Match.com Is Still Discriminating Against Bi People

9/9/2018

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In 2016, one of the oldest dating websites in the world released a study on LGBTQ dating. It was initially thrilling—most of the stalwarts have been incredibly slow to incorporate queer dating into their sites. But the result was bierasive. Still Bisexual, an education and advocacy organization, pointed out the shared data was heavily skewed to lesbians and gay people, with little information on bi folks.

Still Bisexual founder Nicole Kristal’s point, “In an attempt to be inclusive, @Match offers press release devoid of bisexual coming out statistics. #bierasure”, received a familiar response from Match—“press releases can be limiting, but we wouldn’t exclude bi men and women from our study.” Or, they have to draw the line somewhere, and that line is drawn before bi people are included.

The 1,200 word press release, along with its minimization and erasure of bi folks, prompted a 2016 hashtag (#BisexualStats) and my further exploration in Not A Match: Dating Site Erases Bisexuality (You Know…Again). As it turned out, the press release was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Match’s approach to bi dating. Match’s main page offered two gender choices (man or woman) for the customer, and only provided the option to choose one gender (man or woman) to date. 2016 Match’s solution? To task bi daters “to create and save a Custom Search and to have it sent with your Match by Mail.”

The flaw in the task is in the impact on bi folks. I recently reached out to bi folks to hear about what dating online is like, and Amore said “I played with the signup [Match] had and….none say I’m a woman or [man] who is into both…I never signed up.”

If we can’t see we’re welcome—if the message is, in fact, that we are not welcome—the barrier already exists. Curious if anything had changed, I went to the Match sign up page in 2018, and you’re still only able to “seek” one gender on sign-up. When I reached out to Match’s Public Relations team for comment on this piece, I received a response from Customer Service:

“Our system currently supports seeking one-to-one relationships with either males or females. What we advise to them is the option to create a “Saved Search” so they can toggle from both folders with different gender preference.”

And, though I did not provide suggestions:

“I really appreciate your insights and suggestions about having the option to search both men and women at the same time. I’ll make sure that what you’ve sent me is reviewed by our Product Team. I think they’ll find it helpful as they make plans for how we can improve things in the future.”

How long have bi people reached out to Match with these questions, to encounter the same refrain? A side-step to a simple solution that hasn’t materialized in the entirety of Match.com’s existence. Instead of Match adding more gender options, bi folks are forced to identify as monosexual upon sign up. This can impact Match customers in negative ways years beyond using the service. One bi man reached out to me anonymously after meeting his now-wife almost a decade ago on Match.

“I decided to try Match, and, since there was no ‘man seeking either’ option, I just went with ‘man seeking woman’. I met a wonderful woman as my first Match date.” He was planning to tell his now-wife about his bisexuality when he was outed by an acquaintance. “Fast forward 9 years and…she claims that she can never trust me because I ‘lied’ and said I was straight in my Match profile. The option to choose who I really was didn’t exist. I never meant to lie. I didn’t have an option to indicate it.”

Speaking to bi folks who have used or attempted to use Match, barriers abound. Many folks told me they were frustrated by the extra steps, felt erased by the sign-up, and let down by responses from people when they eventually came out as bi. A position that was forced through the site’s erasure of bisexuality. More than one polyamorous dater told me Match doesn’t provide services to polyam folks at all.

“I left Match pretty much as soon as I tried to fill out a profile and did my first search. I’m bi, married poly, gender non-conforming, childless by choice, with a preference for bi+ partners regardless of their gender identity. None of those things were searchable on Match. I cannot be honest about who I am and what I’m looking for, so the site is completely useless to me.” – Denise

“I tried [Match] a while ago and ended up deleting it. I had to keep manually switching back and forth between woman/man and woman/woman. It was exhausting.” – Cat

“I used to use Match maybe 7-8 years ago, and I hated how I couldn’t identify myself as bisexual or look for dates of more than 1 gender. When I discovered OKCupid, I quit Match because of this. I also wrote in my profile on Match that I identified as bisexual, but I had to do it in free text. Some people who approached me had read it, others hadn’t. I hated not knowing if people had seen this about me immediately, since being bisexual is an important part of my identity.” – Lauren.

As for the Singles in America study, referenced earlier? The 2017 results show questions posed to singles asking if they’d have sex with a robot, and if they’d be turned off by someone who was involved with LGBTQ causes. Respondents were asked about their sexuality, but there were no more questions about coming out, queer marriage, or gender identity. There was no sign of any of the questions on facets of LGBTQ life Match explored, pompenstanced, and patted themselves on the back for asking in 2016.  Other aspects of Match’s approach to support for bi daters haven’t changed at all: in 2018 as in 2016, search the ‘help’ section for bisexual and you’ll just come up with one item: Same Sex Dating.

Options for bi daters are more limited because we are dealing with discrimination on many of the dating platforms. POF’s gender options are limited to “male” or “female” and allows for searching and being seen by one gender at a time. Thankfully visibility, and along with it usability, is changing in a positive direction. Tinder allows searching for more than one gender at the same time and added gender functionality in 2016. In late 2017, Grindr added more gender identifiers and the option to include pronouns. OKCupid consistently gets the best reviews from bi daters for usability for bi folks. OKC has long allowed for daters to identify as bi, and the site’s approach is welcoming in its transparency, with a page dedicated to their gender and sexual orientation options. Of note: OKCupid, along with POF and Tinder are all owned by Match Group, the parent company of Match.com.

Though many daters I spoke with had alienating experiences, this does not discount the happy endings. Kate shared her Match experience:

“Once I signed up I looked at other profiles to see what they were or were not saying. Most did not explicitly list their orientation, so I did not say I was bi in my profile. After the first few messages, I quickly found out that was one of the first questions most women ask. I answered and that was the end for many of them. OK, I wouldn’t want to date a bi-phobic person anyway. But I noticed it very quickly and I started announcing my orientation in any first communication because I could deal better with that rejection from behind a screen.

Long story short, I communicated with probably 25 people, was rejected by at least 10 immediately because I was bi, set up 3 dates, actually went on 2 dates, and found the love of my life. A few weeks after we met in person, we both canceled our Match.com accounts and never looked back. We were married in 2017.”

SB Swartz
SB Swartz is an author covering inclusive wellness, queer family, and reflections of our world as seen on tv. As a contributing writer for bi.org, SB created the Step Bi Step series for bi parents and originated the This Bi Life series showcasing bi community stories.

SB would very much like to talk to you about your pets, her pets, and the way you view the world. She's her favorite somebody's mama. And yes, she's #StillBisexual.

Find SB Swartz @sbswrites on Twitter and read more of her latest @sbswartz on Medium.