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Transgender offensive terms

Many people are unaware that certain terms are considered offensive to transgender folk. This is not surprising as searching online for ‘transgender dating’ returns multiple sites and apps that fetishise transgender people and/or use offensive terms.

We asked the Butterfly community what they consider offensive and here are the top results:

  • Shemale
  • Tranny
  • Ladyboy
  • He She
  • She He
  • Shim

Informing cisgender people

When we reached out to our cisgender users some had no idea that they were being offensive and were supportive of being informed. We therefore decided to develop a new site feature.

When anyone types an offensive term into chat/messages, Butterfly will strikeout the term and replace it with a suggestion. It also alerts the user that the term they used is offensive. The screenshot below shows this in action within private chat.

Transgender offensive terms feature

Keeping the offensive term and striking it out ensures both parties know that the original message as been auto-corrected. After a few occurrences a user soon becomes aware of the issue.

Next steps

To help spread awareness further it would be wonderful if other dating site owners and app developers added a similar feature as well as ensuring these terms are not used for branding and marketing.

Butterfly has also contacted the two major app stores, Apple and Google, and requested that they look at approaches to help inform their customers. Our open letters have been addressed to the leaders of each company, Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai.

The search systems in these two stores appear to be very different. We cannot categorically know how they work but with our own knowledge on search system and algorithms we can make an educated guess. Apple’s appears very rigid on keywords, therefore results for “Shemale” will either have shemale within the description or meta keywords. Google’s system appears to use related words either via their own dictionary or machine learning. For example it appears they map Shemale to transgender internally within their algorithm.

Transgender offensive terms Apple Google

We will update you on the replies and if you wish to be a part of our campaign please use the tag:


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