Cruising Redefined: Grindr

Calling all gay, bi-sexual, and curious men! Want to get laid tonight but you still haven’t showered and don’t feel like leaving your apartment? There’s an app for that! Grindr- For those looking for a quick rendezvous, whether it be a date or something much raunchier, or perhaps just a night of sexting and an adequate, though temporary, fix for loneliness.   grindr2Ah, yes. Grindr. Today’s modern version of cruising.

Technology has reached an ultimate high. Available on smartphones, Grindr is the first and leading app of its kind. So brilliant yet elegantly simple, It is an all-male location-based social network. Using the GPS function of a smartphone, users can locate other gay men within a relative proximity, scroll through their pictures, read some information about them, and send a message, photo, or location.

“Grindr is a very, very visual experience. I’m not really a big believer in words.”- Joel Simkhai, CEO, Grindr

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“Outside the gay community, people would probably say it’s just a hookup app, and absolutely, sex is going on. But it’s more than that, because there’s always the possibility you will hit the jackpot and find someone who will move you. It has this potential for making a huge impact in your life.”- Joel Simkhai, CEO, Grindr

Joel Simkhai, Grindr’s mastermind, was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and moved to New York with his family when he was 3-years-old. He graduated from Tufts University with degrees in economics and international relations. With $2,000 and the help of a Scandinavian software developer, Simkhai began working on Grindr, an app he had “rattling in his mind” for awhile. When the technology became available, he jumped on the opportunity to make Grindr his baby. Launched in 2009, Grindr today has an estimated 4 million users and is available in 192 countries, including places where being openly gay can mean death.

What’s with the Name and Mask Logo?

Simkhai says that the word Grindr comes from a coffee grinder. Mixing people together. “It is a little bit rough – not to mix, but to grind.” It is tough, and masculine, and sexy. The logo is a mask because they wanted to create something primal, like an African tribe mask, since socialization is a primitive, basic human need.

Simkhai has also created a program called Grindr For Equality, as a way to reach out to this huge global network of gay men and encourage them to get involved in the gay rights movement, by providing them with contacts and information about politicians who are struggling with interfacing the gay community.

Grindr is today’s cruising. In William Friedkin’s Cruising we see Al Pacino hanging around New York City’s grimiest S&M bars. In Interior. Leather Bar., we learn about James Franco’s fascination with the underground gay cruising culture. Although Grindr may lack the eye contact and boldness that cruising entails, it is a safe and comfortable way for gay men to meet other gay men.

Though it may seem funny or trivial from an outside perspective, Grindr has, and will continue to have a huge impact on gay male culture. Instead of hanging around suspect urban areas, Grindr provides males with a safe platform to explore their own sexuality and text other gay males. From the safety and comfort of their own homes, I believe that most gay young boys today will begin their sexual journeys on Grindr, at their own pace. If the narrator of Torres’s “We the Animals” had Grindr, would the ending have been any different? Maybe instead of furiously writing about his darkest and deepest fantasies in his diaries and secretly hanging around mens’ bathrooms, he could have connected with other young gay boys in his area who are like him. On page 111, he says, “Maybe it was true. Maybe there was no other boy like me, anywhere.” If Grindr was available to him, I think we could have seen a drastically different ending. Perhaps he would have broken away from his suffocating, tight-knit, yet destructive family unit, and connected with someone who understands him.

I am excited to see how Grindr will change and enhance gay culture in the future to come. Though people may scoff at Grindr as being nothing but a hook-up app, it is a way for gay men to get to know people around them who they may otherwise have never known. I believe that connecting humanity with each other, regardless of the platform, is a true benefit to mankind.

Hang ten, dude

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“Surfing culture is not separate to the broader culture and there’s widespread homophobia and bullying. Surfing developed particularly primarily in Australia around these groups of me going on surf trips hunting the waves, going surfing together. That’s not to say women weren’t involved but they were marginalised, they were pushed to the margins of these groups. And one of the things that happens when you get these groups of guys bonding like that is that you will get this sort of homophobia come out because you somehow have to sort of draw a line between this cannot be interpreted as homoerotic. So you either objectify women and that leads to this sexism or you work on the premise that we must prove our heterosexuality.” – Dr. Clifton Evers

