Online dating as a lesbian, for the most part, still involves having to deal with men. Many sites continue to surface guys as potential mates, despite setting your preferences otherwise.
Up until recently, some of the nation has acted as though lesbianism didn’t exist outside of porn and Ellen Degeneres, and acted as if girls only turn to dating women if they had a bad experience with a man. This, of course, is not true.
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’ve experienced the frustration with dating sites and apps that claim to be inclusive to all sexual orientations, only to realize that some closeted quirks make it obvious that the straights are the target.
Lesbian tinder is matching with a girl then seeing either “looking for friends :)” or “looking for a 3rd to join me & my man” in their bio.
— Lysh (@AlyssiaByrd13) February 28, 2018
Don’t worry. We’re here to help you out.
Our pick for the best app specifically for lesbians is HER: The fact that it’s made by queer women for queer women is a breath of fresh air, and knowing that men showing up is next to impossible is so nice. Not only can you find local matches that you never knew existed, but you can also get involved in local LGBTQ events, read LGBTQ news, and make friends through its social-media like feed. You can obviously find dates, but the lack of pressure to hook up or find a girlfriend is super inviting.
Our pick for the best mainstream app is OkCupid: Okay, we’re totally biased because of their sweet ad campaigns (how can you not be?), but the site has seen such queer-friendly updates in recent years (including expanded gender and sexual orientation options) that it’s clearly pulled out from the pack. The site’s in-depth questions and matching strategies push for lasting connections, and being one of the first dating sites ever, its trusted name brings along a massive lesbian following and tons of options.
Note: A good number of lesbian dating sites and apps do exist, but most face the same issues: They’re either made to sexualize lesbians and aren’t really for relationships at all, or it’s way too easy for guys to sign up and pretend to be women. Creeps are drawn to porn-ish names like Pink Flirt and Pink Couch, so if you’re wondering why we left most of the so-called female only apps out, that’s why.
Obviously, there will be some discrepancies between apps that are specifically for queer women and mainstream apps that have options for queer women, but are open to straight people and men as well. We’ve picked out the best from each category and give an overall consensus of what they’re good for, because dating apps are clearly not a one-size-fits-all thing. (Remember that all can be used to find serious relationships, and all can be used to find hookups. We’re just saying what they’re best for.) Happy ice breaking.
Apps made specifically for lesbians and queer women
The places you can be pretty sure men aren’t gonna show up — whether they’re pretending to be a woman or whether you were tired of mainstream apps showing you men anyway. Language is inclusive, they aren’t advertised to be like the typical male fantasy, and they’ll help you widen your dating pool beyond the circles you already know IRL.
1. HER — best for people who are *over* heteronormative dating sites
The gist: Apps like Tinder and Bumble are technically for all sexual orientations — so why are they still giving you male matches when you’ve specified you only want women? Swiping through all of that is way too much work, and it shouldn’t have to be like that. LESBIANS EXIST. Claiming to the be the app that “introduces you to every lesbian you’ve ever wanted to meet,” HER is the award-winning mix of dating and social media that lets you meet girls you know are girls, as it requires a Facebook for signup and is solely for lesbian, bisexual, and queer women. It was also created by queer women, for queer women, which is glorious.
The setup: HER has a minimalist layout that encourages users to, you know, talk to each other rather than just creeping. While more intense dating sites will have you fill out a huge questionnaire, HER only asks for the bare minimum so that if you want to find out more about a person, you’ll have to ask. Instead of seeing one profile at a time and swiping, you’ll be shown a collage of nearby women and can start playing from there. In a review entitled “I tried HER’s Dating App Hacks and Didn’t Die of Embarrassment,” author Cassie Sheets writes that everyone on HER seems super cool and out of your league, so it might be hard to muster up the courage to send the first message. But don’t worry, they give tips for that. Side note: We totally encourage you to read Sheets’ whole story. The hacks (from HER CEO Robyn Exton) make so much sense and are proven to work, and the article is just a joy to read.
