Category Is… Heteronormative Realness: Critiquing the Problematic Infrastructure of Grindr
As a recently single, socially awkward, gay man, re-downloading Grindr was an essential rite of passage for putting myself back on the market. But what I found wasn’t exactly strap-on’s and rainbows.
When completing my profile with an abundance of eggplant-emojis, I noticed an increase in categorical boxes I could insert my personal information. While I expected to detail my height and weight, I was stumped by the need to express my “tribe”, body-type and position. To paint a picture, I’m a half-Asian / half-Australian, who has a bit of a tummy – but you can’t really tell with an oversize t-shirt, I shave sometimes, and I sometimes works out. In other words, I don’t really fit in. I don’t know how to answer these questions, nor do I know what I’m “looking for”, and yet I need to answer them in the fear of being filtered out of other people’s searches.
Am I too feminine to be a jock? What happens if I shave my beard? If I list myself as a twink do I have to bottom? Who bottoms if there are two twinks? Or three. Woah, slow down.
In pondering the ramifications of each tribe, it hit me – I went from acting straight for eighteen years to having to act like a specific type of gay. These categories ultimately limit freedom of expression because in performing the script of the masculine jock or the feminine twink, we lose our sense of individuality. Offline, I’m so comfortable swinging between Taylor Swift references and bro-ing it up with the boys, but online there are very clear and distinct barriers that, if crossed, cause a ruckus.
Let’s just say, I find it ironic that within the LBGT-community - a place where gender is predominantly treated as a spectrum - the performative nature of gender is still essential.
In a society so obsessed with the masculine and feminine dynamic, there’s no denying the evident parallels between the twink/jock trope and antiquated forms of gender normality. Is this our version of heteronormativity? Or perhaps are we merely following the incredibly limited representation of gay men in media? Will-&-Grace, one of the only television shows to feature gay men as regular characters, presented a frequently reinforced archetype of gayness. If you’re gay man, you are one of two types: a flamboyant, over-the-top, feminine gay, or a masculine man who happens to have sex with other men.
So, no I’m not impressed with the infrastructure of Grindr. With over three-million-active participants, it’s important that Grindr is aware of its users and practices that reinforce a heteronormative way of being. Reluctantly, you will find me on there, but not under the umbrella of a tribe, I’ll be that blank-space baby – feel free to write your name.