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Dating app encourages users to make ‘virtual’ connections

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Image courtesy #open

A dating app is telling its users that “now is not the time” for meeting up in person and encouraging them to use their platform to explore virtual relationships instead.

A relative newcomer among the array of dating apps, #open was launched by co-founders Amanda Wilson and David Epstein, who themselves met on a dating app in 2015 and decided to build one of their own a year later. By 2018, their brainchild was in the Apple app store, and Android began offering it in April of 2019. Since then, it has grown to serve over 48,000 users – with an impressive 43,000 matches made.

What makes this app different from Grindr or Tinder, or any of the other better-known players in the game?

According to Epstein, “As our name implies, it’s an app that’s been built for people with a fairly open mindset, when it comes to human sexuality.”

A look at the wide array of identities and orientations among their users (besides offering 24 different gender identities and 23 sexual orientations to choose from, the app also lets you enter your own), as well as the high percentage of people identifying as being in non-traditional relationships, gives a clear picture of why #open has a unique appeal.

Epstein elaborates, “The one thing the users have in our community have in common, more than anything else, is that 95% of our users identify as being in some kind of an open relationship – whether that’s the 28% that are polyamorous or the 5% that consider themselves ‘monogom-ish’ or anything in between.’ That’s the common thread.”

Perhaps the fledgling app’s targeted focus accounts for the growth in its numbers, but with the last two months seeing a particular rise in both new user profiles and user interactions, it’s likely also a reflection of coronavirus fears beginning to drive people online in greater numbers. Whatever the reason behind it, the company’s co-founders want to live up to their core value as an “honest dating app” and make sure its swelling membership is practicing “social distancing” by getting to know potential partners remotely instead.

As Wilson puts it, “People right now are trying to figure out how they’re going to maintain their connection and their community, and their social lives, and apps are meeting one of those needs, obviously. We’ve been saying for a while that dating has been changing, and now this is going to bring more change, for a little bit.”

With that in mind, she says, the company made the decision to send out a message to all of its users on Monday, “urging them to remember that there is no safe sex, there is only safer sex, and that now is not the time to be swapping spit with people, and to stay home.”

Epstein elaborates further, “We’re a sex positive app, and the people in our community understand the incredible importance of transparency – especially when you’re talking about people in polyamorous relationships, or practicing ethical non-monogomy. And of course, we have huge at-risk populations here. We just don’t think you can play it too safe right now.”

Image courtesy #open

Rather than using the app to arrange intimate in-person encounters, the company suggests taking an opportunity to work on aspects of dating that are often ignored in our age of instant gratification.

“We really think it’s a time to explore communicating,” says Epstein, “through the app, or through Facetime or any of the other tools people have available to them on their smart phones.”

“Relationships are all about communication,” Wilson interjects. “So, you know, swipe right more often, talk to people that you wouldn’t necessarily usually talk to.”

“And you know it doesn’t have to be boring,”she adds. “There are things that you can do to spice up your lives when you’re stuck inside.”

“If you are exploring your sexuality,” Epstein elaborates, “we think this is a time to explore it in a virtual way.”

Anyone with a smart phone and a libido is sure to understand exactly the kind of thing they are hinting at, and though it may not be as good as “IRL” for a lot of us, it’s definitely something to explore as a means of getting through what could be a long haul of ethical self-isolation.

“We need to lean into the long game,” Wilson stresses. “In this day and age when you can get anything at any time, within a couple of hours, we’re used to immediacy – but now we can get to know people again, and play around with delayed gratification.”

Epstein interjects, “There will be a lot of delayed gratification built up on the other side of this, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Wilson, with a similarly positive attitude, sums the situation up.

“We’re going to be in our own homes for a while now – and that’s okay. Dating will rebound.”

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Sports

Quinn destined to be 1st Trans Nonbinary Olympic medalist

“I’m so proud of my team,” Quinn told the CBC. “They’re my best friends. I’m so glad we’re bringing back a better medal than bronze.”

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Screenshot via CBC Sports

KASHIMA-SHI, JAPAN – Before this week ends, the world will know the name Quinn: They will be the first-ever trans nonbinary athlete to win an Olympic medal. 