Why it works: Aside from the obvious reason that it’s one of the only dating apps specifically for lesbians and queer women without being some gross sexualized thing? Requiring Facebook to register solves one of the main issues that comes along with online dating as a lesbian: Desperate men posing as women, attempting to do…well, as much as they can, and being all around creepy and invasive. Eliminating fake and scammer profiles that often pop up on hookup apps gives a heightened sense of security, and makes HER much more inviting to women who may have shied away before. Even if you’re not looking for a relationship, HER is just a great place to make friends in your area if you are at capacity with straight friends.
Another refreshing aspect is that HER is so much more than a hookup app, and doesn’t even put on the pressure to find a romantic partner. While it can be used for coupling up, it focuses much more on the LGBTQ community in general. Your profile is more similar to a Facebook profile, and your feed is filled with things like local LGBTQ events, LGBTQ news in the media, new lesbian films or TV shows that mainstream Twitter will probably ignore, and tons more — all posted by women who you can talk to if something sparks you interest.
The bad news: We have seen a few women mention that HER’s reputation for being a “relationship app” has gotten so overbearing that it feels like your feed is just full of women complaining about being single. But this is probably dependent on your location, and we think that the good totally outweighs the bad here.
The cost: HER is free to download and there are no in-app purchases.
2. Fem — best for making sure you don’t get catfished
The gist: Being catfished is one of the most common horror stories across all online dating platforms, but is especially an issue for lesbians with creepy men lurking and trying to pass as women. No thanks. While requiring a Facebook approval is one way to combat the straight men, another way is to require a video instead of pictures, which is the unique route that Fem takes.
The setup: Fem encourages users to introduce themselves with video profiles as way to be personal right off the bat (and you’ll get to hear their voice before meeting IRL, which is a nice touch). Some of us are too shy for videos (raises hand), so Fem doesn’t require it, and you can just post your best selfies instead. Yes, we know it’s possible for someone to steal a video to catfish just as they would with a picture — but you’ll know something’s up if someone posts one video of herself and then refuses to do anything but send you pictures afterward. As of now, it’s pretty fool proof. Aside from the video aspect, Fem has most of the average features that you’d expect on any dating app and operates about the same, so there’s no weird learning curve.
Why it works: The videos. There’s nothing more comforting than knowing the person you’re about to go on a date with is the person you’ve already seen in a video — plus, you’ll have a way easier time picking them out of a crowd in public without accidentally saying hello to the wrong person. Fem also has a unique tool called “Rooms” where users can chat in a variety of different groups, send selfies, or talk about some deep shit. Current rooms include “Meet Locals,” “Makeup Talk,” and “Naughty or Nice,” which is definitely NSFW. Being a lesbian can be lonely, especially if you’re not out yet or are having a time making non-straight friends, and Fem gives an awesome opportunity to expand your circle and meet women with similar experiences.
The bummers: Because it’s relatively new and has experienced some technical difficulties, Fem has a small user database and doesn’t show people based on location, so women you meet might not be from your area.
The cost: Fem is free to download and there are no in-app purchases.
Best of the lesbian-friendly mainstream apps
These are the Tinders, Bumbles, and other mainstream dating apps of the world that started out for straight folks but that have made surprisingly large strides in being successful resources for queer women (or men, for that matter) too.
3. OkCupid — best for finding people who take online dating seriously
The gist: Our favorite of the non lesbian-specific options, OkCupid has truly upped its queer game in the last few years. The site launched a queer ad campaign around a year ago, so you’ve probably seen some woman/woman or man/man OkCupid ads on billboards or public transportation — and they look so good. As one of the biggest dating apps in America with extensive user profiles, OKCupid gives you a large dating pool and offers opportunities to find a lasting connection.
The setup: Similar to traditional players like eharmony or Match, OKCupid has in-depth user bios and sets of questions, making the setup process slower than its counterparts. What’s great about this though is that you can be more sure that you’re connecting over more than just thinking the other person is hot. It does use swiping like Tinder, but you have a lot more to go off of than just their picture and a quote from The Office as a bio. OkCupid is a more serious space, and most users are genuinely using their bios to attract lasting connections.
One thing that makes OkCupid more relationship-y is that matches are shown based on the percentage of things you had in common in the questions you answered — aka it doesn’t just show you every random person in your vicinity who happens to have the same page liked on Facebook. It’s not perfect, but it’ll help meeting in person go a lot smoother.
