South Africa's LGBTI newspaper since the 1980's

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By Lawrence Mashiyane


While Grindr has been around for years, I only recently decided to find out what it’s all about and what the appeal is. Particularly, I was interested in whether anything I had heard about it is true, and what that means for the gay community and stable relationships in general. Wanting to know all this opened me up to more questions: Who gets on Grindr? What’s the mentality of the guys on Grindr? What does Grindr mean for the stereotypes and stigmas that surround the gay community? These questions came flooding into my mind as I noticed that the App was referred to as a “Hook-up” App and not a “Dating” App as other such Apps, like Tinder and Badoo, are called.grindr

I am a huge fan of memes and, at times, I spend hours of the night just looking at memes and laughing crazily alone in bed. Up to now, I had heard of Grindr but paid it no attention. In my opinion, Facebook was enough of a way to meet people as any dating site would be, if one had the interest anyway. However, when I saw a meme about Grindr, that was when I thought, “I really need to look into this” and so I did. I asked people what Grindr was as I only had a faint idea of what it was. After that, I watched YouTube videos and read articles about people’s experiences on the App. Some were hilarious and some were scary and creepy. Others were sad. Unfortunately, I did not find a lot of stories about “true love” or lasting relationships. I think I came across one or two, but certainly not enough to lead me to believe that anyone went on Grindr seeking “the one”, but is it unlikely?

To try answer these questions, I decided to get Grindr for myself. Not knowing what to call myself but knowing that using one’s real name is ill-advised, I called myself Madara’s Pain. After getting Grindr, I realised that was not a name one would typically find and, at times, people requested explanation. Simply, being the “Geek” (as Grindr would put it) that I am, my name is a double reference to an anime I love called Naruto. The first part is a reference to the main villain of the anime, Madara Uchia and the second part, Pain, is a reference to my favourite character in the anime (who is also a villain) called Pain. Why I put the two together as Madara’s Pain is to reference the fact that Madara used Pain in the anime. I see now that my Grindr name was a wasted double nerd reference as no one goes on Grindr to decipher nerdy references. Even though my bio was always changing and always some philosophical line like “the world is physically metaphysical”. Anyway, that’s who I decided to be on Grindr, my normal nerdy and philosophical self because I was there to investigate, for the most part.

What I discovered was… quite unsurprising, but I was surprised here and there. A lot of the people gave in to the Grindr clichés and stereotypes. The very first person to message me, 5 minutes after I got Grindr, sent me a series of nude pictures. Mostly his penis. Quite a welcome! I went through the profiles I could see and a lot of them also fell into that box. Seeing stuff like “NSA” (No Strings Attached) and “just looking for Ass or dick”. There were a lot of those. Also, a lot of “whites only” or “blacks only”, “muscular only” or “no fems” or “no fats”. In my mind, I whispered to myself, “it’s all true”. What image did this paint of the gay community in my mind? Well, I could describe it as shallow, closed minded, narrow minded, racist, bigoted and simply not as diverse and welcoming as the rainbow flag would like you to believe. Was that disappointing? Yes, very much so. People were so specific with what they wanted, forgetting that people have personalities apart from their physical traits. I mean, do you want to date me, the person, or muscles? It also gave heavily into the stereotype that the gay community is all about sex, sex and more sex.

Most people’s minds seemed to be going in that one direction and it kind of made everyone on Grindr look the same, to the point where everyone talking to me felt like the same person. I often confused people’s names and ages because everyone was singing the same tune, not showing any individuality (never mind personality).

However, I would be lying if I were to say that it was EVERYONE. That would be a big lie and would do the gay community an injustice. There was a glimmer of hope. I did meet a few decent people I actually liked as human beings and that’s because I got to see them as human beings. I got the opportunity to see them not as a dick seeking ass or an ass seeking dick but as people with interests and lives. Some people actually expressed that they have hope for love and genuine friendship that does not imply friends with benefits. There are people I had conversations with and we never once brought up sex or the possibility of meeting up. We just talked. A few people asked about my name and what it meant. Someone told me that in the Shona language, Madara actually means men. I laughed at the irony a bit there.

So, to answer the questions I asked in the beginning, Grindr does show that the stereotypes and stigmas that surround the gay community don’t come from out of nowhere; they are not homophobic fabrications. However, it also shows that it is incorrect to assume that all gay people are like that, and that just because someone is on Grindr, it does not mean they are simply looking for a one night stand. So, is it therefore possible to get Grindr with sincere intentions and not just meaningless hook-ups? Yes, from what I saw, Grindr can be more than just a hook-up app. Where you can talk to people freely without judgement, something that can be helpful for people deep within the dark corners of the closet. On Grindr, you can be a friend to a person like that and offer them something no one in their real non-virtual world can offer.

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