“Grindr has a pride problem”

“Face shots? I ask the pictureless profile claiming to be a six-foot tall male weighing 78kg. He’s slim, looking for “masc only” and just proposed to me.

“Impossible to send, I am discreet”, comes the answer. However, he sends a photo of his penis which I did not request. So goes another demoralizing Grindr exchange.

It might be the gayest app out there, but there seems to be one conspicuous absence: pride.

Grindr is the most popular dating app for (mostly) gay men. It has 3.8 million daily active users worldwide and is the most downloaded LGBT+ app in the UK. For the uninitiated, he could be mistaken for a gay cousin of Tinder. But if you’ve had the misfortune to venture onto the app – or know someone who has – you’ll know it’s a very different beast, not least in its particular emphasis on connections.

Unlike the message-matching requirement of other dating apps, anyone can message anyone else found in a grid organized by physical proximity down to the nearest meter. Personally identifiable information is also absent. While categorization from body type to HIV status is standard, names and faces are an optional bonus.

One of my first experiences on the app as a college freshman saw me travel to encounter a headless, nameless torso. Such a risk now seems untenable (I hadn’t even told anyone where I was going!) but I didn’t know any more.

I rationalized that he needed to be locked up, but that was not all. He also had a wife.

When we arrived, we quickly got to work, but I was puzzled by her reluctance to kiss me. Afterwards, he admitted that kissing another man made him “uncomfortable” (ironic considering the things he seemed to feel comfortable doing with men). I rationalized that he needed to be locked up, but that was not all. He also had a wife.

The anonymity allowed by the application is for men like that: those who are locked up, who want gay sex in secret. Despite their cravings, they’re not comfortable with being gay, so set their aliases to “direct action” and ask “no fem please”. They feel like they’re doing something wrong, and that makes us feel like we are too.

It’s obviously heteronormativity and anti-effeminacy – to me, it’s homophobia. But no one bats an eyelid.

(Getty Images)

For years, in my experience, virtual mask-wearing has enabled and encouraged derogatory language, unsolicited genital images, and explicit and unwarranted sexual demands. The senders are irresponsible while the unfortunate recipients eventually learn to expect and tolerate these messages, attempting to disconnect from their more degrading or triggering aspects.

Grindr’s dominance in gay dating since its launch in 2009 means young gay men are coming of age with it as a role model for love, sex, and dating. For me, it couldn’t be worse. Their introduction to the gay community – albeit virtual – should inspire pride and acceptance. As things stand, in my experience, the underbelly of self-stigma means encountering homophobic slurs is more likely. Bowing to locked up men allows shame and bigotry to fester.

Moreover, the acceptance of anonymity is conducive to dangerous situations. People using fake (catfish) identities are so prolific that there are entire forums dedicated to helping Grindr users avoid creepy encounters with men who aren’t who they say they are.

Bowing to locked up men allows shame and bigotry to fester

As I can attest from my own early experiences, young users are particularly vulnerable to fake profiles and taking unnecessary risks, having not yet undergone trial and error learning the strategies to avoid them. However, even for more established users, a “This is his address, in case I get kidnapped!” text to a close friend should often suffice.

The app should require verified names, faces, and ID. There is nothing shameful about being gay or having gay sex. The only people who would be excluded by this change are those who still believe there are – and frankly, good riddance. Come back when you’ve accepted that using Grindr and being “straight” are fundamentally incompatible.

Meanwhile, the rest of us must try to start thinking of ourselves as people rather than categories. We can build the mutual respect we’ve been missing and be kinder to each other. Dating and dating should be fun, and we deserve to be safe and respected while using the best tool we have.

Grindr’s popularity is going nowhere and its developers have a responsibility to the community they serve. Will they continue to allow a culture of anonymity and, in my opinion, sexual shame, or will our most prominent gay dating app finally start promoting pride and acceptance?

In response, Vice President of Global Communications at Grindr, Patrick Lenihan, said, “These recommendations would be dangerous to large parts of the global queer community, and the author’s accusations completely interpret cultural issues and technological challenges. .

“Grindr will continue its mission to connect queer people with each other and with the world.”

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