Grindr’s Ethnicity Filter and Racism in the Queer Community

Written by Joshua Kaye

Illustrated by Laura Buckell

Over a week ago, the dating and hook-up app Grindr announced that, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, it will be removing its ethnicity filter. Since its creation in 2009, the filter has been the cause of many issues on the app. It has allowed people to be uber-selective with the guys they look for, to the point of straight-up discrimination.

As of now, the filter is still on the app. But after 11 years of occupying a controversial place on Grindr, and only taking action because of an overwhelming outcry, perhaps this is a case of another company doing too little too late. Especially a company such as Grindr that should pride itself on being tolerant. Yet, companies that allow or promote racial intolerance are the symptoms of a virulent disease evident in our society.

Yes, it is clear that this world has a lot of problems – this is no new-fangled idea. However, I believe that with the unjust murder of George Floyd and the obscene moments leading up to his death displayed on video, then distributed on the internet for all to see, the world caught on fire. The flames have become violent. Especially in the midst of a global lockdown when global anxieties had been at fragile levels, to say the least.

A Twentyhood illustration of George Floyd by Shazmeen Khalid

It has taken the death of an innocent Black man for social media to reflect on culture and social injustice at large, especially with regards to the Black Lives Matter movement. Perhaps, in the midst of this and during Pride Month, it would be a good idea to turn to the ongoing problem that is the inherent racism very much alive in the LGBTQ+ community. 

As a gay, Black man, this article will strictly take the perspective of racism in the gay and bisexual male community. It reflects my own personal experience and the discussions I have had with other gay and bisexual men in the past of all colours.

This article does not speak on behalf of lesbians or transgender people as I have limited personal experience with those communities. But from what I have gathered in my research, this could be applied to lesbians and transgender people.

Some statistics: according to those released by Stonewall, 51% of all Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBTQ+ people report experiencing discrimination or poor treatment within the LGBTQ+ community because of their ethnicity, with that figure rising to 61% for Black LGBTQ+ people. These figures are hardly surprising to me as, in my experience, there’s a lot of White entitlement in the LGBTQ+ community.

Black LGBTQ+ leaders organize the All Black Lives Matter ...

I have experienced White guys call me the N-word when I decline their advances, I have been told to ‘go home’ (even though I live in West London, not Africa), and it has been assumed many times by Whites (and even some non-Whites) that I must have an over-sized phallus and that I am unable to maintain my sex drive or temper because of my race.

It is also common to find minority ethnic LGBTQ+ people who refuse to date others of their own race. Of course, this can be for a number of reasons but I believe the reason for all racial discrimination in the LGBTQ+ community is due to the legacy of colonialism and imperialism.

I read a few articles in preparation of writing this one but none of them addressed the colonial and imperial root of racism in the queer community. Maybe because it is obvious, maybe because it is at this point when the topic of discussion becomes very nuanced – so nuanced that I may not be able to address this situation sufficiently in a limited word count.

One may ask, how could a socially victimised group of people victimise others within their community? In a short answer: colonialism. Long answer: non-Whites had their lands seized by Whites hundreds of years ago. When this happened, a rupture occurred. Something dichotomous: the White man, a symbol of prestige and power, in time became the aspirational figure for subjugated Others.

However, this all happened subconsciously; little ripples of irreversible ontological damage. It is the reason why Caucasians hold a monopoly on beauty standards even within ethnic minority communities. This has become one of the great understated problems of our time.

It is this: to forgo something intrinsic to one’s existence in pursuit of something that contradicts oneself: a form of self-erasure. Because of the history of White conquest, for an ethnic minority to position oneself in proximity to Whiteness is dangerous. Perhaps even suicidal.

It is true: a death drive exists within the LGBTQ+ community. This drive is the result of a subjugated community trying to mimic the systemic struggles in that dichotomous, violent relationship between Whites and non-Whites in hegemonic culture. But instead of the LGBTQ+ projecting their discrimination outward, it projects inward (for there is no one to discriminate outside itself).

A culture within culture; one that mirrors the power dynamics of the hegemonic. Thanks to the legacies of colonialism and imperialism, this social violence is widespread. It is no longer the case of Whites being the sole participant of hatred towards ethnic minorities. Instead, it is Black on Asian, Asian on Black, mixed race on mixed race, Black on Black, Asian on Asian and so forth, the obscenities go on. It is self-erasure at its purest form.

When it comes to the topic of human relations, I am an optimistic pessimist. I believe that people are slow to change. It is perhaps written in the existence of the LGBTQ+ community to position itself in proximity away from and towards the hegemonic culture.

Educator Jane Elliott Talks Trump, Kaepernick and Fixing Racism
Jane Elliott. Source: NBC News

But, to paraphrase anti-racism activist and educator Jane Elliott, anything that can be learnt can be unlearnt. The amount of damage done within the gay community may take some time to heal, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start the healing process now. Especially at this socially fragile time with the Black Lives Matter movement in full swing, we should start to be more considerate towards our brothers and sisters of colour and reflect on our own biases and beliefs to become better people.

This life is far too short to promote hatred or intolerance towards others. We need more allies within the LGBTQ+ community from all races and ethnicities. Simply put, a life spent in hatred is a life unlived.

The Author

Currently, Joshua is a first year PhD student in English Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. To support this, he is working in insurance. In his spare time he creates avant-garde music and loves to cook and travel.

Instagram: iamjoshk

Twitter: joshdkaye

Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous

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