Content Warning: discussion of sex and sexuality, bigotry, racism, and transphobia; reference to slurs, brief drug mention.
** I would like to acknowledge that my experiences are mine alone and are unique to me as a pre-operative, olive-skinned, curvy, non-binary, queer trans guy in the ‘cub’ demographic of the queer* community. I acknowledge that I will only be speaking from my personal experience and position as a transmasculine individual in society.
Grindr is possibly the most common and ill-famed platform of social interaction in the gay community. Not too far-removed from the more-popular app Tinder, Grindr offers a direct, accessible platform for hook-ups, chats and casual sex; around the clock, free from the bare-minimum-subtleties that even Tinder manages to maintain. Grindr, first and foremost, is a platform for gay, bisexual, queer and questioning men to interact, share pictures and arrange to meet up with other men. Users predominantly seek casual sexual encounters, commonly insinuated with euphemisms like ‘fun’, ‘play’ or ‘NSA’ (No Strings Attached) – the only subtlety I have yet found on the app, though thinly-veiled.
Grindr has evolved as a digital manifestation of the bathhouses, backrooms, ‘cottages’ and saunas typical of the gay cruising scenes in days past. Designed for this market, Grindr has since adapted to make space for transgender women and men, and non-binary individuals. When asked to pick your ‘tribe’, the app now even features a ‘trans’ option, among the other traditions – ‘twink’, ‘bear’, ‘discreet’, ‘jock’, ‘leather’, and so on. Grindr has since also provided a space for other marginalised communities and individuals, including sex workers and drug users.
On My Experiences:
Testosterone therapy – for those who make the choice take this – is responsible in many transmasculine individuals for an increased libido; a result of anatomical and physiological alterations, coupled with the mental shift that comes with growing confidence and comfort as HRT takes effect. Against my better judgement, it was not long after commencing testosterone therapy that I downloaded the app – I logged in and made my account as a queer, predominantly male-attracted, and newly single individual.
The app provided way more to me than I anticipated; as well as validation, I was initiated into a unique and often confronting insight of gay hookup culture. Amongst the countless blank profiles, explicit messages, the ‘dick pic?’ and ‘no fats, no femmes!’ mantras of every variety – and from every possible angle – I was inducted into an overwhelming jungle of underground gay life.
Straight and curious men also find refuge on Grindr. Many were fascinated with me before my body had masculinised to the point it has now. I was something different – a novelty to some, a perversion to others. The demand for photos of ‘trans bodies’ seemed to stem from both fetish and desperate curiosity. Grappling with inappropriate questions and microaggressions as they learnt my language, and I theirs, was both challenging and rewarding. For the first few months, things were very dynamic, addictive and immersive.
Fetishisation from straight men grew old quickly, and while I often took hiatuses away from the app, I now feel indifferent to it. It is strange how quickly I adjusted – perhaps I have become desensitised.
The more I pass (passing being the notion of a trans person ‘passing’ for ‘non-trans’ or cisgender), the more I notice a shift in the behavioural patterns of men towards me in this environment. Nowadays I am no longer approached by straight men who are confused and take me for a trans woman; but overwhelmingly I am contacted by predominantly male-attracted men. This, I think, speaks volumes of such spaces and the masculine-revering nature within.
Sydney-born postgraduate student Gabriel, is a 23-year-old non-binary transmasculine individual, who further identifies himself as queer and pansexual. He has previously worked in tertiary education and has also been involved with sexual health education and communication. Gabriel has interests in science and the arts, queer politics and the culinary arts. He is an active member of the LGBTIQ+ community and advocates for transgender issues.