Let’s be honest, dating definitely has its highs and lows. No matter our dating app aims – whether we’re looking for ultimate #couplegoals or just a bit of post-lockdown fun – putting ourselves out there can lead to a whole array of experiences. This means that, sometimes, it can be difficult to be our true, authentic selves while dating. Which is why, when we hear about companies pushing for inclusivity and doing their bit to make dating a safe space for all, we want to shout about it from the rooftops.
We first heard of dating app Badoo’s ‘A Letter From…’ series last year, which was launched to coincide with Pride 2020, when events and celebrations sadly ground to a halt amidst the pandemic. The series features members of the LGBTQIA+ community sharing first-hand accounts of their dating experiences, with videos subsequently being released all year-round dedicated to telling a diverse range of stories. The result? Queer people from all over the world sharing their stories of love, lust, hope, loss, companionship, longing – and the importance of feeling seen, dating with transparency, and the freedom to be yourself. And the Badoo videos are an absolute must-watch, both for those in the community and allies outside of it.
To coincide with Pride this year, Badoo’s latest A Letter From… video is from drag king and Prinx of Provocation, Chiyo Gomes. In it, he powerfully shares his experiences as a trans man, discussing gender euphoria, and the importance of transparency in online dating.
“Sometimes it feels like just being honest is radical,” he says. “And I would say dating honestly is pretty punk for a trans person, because we don’t have to do that. We don’t have to show ourselves to the world; we can very much hide and keep ourselves safe. But by being visible, by putting yourself out there romantically, sexually – that’s pretty punk.”
Gender euphoria – defined as the feelings of comfort or joy when one presents as the gender they identify with – was a term Chiyo hadn’t heard until very recently. “The second that I looked in the mirror on a certain day, after a certain amount of time… when it hit, it hit, and it stayed. I’m much more confident, much more charismatic, and it’s a new sensation. That euphoria has transcended into every aspect of my life imaginable.”
This joy in being who you are and celebrating it is something Badoo wanted to champion across the A Letter From… series. “When I first started using dating apps, I kept [the fact that I’m] intersex and non-binary completely a secret,” says Salvadoran-American filmmaker River Gallo. “I thought that guys would judge me for my body being different, and that I would be less desirable if I wore makeup in my pictures. I tried to fit being a normal gay guy.
“Then I started feeling inauthentic, and I thought, I just have to be myself. To my surprise, a lot of people started messaging me after that. What I learned was that the more truthful I was about myself, the more people found that attractive, found that sexy, and appreciated what made me unique.”
Soko, a musician and actress from France, echoes this: “Growing up, I had no example of gay or queer couples, let alone gay families. I had never thought that could be an option for me. That’s why representation is so important. That’s why we need more voices in the LGBTQIA+ community – to show people that our dreams are valid; that our dreams can become a reality. And our dreams don’t need to look like anyone else’s dreams.”
River summarises it best when they say: “Be proud of who you are, be comfortable in your own skin. That takes time, but developing that courage and having that bravery to do so really inspires other people to do so, as well.”