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From music taste to appearance, everyone has preferences when looking for a partner. However, where is the line between a preference and being exclusionary or discriminatory?

As a gay man that uses dating apps, I have been exposed to these dating preferences and often deviate from these standards for many reasons.

For one, I am a person of color and race can play a huge role when it comes to finding a partner and being in an relationship. However, when a person only seeks white or lighter-skinned partners, those preferences cross over into new territory of racism and colorism.

NPR reported that Black women and Asian men are more likely to be discriminated against on dating apps. This shows how important race can be on these apps and how people can be stereotyped and seen as undesirable when compared to whiteness.

Another huge issue is body shaming. On dating apps, I’ve seen “no fats” or “no chubs” in profile bios. An environment that fat shames people isn’t exactly a safe space.

Being plus-sized, this creates an unwelcoming environment that reinforces the idea that bodies that don’t meet these standards are undesirable. This issue can even extend to people with disabilities and how they may be treated when dating and in other institutions.

Insider reported that people were more likely to swipe right on Tinder if a person’s profile had the words “model” or “athlete” in them. This shows how much of an emphasis people place on physical appearance, conventional attraction and whether or not people meet societal standards of fitness.

Our Western society is androcentric — meaning that it values masculinity and its interests. Therefore, femininity and anything that deviates from this standard are not as valued. This idea especially applies to gay hookup culture.

On dating apps, I’ve seen “masc4masc” or “no fems” in profiles so many times. Only seeking masculine people shows that femininity isn’t desirable and is seen as inferior, further perpetuating misogynistic narratives.

Excluding people who deviate from masculine standards contradicts what the gay community should stand for, which is being able to deviate from heteronormative structures safely. This issue can also apply to transgendered people who may deviate from cisgender norms.

It may be even harder for someone who experiences exclusion based on race, gender expression and body type, because they are experiencing these different instances of discrimination simultaneously rather than individually. It even leads to a competitive environment where people may be self-conscious because they don’t meet the standards that are so apparent.

Of course, these issues are not exclusive to the gay community or even just dating. It’s important to acknowledge that these standards exist in every institution and create a hierarchy of unachievable benchmarks.

In order to fix these issues, radical changes need to be made on every level and in every institution. Individuals have to make a daily, conscious effort to not be discriminatory and to educate themselves on why these people are excluded.

It’s also important to note that not everyone expects these standards or even seeks them. People who expect their partner to fulfill these expectations are setting themselves up for disappointment, because these standards are almost impossible to achieve or maintain.

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