The site is also welcoming back people who were unfairly banned based on their gender.
Dating app Tinder is rolling out an update on Tuesday that will give match seekers a lot more freedom to describe their gender. The online service is also adding new protections to prevent transgender users from being harassed or unfairly banned.
Tinder CEO Sean Rad had promised at Code Conference in June that the company would improve the experience for transgender daters.
As part of the changes, users of the app will be able to describe their gender in any way they wish. Users can still describe their gender as male or female, but if they choose “more,” they get a blank field in which they can type in any descriptor they wish. However, they will still have to choose whether they wish to show up in searches for men or searches for women.
“This was definitely a challenge, given the complexities of the issues and the simplicity of Tinder,” Rad told Recode in an interview on Monday. “We had to keep it simple; if we didn’t keep it simple, no one would use these features.”
Tinder is also working to address other problems faced by transgender users — for example, being harassed by other users or being reported and banned just for their gender.
“No one, no one, no one should be reported or harassed on the merits of who they are,” Rad said. “That is going to end.”
As part of the changes, Tinder hopes to welcome back people who left due to harassment or found themselves banned simply because of their gender.
Tinder’s moves come after three months of focus-group testing and working with transgender community leaders.
Writer, filmmaker and transgender community activist Andrea James said being a part of Tinder is important for the transgender community.
“I think dating is one of the big frontiers in our movement,” James said. “We’re starting to see more and more people willing to talk about their attraction to trans people. That chips away at that shame that leads to harassment and violence. That’s a positive for everyone.”
Tinder is including information in the app and in a blog post to educate its community about the new gender options. It will still be up to individual members to decide whether and how to include their gender identity as part of their profile.
Even though she helped Tinder develop the new options, James said she chooses not to include gender information in her own profile.
“It’s something I don’t feel like I need to talk about right out of the gate,” she said, adding that other people do want people to know before they are connected. “It’s up to everybody.”
Nick Adams, who runs the transgender project at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was among the community leaders whose help Tinder sought out. Adams said he initially had to get up to speed on Tinder, having met his partner before there were modern smartphones, but praised the move as a big step.
“I hope this leads to many, many more trans people finding their match on Tinder,” Adams said.
Tinder had originally hoped to roll out the changes by late summer, but took longer than expected.
“No. 1, we had to get it right,” Rad said. “The deeper we got into it, it is a complex issue, and not everyone agrees on the best way to approach this issue.”
Rad said the company probably went through 50 different iterations of the product before settling on the current approach. And even that, he said, is just a first step.
The effort to make the site better for transgender users is part of a broader effort to improve dialog on the site. “This is the first in a bunch of things we are going to do to end harassment on the platform,” Rad said. “We have dedicated a significant amount of resources, and I would say focus, on ending ‘locker-room talk.’”
Rad said he hopes that Tinder’s move will inspire others.
“What is critical is that companies make this a priority,” he said. “Every platform of Tinder’s size and greater has a responsibility to its users not just to deliver on its mission.”
“I thought this decision was really important before the election,” Adams said. “I think it is even more important after the election, because we are going to need companies in the private sector to continue to stand with the LGBT community under this new administration.”