Grindr, an application used by many gay men, has recently gone public with a promotional campaign titled Kindr. Grindr, which allows gay men to chat with other gay men based upon geolocation, has for some taken the place of cruising in person, as it can be used to set up casual sexual encounters among men.

It’s also a breeding ground for problematic themes within queer culture. Grindr has long been under scrutiny as it has allowed profiles to include the terms “masc4masc,” or “no blacks no Asians no femmes” within user profiles. These terms take on the very common problems of internalized homophobia (indicating feminine gays are lesser or even undesirable) as well as racism within the community.

Grindr screens for other phrases in a profile bio, and will not allow certain photos to be published. Now Grindr has run a campaign titled Kindr geared at ending the problems present in Grindr interactions.
Kindr started with an advertisement for the campaign and app that took testimonials from individuals who have experienced racist remarks on Grindr when trying to chat with men. The second advertisement was geared toward body shaming, and the third targeted HIV stigma and how to have a conversation that is not problematic.

To combat this, numerous new apps have come along of late claiming to be a cure to the problems Grindr has allowed to exist so long as they bring in money from ads played to users as they scroll through the app.

Most recently, Chappy — a more community-based app — has emerged. The app has individuals, whether they use the app or not, be ambassadors and turn the app into live meet-ups so people can find gay men looking to be social or for romantic sparks. Chappy does nothing to combat femme-phobia or even racism within its bio aspect, allowing the phrases “masculine men only” or “It’s just a preference…” followed by lists of races approved by the individual.

Taimi is an app designed in Silicon Valley that appeals to users searching for meaningful connections, with the hope of ridding the app culture’s connection to hook-up culture. As a consequence, it slut-shames by correlating those who partake in hook-up culture with being undateable. Taimi fell into scrutiny early on as it allowed for individuals to filter profiles based on HIV status.

Grindr is not alone in allowing problematic speech and actions to exist within its interface. Grindr acknowledging its shortcomings is a noble step; however, this Kindr campaign is a complete farce and is nothing but a damage-control publicity stunt. It’s a scam to make gay men feel comfortable on an app that has many faults.

If Grindr truly cared about the topics that it claims the Kindr campaign combats, it should prove it by getting rid of Grindr Xtra. By paying the monthly fee for the subscription service, a user is able to see 60 more profiles than on the free version, but along with that comes more filter options. Among these are body type, weight, and ethnicity. Grindr is using the Kindr campaign to specifically fight this sort of discrimination.

The message Grindr is sending is that if you can pay for the app, then you can bypass presenting your racism and body shaming by doing it privately and confidentially through filters no one will ever know you are using. Grindr cares about racism and body shaming and HIV stigma, but if there is payment then it will turn the other way while it all takes place. These problems are not unique to Grindr and the digital queer community it has helped create, but Grindr offers a very funneled view of the queer community.

To understand that these are concerns because the queer community is not policing itself outside of these spaces, look at the recently redesigned Pride flag. The addition of brown and black stripes to the rainbow flag sparked outrage in the LGBTQ community. A symbol of inclusion and understanding that racism existed came under attack by those who felt race had no place in the community. Meanwhile, these same people could open Grindr and it would not take long to find a profile with racist descriptions in the bio.

To say race has no place in our community is a disgusting form of color-blind racism. We are all connected by the LGBTQ umbrella, yet race also creates individual challenges for our lived experiences. Racism is not unique to the digital dating world, it is embedded in the queer community, and many are happy to fight the presence of race to keep themselves in an ignorant existence that does not require them to police their own, or others’, racist and problematic speech and actions.

Everything that Kindr is attempting to fix within one aspect of queer culture will not fix the same problems that exist outside of the digital world. Look to the multitude of artists who feel there needs to be a reclaiming of femme culture to remind the community that it is not a lesser experience. There are gay clubs that have maximum age limits for how old a person can be before they are turned away. There are also people who fear getting tested for HIV because of the shunning they will receive from the community they are tied to. Despite all the trials our community has endured — HIV being the most horrific — that bonded a generation of gay men, they now divide the modern iteration of these same men.

There does not need to be a campaign to fix Grindr. Fixing the community with education about racism, femmephobia and HIV stigma will do a better job of fixing the problem for the long run. That does not mean Grindr is exempt from any role in these conversations. However, Grindr should rid its profiles of the filters for HIV status, weight and race. Grindr allowing these only gives individuals permission to reveal their racist ideologies or femmephobic speech. We have the capability to be a very inclusive community and to make sure those who identify under the LGBTQ umbrella are not feeling left out by their own kind.

LA Weekly