On Grindr: Closeted Discrimination Within the Gay Community
When I began to consider the possibility of coming out as a gay male, I imagined the announcement would trigger a series of predictable phases. First, there would be a bit of a shock. A handful of friends would be surprised. Some would say they knew all along. Some would simply congratulate me. Then, there would be the embrace. I would be welcomed into the gay community, a world full of rainbows and hugs and all that jazz.
This all happened, to an extent. But really, the first thing I vividly remember about joining the gay community was a series of messages on Grindr.
"Sorry, not into chest hair."
"You look real masc."
Some of you are probably just as confused as I was at the time. What the hell is an otter? Why in the world are you abbreviating the term "masculine?" Is this a thing? This was my virtual introduction to the categorical homogenization of Pittsburgh’s homosexual community. It wasn’t rainbows. There were no hugs. Just a group of guys jumping to label me as a certain type of gay male.
Granted, Grindr was not best place to start. For those of you unfamiliar with this whole ordeal, Grindr is a location based smartphone application that displays the closest gay/bi/closeted/married men based on their proximity. Press the orange box, and thumbnail images of torsos, height/weight statistics, and petty ramblings on personal preferences appear on your screen. As empty and dense as it was, this was initially the most convenient way for me to interact with other gay men.
After performing as a straight male for upwards of 20 years, I suddenly had higher standards for my body image, speech and fashion than I had ever experienced in the heterosexual community. Was I in good enough shape? What is it, exactly, that makes someone masculine? I had this urge to mold my identity into this projected ideal image of a gay man. Why? So that so that someone’s thumbnail image of a torso would talk to me. I was getting a glimpse into the societal pressures that heterosexual women feel every day, forced to live up to the body image standards of men.
And I had it easy. I wasn’t being labeled a bear or cub, or being blocked because of my skin color, or being called names like queen, fairy or fem. There are plenty of people who suffer from body image issues far worse than mine; who wake up every day thinking they’re inadequate or undesirable because some anonymous profile deemed them as such; and who are driven into the same suicidal thoughts that they attempted to extinguish by coming out in the first place.
As much as we can’t let Grindr represent the entire gay community, in some ways it acts as a fairly candid microcosm for the scope of homosexual categories, social behaviors and desires, perhaps presenting an even more brutal honesty than the porn industry. (Many feminist scholars, most notably Catharine MacKinnon, delve heavily into how pornography tells us a lot about pure, or at least blunt sexual desire). There are plenty of gay men don’t associate with Grindr, but many who do contribute to a terrifying introduction to the world of gay social interaction.
Grindr is a virtual world of avatars, most of which strive to project that they possess the qualities of the ideal, desirable gay man.
A place where black men white-out their picture in attempts to pass as white men.
Where people claim to be straight, or "straight-acting" to attract other gay men.