Out in the Lineup is an award-winning documentary, available on Netflix, that features the experiences and stories of gay surfers from all around the world. In 2011, after 20 years of silence, former state champion surfer David Wakefield does a Google search which leads him to gaysurfers.net, the world’s first online community for gay surfers, founded by Thomas Castets. Wakefield reaches out to Castets and they become close friends. Castets encourages Wakefield to come out very publicly in front of hundreds and thousands of people at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. A photograph of Wakefield lands him on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald which stirred up many strong reactions. The backlash inspired Wakefield and Castets with an idea and they structure a mission to journey from the east coast of Australia to Hawaii, California, Mexico, and the Galapagos Islands to meet gay surfers, confront the surf industry, provoke conversation, challenge stereotypes, and build a comout-in-the-line-up-1munity.

‘I’m one of the best surfers in my country and I’m gay. I never came out and I don’t plan on it. But I heard about this film and I thought people would say, “Gay people whining again. If they didn’t go on about it so much there wouldn’t be so much hate against them.” But they’re wrong and missing the point. It’s been made so young people who are in the closet will feel it’s ok to be gay. Surfing’s a macho sport. It’s about respect in and out of the water. I think a lot of gay surfers feel that being gay makes you less of a man and people will judge you. Maybe that’s not the case as long as you charge. I think it’s time someone made a surf film about this. It might help people come to terms with their sexuality in the surf world. I know for me, it would have made growing up and travelling with surf teams and accepting myself a lot easier.’ – A letter from an anonymous surfer (later in the film identified as Craig Butler)

Surfing is built on a foundation of free spiritedness, broad-mindedness, and connection to nature. This “poofter-bashing” culture is a total paradox; in the surfing world of such “laid-back, peace-loving surfer dudes,” being openly gay is a completely taboo issue, even today. This documentary belongs in our archive because it is a perfect demonstration of the damaging effects of queer normative culture. Even in a sport such as surfing, where one would imagine there to be open-minded, liberal thinking and accepting behavior, homosexual people are shunned and “hushed.” Partly because of funding factors and partly because of the masculinity that is associated with surf culture, many gay and lesbians surfers keep their sexual identities a secret.

‘The precedent that’s been set is that if you are gay or we think you’re gay then you’re out and that social coercion is the most powerful coercion that exists in the surfing world.’ – Cori Schumacher

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Out in the Lineup relates to our gender unit. Throughout the documentary we meet many different gay and lesbian surfers who all fall in different places on the gender-normative spectrum. One surfer, Riley Herman, says in the film, “Sometimes I’ve had people say, ‘Oh, you don’t seem gay.’” The central theme around this documentary is the fact that surfing culture is strongly centered around masculine gender roles, and violating those roles is violating unspoken “rules” in surf culture, and intensifying homophobic attitudes. It relates to the contemporary unit because it discusses the harmful effects of a hetero-normative society on gay youth even today. It relates to the history unit because throughout history gays and lesbians were constantly shunned and pushed out of sports soley because of their sexual preferences.

‘I don’t think surfing is that overt about its homophobia, I think that there’s just this general understanding that, you know, if you’re gay cool but just don’t tell anyone about it.’ – Fred Pawle

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Although sexual preference is just one part of a person’s identity, it can be a huge life-changing factor for individuals who don’t fit in with hetero-normative stereotypes.  This documentary tells the stories of hundreds of people, whom were apart of a community to which they didn’t truly feel they belong.  Although they connected with other surfers based on their love of the sport, hiding their true identities lead many of them to depression and even suicide.  Out in the Lineup is significant because it explores sociological structures and units and the pain it causes individuals to hide their true selves.  It brings together people from all around their world who thought that they were alone, and reminds them that of course, they are not.

“The realm of sexuality also has its own internal politics, inequities, and modes of oppression. As with other aspects of human behavior, the concrete institutional forms of sexuality at any given time and place are products of human activity. They are imbued with conflicts of interest and political maneuver, both deliberate and incidental. In that sense, sex is always political.”- Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex: Notes for the Radical Theory of Politics of Sexuality”

#WeAreYou

“Male and female are the two pillars upon which our society is built. Gender dictates everything from what kind of relationship you get into to where you take a piss. And if you upend that, it’s very threatening for people. It challenges the system by which they live.”- iO Tillet Wright

 

Artist iO Tillet Wright’s Self Evident Truths Project is a photographic document of 10,000 people in the USA that identify anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum. The aim of the project is to reduce discrimination by exposing the humanity in each individual through a simple portrait. Before the next presidential election, the 10,000 photographs will be installed on the lawn in front of The Washington Monument.