Why it works: As their slogan says, “Dating deserves better.” And they’re damn right — especially for non-hetero and non-cis people. OkCupid started out focusing solely on straight people, but has experienced an awesome queer-friendly revamp in the past years, with an expansion to 12 sexual orientations and 20 gender identities in 2014. Those who steered clear of online dating in the past due to a lack of inclusive language can now be themselves and find kindred souls without conforming to labels. OkCupid has also been around forever, and since it’s a trusted name means that it has a robust lesbian following. The massive pool may be overwhelming, but it’s ideal if you who want lots of options but would rather die than use Tinder.
The cost: OkCupid is free to register and download, and the most basic features that you’ll need (messaging, matching, etc.) are free. There are two monthly subscriptions as well: A-List Basic (starting at $4.95/month for six months) and A-List Premium (starting at $19.90/month for six months) let you boost your profile for more matches, have more advanced search options, see every user that has viewed your profile, remove ads, and more.
4. Plenty of Fish — best for 30+ women looking for serious chemistry
The gist: One of the first dating websites to launch ever, Plenty of Fish is one of those sites that everyone has heard of and is likely the first place people go to if they’re not into the Tinders of the world. While the registration process requires some pretty heavy duty question answering, it’s only because POF wants to help you find actual chemistry. (They’re a trusted name for a reason.) Like OkCupid, POF has a massive amount of users, so your dating pool will be huge and skimming through options might be overwhelming — but it’s worth it to find your kindred soul. POF’s advertising isn’t as aimed toward the younger crowd as OkCupid’s “Hey, we’re gay” billboards are, so POF’s audience is slightly skewed with a more mature audience.
The setup: Plenty of Fish is one of the older sites out there, and its aesthetic honestly looks like it hasn’t been updated since 2003. The website isn’t very intuitive or nice to look at, but we’ll ignore that (the iOS and Android apps are much better looking than the desktop version). The matchmaking process is super in-depth: Aside from the usual questions about age, height, body type, etc., it will also ask questions about your longest relationship, how much lifestyle choices or physical appearances matter to you in relationships, and more of the like. We’re talking 70+ questions related to chemistry and personality, a 30-question psychological assessment, and more. Of course, you’ll also write a bio and add pictures as well. Our point? They really want to get to know you.
Why it works: Launched in 2003 (just a year before OkCupid), Plenty of Fish has been an extremely strong player in the online dating game and has one of the highest number of daily users (over 3.5 million). Chemistry is the name of the game here, and the multiple questionnaires are no joke. This isn’t a quick five-second set up like other apps, as POF truly wants you to dig deep so that they can give you the best quality matches. Not only does POF attempt to match you with people who you’ll statistically get along with based on answers to questions, it also wants to match you with people who are looking for the same thing as you. In the “meeting goals” section, you’ll specify whether you’re looking for something long term, looking to date but nothing serious, etc., and then POF will try to match you with others who answered similarly. That’s eliminating awkward “What are we” conversations and setting you up for success by pairing you with people with similar priorities.
The bummers: It’s not bisexual friendly. Bisexual erasure is one of the most common letdowns we’ve seen across any dating site. A site with the M.O. that there are “plenty of fish in the sea” shouldn’t be blocking options because of a fish’s gender, but OK. Somehow, this isn’t hurting POF’s numbers at all, but it’s something to consider if you’re looking for both. After reading that, it’s also probably no surprise to you that POF only offers male/female gender options.
The cost: POF is free to register and most of the must-have features are free, which is rare. A premium account will cost $13/month for three months, $9/month for six months, and $7/months for a year-long subscription.
5. Hinge — best for steering clear of randos and casual dating
The gist: We’ll start off by saying that Hinge refers to itself as the “The Relationship App,” but our personal favorite self-proclaimed nickname is the “anti Tinder.” Hinge has been around for a while, but a recent (and gorgeous, aesthetically pleasing) update has brought it to the top of the list of apps for young people of all sexual orientations. Instead of basing matches solely off location, Hinge takes your Facebook and will only match you with friends of friends. So if you’re tired of meeting really weird randos who are not who they say they are, Hinge wants to aid in pairing people who have mutual friends. You scroll and judge people off of pictures and small bios like you would on Tinder or Bumble, but it doesn’t deserve to be thrown in the “sketchy hookup app” category.