Quinn already made history as the world’s first trans nonbinary athlete to compete in any Olympic games. Now they and their teammates are on their way to winning either silver or gold. All Team Canada has to do is defeat Sweden on Thursday as handily as it did the number one-ranked USWNT in a 1-0 shutout Monday. Lose, and they get the silver; Win, and Quinn and Team Canada take home gold. 

“I’m so proud of my team,” Quinn told the CBC. “They’re my best friends. I’m so glad we’re bringing back a better medal than bronze.” 

Reporters asked Quinn about the historic nature of their participation, but they were focused on supporting their teammates who have waited almost a decade for this moment. 

“I’m doing this for the people I grew up looking up to. Like Sincy,” they said. 

“We finally won,” said Captain Christine “Sincy” Sinclair. “For those of us who were part of the 2012 game, it was nice to get a little revenge in an Olympic semifinal.”

On the other side of the pitch, out USWNT legend Megan Rapinoe talked with NBC Sports about how it felt to lose to Canada: “It sucks,” she said. “It’s a bitter one to swallow. Obviously we never want to lose to Canada. I don’t think I’ve ever lost to Canada. So it’s a bitter one.”

Rapinoe is engaged to marry Team USA co-flag bearer and Seattle Storm sensation Sue Bird, the longest tenured player in the WNBA. She’s in Tokyo chasing her fifth gold medal, in what she said would be her last Olympics. Rapinoe has one, from London in 2012, where Team Canada suffered defeat and heartbreak. 

Until Monday, the American women hadn’t lost to Canada in two decades. They traveled to Tokyo as back-to-back defending World Cup champions, having not lost a single match in 44 tries. They hadn’t been shutout in four years.

Then Canada’s Jessie Fleming of London, Ontario converted a penalty kick in the 74th minute to score the only goal of Monday’s match, sending the ball past out American goalkeeper, Adrianna Franch.

So, for Team USA to have lost twice and get shutout three times, with bronze as their best hope? It’s a stunner for the iconic team with at least four out women: Rapinoe, Franch Tierna Davidson and Kelly O’Hara. 

For Quinn, this is also about showing the next generation what they can get from playing sports. 

“Athletics is the most exciting part of my life and it brings me the most joy,” Quinn told CBC Sports on Monday. “If I can allow kids to play the sports they love, that’s my legacy and that’s what I’m here for.”

Also Monday, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand became the first out transgender woman to compete in any Olympic Games. Unfortunately, her history-making appearance was short.

Hubbard, 43, had three chances to advance in “the snatch” first round of the Women’s Super Heavyweight Division competition in Tokyo Monday, but failed to complete a lift that counted. She was the only one of the 13 finalists to not complete at least one lift in the competition that was ultimately won by China’s Li Wenwen.

Before leaving the stage, Hubbard pounded her chest and made a heart gesture with her hands, sending a message of gratitude to the judges, the audience and everyone watching online and on television around the world. 

Photo courtesy New Zealand Olympic Team

Later, Hubbard told reporters she was grateful to the International Olympic Committee, which supported her entry and last week declared, “Trans women are women.” 

“Of course, I’m not entirely unaware of the controversy which surrounds my participation in these Games,” Hubbard said after leaving the competition. “And, as such, I’d particularly like to thank the IOC, for, I think, really affirming their commitment to the principles of Olympism, and establishing that sport is something for all people. It is inclusive. It is accessible.”

The International Weightlifting Federation also earned Hubbard’s thanks, she said, because “they too have shown that weightlifting is an activity that’s open to all of the people in the world.”

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Sports

Out Olympian Kenworthy & Paralympian Dunkin on Tokyo & LGBTQ Sports

“The fact that LGBTQ youth drop out of sports at twice the rate of their heterosexual & gender counterparts, it doesn’t have to be that way.”

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Screenshot via Los Angeles Blade

TOKYO – Gus Kenworthy is in Tokyo for the Summer Games, but not to compete. The  Olympic Gold Medalist recently joined Paralympian Gold Medalist Abby Dunkin in a Zoom conversation with Athlete Ally founder and executive director Hudson Taylor and the head of LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion for Procter & Gamble, Brent Miller. 

