I’m a little bit behind on this one – but then, I’m always a little bit behind.
In the past couple of weeks, while Sarah and I were setting up the blog, I saw several references (which I now don’t remember – that’s what I get for needing to actually start a blog before I can write about something) to a story about a bisexual dating site deleting a trans man’s profile. According to Ethan Jacobs at Bay Windows,
When Nick Teich created a free account on the online personals site BisexualDatingNow.com last week, he decided to disclose that he is transgender. Perhaps he shouldn’t have ….
Teich thought little of his decision until he wrote to the site’s customer service staff about a problem he was having using the site. He exchanged e-mails with a customer service representative named Kiar Dupuis, and after reading his profile Dupuis informed him that the site does not allow transgender users.
“I am sorry, as a transgender, our site would not meet your needs. I am afraid we have to remove your profile,” wrote Dupuis, according to an e-mail provided to Bay Windows by Teich .…
Prior to transitioning Teich had joined one of TangoWire’s lesbian sites, but he said he hadn’t been an active user. When he registered with BisexualDatingNow.com he assumed he was signing onto a completely new site, but in fact the profiles for each site are linked to one massive database, meaning that someone on one of the bisexual sites could view the profile of a member of one of the lesbian sites. One of Dupuis’s e-mails to Teich accused him of trying to force his way onto the lesbian site .…
“It’s that T side [in LGBT] that we have not been able to fully accommodate within our program. That is shown [by the fact] that in our registration, transgender is not one of the options we provide, and we don’t provide that as such. … That identity is not an identity we have an ability to support,” said [chief technical officer Bryan] Brown.
Nice, right? My first thought was “Hey, there’s a bisexual dating site?” followed by “Pity I won’t be joining it, since I don’t support transphobic asshats.” The way their network of sites works, if you originally join the lesbian site, that’s where your profile stays. Even if you later register on the bisexual site. Seems to me that’s a problem not with Teich’s identity but with the way Tangowire’s system is set up. Especially when you take into account that tech support, when you come to their attention, will say not “Hey, I notice you’re bisexual and a dude now, and our system is kinda wonky and doesn’t allow you to move your profile to a different site yourself, how about if I delete it from the lesbian site and put it back up on the bisexual site for you?” but rather “You’re trying to invade women’s space and we don’t know what to do with trans folks around here! We will solve this problem by getting rid of you!” And “that identity is not an identity we have an ability to support,” hm? Them’s fighting words.
And check out this pricelessness (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to find it): a letter to the editor from Joseph Lee, the CEO of Tangowire, in which he tries to explain that it was all a big misunderstanding and instead makes the whole thing reflect even more poorly on him and the company. Let’s take a look:
1. TangoWire does NOT discriminate against ANYONE going through the transgender process. We simply ask that they provide a gender/orientation of which they have chosen. … As Bryan Brown, our technology director, explained to you, we don’t have a “gender/orientation” field in our system for “transgender” and our system does not support it. That’s clearly different from saying we discriminate.
Different how, exactly? And if “not discriminating” means “providing trans folks the same two gender choices everyone else gets,” I’m not buying it – even if that solution would have worked for Teich (which I have no way of knowing), there are people it wouldn’t work for, and I’m sure those people feel just as excluded by a system that “doesn’t support them” as one that actively discriminates against them.
The reason our system does not support that particular gender/orientation is because it’s NOT a gender nor a sexual orientation. It’s a process that an individual is going through to redefine their sexual identity. Eventually, they choose, they define, and they conclude who they are; man, women, gay, straight, bi-sexual, etc. We’re totally fine with that and we truly admire such bravery in the face of real discrimination and hatred.
Um. Thanks for telling me how it works there, Mr. Lee. I’m sure countless trans folks are grateful to understand the process now too, and it’s all thanks to you.
Sometimes it’s that cut-and-dried, but often it’s not. Often neither of the ends of the spectrum is the eventual goal. Nor do people cease to exist while they’re somewhere in between where they’re coming from and where they’re going. Phrasing it that way reveals a lack of understanding of the variety of experiences out there. Of course, even when it is that simple, and when those trans folks are all “Now I’m a man, no two ways about it, I’ll go tell Tangowire,” their profiles still get deleted. I won’t even pretend to understand the logic at work here.
3. When a member seeks another member, they are looking for other members with a conclusive orientation — another member who they are sexually compatible with. Our system was not designed to discriminate, yet more appropriately match another member’s desires. It is as simple as that.
