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For some, finding love is on this year's list of resolutions. Now that February is here and Valentine’s Day approaches, many people are looking for that special someone.
COVID-19 forced many into isolation, seeking connections online. For many queer individuals, the Internet has served as a lifeline and place to connect with other LGBTQ folks long before the pandemic.
According to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), romance scams were up 50% in 2020 thanks to the pandemic. However, many do not consider the adverse consequences of online dating, and they keep running into the same issues. Why? They do not think their personal data is important.
What is the first thing that happens when people meet one another, whether virtually or in the flesh? They share their information! When meeting someone new, you want to share your world. After all, this is how you begin to know someone, but letting your guard down online can have serious consequences.
In cyberland, not everyone is looking for love on dating sites. Oversharing without awareness can lead to severe security and privacy risks. The receiving end may not be who you think they are. They could use your information against you to commit fraud or inflict harm. In a recent case, a Texas man used the dating app Grindr to lure gay men into robbing and assaulting them.
Online, many lie or bend the truth, and sometimes you may not even be speaking with an actual human instead, you may be interacting with a bot that collects personal information and files it into a database to plan a future data breach. Erring on the side of caution and protecting your personal information is paramount.
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind as you explore the world of online dating:
1. Only use trusted cupid applications
Choose reputable dating sites by performing research first. Many malicious sites and apps are out there, and some are even available in the app store. It should be no surprise that many who download from a “trusted” source get duped. It is up to you to perform your due diligence before selecting a service.
2. Reading fine print does not kill ‘the mood’
We have all heard campaigns of using protection and arguments from some that it kills the moment. When it comes to reading a site's privacy policies and terms and conditions before engaging with potential mates, no one can argue that preparation can kill the mood! To navigate the complex text successfully, look for how your data is protected, processed, stored, and shared with third parties.
3. Be sure your profile attracts love, not fate
Create a profile with your safety in mind that markets yourself authentically. The goal is to attract a suitable mate by relaying interests, hobbies, and preferences. Be cautious providing too much personal information that may harm you. Leave off supplying your full name, address, phone number, place of employment, and other identifiable information. Stick to posting photos of yourself, not those that reveal your home’s background, private details, your location, or any proprietary information exposed on a computer screen or documents resting on a nearby table. Be respectful of your human relationships and do not post photos that contain members of your family or friends, especially without their consent.
4. Indulge in something satisfying, not a scheme
Fraud is the oldest trick in the book, and the nature of the Internet makes it that much easier to conduct. Avoid solicitations targeted with deceptive messages that lure you into performing a task. It may come as a request for a gift card, money, or Uber rides. Be mindful of malicious emails and text messages that include suspicious links, or QR codes designed with deceptive marketing tactics that get you to click on a fraudulent URL.
5. Verify your crush on video, then meet in a public space
Many dating sites have video features now, so confirm whom you’re speaking with by using the video feature. Be wary of anyone not wanting to do so. I get it; some of you may not be comfortable on video; however, what is the difference if you’re meeting someone in person? It is better to be safe than sorry and to eliminate potential catfish. When meeting for the first time, agree to meet somewhere in public and furnish your ride to get there safely. It is not a good idea to invite strangers into your home or get into a car with someone you do not know or trust.
6. Stay loved through increased awareness and security practices
Love and respect yourself by establishing your safety and security boundaries. Implementing good security practices such as: storing strong passwords in a password manager, using multi-factor authentication, adjusting the security and privacy settings on all of your social media sites and dating applications, and having good security software on your PC and mobile devices. These protective measures will go a long way in helping to prevent many of the adverse incidents that occur online.
7. Let someone you trust know they are the ‘third-wheel’ from afar
No, I am not suggesting bringing anyone as a third wheel when you meet your date, though some certainly do, and that’s perfectly fine. However, it is good to let someone you know and trust your whereabouts. You can share your phone location for a limited period or have frequent check-ins with your friend or family member before, during, and after your date once you believe you are safe. For many LGBTQ who are not out, having even one trusted friend with whom you can share your sexual identity is necessary.
8. Allow a cupid to strike you with their arrow, and not from a fraudster
Enjoy your time meeting other people and developing something that could be long-lasting or last one night. By increasing your awareness of the risks to your physical and digital safety, you’ll be able to protect yourself against the dangers that lurk online.
If you do not feel comfortable with someone you’re speaking with, block them. Someone's behavior may cause red flags, and you may even wish to report that individual if they’ve violated you or the terms and conditions of the site.
If someone is trying to inflict harm on you, threatens you, or incessantly harasses you online, you should contact the local authorities and report the incident. They may encourage you to file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Division (IC3), depending on the severity of the situation and whether the incident happened online or at your local address. If you are uncomfortable addressing the incident with the authorities or need assistance navigating law enforcement, consult with a cybersecurity expert who understands and supports the LGBTQ community to assist with that process and help keep you safe.