“I felt like I knew that if I came out, there must be someone else,” Kenworthy said. “I was like, there’s someone else in skiing or an action sports or another kid who is going to resonate with my story. And if I can even help one person, then it will be worth it.”

This group of athletes and allies tackled the difficult issues of coming out in sports, fears of rejection, suicide attempts and competing authentically as well as the controversy over transgender inclusion in sports, both at the Olympics and in high schools and colleges across the U.S. 

“Only 24% of LGBTQ youth participate in sports,” noted Taylor. “The fact that LGBTQ youth drop out of sports at twice the rate of their heterosexual and gender counterparts, it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Dunkin credited Paralympian gold medalist Stephanie Wheeler as an inspiration both on the court and in everyday life as an out lesbian. 

“Stephanie really creates such a great environment for me and other athletes and also our staff, too, that were out at the time,” said Dunkin. “And that really impacted me to come out and be myself.“ Wheeler is also head coach of the Univ. of Illinois women’s wheelchair basketball team. 

As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, there are more than 142 out LGBTQ athletes competing in Tokyo, a record for any Olympic Games. And with trans nonbinary soccer player Quinn on their way to a potential gold medal, making history with out trans woman Laurel Hubbard and out trans BMX competitor Chelsea Wolfe in Tokyo, Miller says their first steps are inspiring to people all around the world, no matter what their gender identity or sexual orientation is. 

“It’s about bringing people together, supporting people, creating mutual understanding, and really celebrating all of humanity,” Miller said. “And now for us, bringing those LGBTQ+ stories forward is critically important because we see the value of what sport can bring.”

Watch their conversation with sports editor Dawn Ennis by clicking here.

Equal Representation in Sports: Why LGBTQ+ Visibility Matters

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Music & Concerts

Rapper DaBaby pulled by Lollapalooza over homophobic comments

“Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing.”

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Screenshot from Rolling Stone Magazine's YouTube Channel

CHICAGO – In an announcement Sunday morning, the organizers of Chicago’s Lollapalooza Music Festival said they had pulled artist DaBaby from tonight’s closing show after a series of public homophobic remarks by the rapper last weekend in Miami at the Rolling Loud music festival.

On Twitter Lollapalooza officials wrote; “Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing at Grant Park tonight.  Young Thug will now perform at 9:00pm on the Bud Light Seltzer Stage, and G Herbo will perform at 4:00pm on the T-Mobile Stage.”

The Grammy-nominated rapper’s comments onstage at the Miami festival last weekend brought swift condemnation from other artists in the music industry including British Rockstar Elton John and Madonna among many others.

In the middle of his set last weekend in Miami the rapper told the crowd, “If you didn’t show up today with HIV/AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases, that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cellphone lighter up! Ladies, if your pussy smell like water, put your cellphone lighter up! Fellas, if you ain’t sucking dick in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up!”

DaBaby later issued an apology via Twitter that read, “Anybody who done ever been effected by AIDS/HIV y’all got the right to be upset, what I said was insensitive even though I have no intentions on offending anybody. So my apologies” However, the addendum in the same tweet of; “But the LGBT community… I ain’t trippin on y’all, do you. y’all business is y’all business.” was immediately decried as further proof of the rapper’s intolerance of the LGBTQ community.

Michael J. Stern, a Los Angeles attorney and a former federal prosecutor who is now a noted featured columnist for USA Today blasted DaBaby’s ‘apology;’

In his response to Dababy’s remarks Elton John, who founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992, a nonprofit organization which funds frontline partners to prevent infections, fight stigma and provide care for the most vulnerable groups affected by HIV, responded in a lengthy series of tweets:

Madonna took to her Instagram telling the rapper to “know your facts,” before spreading misinformation. 

“AIDs is not transmitted by standing next to someone in a crowd,” she wrote on Instagram. “I want to put my cellphone lighter up and pray for your ignorance, No one dies of AIDS in 2 or 3 weeks anymore. Thank God.”

This year’s Lollapalooza festival, which is one of the first major festivals to return in full force since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, concludes Sunday with headlining performances by musical acts Brockhampton, the Foo Fighters, and Modest Mouse.

Dua Lipa ‘Horrified’ at DaBaby’s Homophobic Remarks at Rolling Loud | RS News 7/28/21

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