WEST LOOP — A new geosocial dating app created in Chicago aims to create a "mind-blowing" experience for lesbians.
Fueled by her frustration with the lack of quality lesbian dating apps on the market, Gold Coast resident Allison Ullrich has created the mobile app Scissr, a dating app that caters exclusively to lesbian women. The free app is expected to be available for download this week or next.
Scissr is like the location-based gay hookup app Grindr, "only classier," Ullrich said.
Ullrich tells Stephanie Lulay that she wants to help better connect the lesbian community in Chicago:
The idea for the app was sparked by Ullrich's own experiences living and dating in Boston. After ending a relationship, she moved to Chicago 1½ years ago to pursue a job in the corporate sector.
In her new city, 36-year-old Ullrich noticed she wasn't the only lesbian woman who had a difficult time meeting other lesbian women to date.
"I think what spawned the idea was life — reality — and conversations I've had with my friends regarding relationships and women," said Ullrich, who is the general manager of Brooklyn Boulders Chicago, an indoor climbing facility in the West Loop.
Unlike straight people, she couldn't just walk up to any woman in a mainstream bar. And unlike the well-known Boystown establishments that cater to gay men in Chicago, Ullrich found that there wasn't a similar community that attracted a largely lesbian clientele.
"Women have this conundrum about meeting other people, but no one was working to find a solution," she said.
'Make women feel welcome'
While Ullrich was back on the East Coast with her longtime friend Adam Beck, she complained about that dating "conundrum." Soon, Beck was encouraging Ullrich to develop an app to solve the need she saw.
Ullrich had never created an app. In the next few months, Ullrich and Beck, who signed on to co-create the app, researched the market to determine if a viable lesbian dating app existed.
"Even though I had this frustration, I had never personally taken the time to see if there was an app that I could use," she said, adding that it's not something her friends discussed. "Normally, as a lesbian community we'd rely on Match or OK Cupid."
Those standard heterosexual sites yielded a small pool of lesbian women, she said. Pink Cupid, a lesbian dating website, proved disappointing, too, Ullrich said.
The few lesbian dating apps Ullrich discovered were defunct or had not been marketed properly, she said. Other apps geared toward lesbians, launched in Germany and the United Kingdom, were geofenced, meaning that their GPS location-based system would not register in other locales.
With the help of West Loop-based Ora Interactive, Ullrich and Beck spent the next year developing the Scissr app, designing and branding Scissr to ensure the application would "make women feel welcome," Ullrich said.
How it works
Just like Grindr, the Scissr app taps into the GPS system on the a mobile device to determine the user's location and other users nearby.
Scissr users will be able to message other members, indicate that they have a "crush" on them or add them to their private "wish list."
Women also will be able to indicate what kind of interaction they are looking for, including options for people who want a hookup; love and relationship; networking; and friendship. The user also can identify her sexual identity on the app as lesbian, bisexual or curious.
The app prompts women 18 and older to upload three photos and write a 300-character bio.
While Scissr is launching as a dating app, Ullrich's larger goal is to build the app into a network that connects Chicago's lesbian community, eventually making it easier to meet other lesbians in person.
In Boston, Ullrich said she was fascinated by the coexisting lesbian social circles and how they interacted with each other.
"I hate saying this, but it's almost as 'The L Word' portrays it to be," Ullrich said of the Showtime drama that depicted the lives of lesbian women in West Hollywood.
"Once you know everybody, one of the things my friends would always say, there's the frustration of where do you meet [other lesbians] that you don't know and where else can you go to hang out, to do things and enjoy things as a lesbian," she said.
Determining the size of the U.S. lesbian population is difficult. Four recent surveys conducted on sexual orientation in America grouped all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender responders in one group. And even within that large context, the estimates varied widely; the surveys determined that 2.2 percent to 4 percent of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Using Census numbers and the four survey estimates, the UCLA-based Williams Institute estimates that 5.2 million to 9.5 million adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Despite the lack of data, Ullrich said she was confident that the lesbian population in the U.S. numbers in the millions, and that a large base of women would be interested in using the location-based app, Ullrich said.
"We want to connect and promote those in the LGBT community through our independent or shared cultural interests," she said.
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