The setup: Hinge’s recent makeover that caused it to explode with popularity brings a professional new look to previously swipe-only dating apps. How? It’s literally like scrolling through Instagram, and there are no dead ends from a wrong swipe. Hinge’s CEO Justin McLeod has said that it’s like “Instagram profiles for dating,” and that beta testing has seen five times more conversation that it did when Hinge was a swiping app.
Not swiping one by one is seriously nice if you’re making the jump from Tinder, and seeing a few matches in your daily batch gives you more time to consider options without making split decisions. Hinge requires Facebook syncing and imports things like pictures, last names, as well as relationship status as a way to weed out cheaters or straight couples looking for threesomes. To avoid people swiping at the speed of light and going through everyone in their area in an hour, Hinge starts out by only giving you seven matches per day. That can increase to 15 if you invite more friends to use the app, but this is Hinge’s way of slowing down the process and making it less about finding a quick hookup.
Aside from a bio, every user answers icebreakers that are featured on their profiles, giving anyone who wants to message them an easy in at thinking of a creative and relevant opening line. (AKA you won’t have to text a screenshot to your friends asking if your first message to someone is okay.) Hinge wants to encourage more early conversation, which in turn leads to more meeting IRL.
Why it works: There’s just something so comforting about knowing that others are taking this just as seriously as you are — and Hinge is the place to go if you’re tired of Tinder thinking you want to meet every damn person in the area. While Hinge started out as an app that shows you Facebook friends of friends, their algorithm has been getting smarter and smarter, and is now able to surpass friends of friends as a predictor of compatibility — so you won’t be matched with someone horrendous just because you know the same person. Rather, Hinge will help you get to know the other person more deeply than any new app has attempted, by revealing answers to juicy personality questions and detailed information like future plans, religion, and vices. Seems like a pretty good recipe for a strong connection past looks, right? According to Hinge, 75% of their first dates lead to second dates, and we totally believe it.
Plus, because you have a mutual connection, a double date with your mutual friend and someone else is a fun and not-so-nerve-wracking way to meet for the first time and could get things off the ground faster.
Unlike Tinder and Bumble, which seem to have a broken gaydar, Hinge won’t throw random guys into your feed when you’ve selected women only. THANK YOU.
The bummers: Hinge only has M/F gender options. The inclusivity is definitely annoying, but Hinge’s encouragement to actually talk to the other person to find out information gives you a way to smooth out discrepancies right off the bat.
The cost: Hinge is free to download and the basic features you’ll need (like messaging and matching) are free. If you’d rather have unlimited matches rather than original seven per day, you can pay $7/month to upgrade.
6. Bumble — best for people who need to leave their comfort zone
The gist: Again, Bumble is mostly hetero focused, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely worthless for the queer women of the world. For hetero matches, Bumble is known for their “girls have to message first rule,” but that obviously doesn’t apply to woman-woman matches. But here’s where the helpful part comes in: Bumble requires you to message within the first 24 hours, so if you’re tired of looking at a list of Tinder or OkCupid matches from six months ago and actually want to force yourself to get to know people, this could be a good comfort zone pusher.
The setup: Bumble’s yellow color scheme makes the app look serene and low pressure, which is a great start to users who are worried about feeling completely overwhelmed. Similar to Tinder, you’ll see pictures and short bios of potential matches in your area and can swipe right if you’re interested and left if you’re not. You’ll get a similar amount of information to what Tinder will give you in a similar setup.
You’ve probably also experienced the anxiety that comes with accidentally swiping left on a person who you wanted to swipe right for. Up to three times a day (without paying), Bumble will allow you to “Backtrack” and bring back the last user you saw simply by giving your phone a shake. Phew.
Why it works: Someone literally has to message within 24 hours, or the match goes away. So if anything, it pushes you out of your comfort zone and could give you a serious confidence boost when you start getting responses from those first messages. If you don’t say anything, you could possibly be un-matching with the love of your life, and that’s gonna bother you way more than possibly being ignored. Bumble also has a BFF feature, where you can find friends that are strictly platonic — so you won’t waste time talking to a cute girl for a few days just to find out she’s not looking for anything past friendship.
