My Experiences on Queer Dating
When I talk to my mum about wanting a boyfriend, she always responds with the same phrase.
“There are plenty of fish in the sea,” – Mum, circa all the time.
But what she doesn’t realise for me, is that most of those fish are straight. And of those fish that aren’t straight, they have extremely high standards about what other non-straight fish they are looking for. Queer dating is like being a snapper in a school of goldfish. It’s already difficult being gay when being queer is still stigmatised in today’s society, but queer dating isn’t making it easier. In addition to there being significantly fewer of us compared to our heterosexual counterparts, gay men just love to make it even harder for themselves.
As soon as I turned 18 I started using dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge. For the most part, these experiences haven’t been too bad. But Grindr, the most well-known app amongst queer men and trans women, has been a horrible experience. From the overtly misogynistic men who shame men for being feminine, to the predators who prey on younger guys, to the constant body shaming and racism, Grindr has been a headache to use from the beginning.
Grindr is the perfect breeding ground for predators to prey on younger gay guys. I can’t speak on behalf of every gay guy who has used the app, but I have definitely had my fair share of older men who have wanted to hook up with me, the oldest being 72 (I’m 19 for some perspective on how large the age gap is). Some of these men are so desperate as to try to bargain for these boys with money through ‘rewards,’ as a way to prostitute them out. Although not illegal, these large age gaps allow for problematic power imbalances. I saw a TikTok recently explaining this type of situation. The user explained how it’s completely natural for younger people to find older people attractive – such as being 14 and finding Hugh Jackman attractive (at least in my case anyway), as older people represent a sense of maturity and independence that a lot of younger people idolise but are yet to obtain. This is romanticised by the younger person through a sense of attraction. If a partner is significantly older, however, what can they obtain? They can obtain a sense of power over the younger person, be it economically, with maturity, or even physical stature; they overpower us, and this power dynamic isn’t healthy in a romantic situation.
No matter our own identity, we all operate within a heteronormative society. One that values masculinity and athleticism as the most attractive. This can lead to men ‘straight acting’ and desiring others who are also ‘straight acting’ in an effort to fit into these heteronormative boxes.
A lot of gay men only fully express their sexuality through online places such as Grindr. The sense of freedom online platforms give, allows these men to say whatever they want without facing the consequences of their actions. Because of this, Grindr is heavily misogynistic, treating queer men who are perceived to be effeminate like trash or completely disregarding their existence in the first place. Now, when I mention Grindr in this situation, I don’t mean that the app is inherently misogynistic, I mean that it gives its users the platform to be misogynistic. I have a friend, who we’ll name ‘J’ for privacy, who actively uses the app, and expresses himself in an effeminate manner: he wears makeup, nail polish and wears clothing that goes against the stereotypical idea of dressing as a ‘man’. J often receives messages from men that don’t even say hi. Rather, ‘where you at slut,’ or a wordless dick pic. If he doesn’t respond, these men start to feel entitled, resulting in harassing J with messages of ‘bitch,’ ‘skank,’ and ‘whore’.
Failing to fit into a mould (that is in itself problematic) created by ‘masculine’ queer men should never result in the levels of harassment that J receives, nor should he feel the need to change himself to fit these roles other ‘masculine’ queer men have created.
If you go on Grindr, it’s common to see bios with ‘no fems’ or ‘masc4masc’ in them. This sort of ‘straight acting’ is usually by the same men who ridicule other, often more feminine men, for being ‘too gay’ or using ‘being gay’ as their personality trait. At the end of the day, the only thing that makes you gay is your sexual preference. We’re all equally queer regardless of whether we are ‘straight acting’ or not.
A lot of men do, however, have a preference for men that are ‘straight acting' or deemed more masculine. I feel like this can stem from a couple of issues. Whether they are in the closet or not, most gay men have had crushes on straight men. They usually have had to keep this to themselves in fear of being rejected or for having these feelings in the first place. When they meet a queer person who is ‘straight-acting,’ they may develop feelings for this person as a sort of replacement for the men they were never able to be with. Additionally, no matter our own identity, we all operate within a heteronormative society. One that values masculinity and athleticism as the most attractive. This can lead to men ‘straight acting’ and desiring others who are also ‘straight acting’ in an effort to fit into these heteronormative boxes, regardless of whether they are doing this consciously or not.
No matter what you're looking for in a man, the most important thing is to be respectful. It’s really not hard. Obviously, you’re not going to be attracted to everyone that you see, but the least you could do is not be an asshole about it.
We already get a lot of shit from everyone else for being gay; it just seems counter-productive to cause more anguish for one another in a place where we’re supposed to feel at home. Twinks, bears, otters. Body types are a large part of queer identity. In the gay community though, this obsession with body type can often lead to widespread body shaming, particularly on apps such as Grindr. You aren’t praised by a lot of men for being a ‘fat bear’ but if you’re a ‘muscle bear’ that’s another story. I know that with a lot of dating apps, the first point of interest is whether you find the person on your screen physically attractive. These apps are designed this way. After this, you chat and get to know each other’s personalities. Grindr is a little different, as a lot of men who use the app aren’t looking for anything more than just hookups, so personality doesn’t necessarily have to matter. A lot of men who use Grindr don’t even have a picture of their face on their profile, usually just a picture of their body. People may have preferences of what they look for in appearances, but the body bashing, or excluding body types that comes, as a result, is an issue. The only way to be appreciated as a queer man is to be muscular, otherwise, you will either be bashed for being too fat or skinny, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, fetishised.
Grindr has been known to be racist, with people excluding certain ethnicities in their bio. While I have not personally experienced this, being Pākehā myself, I have heard stories online. Fortunately, the BIPOC friends I spoke to haven’t had these experiences either. So while I can’t comment too much further, it is another aspect to consider for those looking at using the app. The idea of ‘pride’ has to be intersectional. Gay men don’t only consist of white gym junkies named Kyle who drown themselves in Lynx Africa and call you a ‘faggot’ for using coconut-scented bodywash. Gay men are BIPOC, disabled, and have stretch marks and other blemishes. Gay men come in all different shapes and sizes and they have different religions and philosophical beliefs. They aren’t only cisgender. They embrace their femininity proudly, they dress in drag, participate in vogue, wear makeup and they are all beautiful.
We all know how shitty it feels to be discriminated against for something we can’t change. Let’s not do the same to individuals in our own community.