If you know someone who has tried online dating, you may have heard a horror story or two. The unfortunate reality is that all singles must deal with this.
But the nightmares of LGBTQ people tend to take a slightly different shape. Awkward Hinge date stories and screenshots of a corny bio dripping with secondhand embarrassment are just two examples of the kinds of isolating interactions gay singles face. There’s not much to get excited about when it comes to cis straight people who have no business showing up in your feed fetishizing you, harassing you, and asking you illogical questions about your sexual history.
However, dating apps are now a vital tool for gay people to meet prospective partners. A 2019 study from Stanford University and a 2020 survey from the Pew Research Center both found that online dating had already surpassed other ways of meeting potential romantic partners in the United States, particularly among gay people (28% of whom met their current partner online) (versus 11 percent of straight couples).
International dating sites for gay
But the Pew survey also dredged up those ugly experiences with harassment. This could be where options that bar heterosexual users, like HER and Grindr, come in. Their perfectly-tailored environments are so well-known in the gay community that they’re essentially in a league of their own.
Is Grindr the only option for gay dating apps?
Though Grindr and HER are big players, they’re not alone in the queer dating app market. Apps like Zoe, Taimi, and Scruff exist. But their plateauing popularity can be attributed to similar complaints: too many scam profiles and too few legitimate users (ones within a reasonable distance to plan a date, anyway). Chappy was a promising app for gay men that shut down just as it was gaining serious traction.
And at the end of the day, “everyone” apps are simply where masses of queer users are. Keeping Tinder on the back burner isn’t just a straight people thing, especially for those who live in less-populated areas where Grindr and HER offer slim pickings. Plus, some mainstream apps do deserve credit for the steps they’ve taken to create a more inclusive atmosphere. Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge now offer lots of sexual orientation and gender identity options. OkCupid gets kudos for making that change years ago, as well as making social justice a core part of compatibility scoring — which kind of self-curates the type of people on the app.
If you’re part of the LGBTQ community and hate leaving your home, you’re not alone. Here are the best dating apps and sites that’ll maximize your opportunities while minimizing your human contact. Bless.
Best For Gay Men
- Free version: Yes
- One month of XTRA: $9.99
- Three months of XTRA: $20.99 ($6.99 per month)
- 12 months of XTRA: $47.99 ($3.99 per month)
- One month of Unlimited: $39.99
- Three months of Unlimited: $79.99 ($26.66 per month)
- 12 months of Unlimited: $239.99 ($19.99 per month)
You know its name: Grindr(opens in a new tab) brands itself as the world’s largest dating app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people, but it’s particularly the ideal gay paradise for men who are tired of Tinder and looking for experienced partners. It’s also a place for bisexual men to experiment with a bigger user base.
With a dearth of functional trans-specific dating apps on the market, it’s no wonder the app attracts a sizable segment of this population. Instead of swiping to match, you’ll get a collage of people who are close location-wise. It’ll be quite obvious that there are a ton of men out there waiting to talk. Grindr lacks the boundaries other apps provide — most users just looking to hook up will let you know that they’re not in it for small talk. (That warning may come in the form of a dick pic, and not in as many words.) The app has a history of not being so welcoming to bisexual users, and it isn’t exactly known for being free from racism, either.
That’s not to say it’s not for relationships — a lot of men meet their forever person on Grindr — but on the surface, it’s a tool for quick, casual encounters. FWIW, men in small towns with a meager queer population are much more likely to find a connection here than on Tinder or OkCupid.
Grindr goes past being a hookup app in another way. The company has conducted some pretty illuminating research about its international users, leading to the formation of The Grindr for Equality campaign, which advocates for the sexual health and safety of LGBTQ+ people in unsafe countries.
Best For Less Emphasis On Hooking Up
- Free version: Yes
- One month of OkCupid Basic: $15.95
- Three months of OkCupid Basic: $35.85 ($11.95 per month)
- Six months of OkCupid Basic: $47.70 ($7.95 per month)
- One month of OkCupid Premium: $34.90
- Three months of OkCupid Premium: $89.70 ($29.90 per month)
- Six months of OkCupid Premium: $149.40 ($24.90 per month)
OkCupid’s slogan is “Dating deserves better,” and they’re damn right — especially for the gays and the theys. Though it’s open to gay and straight people, the veteran dating site has shed the heteronormativity that still somewhat plagues eharmony and Match. It’s hip and well-informed, while maintaining a more serious atmosphere than Tinder.
Time and time again, OkCupid is the blueprint for inclusivity in online dating. In 2014, OKC rolled out 22 gender and 13 orientation choices — years before such changes became a priority for competing sites. As of summer 2020, all users can choose their pronouns. The dedication to social justice is also clear with the introduction of profile badges for voters and Black Lives Matter supporters.