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iO Tillett Wright hails from Manhattan, where punk-rockers and drag queens were the norm. When she was 6 years old and the kids told her she couldn’t play basketball because she was girl, she went home, shaved her head, and came back to school the next day as a boy. She kept up the charade for the next 8 years. Nobody knew she was really a girl- not her teachers or even her friends. However, she isn’t transgender. She io20tillett20wright_9051never felt uncomfortable in her own body; she instead felt like her life was an elaborate performance. iO was lucky enough to have supportive and open-minded parents who never asked her to define herself or put herself into some sort of category. When she was 14, she decided she wanted to be a girl again. Throughout her teenagers years she fell in love with both women and men, and went from “a boy to being this awkward girl that looked like a boy in girl’s clothes to the opposite extreme of this super skimpy, over-compensating, boy-chasing girly-girl to finally just a hesitant exploration of what I actually was, a tomboyish girl who liked both boys and girls depending on the person.”

 

In 2010, the Proposition 8 fiasco inspired an idea in iO, a flourishing photographer at the time. She could not fathom why people would strip the rights of so many others based on one facet of their character. She speculated that if people could look into the eyes of the people they were discriminating against, it might hinder them. She wanted to introduce homophobes to the LGBTQ community in a simple, unaltered portrait. The Human Rights Campaign helped her get off her feet and funded the first two weeks of shooting in New York City. From there, the Self Evident Truths Project took off.

The Self Evident Truths Project belongs in this archive because essentially it is a giant archive in itself! It is a genuine representation of queer culture that exposes the similarities and differences between individuals, tells their stories, and shows their faces. Unlike the violence of the Stonewall Riots or the flamboyance of gay parades, the Self Evident Truth Projects peacefully asks for the acceptance of LGBTQ people as human beings who are every bit as deserving of equal rights as anyone else.

 

The Self Evident Truths Project pertains strongly to gender and sex because it displays visual representations of “non-normative” identities and sexualities. It shows sheltered indivC0tuXgExiduals what the spectrum of sexuality and gender looks like across the USA. From fierce drag queens to pretty mothers, sexuality and gender are fluid and as iO says, “We are you, because we’re all the same… completely different.” When a person can identify with and see themselves (or their daughter, brother, best friend) in a portrait, it may open their minds and change their perspectives.

iO’s work relates to our history unit because as Monique Witting says in “One is Not Born a Woman,” lesbians and feminists showed that “private problems” are “social problems.” On page 16 she goes on to say that,

“Once one has acknowledged oppression, one needs to know and experience the fact that one can constitute oneself as a subject (as opposed to an object of oppression), that one can become SOMEONE in sprite of oppression, that one has one’s own identity. There is no possible fight for someone deprived of an identity, no internal motivation for fighting, since, although I can fight only with others, first I fight for myself.” On page 19 she goes on to say, “This real necessity for everyone to exist as an individual, as well as a member of a class, is perhaps the first condition for the accomplishment of a revolution, without which there can be no real fight or transformation. But the opposite is also true; without class and class consciousness there are no real subjects, only alienated individuals.”

This is exactly what the Self Evident Truths Project is doing! By piecing together stories and portraits of individuals into a whole not only provide each person with their own identity and distinction, but it also laces them all together as a diverse unit that demands respect.

This project relates to our contemporary unit because still today, LGBTQ people are discriminated against in the workforce, can’t be legally married in every state, and are bullied and stigmatized. The Self Evident Truth Project aims to destroy the stigma and bimodal thinking by introducing “shades of grey” by simple portraits to induce empathy. By breaking boundaries and showing their faces, the LGBTQ community is saying that they are everywhere, they could be anyone, and they deserve equal rights!

A few of iO Tillett Wright’s favorite images from Self Evident Truths with their stories:

“Familiarity really is the gateway drug to empathy. Once an issue pops up in your own backyard or amongst your own family, you’re far more likely to … explore a new perspective on it.”- iO Tillett Wright