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Bi personals site boots trans member

by Ethan Jacobs

Bay Windows

Wednesday July 9, 2008

UPDATED July 3 2008

When Nick Teich created a free account on the online personals site last week, he decided to disclose that he is transgender. Perhaps he shouldn't have.

"They say, tell us about yourself in your own words. And I stated, 'I'm a 25-year old trans guy living in Boston.' ... I didn't want to mislead anyone looking at my profile, so that's why I put that," said Teich. Within a day he had received three "smiles," which members send to express their interest in getting to know each other.

Teich thought little of his decision until he wrote to the site's customer service staff about a problem he was having using the site. He exchanged e-mails with a customer service representative named Kiar Dupuis, and after reading his profile Dupuis informed him that the site does not allow transgender users.

"I am sorry, as a transgender, our site would not meet your needs. I am afraid we have to remove your profile," wrote Dupuis, according to an e-mail provided to Bay Windows by Teich. His profile was deleted shortly after he received the e-mail. is owned by the Seattle-based company TangoWire, which owns a network of personals sites catering to a range of interests, from the LGB community to different racial and ethnic communities to motorcycle enthusiasts. An FAQ section of the site describes TangoWire as a gay-owned and operated company: "TangoWire was founded by, is directed by, and is run by gay personnel. We don't discriminate against our straight co-workers - they're cool people, too, and just as committed to your great experience on our site."

Prior to transitioning Teich had joined one of TangoWire's lesbian sites, but he said he hadn't been an active user. When he registered with he assumed he was signing onto a completely new site, but in fact the profiles for each site are linked to one massive database, meaning that someone on one of the bisexual sites could view the profile of a member of one of the lesbian sites. One of Dupuis's e-mails to Teich accused him of trying to force his way onto the lesbian site.

"We do not have a site appropriate for transgenders. You joined our lesbian site, which is not your sexual preference. You then listed yourself as a bisexual man. This is absolutely a violation of our community rules because we do not allow any man on a lesbian site," wrote Dupuis. "You are NOT a lesbian therefore you cannot and will not be a part of our lesbian community."

Brian Brown, chief technical officer for TangoWire, confirmed that the company does not allow transgender people to create profiles on the site. When asked why identifying as transgender would exclude someone from identifying as bisexual and placing a personal ad on a bisexual dating site, Brown reiterated that TangoWire's site does not accommodate transgender people.

"It's that T side [in LGBT] that we have not been able to fully accommodate within our program. That is shown [by the fact] that in our registration, transgender is not one of the options we provide, and we don't provide that as such. ... That identity is not an identity we have an ability to support," said Brown.

He said that while Teich's disclosure of his trans status played a role in the deletion of his profile, the primary reason he was removed is that he changed his profile on the TangoWire network of sites from lesbian to bisexual male.

"We don't support bisexual males on a lesbian site. ... When you sign up in our network your original site of registration is the site you get oriented in," said Brown. He said Teich violated the company's terms of service by changing the gender on his profile.

Teich said he was angry when told that he was being booted from the site for identifying as transgender.

"I was in absolute shock when I saw that e-mail. ... I was really upset. I was really angry. And I know that these people are ignorant, but it didn't roll off my back that easily," said Teich, who contacted Bay Windows about the incident and reported it to the legal hotline of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. He said he might file a complaint against the company with civil rights authorities in Seattle.

Daryl Herrschaft, director of Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) Workforce Equality Project, said that HRC works to educate gay-owned businesses about the transgender community, but he could not recall an instance of a gay-owned business being so blatant in discriminating against transgender people.

"We created a guide called 'Small Business Basics' along with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and what that guide does, it was geared towards small business owners and people affiliated with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, many of which are gay-owned businesses. The guide addresses transgender issues. ... That being said, I am not familiar of another specific example of something like this," said Herrschaft.

Brown told Bay Windows that despite TangoWire's exclusion of transgender customers the company strongly supports the LGBT community.

"The founder and CEO is gay, and we have an operations person who is gay. It's a very liberal workforce and company as a whole," said Brown.

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