Illustration shows a smartphone with the Tinder app open. It shows a cartoon face of Mike, age 27, a marketing director.

Swipe Left if You’re not Willing to Learn ASL

LivAbility Magazine

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Navigating Tinder with a Disability

Story by Sophie Rabb

My former college roommate, Jordan, 22, is one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. With thick curly brown hair, short little legs and brown, intense eyes that could cut through glass, Jewish and Deaf, Jordan is unwaveringly confident, logical to a fault, low maintenance and impressively ambitious. As roommates and good friends, we share a love for debate, politics and travel. Oftentimes, as I’d get settled in for the day, she would storm in. “Did you see the news today?”

While our friends and I scrambled to find our purpose in life, Jordan aced all her courses, held leadership positions in school clubs, worked multiple jobs and started a couple small businesses. She’s now an overscheduled graduate.  student, who still loves to go out and date. Her favorite social media platform is Tinder.


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Jordan is straightforward and doesn’t hide or apologize for being Deaf. Her profile puts it right your face: “Swipe left if you’re not willing to learn ASL” (American Sign Language). Based on her stories and my observations from afar, here are some of the archetypes she’s met on Tinder:

The Near Miss

Jordan usually only meets with her matches a few times, but she dated Jesse for about two months. Jordan really liked Jesse. He was willing to learn ASL, kindhearted, good looking and smart. She was so close to making him her official boyfriend; however, every time there was a silent or awkward pause, he tried to fill it by kissing her. Unfortunately, Jordan quickly found this a not-so-cute habit that only made things even more awkward.

The Shoulda Worked Out

Before her four-month solo trip to Australia, Jordan friended several Deaf Australians on Facebook. The Deaf world is small, if we see a Deaf person on social media we are more likely to “friend” or “follow” them. Two months into her trip, she matched with a Deaf Australian guy. He messaged her, joking that this was their second time meeting on social media – they were already friends on Facebook! Soon after matching, they met up and, even though it was easier for them to communicate together and seemed like a natural fit, she found him slimy. After 20 minutes together, she announced, “Uhm, I’m leaving, bye,” and unmatched him.

The Clueless One

Back home, one couple was looking for a “third.” After matching with them and chatting for a while, Jordan decided to join them. Despite the disclaimer on her profile: “Swipe left if you’re not willing to learn ASL (American Sign Language),” the man was shocked to learn that Jordan was Deaf. “You mean you’re deaf and dumb?” He immediately unmatched her on Tinder and deleted her on Snapchat. “It was so stupid,” she told me, clearly amused. “Some people are just stupid.”

The Unlikely One

During the summer in Seattle, she matched with a free-spirited redhead named Sydney. They immediately had a connection. Sydney was not only curious, openminded and interesting, she was quick to pick up ASL. In the darkness one night as they were becoming close, Jordan tried to sign goodnight to Sydney in her hands. Sydney, confused, made a fuss and insisted on turning on the lights to understand. When she finally realized that Jordan was only saying goodnight, Syd immediately learned this sign. It’s become their ritual that Sydney signs “good night” into Jordan’s hands every night. Jordan has finally realized what her friends already knew. She’s hands down, 100 percent, completely in “like” with Sydney. Now, eight months later, she plans to introduce Sydney to her father.

Watching Jordan’s journey has been a pleasure. Brave and bold, she has taken advantage of the endless opportunities available on social media. They may not have all been wonderful experiences, but she has definitely learned from them and entertains us with her best online dating stories. Living vicariously through her adventures these past three years has shaped me into a braver, more confident person. Thanks to my time with Jordan, I’m excited to go my own three-month backpacking trip through Europe! Who knows? Maybe I’ll meet my unlikely one.



Sophie Rabb
Writer

Sophie Rabb, graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in December 2017 with a degree in Global Studies and Anthropology. She plans to pursue a Masters in Sustainability and City Planning. In her free time, she loves to write poetry, travel, and play soccer.

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