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Lex, a dating app, is the opposite of Tinder — and might be my queer utopia

I hate dating apps. Dating apps make something that should be fun into a part-time job that you hope no one catches you working. Tinder made me feel like I needed to sell myself in a dehumanizing package, Bumble made me feel like I was shopping for other packaged people, Hinge was too complicated, and no one uses OkCupid anymore except 30 people I’ve already dated. As far as I’m concerned, they’re only good for dick jokes and confirming real life crushes. I had about given up on swiping to meet people, but Lex, a queer dating app is changing my mind.

Instead of using photos, Lex uses old-fashioned, text-only personal ads. You can connect your profile to your Instagram — but you don’t have to — giving you the option to let folx creep on your pictures or not. So when you like someone’s ad, you’re liking what they have to say and not necessarily just their appearance. This feels like a big emotional difference. I often "like" people's ads if if I'm not interested in dating them because something they say resonates with me.

And because making friends is cool too, not all ads on Lex are dating profiles. I once posted an ad that was a pep talk for people who were having a bad day. I’ve seen ads looking for weed, company, someone to go to a party with, whatever.

I’ve also seen people looking for wives, sexual servants, dommes, and people who want to watch them masturbate. People say what they want. Because of that, Lex feels like a community to me — and not just a weird portal that turns people into virtual baseball cards — and I trust people to be kind and real. Community moderation keeps trolling to a minimum; for instance, there are long comment threads of support when someone needs it.

One reason for this heightened trust might be that there are no cis-men on Lex. If that makes you feel uptight, I’m sorry bro, but relax: The whole rest of the world still revolves around you. I like men, even love them. But not having them around in scenarios like this one makes me feel safe.

Seventeen percent of women in the world have experienced violence in their relationships with men in the past year. Tinder does not screen out sex offenders. Pro Publica is currently investigating dating app crime. Yet all the male people I have Tindered with seem passive-aggressively offended when I don’t want to meet up right away. Sure, most of them are probably fine, but their lack of awareness about real safety issues is not hot. Male violence against women and queer people is real. Men who call themselves feminist, or want to date feminists, need to get better informed about their privilege.

Another way Lex wins against mainstream apps for me is that I can speak a language that comes naturally to me. Words mean different things according to your subcultural affiliation (or lack thereof). Folx on Lex use shorthand that other queer folx understand. For example, in the mainstream, “weird” means strange in a questionable way, but other queers know it means I’m an artist. To cis-het men, kinky seems to equate to slutty. And while “slut” may still be a slur in het-norm land, to other queers it just means that you like sex.

If I do have a conversation with someone about what it means to be queer or femme-identifying, it’s an actual conversation, not an inquisition in which someone is trying to ascertain quickly if I will fuck them or not.

Even the word “queer” is a complicated chore to explain to cis-het-normies. This is me: I like men. I like women. I like a lot of folx in between. Bisexual is only okay as a descriptor because it still relies on the binary. I never have to explain any of this on Lex. If I do have a conversation with someone about what it means to be queer or femme-identifying, it’s an actual conversation, not an inquisition in which someone is trying to ascertain quickly if I will fuck them or not.

Ironically, even though Lex blatantly describes its personals as ads, they feel more multidimensional than the competition. Lex stands out for presenting the entirety and nuance of humans — instead of highlighting their glamour shots and a catchy taglines — emphasizing creativity and wholeness. The ability to express yourself fully feels important to a community of folx who are often told they're never enough.