Wishing you love and harmony, meeting your new loves online safely.
Tom Kowalski outvoices.us
About the Author
Tom Kowalski is the founder and CEO of REP, a cybersecurity risk and reputation advisory firm. Tom’s differentiated background in cybersecurity, crisis communications, and reputational risk allows him to effectively manage clients' digital risks and mitigate online threats that affect their assets, reputation, and well-being.
Several years before founding REP, Tom was the target of online harassment. The lack of laws governing social media and tech companies, combined with difficulty finding justice, led him to create his company.
Today, Tom eases the burden of worry for other LGBTQ victims and helps individuals achieve safety and peace of mind. He also helps organizations manage their cybersecurity risks, specializing in cybersecurity policies. Part of Tom’s work involves analyzing corporate security procedures, focusing on how their current strategies affect all individuals. Tom designs and improves policies that better govern an organization's security program and lower the risk of adverse incidents.
REP is a certified business of NGLCC (National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce) where Tom is an active member of the New York City chapter. Tom is also an active member of cyber security and risk organizations ISACA and the FAIR Institute.
As Thailand continues to relax its Covid-era entry requirements and affordable luxury remains as prevalent as ever, Southeast Asia’s LGBT-friendliest nation couldn’t be more appealing for a romantic wellness getaway in 2022. The Land of Smiles, whose economy depends heavily on tourism, consistently devised creative pandemic solutions that have protected its population throughout the global crisis while still allowing travelers safe entry to the natural bounty and rich culture that has long made it a bucket-list destination, better positioning the country to welcome back a steady influx of guests anxious to escape the most emotionally draining two years of their lives. Whether your ideal Thai-tinerary is set on the Andaman Sea to the west, the Gulf of Thailand to the east, or in the central capital of Bangkok, here is where to stay to find romance or wellness on a restorative vacation this year.
COMO Private Villa
Photo courtesy of COMO Point Yamu
The dazzle of Phuket’s picturesque coastline and neighboring islands is undeniable, and a stay at one of COMO Point Yamu’s private hillside villas overlooking Phang Nga Bay offers exclusive respite between days spent at each. From indulgent baths for two in your spa bathroom’s soaking tub to champagne sips at sunset in your private infinity pool overlooking the bay, you could easily sequester yourselves in serene seclusion at the property but do at least step out to explore a couples treatment at COMO Shambala spa. For the ultimate romance on the water, splurge on a private yacht charter from Blue Voyage Thailand to explore some of the region’s best beaches and islands while your personal crew prepares drinks and bites throughout the journey. If you have an important question to ask your special someone on this vacation, the stunning sunsets at sea provide an ideal backdrop!
Partially under development on the island’s interior, the sprawling Tri Vananda wellness community primarily offers luxurious private homes on its 230+ acres of mature nature (only 15% will be developed and no vehicles are allowed—it’s strictly golf carts here), but it’s already offering wellness retreats that allow you to take advantage of its integrative wellness programs, wetland nature reserve, all-organic farm, and world-class restaurant, Jamba, which serves artful plates of zero-waste recipes from Iron Chef Thailand winner Rick Dingen. Here, you’ll find a lush paradise within Phuket rarely discovered by the flocks of tourists who spend their days entirely on the sands and sea around the island’s famed coastline, and you may find new sides of yourselves, too.
Soneva Kiri private villa
Photo courtesy of Soneva Kiri
Just off Thailand’s eastern coast in the Gulf of Thailand, the tiny island of Koh Kood is home to dozens of accommodations, but the unrivaled luxury of Soneva Kiri brings superior romance that won’t be topped elsewhere. Book the property’s charter jet to arrive at the tiny outdoor airport on Koh Mai Si before a quick boat ride to the resort’s welcome pier for maximum exclusivity. From here, check in to a personal beachfront villa that not only contains your own stretch of sand on a quiet bay, but comes equipped with private outdoor living space that includes covered dining and kitchenette; a full-service outdoor spa bathroom including two outdoor showers, a whirlpool tub, and massage chaise; and sprawling decks with soft and hard seating along a swimming pool larger than many homes (consider booking a floating meal here for a truly special experience). While you’ll never feel crowded by the property’s other guests, you can escape them entirely with a meal in Soneva Kiri’s signature treepod. Hoisted to the canopy in an oversize bamboo nest enveloping your table, your meal here is delivered by acrobatic servers on a zipline as you gaze out from the treetops across the water, equally inspiring by day or night.
