Our desires for romantic connection and dating are hardwired into us and in this increasingly digital era it’s easier than ever to connect with almost anyone through the myriad of dating sites available. This driving need for romance can potentially introduce a blind spot into your self awareness. As gay men and women, we must be hyperaware of online dating safety.
1. Make Sure Your Dating Profile is Secure
There are many gay dating apps available at your fingertips, and while some may have better reputations than others, there are some basic rules which apply when creating a dating profile. First, use a unique and real email address to register—providing a fake one could cause a delay in creating your profile due to email verification policies. Creating a free email account that you use solely for dating sites may be a better approach.
Consider also making use of a free phone service like Google Voice, which has the same functionality as your main line: all calls and texts are received through the app keeping your true phone number confidential.
Reputable sites like eHarmony, for example, specialize in ensuring their users’ profiles are as secure as possible.
2. Know Your Photographic Surroundings
When choosing your profile photo, remember that scammers may scrutinize your photo for clues about your location. Before posting, review your potential photo for clues that may unknowingly disclose your location. No detail is too small, so use pictures that have backgrounds that are solid, empty, or taken in a location that you don’t frequent regularly, or even semi-regularly.
Remember that your dating profile will be shown to all users of that app, so diligence in photo selection is wise and ensures your safety.
3. Check Privacy Settings
Each dating platform has its own set of privacy and security settings that are enabled by default so that the user experience of the app is enjoyable, intuitive, and streamlined. This means the app could share your real-time location and proximity to others, sometimes even on a map. To remedy this, ensure that location services are not granted to the app so that your location is not constantly tracked.
4. Don’t Reveal Too Much
Dating is exciting, but there are people with bad intentions on each dating platform. You should, therefore, avoid sharing personal details like where you work, what you do, or your general neighborhood in your profile. It’s easy to fall into innocent small talk after experiencing great vibes with someone. Remind yourself that you’re simply searching for a date, so discussing intimate details of your life isn’t really necessary, at least not at first.
You are in complete control of the conversations you choose to engage in, so attempt to keep things light and fun until you get to know the other person better.
5. Avoid Being Catfished
Catfishing is when a person creates a fake profile to dupe users that are genuinely in search of love, usually with the intent to get money out of them. In online dating, you should be aware of these people so you can steer clear. It’s easier than ever to Google a photo of an attractive person and create a fraudulent profile. It’s so common that MTV created an entire show around the concept.
To avoid being catfished, suggest a quick video chat. Apps like Zoosk, for example, have live video chat options built into the platform that don’t reveal your phone number, so you can maintain your privacy.
A benefit of the pandemic is that it has made video dating acceptable and accessible, so don’t be afraid to suggest it. If your potential date constantly finds excuses or refuses outright, it’s likely you’re dealing with a scammer and you should disengage altogether. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to then block their profile so they have no way of contacting you again.
6. Be Clear on Boundaries and Expectations
Let’s face it: people can be inherently self-serving, and this could lead to miscommunication of boundaries and expectations. Therefore, it’s important to be upfront about what you expect to happen on your first date. Is a kiss appropriate? Are you or your date comfortable with making out at this stage? If it’s a casual hookup, are either of you looking to have sex? Agree on what is acceptable behavior (such as using protection) before meeting up, and stand firm in those boundaries.
If your date does not respect or honor your boundaries, this is a red flag that you should consider when deciding if you’d like to move forward with a follow-up date.
7. Be Aware of Your Location
Gay rights may have come a long way over the last 20 years, but not all countries are equally as open, tolerant, or accepting of the lives of gay people as the United States. In fact, in some countries, the use of gay dating apps and public displays of affection by members of the same sex may be punishable by law.
While gay marriage is legal in many countries, there are still places where being openly gay is met with hostility, and where the locals could be resistant to accepting or helping us should danger arise. Always be aware and sensitive to your location, the country’s culture, and local laws.
8. Meet in a Public Place—and Bring a Friend!
Up until this point, you’ve been extremely careful and self-aware, weeded out all of the fake profiles, and found someone you genuinely feel a connection to. As members of the LGBTQ+ community, romance can sometimes feel elusive. This may drive us to throw all caution to the wind when preparing to meet in person for a first date. A great dating safety tip is to have the first few dates in a familiar, busy, well-lit public place.
Additionally, when going on a first date, ask a close, trusted friend if they’d be willing to accompany you as a secret observer. Before the date, you and your friend should establish a codeword or gesture that will act as a signal if you sense danger or feel threatened. At the end of the date, always make sure your friend knows that you’ve arrived home safely.
Pro-tip: if you ever feel uncomfortable during your date for any reason, remember that you can end the date and leave at any time. You do not have to remain in a situation in which you feel tense, uncomfortable, or unsafe.
9. Just Say No and Drink Responsibly
If you enjoy the occasional use of recreational drugs, it’s sensible to forego partaking before or during the first few dates. Further, if your date offers you a drug, it’s wise to decline even if it looks familiar—you never truly know what you’re getting or what that person’s intentions are with you.
Likewise, if you decide to go on a date to a place that serves alcohol, try to limit the amount you drink. Know your limits. This new person is not a trusted friend, but someone you’re only just getting to know, so it’s important to remain as clear-headed and aware as possible.
10. Take it slow
Before becoming exclusive, allow yourself a bit of time to establish the confidence that who you’ve been dating possesses the qualities and characteristics that you truly want. There is no rule establishing the length of time this discovery process will take—you may know instantly, or it may take a few dates.
Everyone is unique and has different desires. While your heart may pull you toward immediate commitment, give yourself space to take a step back and look at everything objectively. Even if you get along famously and have much in common, taking it slow and engaging in deeper conversations is a great way to get to know the other person on a more fundamental level.
One of the main purposes of joining the LGBTQ+ dating scene is to be exposed to a variety of new people, places, and experiences. Enjoy this time and stay mindful and present without any expectations. Dating, at its core, fulfills our natural human desire for connection, and everyone deserves the reward of happy and satisfying encounters and relationships.
While dating has no true rules, these tips can help ensure that your dating experience is both safe and pleasurable. It’s always fun making connections with new people, but remain open, aware, and vigilant if necessary. However, if you never download that app and give it a shot, you might never experience the joy that dating in the LGBTQ+ world can offer. So give it a try. Who knows? Even if romance is not the outcome, you may, at the very least, make some new friends along the way.