Whoa there, Turbo! Let’s have that again! “We’re a dating site, and humans are only attracted to people who have one of two clearly demarcated gender identities, so we don’t want to people who are somewhere in between (either as part of a process or because that’s who they are) on our site because no one wants to date them anyway.” “Conclusive orientation” indeed – as if there’s only boy, girl, and confused. And I’m sorry, but that is just not the way it is. As a bisexual, I’m offended that someone is using my sexuality as a way to exclude and demean someone else’s. Mr. Lee clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and he doesn’t speak for me. Nor am I the only person I know who’s capable of being “sexually compatible” with people who have a complicated or nonstandard gender, or considering a person in transition still a person, with as much chance of being fun and interesting and sexy to me as anyone else has. I’ve just emailed him to tell him so (though in slightly more polite terms, since I suspect “NOTE: Any message found to be rude, containing profanity or vulgarity, or which shows disrespect to our staff members will be deleted immediately without being read” means that they will take any pretense to dismiss a valid complaint), and I encourage you to do the same (contact Bi Dating Now here or Tangowire here). This may have happened three weeks ago, but Tangowire still needs to hear that bisexuals don’t want anyone else deciding for us which manifestations of gender we’ll be attracted to and which we won’t. Now, onward..
4. If a member first joins a site clearly for BBW’s (big beautiful women), changes their sexual orientation from lesbian to bi-sexual man, states in their profile they are interested in women, it greatly angers other gay and lesbian members on our site and we endure a tremendous amount of complaint mail when that happens. There was not one mention in your story that the member you referenced changed their mind as to how they were identified and whom they identified with. If the member which you describe in your story simply would have stayed with the honest explanation on our site that they first provided, all would have been well.
So let me get this straight. Teich joined when he was lesbian-identified, and has since transitioned and is now male-identified. He changed his profile accordingly – or tried to. Tangowire is “totally fine with that and we truly admire such bravery in the face of real discrimination and hatred.” The problem occurs when a member “changes their sexual orientation from lesbian to bi-sexual man,” thus outraging everyone by…going through the process Tangowire admires. Huh?
5. The statement from Kiar Dupuis in our office was, “As a transgender, our site would not meet your needs.” It was actually sympathetic and Kiar is a wonderful, open-minded, and socially responsible person.
Who acted like a bigot. Didn’t you ever take a writing class? Show, don’t tell.
It’s simply too difficult to create a system which takes all the many, many multiple layers of complexities into consideration. When you think you’ve done well by the gay, lesbian, and transgendered community, an entire group of our community is up in arms and protesting. We cannot win for losing, it would appear.
Seems to me their M/F dropdown menu could easily include a couple more options than that, and their searches could be reworked accordingly. Granted I don’t know computers, but that can’t possibly be so hard to do. Also, I think it’s the “gay, lesbian and bisexual” community you’re claiming to have tried to do well by – a) thanks for leaving us out, and b) ’cause you’re making absolutely zero effort on behalf of trans folks. You don’t get to whine about how complicated it would be to accommodate everyone respectfully and claim you just can’t be bothered, and then feign wide-eyed innocence when someone calls you out for discriminating.
6. TangoWire, as Bryan Brown and our site explains, was indeed founded by a gay individual; me. I am proud of my community, have been very involved for decades, and have had several transgendered friends — more than most.
None of which means you can’t be a transphobic asshat. And more than that, none of which mean that your site is designed and run as well as possible with regards to the needs of trans members. I can’t believe people still use the “I’m a minority too!” or the “I have ____ friends” arguments as if they had any meaning whatsoever. (PS More than most? How many trans friends do most people have? According to what research? If it’s self-reported, have you taken into account how many friends they might have that they don’t know are trans?)
And for another problem with Tangowire, check out the first comment on Bialogue’s post on the subject:
If you register on any of their dating sites including BisexualDatingNow, as a bi man, with the intent of trying to meet a bi woman – you can forget it.
If you register as a bi man, your search will be limited on all of their sites to gay or bisexual men or straight women.
I have contacted them about this before and was told that some of the bi women who were not looking to be contacted by men had complained about getting such contact.
I’m also offended that the site wants to “protect” me from being contacted by men. If I don’t want to hear from them, I’m perfectly capable of not opening or responding to their messages (or of listing myself as gay so I only show up in women’s searches, but I have a lot to say on that subject and I can assure you it will soon have its own post). I don’t want that choice taken away from me because a few women whined about it and Tangowire decided that they represented the majority. It’s dating website, it does not have the knowledge or the authority to determine whether a bisexual woman is leaning toward one gender or another at any given moment, or whether she’s leaning at all. I’m sure there are plenty of other bi women on the site wondering why they never hear from men, and the only reason they’re not complaining is they don’t realize it’s the company’s policy not to let bi men (or any men? unclear) search for bi women.
Finally, as others before me have pointed out, HRC taking Tangowire to task for not being trans-inclusive enough is a hoot. Good job, guys.
Oh, and if you want to read another good review of Bi The Way, Jessica Hoffman at Bilerico has a lot to say about the film’s heteronormative perspective and lack of a queer politic or accountability to the people it claims to represent.