Ms. Sugar Swan tries out the latest update from the (until recently) gay hook up app for men, Grindr.
When people ask me, “Do you miss anything from your old life?” the only answer I ever have for them is simply, “Grindr”. Now that may sound odd asking a trans woman if she misses anything that she had pre-transition and her answer is a gay male hook up app, but let me explain.
Grindr has been around since 2009, so for 8 years. Being an early adopter, I have been using that app for 6 years. That’s a long time. It has seen men fly from foreign lands to come and spend a weekend with me, it has brought beautiful people into my life, some of which became partners, it has brought me heartache and upset and caused me to cry, and eventually, as I transitioned it broke up with me as I was no longer its user demographic. That is until now!
Three days ago Grindr released the following tweet “We’re celebrating Trans Awareness Month with new features to help trans and gender non conforming [people] connect better.”
Today those new features went live and for the first time in a couple of years, I logged onto Grindr. I’ve obviously missed a few updates but the principle is the same. I started to face all the usual boring drop down boxes, weight, height, body shape, ethnicity but then it became interesting.
The next set of boxes were labeled ‘Identity’ and here you can choose from an array of genders from cis man, trans man, cis woman, trans woman, non-binary, non-conforming or it asks you if you would like to type in your own personal gender identity.
At this point I was completely blown away. Grindr has opened its doors to all of us, we are all finally welcome into one space to explore each other, no more sexual segregation, just as it should be, let us all set our search parameters to what tickles our fancy on that particular day and not be boxed in by only having part of your dating pool available to you on one app. Just as I thought my wide on was at its fullest, I came to the next box and it asked me if I wanted to use She/Her, They/Them or He/Him pronouns. Brava Grindr! Exquisite!
Now this next part is just brilliant. When somebody comes across a profile like mine, if they read it, they will see that my Gender Identity is Trans Woman and my Pronouns are She/Her. Next to these fields on my profile there is a small information button. When you select this it takes you to the ‘Gender Identity Help Centre’ which is basically an FAQ for cis people who are a bit confused by the changes. Not is it only really informative, it has the possibility, if cis people read it, to take some of the emotional labour off of trans people. It answers all the standard questions like explaining what cisgender, transgender and non-binary mean but it goes way beyond that. The FAQ’s include questions more specific to the nature of the app such as “How can I respectfully ask a trans person what they like sexually” “Is it ok to ask a trans person about surgeries” “Is it offensive to tell a trans person they don’t look trans” “Can a trans person be gay” The answers are just brilliant and I could not have written a better guide myself. Grindr have really done their research here and have been working with trans people to make sure they have got it right, and I really think they have.
As I started to use the app I had a very high uptake. 400+ messages in 12 hours. Obviously I haven’t been able to read them all but they follow a pattern. There are many confused cis gay men sending me nasty messages asking me why I am here and telling me I shouldn’t be. These only make up for about 10% of my messages so are the minority. I think most gay men can’t be bothered to insult me, or don’t feel the need to as they are secure enough not to.
Most messages are from the bisexual cis and trans men and masculine aligned enbies that already held profiles before the changes of the last few days, these messages make up about 60% of my messages, but the other 30% are from brand new profiles.
I have messages from other trans women, trans lesbians specifically (woo-hoo! – I LOVE my sisters). I have been messaged by many cis guys who state in their profile bio that they are straight and are only looking for girls (this one is really going to upset the gays!) yep! you’re actually going to have to read someones bio before you send them that cock pic they are not up for.
The messages I am receiving from the new profiles are distinctly more respectful than the ones I am receiving from the old. The way the men in the existing profiles treat me is akin to how two gay men would interact, something that feels little more than a business transaction where compliments are standardised instead of specific to you, where pictures I really don’t want to see are sent, where I am asked “What u up 2?”, where there is expressed disappointment that whilst I will send some tasteful nudes, I will not send photos of my genitalia. Where there is an expectation that I must be looking to have sex in the next hour. Now there is nothing wrong with that and if that works for you, great. Personally, it actually made me feel like I was being treated like a man and I found it quite disrespectful, especially when I am expressing that isn’t how I want to interact with you and trying to point you to the FAQ’s in how to interact with me.
I need a slightly different approach and I am very lucky that the straight men who are as new to Grindr as I am are very respectful. They are just as mesmorised by the boobs as the rest of them, but they know the best way to gain access to them is to pay me individual well thought out compliments, take time to think of things to speak about that would be of interest, go and read the FAQ’s when they bring up something inappropriate and then come back to me, and come back to me they do, enlightened and thankful that I pointed them out and they are straight in there testing out their new-found empowerment of how to flirt with me. The end result of both sets of profiles is the same, sex, it’s just one set of guys are likely to get it, and one set aren’t.
Grindr’s latest press release states that they have reviewed their website and they have removed all gendered terminology for gender neutral terminology in its readiness for having girls amongst its userbase. However, in the short time I have spent using it I have found that more work needs to be done on the app.
As amazing as all the things I have described are, there is still work to be done on the app. The built in emoji part of Grindr is hugely problematic. It’s emojis contain Ru Paul quotes and pictures of drag queens which are seen as oppressive by many trans women.
It also contains loads of emojis of men, just men, and drag queens, who are men. There is the Twink, The Bear, The Jock, etc. Where is the Nerdy girl? The Cool Girl? The butch lesbian looking trans girl with the short haircut and the tattoos? Yes, I am talking about myself. The point I am getting at is that there is no diverse representation here and that needs to be addressed.
Another problem is with some of the terminology on the app. It still asks you if you want to upgrade to “see more guys” rather than the promised gender-neutral terminology of something, I don’t know, off the top of my head, “see more profiles”. You see this stuff really isn’t hard, It’s pretty straight forward. Including everyone is something that is so so simple and so important to build bridges in our communities in a time when it is terribly torn apart.
Now I am not under any illusions that Grindr is going to become a truly inclusive dating app overnight. It may never do that. I have yet to see any profiles from cis girls, lesbian or straight which is something that I hope will pick up over time. What I am more inclined to predict is that it may become a place where everyone who falls under the Queer community is welcome and feels safe to use the app as we have a lot of romantic and sexual crossover in the LGBTQIA community. I am excited to what will happen over the coming months,
I would love it if everyone on the app stated their gender and pronouns as that makes cross-community dating a lot easier. (That feature isn’t just for me, you’re average user could state, Cis Male, He/Him). In the mean time, I am enjoying separating the wheat from the chaff and I have moved to WhatsApp (which is like 3rd base I suppose) with 2 girls and 3 guys and I am enjoying my interactions. All in the name of science, for this article, of course.