OkCupid’s 2017 redesign was deeper than hiring a clearly-millennial graphic designer. The brains behind the overhaul understand that for young, left-leaning singles, a partner’s politics are more serious than “If we agree, that’s great. If we don’t, that’s fine, too.” Users can weed out people they’d hate by answering deal-breakers about things like keeping a gun in the house or schools requiring children to be vaccinated.
Connections on the app are strengthened by an algorithm that picks matches based on how similarly both parties answered questions during sign-up (yes, there are questions about communication and sappy relationship things as well as political views.) A compatibility score plus details on where you disagreed are helpful padding when it comes to evaluating what differences are make-or-breaks.
For Those Simply Looking For Sex
Best For Gay Women
- Free version: Yes
- One month of HER Premium: $14.99
- Six months of HER Premium: $59.99 ($9.99 per month)
- 12 months of HER Premium: $89.99 ($7.49 per month)
Apps like Tinder(opens in a new tab) and Bumble(opens in a new tab) are technically for all orientations, but they’ll be damned if they don’t sneak some male profiles into your feed even if you’ve specified the opposite. Given the existence of Grindr and Scruff, the need for an online dating arena specifically for queer women was clear — thus, HER. Founders of the award-winning app are committed to cultivating a space that’s “so ragingly queer” that frustrated women can delete apps that don’t feel like home.
As the user base of over 4 million grows, HER could widen your dating pool beyond the queer women you already know. In 2019, HER revamped its profiles to let users get more creative in categories like gender, sexuality, pronouns, diet preferences (like veganism), and star signs, as well as a “What does this mean?” field in the sex, gender, and pronoun categories to supply a more personal understanding of identity. The traditional text bio is where you can describe what kind of relationship you’re seeking or flex your wit, though people are much more selective with words here than most on Tinder. Joining niche groups like “newly out” or “travelers” can also connect you with people using the app for similar reasons.
Aside from coupling up, a lot of HER regulars are looking to make friends or scope out the queer community in a new town. Switching over to the community feed opens the door to virtual hangouts with self-curated groups for queer women of color or interests like the new lesbian films that mainstream Twitter will probably ignore. You can even get a head’s up about a local LGBTQ event, or gauge interest in an event you’re planning yourself.
Best Gay App That Hetero Folks Also Use
- Free version: Yes
- One month of Tinder Plus: $9.99
- Six months of Tinder Plus: $29.99 ($5 per month)
- 12 months of Tinder Plus: $39.99 ($3.33 per month)
- One month of Tinder Gold: $29.99
- Six months of Tinder Gold: $89.99 ($15 per month)
- 12 months of Tinder Gold: $119.99 ($10 per month)
Of the 50 million people who use Tinder monthly, not all are straight dudes holding up fish. Queer and trans folks head to Tinder because its dating pool is colossal. You have to admit, they have a point.
Tinder pioneered the now-ubiquitous swiping function, revolutionizing the world of online dating and boasting 1.6 billion swipes per day. You’re probably going to see someone you work with on the app. (Awkward! Predictable!) However, if you’ve exhausted your chances with all of the queer people you know in real life, this is probably where you can find the highest number of gay locals — especially in smaller towns.
An app that targets the straights like Tinder does is bound to be followed by a cloud of heteronormativity. Marking that you only want to see men or only want to see women doesn’t guarantee that a straight person won’t slip through the cracks of your feed. It’s also a breeding ground for unicorn hunters, as well as male trolls who submit false complaint reports about trans women on the app. Tinder also has a history of frivolously banning users who change their gender identity or support Black Lives Matter.
Despite all of this, Tinder has made notable efforts to be more inclusive by partnering with GLAAD to personalize swiping (i.e. “show me people of the same identity first”) and ensure it met the diverse needs of the trans community. Over 40 gender options are available, beating Match (under the same parent company) which offers a grand total of … two.
Best If You Hate The Typical Dating App Dynamic
- Free version: Yes
We love an app that cuts the bullshit. In this case, the bullshit includes cisgender straight men. Lex (short for Lexicon, formerly known as Personals) is a genuinely cool social app for queer, trans, gender non-conforming, two spirit, and non-binary people.
The specific demographic positions Lex to offer a more peaceful experience than “everyone” apps like Tinder and Bumble, but the way it goes about introducing users (as lovers or friends) is another level of niche. A nod to ’80s and ’90s erotica magazines, Lex users meet by posting personal ads about what (or who) they’re looking for, relationship-wise. The ads, called personals, are a chance for folks to showcase their wit and be straightforward as hell. Personals can get pretty horny, and everything rests on language — because photos aren’t allowed. Users can link an Instagram account if they want, but the pressure of posting the perfect selfie to sucker someone in is gone. Plus, it’s much harder to get catfished.
