It’s the last Saturday in August, and I’m sitting across from a really cute guy at a brewery near my new home in Indiana. We have been DM-ing for the past two days and have covered a lot of ground — our recent breakups, his adorable dog, and my decision to move to the midwest to attend seminary. On the date, he tells me about his own uncertainties when he decided to go to seminary and how he’s navigating dating as a local pastor. It’s a weird world dating while pursuing careers as religious people, and it feels good to be seen.
Before moving to Indiana, I was a grassroots organizer in Washington, D.C. where I focused on peace and justice issues. I’ve worked for faith-based advocacy organizations throughout my career, but I found my spiritual home with the Quakers. And after the last two very rough years in D.C., I was looking for a spiritual renewal. I visited Earlham School of Religion to consider an online program and, by the end of my trip, I’d decided to move to Indiana.
I was changing my life in other ways, too. I spent most of my early adulthood in a long-term relationship that started in 2011 — a year before Tinder was born. When I found myself single again in 2017, the dating scene had changed completely. I was suddenly thrust (or thrust myself) into the world of online dating. When I created my first Tinder profile, I couldn’t predict how much online dating would impact my exploration of my sexuality and faith. Connecting with new people gave me opportunities to vocalize my thoughts and feelings about my identity. New matches were able to see me with fresh eyes, unlike many in my social circle. Two years later, and after many, many dates, and a few awkward exchanges, I’ve learned my lessons about using Tinder as a queer, religious person.
1. If religion is important to you, put it in your bio
When I arrived in Indiana, I debated whether I should include the fact that I am in seminary in my dating profile. I was afraid doing so would prompt certain assumptions, and I am not what most people picture a seminarian to be. I’m bisexual, pro-choice, and certainly not celibate. I even hesitated to write that I am Quaker for fear of eliminating potential matches. But shying away from sharing my faith didn’t feel like the right decision either. I would be doing what I was afraid people were doing to me: creating an image of what a person of faith should look like and making judgements based on it.
What I found when I put “Quaker (the religion, not the oatmeal)” in my profile is that most people don’t know what a Quaker is. But I also started connecting with those who did about our faith backgrounds and our desire to make the world a better place. The excitement I felt during these exchanges made me more likely to want to meet my matches in person.
2. It’s OK to own that you are both religious and queer.
When I first came out, I didn’t know where all the other queer people hung out. Queer spaces were intimidating to go to by myself, because I didn’t know what to expect. Leaning into my Quakerism helped me become comfortable with my sexuality. And using Tinder, I could connect with more new, like-minded people from the comfort of my bedroom.
But when I started actually going on dates, I was hesitant to talk about my relationship with God and my faith practice. I felt vulnerable putting myself out there in yet another way, but I found many of my matches were encouraging of my exploration of my faith. I should have known, given how open the LGBTQ community can be, that being honest with people would be a plus, not a minus.
3. We all deserve partners who change and grow with us.
While being open about being queer and religious has given me new ways to connect, I have also found that many people are, shall we say, misinformed. I constantly have to explain to my matches that I am not becoming a nun (nothing against nuns, just not my decision). As my faith becomes a more central part of my life, I’ve seen how it has shifted my desire to date people who are respectful of my new career goals. Not everyone wants to be a pastor’s spouse, partner, or friend with benefits.
Many of us have been in relationships where our partners don’t accept the fullest extent of who we are, and it can be exhausting to feel like you have to suppress part of yourself to fulfill their expectations. My life has shifted a lot over the last few years. I went from an ambitious, fast-talking politico in a long-term heterosexual relationship to a queer, fast-talking (by Midwest standards) seminarian. I am constantly challenging myself to prioritize what is true to me and avoid centering what I think others will think of me. As I go through this dating journey, what I need from partners may change — and that’s OK. Thankfully my profile always has an edit option.