Photo Credit — Flickr Creative Commons: Isaac “AYE MIRA” Sanchez
“Into chill masculine bros”
“Friendly, masc guy looking for the same”
“Into masculine guys”
“No fems or older”
The following quotes were taken from screenshots on the Grindr app. Upon exploration of Grindr it is evident that homonormativity is in play. The expression of homonormativity can be seen through:
- The frequent self-labeling of users as being masc (masculine).
- The expression that fems (feminine gay men) are unwanted or not preferred.
Before analysis of homonormativity by the users of the app can be presented, it is important to present the goal and mission of Grindr. An explanation of the app is found on Grindr’s official website, and states, “Grindr, which first launched in 2009, has exploded into the largest and most popular all-male location-based social network out there. With more than 4 million guys in 192 countries around the world — and approximately 10,000 more new users downloading the app every day — you’ll always find a new date, buddy, or friend on Grindr.” In addition, the website indicates that its mission is “0 Feet Away”, a slogan that essentially means that the app is interested in allowing gay males to meet other gay males that are nearby, quickly.
The app is easy to use. A user simply taps on a user’s image, which opens their profile. If a profile is completely filled out, you will see whether or not the user is online, a display name, a tagline, an ‘about me’ section, how far away the user is (miles, or even feet), age, height, weight, relationship status, what they’re looking for (the options are Chat, Dates, Friends, Networking, and Relationship), and a link to a user’s website (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Users can select the profiles that they view, and the options are, Nearby (users close to your location), Favorites (users that you have starred), Recent (users that you have chatted with), and Everyone. The default view is ‘nearby’.
The aforementioned ‘about me’ section allows only 120 characters. This is because Grindr does not want to invade users with personal questions. With a 120-character limit users have to provide what they believe is either the most important information about themselves, or the clearest description of themselves as succinctly as possible.
After I looked into the mission and purpose of Grindr, I downloaded the app. Once I had access I was able to interact with up to 200 users nearby. Many of the visible users stayed the same, however, new users were frequently added to the bunch. The following screenshots were taken on my iPad and express the homonormativity that I will examine in this post. I have blurred out images and information indicating the users’ locations. Click the images to enlarge them. (Also, yes, one of the users sent me a message, but no, I did not respond.)
I want to preface the analysis by first stating that this is only a small pool of screenshots and is not meant to label all users of Grindr. Additionally, this group of users was live and may have grown up in my area, and it is important to understand that the strength and presence of homonormativity can depend upon the values and ideologies of an area (this in and of itself is a topic to be explored later.)
The homonormativity present within the images is related to the two points covered in the beginning of the post (the self-labeling and the explanation of specific preferences). Beginning with the self-labeling, it is clear that the users believe it is important to identify that they are masculine. In any dating app or website, the point is to catch the attention of other users and give them an attractive, but accurate description of yourself. In an app with such a limiting number of characters, users still find the label of masculinity to be incredibly important. Some include it in their tagline, which has a larger font, while others choose to put it in their ‘about me’ section.
The usage of the label of masculine/masc is an indicator that users believe it is attractive and/or important to include. This ideology extends beyond Grindr and is important to recognize, because this belief and beliefs like it are harmful to gay men who happen to be feminine. They are viewed as lesser, because their gender expression is not strictly masculine. While going through the app, I found not a single user that identified themselves as feminine. This brings to question whether the label of masculine is used simply to add more description of what the user is like in person, or because masculine is considered superior.
The labels are not the only part of the homonormativity presented by users of Grindr. The stated preference that users are not interested in fem gay males is the other part. People often have the belief that attraction supersedes everything else and excuses prejudice because ‘I can’t control who I’m attracted to‘. However, attraction does not excuse offensive statements like that. Unless someone has met every single person on the planet of a specific group (feminine gay males, Black guys, Asian guys, etc.) they are incapable of making the judgment that they are not attracted to every person of that group. Additionally, to state that the traits of an entire group of people are unattractive is troublesome and should encourage a person to do some introspection to see why exactly they feel that way about an entire group. If a person finds feminine gay men unattractive it is often just a form of misplaced misogyny, or a form of self-hate. Feminine gay men are the easiest by society to label as gay, so men who are gay and uncomfortable with it, often release the hate they hold inside on the most visual gay men because they are representative of homosexuality.
After some thoughts on the homonormativity presented by Grindr it is important to remember that this is also present in real life. Thoughts expressed online or through apps are not trapped there. People take these beliefs with them through their daily life. In the real world there are gay men that believe masculine is better. In the real world there are gay men who have zero interest in, or hate feminine gay men. These beliefs push feminine gay men to the bottom of the rungs of the LGBT community, and lead young, feminine gay boys to believe that there is something wrong with them. There are young boys who attempt to ‘butch it up’, and act more like a man (the traditional way society defines a man). We need to open our eyes and use this image to show people that homonormativity is very real, and that it is not getting better for everyone in the gay community. If we are not united from inside of the community we will never be strong enough to win the battle for equality across this country.