Forget about having a right-hand man. Alumna Ariella Furman introduced the world to the new app, “Wing Ma’am.”
Furman, a 2008 film and media arts graduate and Bucks County native, said she constantly struggled to find her place in her community as a lesbian.
After experiencing a breakup upon moving to Pittsburgh, Furman soon found there was no gay community to get involved in there, either. While talking to a gay male best friend, she noticed he was using an app for gay males called Grindr.
“I was single at the time and I got really excited and I said, ‘What’s the female version called?’ and he said, ‘There is no app for gay women,’” Furman said. “And I thought that it wasn’t fair, and I got a little bit offended.”
She had a basis to draw upon, since there were other apps that were inclusive to LGBTQ individuals. From there, Furman went to the drawing board. Furman said she believes many women do not feel comfortable with their sexuality because society isn’t always accepting of it.
Furman created Wing Ma’am not only for herself, but for the lesbian community as a whole, she said.
“I think some of the challenges about being a gay woman is that gay women often feel isolated from the community,” Furman said. “It’s not easy to find other likeminded women who are like them. It’s specifically because a lot of them don’t have an environment for dating.”
With Furman’s play on words and quirky personality, she said the app is like having a “gaydar right in your pocket.” The setup is similar to that of a dating website such as eHarmony or Match.com. The subscriber makes a profile and answers questions so the potential dater can get a snapshot of that person. The only difference between those matchmaking websites and Furman’s app is that Wing Ma’am has a fuller sense of security and confidentiality.
“It’s always important to have the security of being around likeminded people and also being able to have the safety and protection of your identity,” Furman said. “Safety is a big thing for us. We don’t want to display personal information. We only ask for their first name and whenever we see something suspicious on the app, we make sure to get rid of those users.”
The app, launched in January, has more than 10,000 subscribers. Furman said she attributes the success to users spreading knowledge of the app by word of mouth. Her main objective, she said, was just to see if people liked it.
“It definitely was surprising because in the beginning, when we launched the app, we were just trying to demo it and see how it would go,” Furman said. “People just started spreading the word for us. We actually didn’t start marketing until last week.”
With the app being so new, there were bound to be glitches or things that needed improvement. Furman used subscribers as data testers for Wing Ma’am. The subscribers could contact Furman by email for suggestions or concerns. She and her team would then correct the app accordingly.
“We listen to each and every person, no matter how short or long their email is, no matter who they are or where they’re from,” she said. “We listen to what they have to say about the app. We built the app because of them.”
Now, Furman has found her community.
“At the end of the day, I think this app has a single purpose that I want people to get, and that’s community building reinvented,” Furman said. “I think that the gay women’s community has a long way to go in achieving unity and making progress.”
Alexis Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.