Transdr is billed as a dating app for transgender people—which sounds great! Most transgender men, women, and non-binary people have been stuck with apps like Grindr and Tinder for years, and they haven’t hosted the most inclusive experiences for trans people.
“Life has been so hard for trans people because they have to overcome the social stigma of being transgender. When it comes to dating, it’s even harder for them,” Transdr co-founder Sean Kennedy told HuffPost. “They need a comfortable place to meet and date with other trans people without judgment.”
But Transdr isn’t the trans dating utopia it’s marketed to be. In fact, trans people don’t even think it’s designed for them.
Over at Transdr’s official website, the app bills itself as a “premier TS dating” community for both “transgender people and their admirers.” The use of “admirers” is already a tad fetishizing, and then there is how the dating service is listed on the iOS App Store: “Transdr: TS Dating for Shemale.” The term “shemale” is highly offensive toward trans women, as it implies transgender women are simply feminized males that act like women.
Calling trans girls “shemales” right at the front gate isn’t a good look, especially because trans sex workers have worked tirelessly to end its usage in the adult performance world. But Apple’s storefront isn’t the only place where Transdr apparently uses offensive terms to reference trans women.
A screengrab from designer Kylie Jack shows the app’s official website once listed Transdr as an app for “transgender, crossdresser people or their admirers […] whether you are a shemale, ladyboy, sissyboy, MTF, FTM, or any other trans people.” Just like “shemale,” “sissyboy” and “ladyboy” and considered derogatory terms against trans women. Not to mention, the entire description conflates vastly different experiences, like crossdressing or partaking in a forced feminization fetish, with being a transgender woman.
Even in its current form, Transdr’s website uses the term “as a transgender” to reference trans people, despite the fact current lexicon suggests “transgender” should only be used as an adjective, never a noun, as the latter is incredibly dehumanizing to transgender people.
It’s not just Transdr’s branding that has problems. Its gender selection system only lets users define themselves as “Male,” “Female,” “Couple,” “FTM,” “MTF,” or “Other.” That means there’s no room for non-binary people to identify themselves on the app, and transgender women are forced to call themselves “male-to-female.” Meanwhile, cisgender people can describe themselves as simply “male” or “female.”
All this proves a massive headache for transgender users, as it forces trans people to define themselves in strict terms that may not accurately reflect how they view themselves and their gender identity. For the world’s “premier transgender dating app,” that’s a huge problem.
When reached for comment, the Transdr app team confirmed to the Daily Dot that Jack’s screengrab is accurate and that the site originally used terms such as “shemale,” “ladyboy,” and “sissyboy” for “search ranking purposes.” The team removed them after receiving complaints.
The team also has since vowed to change the app’s gender options.
“We will definitely change them,” it wrote. “In fact, we had a plan to add an option for non-binary people in the first place. However, we removed them by mistake when we decided to cut off some features for the first version of Transdr.”
“We wanted to make Transdr be available to trans people asap,” the team continued. “As a result, we made many mistakes on our official site and the app.”
Other problems remain, though. The site’s profile section is particularly sparse and focuses more on physical features than anything else: Users can list their height, weight, body type, and whether they’ve had kids, but there’s only one section for interests. Transdr feels a lot like Grindr in that way, except the app isn’t designed to give trans people the freedom they need to be themselves on the app. It just feels hollow.
LGBTQ activists have taken to the internet with their complaints.
“a transgender” ?— Emily Pixels (@PixlEmly) April 23, 2018
I’m actually several transgenders
and a bunch of queer and trans aggregators are now promoting this transdr garbage. it’s so gross. https://t.co/fCHBs9xcjG— theminist killjoy (@micalbf) April 24, 2018
Many believe the app isn’t actually created for trans people, but rather, cisgender men and straight couples who want to hook up with trans women. If so, that’s far from affirming and also left of center from “admiring”: It’s objectifying and fetishizing trans people.
Meanwhile, I bet you anything there are trans developers struggling to raise the resources they need to create their apps.— Sofia Quintero (@sofiaquintero) April 24, 2018
Even though Transdr might be a bust, at least queer dating app Thurst is relaunching—and it’s designed specifically “for queer people of any gender.” The service is available on Android and its iOS equivalent is coming soon.
Update 6:40am CT, April 27: Apple has removed Transdr from its app store. As of April 25, this piece has also been updated with Transdr’s response.