We’re not adding gender options until we can do it right

When it comes to sexuality and gender, dating sites are pretty shit at anything beyond a simple binary. They get halfway through “LGBT” and just sort of give up.

OKCupid only started adding more realistic gender options late last year. Tinder and Happn are purely binary (with the former apparently banning trans users). Even trendy new start-ups who have their gender options praised in the press, in reality fail pretty miserably at delivery.

Bristlr doesn’t have gender options.

When we made the first prototype of Bristlr we knew we needed some kind of filtering (ideally a binary system for ease of development). So why pick gender with its infinite complexity, when we can just filter on beard or no-beard?

I’m pretty sure this makes Bristlr the largest dating site ever, without gender.

The great

We’re, like, super inclusive. If you’re into beards, we’re into you, and our doors are wide open. Lady looking for a gentleman-Viking for winter? Bearded dame rocking a kick-ass beard wanting to chat to new people? Asexual cutie with an addiction to rating beards? We love everyone. Hello!

The less-great

Bristlr’s doors may work for everyone. But without gender-based filtering, once you’re in the building you can have a less-than-ideal time finding people if you have specific preferences. It’s a common assumption that Bristlr is for guys with beards and women who want to meet them. And whilst this is the case for the majority of Bristlr’s users, it’s not the whole story.

To take gay guys as an example: We do get great feedback from guys using Bristlr to find other guys, but we do also get a lot of feedback which can be generalised to “I only want to see guys into guys”. You can filter by keyword, but this only works if you assume every gay guy has “gay” somewhere in their profile. It’s not great.

The plan

We’re going to add gender and sexuality options to Bristlr in order to support our LGBTQ+ users. But we’re not going to rush it.

Our current plan is to add an optional gender field to profiles: A text box allowing multiple, comma-separated words of your choosing (or invention). Then a second field where you write the genders you’re interested in. We then filter and match using a list of synonyms, plus existing filters like location, age, beard/no-beard etc.

The synonym list will be public, and community reviewed.

We want to help drive a better industry standard for this kind of stuff, and we know we’ve got a lot of work ahead. We’re a tiny team currently going through the Ignite start-up accelerator, so we’re being metaphorically scrunched up and fired out of a Business Cannon (like a human cannon, but with more spreadsheets). It may take us a little while, but this is going to happen.

If you have any thoughts, questions, concerns, or funny cat pictures, please do leave a comment or find me on Twitter.

Photo credit: Sexuality flag heart patches from Nerdloft on StoreEnvy


John Kershaw is Bristlr’s founder and CEO.

John Kershaw

John is the founder of Bristlr. When not writing code, he's doing important beard-related business things.

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2 thoughts on “We’re not adding gender options until we can do it right

  1. That was a good read, well done for delaying the decision. A moderated keyword list sounds like a good way of dealing with this, other than desperately trying to minimise development/maintenance overhead by shepherding everything into a schema-friendly model.

  2. Personally I like the simple Beard or Beardless OR Male or Female approach.

    Most of us have done it but a simple registration process is so much nicer than a laborious long winded sign up process.

    It hadn’t occurred to me a binary (nice use of the word) approach can lead to pitfalls though. But now you mention it Tinder does have a problem in this regard.

    Sadly not everyone is just going to Tinder swipe the appropriate way and carry on with their life.

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