Former Exec: Treats LGBT Users “Dismissively”

By July 22, 2012

Image: Frank MastronuzziLGBT users are an afterthought in the mainstream online dating industry, says former executive Frank Mastronuzzi. Now, with the Hollywood-based startup oneGoodLove, Mastronuzzi is trying to build an inclusive space for people looking for longterm relationships or marriage,  and not flings and hookups, which the site calls “smut.”

“Leading dating sites that focus on loving relationships and marriage have either rejected gays and lesbians from membership, like eHarmony did for years, or have treated them dismissively — willing to monetize the LGBT community, but rarely willing to customize a dating experience to actually meet their needs,” he said.

There were a number incidents during Mastronuzzi’s tenure at that crystallized his feeling of alienation in the established online dating industry.

In one, he repeatedly asked company executives and the tech team why gay users’ message notifications still displayed an icon representing the opposite gender, without any action being taken. In another, he tried to create a “gay vertical” business development deal with partners including The Advocate and Out Magazine — only for the plan to be shot down by senior management.

“I realized that nothing you told as a user was listened to and was acted upon for the gay and lesbian users,” Mastronuzzi said.

Mastronuzzi hopes that shifting public opinion with regards to same-sex marriage will broaden the appeal of queer dating services aimed at establishing long-term relationships. An update to oneGoodLove that went live this week as a beta introduced “marriage” as a relationship goal, and let users identify themselves as members of the armed forces.

On a functional level, there are types of information pertinent to many LGBT users that dating sites aimed at straight people don’t incorporate: how “out” an individual is, self-descriptions like “butch” or “femme,” and HIV status. There are also plans to incorporate settings on the site for transgender users, and other marginalized LGBT groups.

Even the comparatively edgy OkCupid, Mastronuzzi said, just inserts a caret and “gay” into the slogan displayed to gay and lesbian users.

OneGoodLove members — of which there are currently about 85,000, according to the company — can choose to allocate five percent of their monthly subscription fees to gay-friendly organizations like HRC and Lambda Legal.