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Translating Gender

Over the course of this past year, we have worked with trans experts and advocacy organizations around the world – such as East Africa Trans Health & Advocacy Network and the FTM Vietnam Organization – to expand the options for gender identity terms and pronouns on Grindr.
AJ Balance
&
Chief Product Officer
July 15, 2024
4
min. read
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Table of Contents

Grindr’s mission is to connect LGBTQ people with one another and the world. We are committed to making Grindr a place where all members of the LGBTQ community, including the trans community, feel safe and welcome. Working with our users and the community, we will continue to refine and evolve our product so people of all genders and sexualities can find meaningful connections in the world around them.

Over the course of this past year, we have worked with trans experts and advocacy organizations around the world – such as East Africa Trans Health & Advocacy Network and the FTM Vietnam Organization – to expand the options for gender identity terms and pronouns on Grindr. Grindr now provides thoroughly inclusive gender options in all 21 languages in which our app is available, using local terms that are culturally appropriate.

For many years, Grindr offered a customizable text field to enable people of different gender identities to describe themselves. Unfortunately, that feature was used to make jokes and brought transphobia into the app. The changes we are making now enable people to broadly express themselves in a thoughtfully designed manner.

"Finding languages and words (pronouns) that we identify with and use day-to-day on a public platform like a dating app can be immensely reaffirming, especially for people who often face invisibilization. If what is intimate to you is respected, it gives you confidence to put yourself out there and connect with people. Varta Trust fully supports Grindr in its efforts to provide a wider range of gender identity expressions for its users," said Pawan Dhall, Founding Trustee of Varta Trust, another one of our collaborators on this project.

Translating gender across languages and cultures is more difficult than you might think. Here are a few of the key challenges we worked through:

Incongruous pronouns

Many languages use predominantly gender neutral pronouns, so, for example, “he/him/his” and “she/her/hers” don’t easily translate to languages like Swailihi (Yeye/Yeye/yake). Our approach has been to map each term and present options for “masculine”, “feminine”, or “neutral” in those cases, and have those appropriately translated to a pronoun term.

Unclear categories

Very few words translate perfectly in general. Some words could either be translations of other concepts, or wholly different concepts in themselves. For example, we worked closely with local groups to understand the femminiello identity – specific to Naples, Italy – and whether it was another word for a trans woman, or whether it was its own category. Ultimately, we determined femminiello is its own category.

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Changing cultural sensitivities

Similarly, we had to make determinations about words that some people consider offensive but other people use. In Indonesia, for example, the term waria has long been used by transfeminine people colloquially but, these days, some trans women scholars have taken issue with the term and moved away from it. In these cases, we deferred to local experts but erred on the side of inclusion, as we know many people attach great importance to these terms as an expression of their sense of self.

Kevin Halim, a trans activist from Indonesia who we partnered with for this project, said: "The evolving terminologies for gender identity used throughout Indonesia reflect the local cultures and the historical struggle for acceptance of non-traditional gender identities. I appreciate Grindr’s efforts to include these varied identities, and hope this initiative helps users better understand and appreciate local context in a deeper way."

We know our current options are not perfect. This will be a living list, changing as identity descriptions evolve. If you think we may have missed a term, there is a link within the app where you can suggest a new term. You can also reach out to [email protected].

We want to make it easier for other products to design for inclusion too. We have put together a toolkit developers can use to make their apps more welcoming and inclusive for the trans community:

As we look ahead, we welcome the opportunity to continue working with our users, the community, and other partners to foster greater respect and inclusivity within our community and the world. By working together, we hope to ensure people of all genders and sexualities can safely and easily find meaningful connections in the world around them.

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