users only have the choice to identify as male or female for gender options, and straight, gay, or bi for sexuality. The limited options for trans and gender-nonconforming people forces them to mislabel themselves or potentially only be paired with straight folks who might not understand they are transgender, for instance. "If I wanted to be paired with queer women, I had to mark the boxes that say 'female' and 'gay,'" a trans guy friend who is no longer on the dating site told us. "Then I had to spend the time everyone else spent doing their 'About Me' section explaining that I'm not female and gay. It was pretty absurd."
From Pogensky's Change.org petition, which has garnered over 1,200 signatures and counting, and was the impetus for the blackout:
With such a strong presence of queer, trans*, and poly folks utilizing OkCupid every day, it is extremely limiting on those members to have to fit such rigid gender and sexuality options. Trans* individuals for instance are forced to chose M or F and then Gay, Bisexual, or Straight. These binaries do not fit for all of us and you will see more often than not a paragraph (or more) in these profiles devoted to trying to explain who they are and questioning why OkCupid has yet to catch on. The time has come for OkCupid to take notice of all of its members. What could that look like? Gender options would be: M F T Sexuality options would be: Straight, Bisexual, Gay, and Queer
OkCupid responded to Pogensky's petition by saying such changes would "involve a lot of reworking of the site, because we built it in a pretty binary way," but that they "absolutely want to add more gender and orientation options in the future -- it's something we're working towards."
But that was a year ago and nothing has changed, which is why Pogensky called for the blackout.
"I have made friends around the world using OkCupid and utilize it heavily," Pogensky told Huffington Post. "They are clearly the most capable and willing of all of the dating sites to make a change like this. Staying progressive means that you fight and stand up for multiple minorities, not just the ones that will make you popular to investors."
When asked whether he thought the blackout was a success, Pogensky told us via Facebook: "People's voices were heard who otherwise are silenced," and that support from Huffington Post, social media, and "conversations with both Laverne Cox and Perez Hilton the day of" allowed many corners to be reached.
Given OkC's history of supporting LGBT issues, it seems like the updates would be a no-brainer. In addition to giving trans folks some much-needed visibility and agency, allowing a "queer" sexuality option would also help fight the rampant stereotyping against bisexuals.
Will the petition, blackout, and media attention be enough to cause OkCupid to change its tune?
"Eventually OkCupid will have no choice," Pogensky says. "Trans and queer people should not be left out."
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