The traditional swiping process? Lex doesn’t know her. Gay Reddit users who miss Craigslist will enjoy the “find an ad you like and appeal to said ad” approach. The awkward dynamic of testing the waters with a shy hottie you just matched with gets exhausting, and the very specific backstory that Lex users supply before a word is exchanged could make for a smoother opening conversation. If someone’s interested in starting a band or planning a protest rather than f*cking, they can —and both of those have happened, Lex founder Kell Rakowski told Allure.
More Serious Candidates Than Tinder
- Free version: Yes
- One month of Preferred: $29.99
- Three months of Preferred: $59.99 ($19.99 per month)
- Six months of Preferred: $89.99 ($14.99 per month)
Young people looking to at least go on a few dates with the same person instead of beelining for a friends with benefits situation was a blind spot for swiping apps — until Hinge blew up. The premise and user base might be in the Tinder and Bumble realm, but these three aren’t interchangeable. Hinge’s unique profile criteria and algorithm based on that criteria set matches up for real-life potential. Some 90 percent say the first date was great and 72 percent are down for a second date.
Despite the fact that we’re actively seeking out new dating apps and feel a rush every time a cute contender swipes right back, no one looking for something serious wants to be on these. That idea fueled Hinge’s 2019 rebrand to “the dating app designed to be deleted.”
Instead of cheesy questionnaires and spam emails about the 50 winks you’ve received, Hinge uses ice breakers and lets you like up to eight people per day. Instead of swiping, connections are made by liking or commenting on another person’s answers or photos. Prompts range from “Two truths and a lie” to “Does hiking on a Sunday morning seem viable to you too?” Conversations are hidden after 14 days of inactivity to keep the focus on matches who are taking meeting seriously. Paying for Hinge Preferred also lets you filter by political views or recreational drug habits.
Hinge users experience more genuine queer people (and less unicorn hunting) on the app compared to the other big players.
Best For People Who Care About Astrology
- Free version: Yes
NUiT crosses two major complaints off the list: It nixes the need for the notorious “What time were you born?” question, and it won’t force queer people to see (or be seen by) straight people.
Remember when Bumble announced it would let users filter matches by their zodiac sign? NUiT is the better version of that. The creators at NUiT know that, for many, birth charts can be a wildly helpful tool in maneuvering the dating world by predicting how well you’d mesh with someone in aspects like argument stye or the importance of sex. NUiT also accounts for the nuances in different combinations of placements outside of sun signs. It encourages daters to use astrological compatibility as insight to understand why a match might act the way they do, but does so while avoiding overly-simplistic “What fried food you are based on your zodiac sign” energy. People who study astrology will be the first to tell you that astrology is a cosmic guide to behaviors, but it isn’t tell-all as to how good of a partner or friend someone will be.
Creators also recognized another thing that turns queer users off from heteronormative dating apps: They don’t want to see or be seen by straight people. Sure, Tinder and OkCupid have their share of well-meaning allies — but the lack of shared experience as a queer person can make or break a relationship’s dynamic. Such a feature has been a long time coming as dating apps increase focus on inclusivity, and people on Twitter are pretty psyched about it.
Best For Polyamorous People
- Free version: Yes
- One month of Majestic: $15.49
- Three months of Majestic: $30.99 ($10.33 per month)
With more than 20 sexuality and gender choices, Feeld covers plenty of the LGBTQ spectrum. The app is for open-minded people to explore their relationship desires in a safe place. You can create a profile for yourself or with your partner if you’re looking to bring others into an existing couple. There are even group chats if you’re involving more than one other person.
The app is free to use, but if you upgrade to a Majestic membership, you can see who has liked you, add private pictures visible only to your matches, and access more extensive privacy options. Feeld is a great app for people who are still trying to explore their sexuality and aren’t 100 percent sure what they want.
Best For Being Upfront About What You’re Looking For
- Free version: Yes
- One week of Boost: $8.99
- Three months of Boost: $33.99 ($11.33 per month)
- One week of Premium: $19.99
- Three months of Premium: $76.99 ($25.66 per month)
- Lifetime of Premium: $229.99
Bumble is designed around the simple idea that women make the first move. A Bumble profile lets you write a bio, answer prompts, include up to six photos, fill out basic info like your job and education, and add flags indicating factors like what type of relationship you’re looking for and whether you want kids. Plus, you can connect Spotify to let people see what you’ve been jamming out to.
In same-sex matching, either person has the power to make the first move, but there’s a 24-hour time limit to start the chat after you match with someone. In Bumble chats, you’re able to send GIFs and voice messages, which you can’t do on Hinge.