Most of us know to take precautions when talking to or setting up dates with strangers online, including watching how much information we reveal, researching the other person ahead of time, meeting in well-lit and populated public places, and letting friends or relatives know where we're going. Self-defense training also isn't a bad idea.
But some groups have additional safety concerns. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community face hostility, harassment and violence just for being themselves. LGBT youth are cut off or disowned by their own families at alarming rates. This adds layers of difficulty and danger to finding compatible dating partners. Sexual orientation and gender identity (with some exceptions) tend to be included as profile and preference settings in dating apps, making finding potential partners easier and safer. OKCupid even includes a feature to make your profile invisible to straight users.
Dating apps also open up a wider pool of dating possibilities nearby, which is especially useful for people in remote areas. Survey data indicates that around 3.5 percent of the population is gay, lesbian or bisexual and about 0.3 percent is transgendered [sources: Gates, Ward]. However, it's worth noting that higher percentages report same-sex sexual activity or attraction, and there are more orientations and identities than are covered above.
Among Tinder's competitors are apps specifically geared toward LGBT users, like Grindr, Scruff and Jack'd for men, and Her and Wing Ma'am for women. Online dating sites Mesh and Thurst, reportedly in beta, will have more gender identity choices than simple binary options, but phone dating apps catering to transgendered users are currently rare.
Most dating apps could use improvement regarding orientation and gender choices. Tinder and many others only allow a binary male/female gender choice, leaving users to state other gender identities and preferences in their profiles. Some Tinder users have reported transgendered users who've appeared in their feeds, sometimes getting them banned. The company says it's working on allowing more choices. How well each app filters based on preferences apparently varies, as well, and some resort to creating more than one profile to cover more bases.
LGBT people also use these apps to enable quietly finding dating prospects in areas where being open about their orientation or gender identity is extremely dangerous (or even against the law). But it can still be hazardous to use an app, however private it may seem. People have reportedly been targeted for assault, blackmail and even deportation after being identified by fake users through the apps. Scruff and some other apps include alerts for such areas.