As a cis-woman who has never experienced life on Grindr, I’ve always been interested in taking a look at the platform from the point of view of a user, to see how exactly the app looks and works. A queer friend of mine allowed me to get an inside look at the platform and my general understanding of it is this: Grindr gives you a map, or a GPS grid, where all local profiles are displayed. Unlike Tinder, Grindr does not only give distances in miles, you are able to see profiles that are within a couple of feet from you. The rurality of Colgate’s location may show profiles as far as 200 miles away.
It’s pretty much common knowledge that the online dating scene for gay men in rural areas is drastically different than that of gay men in urban areas. While in urban areas it’s less common to encounter faceless profiles or profiles without pictures at all, this is typically a normal phenomenon for Grindr users in rural areas. As I took a closer look, these nameless and faceless users would provide a reason for their anonymity in their bio, marital status being a prominent one. But all reasons tend to point to one overarching reason: being closeted. The small-town atmosphere of Hamilton and its neighboring towns makes it virtually impossible for closeted gay men to privately explore their sexuality. I was unpleasantly surprised to find that most of the closeted men on Grindr were within 500 feet of my friend’s location. I was pretty upset by this, as coming to college for me has been especially liberating with regards to my sexuality. To know that this was not the case for most was disheartening. I asked my friend what his opinion was on this, as someone who is openly bisexual and able to express himself freely as non-binary. He explained to me that he was also upset by it. Nevertheless, he said, “coming out of the closet is a very hard and scary thing to do. Everyone’s story is different.”
Still, I was astonished by the number of men presumably from Colgate that had “DL” (down-low) profiles. Bios follow the same format, names not given and instead replaced with the letters “DL.” The frequency of this profile lent me to believe that this was beyond the issue of being closeted. I couldn’t help but think that this could be an issue of gay-curious men taking advantage of the horrors of coming out to appeal to openly gay men and use them for their own satisfaction.
“I feel as though men at Colgate definitely take advantage of the fact that the queer community here is small,” my friend said in response to my concerns, “so they are able to hook up with dudes without feeling bad because they know that those guys barely have any other options.” I can’t help but see the parallels between this phenomenon and how queer women are perceived by cis-het males; a degree of entitlement where queer women are thought to exist for their satisfaction. It’s important that we do not let openly gay men be erased from this issue: they too are constantly finding themselves feeling like means to an end which is extraordinarily invalidating, especially in situations that are meant to foster a sense of mutual pleasure and not onesidedness.