Relax and rejuvenate at RAKxa
Photo courtesy of RAKxa Wellness and Medical Retreat
Bangkok may be better known for bustling activity and raucous nightlife than for wellness and tranquility, but Bang Krachao, just 30 minutes from the city center is an artificial river island oasis known locally as the “green lung of Bangkok,” and here you’ll find a wellness facility unlike any other. The brand new RAKxa Wellness & Medical Retreat experience is an ultra-personal journey that begins with comprehensive health assessments including medical consultations, wellness consultations, and a fitness assessment. From here, an individualized program ranging from interdisciplinary spa treatments to medical wellness regimens like cryotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy is scheduled around your mindful meals and relaxation among the gardens, by the pool, or in your villa retreat.
Villas are designed for total tranquility by day with open spaces, neutral tones, and private gardens complete with grounding trails, and the villa’s smart system monitors not just temperature, but humidity, carbon dioxide level, and air quality for an ideal interior. The discrete kitchenette is stocked with a daily regimen of teas and juice boosters to regulate body and mind throughout the day, and blackout curtains surround the plush bedroom for uninterrupted sleep (even the smart system’s screen comes with its own blackout hood for bedtime). Programs here can include as little as one night, but 5- and 7-night itineraries are more effective whether you have targeted goals or just want to completely reset and recharge together.
You’ll need to head back into the city in order to depart and, if Bangkok’s popular dinner cruises aren’t your style, opt for a swanky dinner aboard Sirimahannop, the permanently docked three-masted ship serving elegant meals with the charm of yesteryear and the culinary prowess of today. The chic experience is a perfect re-entry to the busy city that still offers enough privacy for a romantic farewell dinner in Thailand.
Club Skirts presents The Dinah — the annual music festival and pool party weekend and the largest lesbian event worldwide — is taking over Palm Springs from September 21st through the 25th.
Now celebrating its 31st year, the star-studded weekend will kick off a five-day party known to draw in upwards of 15,000 women from around the world.
This year, for the first time ever, the event will take place in Palm Springs’ most iconic hotel, The Margaritaville — formerly The Riviera — famous in the ’60s for its role as celebrity central, drawing the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr., and Sonny and Cher.
Photo courtesy of The Dinah
“I think it is definitely a rite of passage and a bucket list item,” said Mariah Hanson, ”and it’s a beacon in a way. I think that what we create there is so magical and so inspiring that you hear about it and you want to be a part of it because it’s life-changing.”
Hanson explained that the magic is intentional. She said along with her staff, they set to produce an event that is diverse, welcoming, and life-changing.
“We create a world for five days where people are united by the common theme of just acceptance and diversity and living in a world you want to live in,” Hanson said.
Hanson said she is proud to offer what she says is one of the “most diverse, inclusive, celebratory events.” She said The Dinah recognizes that our community is very diverse, and she wants everyone to feel welcome.
The festival includes various performances by nationally-renowned recording artists, massive pool parties with world-famous DJs and go-go dancers, red carpet events with celebrity guests and musicians, and meet-and-greets with lesbian celebrities.
The Dinah pool party
Photo courtesy of The Dinah
While in previous years, the Dinah events centered mostly on pool parties, the Dinah of the past decade has flawlessly amped up the pool parties, while also simultaneously becoming an enormous music festival, drawing in huge superstar artists over recent years, such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Chaka Khan, Meghan Trainor, Iggy Azalea, Eve, Salt ‘N Pepa and more, many of them while they were just on the cusp of hitting the big-time.
Hanson explained that she has a formula, a set of ever-changing criteria, that she uses to book acts. She has a knack for finding artists to perform at the Dinah who is on the cusp of enormous stardom.
“My favorite example is Lizzo, who headlined the Sunday afternoon pool party in 2017,” said Hanson. “Nobody really knew who she was, and she’s a major star now. No one will ever see her in that small of a venue.”
Hanson has another incredible all-female entertainment line-up again this year.
“I’m excited to offer the lineup we have. I think it’s powerful. It’s almost all queer except Taylor Dane, but she’s welcome because she’s so cool!” said Hanson.
Taylor Dane, 80s pop icon, is taking over the stage at Friday night’s Black & White Ball and is bringing her full band for a special Dinah performance. The GRAMMY-nominated powerhouse’s groundbreaking debut single "Tell It to My Heart" turned her into an overnight star in 1987. She followed the smash hit with 17 Top 20 singles including “Love Will Lead You Back.” Co-headlining Friday night is a breakout hip-hop artist, Haviah Mighty, who is poised to follow the footsteps of Lady Gaga, Bebe Rexha, Iggy Azalea, and Lizzo. She is the first Black woman to win the Polaris Music Prize.
On Saturday night’s Hollywood Party, Fletcher, one of the most electrifying queer artists to burst onto the scene, takes center stage. The GLAAD-nominated artist has a slew of hit singles including “Undrunk”, “Bitter”, “girls girls girls”, and “Cherry.” Her new single “Her Body is Bible” is out now and her debut album is being released this month.
“You don’t want to miss any of these acts,” Hanson said.
