News (World)

This new dating app will use facial recognition technology to exclude trans women

Facial recognition technology
Photo: Shutterstock

Anti-trans activist Jenny Watson is creating a dating app for lesbians that will deliberately exclude transgender women.

The app, known as L’App, will use facial recognition technology to gauge whether an individual making an account is a cisgender woman. They claim their technology is 99% accurate.

“Identifying someone’s gender by looking at them and not talking to them is sort of like asking what does the smell of blue taste like,” AI researcher Os Keyes said to The Verge in 2021. “The issue is not so much that your answer is wrong as your question doesn’t make any sense.” 

It is unclear how their facial recognition algorithm works, as the technology is notorious for failing to work accurately on non-white people and women. Gender nonconforming cis women and cis women of color have faced problems in how they have been categorized by algorithms like this before.

“Lesbians need an app which they can use without being messaged by trans-identifying males,” Watson told the Daily Mail after saying there are “no female-only dating apps at this moment.” “Trans-identifying males” is a pejorative expression used to refer to trans women.

“To avoid trans-identified males, I will always write a little blurb, nothing disrespectful, saying my preference is for women and please respect my boundaries,” Watson said. “And every time I do that, I get banned. On one app, I was asked to put down my most controversial opinion, so I wrote that JK Rowling was right and was banned for that. It’s insane.”

JK Rowling is known for her intense transphobia, which led to her own family begging her to stay quiet on the subject.

Watson claims that the app will analyze bone structure, facial positioning, and the behaviors of the individuals who try to use it.

A discussion app that markets itself as only being for cisgender women, known as Giggle, is facing legal challenges in Australia after a trans woman was excluded from the app.

She had been granted permission to be on the app after passing through the facial recognition algorithm but was banned after a manual review by the founder.

Watson made headlines before for her lesbian speed dating service in London, where she openly excluded transgender women. After internal conflict between Watson and pub owners, she herself has been excluded from many of these spaces. She says she intends to form her own communities, primarily online.

She also has said she intends to set up a “female only” pub, one that will look at people’s photo ID to gauge if they can enter. In the United Kingdom, trans people can change the gender marker on their photo ID by getting a Gender Recognition Certificate.

Keyes, the AI researcher, said that facial recognition technologies have trouble with LGBTQ+ individuals. “These systems don’t just fail to recognize that trans people exist. They literally can’t recognize that trans people exist.”

The dating app HER is known for it specifically excluding cisgender men, particularly catering to sapphic queer women. It has faced conservative backlash in recent years due to its trans-inclusive policies.

Don't forget to share:


Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated