September 28, 2022

The best dating apps for gay users, since meeting people IRL is hellish

Navigating dating apps can be a nightmare for anyone, but the gay community faces a unique set of challenges that make online dating particularly taxing. We’re weighing the pros and cons of LGBTQ-specific apps versus the ones that straight people also use.

Best for gay men

Grindr

Putting “bi” in your profile might get you some hate here, but it’s *the* place to meet experienced men.

Best for gay women

HER

The award-winning mix of dating and social media that introduces local lesbians and filters out creepy men.

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Most people have at least one horror story about online dating. It’s a rite of passage that single people love to hate.

But the horror stories look a little different for members of the LGBTQ community. On top of the classic awkward Hinge date anecdotes and screenshots of a corny bio seeping with secondhand embarrassment, gay singles deal with all sorts of alienating interactions. Baseless questioning of sexual history, harassment, and fetishization — most of it coming from cis straight people who shouldn’t have popped up in your feed in the first place — don’t exactly give one butterflies.

Still, dating apps have become crucial means of introduction for gay folks looking to settle down. A 2019 Stanford study and 2020 Pew Research survey found that meeting online has become the most popular way for U.S. couples to connect — especially for gay couples, of which 28% met their current partner online (versus 11% of straight couples).

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.

That’s not to say that they’re in the queer dating app market alone. 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 have 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 LGBTQ 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. (For the best dating apps specifically for lesbians, go here.)


Dedicated spot for pronouns in bio • Opportunity for local LGBTQ+ community involvement
Lots of users complaining about being single • Reports of biphobia • Same profiles recycled in feed
A refreshing twist on heteronormative apps that was made by queer women, for queer women.

HER

The award-winning mix of dating and social media that introduces local lesbians and filters out creepy men.

  • Free version:
    Yes
  • One month of Premium:
    $14.99
  • Six months of Premium:
    $11.99/month
  • One year of Premium:
    $7.49/month
Apps like Tinder and Bumble 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 four 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 might even get a head’s up about a local LGBTQ+ event, or gauge interest in an event you’re planning yourself.


Most users make intentions known • Can find a date within the hour • Grindr for Equality campaign advocates for safety of LGBTQ+ people in unsafe countries
Bots and performance issues • Level of NSFW is jarring • Reports of biphobia and hate toward queer women on the app • Past data breaches
A blockbuster app for gay men that ditches small talk and has potential matches online 24/7.

Grindr

Putting “bi” in your profile might get you some hate here, but it’s *the* place to meet experienced men.

  • Free version:
    Yes
  • Grindr Xtra:
    $20/month
  • Grindr Unlimited:
    $50/month
You know this name: Grindr 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.) The app has a history of not being so welcoming to bisexual users, and it isn’t exactly known for harmonious conservations about race, 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.


Expands compatibility to social justice views • Shows a percentage for each match based on things you agree on (or not) • Trendy redesign is genuinely fun to navigate • Everyone can choose their pronouns
Not great in small/rural areas • Often marked as a free app, but you have to pay for the best features • Reports of data breaches
Queer people are positioned for a smoother experience on a site that targets the open-minded and sex-positive.

OkCupid

Queer users are naturally drawn to OKC’s inclusivity and knowledge that politics play a part in meshing romantically.

  • Free version:
    Yes
  • OkCupid Basic:
    $19.99/month
  • OkCupid Premium:
    $29.99/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.


Easy and instantaneous • Extra fun during traveling • Massive user base regardless of where you are • People looking for hookups will probably say so in their bio
History of banning trans people for no reason • Might still get straight people in your feed • No actual matchmaking algorithm • Terrible bios and pickup lines everywhere
The OG swiping app where you’ll find everyone you know, a ton who you don’t know, and a date in under 10 minutes.

Tinder

  • Free version:
    Yes
  • Tinder Xtra:
    $20/month
  • Tinder Unlimited:
    $50/month
Of the 50 million people who use Tinder monthly, not all are straight dudes holding 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 transwomen on the app. Tinder also has a history of frivolously banning users who change their gender identity or supporting 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.


Unique profile criteria like political affiliation and stance on marijuana • Diverse user base that’s growing exponentially • Lots of gender options • Actually uses an algorithm
Have to pay for unlimited matches • Still not great in small towns • Some filters (like height) aren’t free anymore
Young people’s new favorite app puts a hopeful, relationship-focused twist on instant gratification.

Hinge

The go-to app for millennials works to be a quality space for gay users and is a bit more thoughtful than swiping apps.

  • Free version:
    Yes
  • One month of Preferred:
    $12.99
  • Three months of Preferred:
    $6.99/month
  • Six months of Preferred:
    $4.99/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% say the first date was great and 72% 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 to find you up to 10 matches per day. Instead of swiping, connections are made by liking or commenting on another person’s answers. 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.
Unlike Tinder and Bumble, which seem to have a broken gaydar, Hinge sees far less reports of men popping up in your feed uninvited.  Hinge users also experience more genuine queer people (and less unicorn hunting) on the app compared to the other big players.


Text-based approach lets users be *very* specific • No selfie pressure • Ads give a lot of info but are still hot and mysterious • Zero-tolerance policy toward creeps and hate speech of any kind • Great way to get involved with local community
Still young and needs more users
Those who miss the simplicity of dating via Craigslist will appreciate text-based ads and no photos.

Lex

This novel space for queer and non-binary users throws it back with Craigslist-esque ads and no selfies.

  • 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.
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, founder Kell Rakowski told Allure.


Shows birth chart of every potential match • Queer users can opt out of seeing or being seen by straight people • Many pronoun and sexuality options • Less rigid than Bumble’s sun sign filtering
Crashes often • Login/password issues • Not enough users yet
Tired of haggling your date about their birth time? NUiT has already compiled their whole birth chart.

NUiT

A magical app that takes care of asking for someone’s birth time, plus a truly special feature for queer people.

  • 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 to 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.