Club Skirts The Dinah pool party
Photo courtesy of The Dinah
All of the weekend’s pool parties, night parties, and concerts will take place at the Margaritaville. The opening and closing parties will both be held at AsiaSF, a new hotspot to both kick-start and close the weekend.
Hanson said she is excited for the Dinah this year and hopes it will, as always, be an amazing experience for all who attend.
Hanson said her message for attendees, other than to pace themselves, is always the same.
“Don’t be afraid to meet new people. Don’t be afraid to reach out and share your stories and listen to other people's stories because there’s people from all over the world coming.”
Hanson negotiated some great rates with the host hotel, Margaritaville, and it currently has a waiting list. Email email@example.com to get the Dinah discount and to add your name to the waiting list.
For more information and for tickets, please visit The Dinah.
The Dobbs decision, otherwise known as the court case that overturned Roe v. Wade, has resulted in confusing medical situations for many patients. On top of affecting access to abortions for straight, cisgender women, it presents heightened risks for LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole. Flipping the switch on reproductive rights and privacy rights is a far-reaching act that makes quality care harder to find for an already underserved community.
As the fight against the Dobbs decision continues, it’s important to shed light on the full breadth of its impact. We’ll discuss specific ways that the decision can affect LGBTQ+ healthcare and offer strategies for overcoming these challenges.
How the Right to Bodily Privacy Affects LGBTQ+ Healthcare
When the original Roe v. Wade decision was made, the bodily privacy of people across the United States was protected. Now that bodily autonomy is no longer guaranteed, the LGBTQ+ community must brace itself for a potential loss of healthcare rights beyond abortions. This includes services like feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapy (particularly for transgender youth) that conservative lawmakers have been fighting against this year, as well as transition-related procedures. Without privacy, gender-affirming care may be difficult to access without documentation of sex as “proof” of gender.
As essential services for the LGBTQ+ community become more difficult to access, perhaps the most immediate effect we’ll see is eroding trust between healthcare providers and LGBTQ+ patients. When providers aren’t working in the best interest of patients — just like in cases of children and rape victims denied abortions — patients may further avoid preventative care in a community that already faces discrimination in doctor’s offices.
The Dobbs Decision Isn’t Just a Women’s Issue
While the Dobbs decision is often framed as a women's issue — specifically, one that affects cisgender women — it impacts the transgender and non-binary community just as much. All people who are capable of carrying a pregnancy to term have lost at least some ability to choose whether or not to give birth in the U.S.
For transgender and non-binary individuals, this decision comes with the added complexity of body dysmorphia. Without abortion rights, pregnant trans men and some non-binary people may be forced to see their bodies change, and be treated as women by healthcare providers and society as a result.
The Dobbs decision also opens up the possibility for government bodies to determine when life begins — and perhaps even to add legal protections for zygotes and embryos. This puts contraceptives at risk, which could make it more difficult to access gender-affirming care while getting the right contraceptives based on sex for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Overturning Reproductive Rights Puts IVF at Risk
Queer couples that dream of having their own children often have limited options beyond adoption. One such option is in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which involves implanting a fertilized egg into a uterus.
While IVF isn’t directly affected by the Dobbs decision, it could fall into a legal gray area depending on when states determine that life begins. Texas, for example, is already barring abortions as early as six weeks. To reduce embryo destruction, which often occurs when patients no longer want more children, limits could be placed on the number of eggs that can be frozen at once.
Any restrictions on IVF will also affect the availability of surrogacy as an option for building a family.
How Can LGBTQ+ Individuals Overcome Healthcare Barriers?
While the Dobbs decision may primarily impact abortion rights today, its potential to worsen LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole is jarring. So how can the community be prepared?
If you’re struggling to find LGBTQ+-friendly providers near you, using telemedicine now can be an incredibly effective way to start developing strong relationships with far-away healthcare professionals. Telemedicine eliminates the barrier of geography and can be especially helpful for accessing inclusive primary care and therapy. Be sure to check if your insurance provider covers telemedicine.
If you’re seriously concerned about healthcare access in your area — especially if the Dobbs decision affects your whole state or you need regular in-person services that may be at risk — it may be time to consider moving now. While not everyone has the privilege to do so, relocating gives you the ability to settle in areas where lawmakers better serve your needs. However, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, so preparing and making progress on a moving checklist now can help you avoid issues later.
The Dobbs Decision Isn’t LGBTQ+-Friendly
The Supreme Court of the United States has proven the power of its conservative majority with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, the effects of the Dobbs decision don’t stop at affecting cisgender women’s abortion rights. In states with bans, it also leads to forced birth for trans men and non-binary individuals. Plus, the Dobbs decision increases the risk of other rights, like hormone therapy and IVF, being taken away.
Taking steps now, whether it’s choosing a virtual provider or considering a move, can help you improve your healthcare situation in the future.