The bummers: Bumble tried to be feminist by forcing girls in male/female matches to make the first move, which we’re all for — but if they truly want to break the norm, they’re gonna need to be a little more inclusivity for non-hetero users. This means giving more than two gender options (seriously, are we in the dark ages?), and no more throwing male matches into the pools of girls who selected female matches only.
The cost: Bumble is free to download, but has a premium subscription called Bumble Boost. For $7.99/month or $2.99/week, you can be “beelined” or notified any time someone likes you (before you’ve liked them), rematch an unmatched person, or take more than 24 hours to message someone with BusyBee.
7. Tinder — best for hookups, lots of options, and major fun
The gist: Like every other site that ranks queer dating apps, we’ve pretty much been bashing Tinder the whole time. While it does have its flaws and shallow reputation, we still couldn’t leave it off the list. Because of the sheer numbers and how dominant of a player it has become, it seems like we’re comparing everything to Tinder, and constantly asking “Does Tinder have this?” when comparing features on other apps. Seeing how it’s so popular, whatever it’s doing must be working. Yes, we know you’ve heard (or have had your own) horror stories, but you have to appreciate that Tinder makes you aware of potential boos in the area that you never knew existed before. It’s a little shallow, but it gets shit done.
The setup: We probably don’t have to explain this one as everyone and their mother has given Tinder a try at some point. You add pictures, set age ranges, and fill out a bio — sometimes they’re serious, sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re straight up “I’m just looking to have sex.” Then swipe away. Yes, you’re technically judging the pool based solely on looks, but if we’re being real, that’s probably what’s happening when you go to the bar too. The concept sounds shitty, but it’s how our brains work.
Why it works: Tinder is seriously great at making people who are physically close aware of other close singles. Not many people can say that they don’t know a single person in a successful relationship where the couple met on Tinder (yes, even lesbian couples). It’s quick, easy, and everyone is on it — a lot of people will resort to re-downloading Tinder instead of taking time to make a new profile elsewhere. While it doesn’t really do strategic matching, options are virtually limitless with tons of women in the vicinity who you probably didn’t know existed. (Which is clutch, because one of the main lesbian complaints is that, um, there are none around.) Matches are close enough to meet within a day, so you don’t have to waste time on long distance or wait months to hang out. You already knew this, but this is the place to be for hookups — and if both women are down, then that is A-OK. In 2016, Tinder also began to offer 37 gender options (!!!), giving them a one-up on Bumble and leading to matches for over 250,000 trans people.
The bummers: Like Bumble, Tinder still can’t seem to comprehend that homosexuality is a thing. Even if you have your preferences set to women only, guys are still going to be thrown into your mix (and there are some weird men on Tinder). Tinder also has a hard time giving you girls who actually want to meet girls romantically, and may accidentally filter in a girl that just happen to also be a fan of “The Office” on Facebook. (But if you’re patient enough for a thumb workout to swipe past unnecessary guys, there’s really a high chance of you finding your dream girl in that giant selection.)
It’s also probably the app with the highest chance of meeting someone flighty — aka the girls just looking for women to experiment with or couples looking for a lesbian to join their threesome. If you’re cool with either of those scenarios then more power to you, but sometimes, you ain’t got time for that.
The cost: Tinder is free to download, but also has premium accounts if you’re really serious. Tinder Plus’s best features include letting you rewind if you accidentally swipe left on a hottie, and “passport,” which lets you swipe through people in a different location. Depending on where you live and how old you are, Tinder Plus costs between $3 and $20/month. For around $14.99/month, Tinder Gold will let you see who likes you before you’ve liked them.
Why women-only apps are important
There’s obviously still a lot of work to do when it comes to inclusivity, but we’re pretty proud of how far the online dating market has come in the past few years. Queer-only apps keep popping up, and previously straight-focused apps are starting to nix the male/female, gay/straight binary by adding countless new gender and sexual orientation options. They still have their flaws, but it’s a step in the right direction. We’re excited to see how dating apps for women, transwomen, lesbians, and nonbinary people continue to evolve in years to come. After all, love is love.