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From Grindr to Scruff, Hornet to Jack’d, the digital platforms are best known for dredging up flakey users, svelte-only fat-shamers, masc-4-masc femme-phobes, and it’s-a-personal-preference racists.

They’re helping, in other words, make the connections so many queers have been yearning for all along.

This isn’t to suggest that having an out presence in public spaces is the only thing that matters for strengthening the community, especially when vulnerability often attends visibility.

We can cruise furtively through rows of profiles, eking out a string of flirty chats or just going for some unembellished, anonymous sex.

Especially for people who might be deeply closeted or marooned in bigoted communities, these services offer keys for investigating what may initially seem like errant feelings of homosexuality.

And, in doing so, the likes of Grindr, Hornet, and Scruff are re-creating queer sociability in significant ways.

These apps, on the one hand, still allow queer men the messiness of exploring our identities.Grindr, for instance, seems to be looking to shed its scurrilous image as “just a hookup app.” In March, the company that pioneered the geolocation-based, casual sex–facilitating sensation launched the online magazine Into.CEO Joel Simkhai told in a recent interview that “millions of Grindr users [were] asking us to figure out what’s going on around them,” so the company decided to start curating culture-minded content.It’s a fitting role for apps whose original purpose unquestionably (and unavoidably, given that stigma still forces many men into silence about their health status) contributes to sexually transmitted disease transmission.The companies are activating their networks for political action, too.Grindr isn’t the only gay app getting in on the rebranding game.

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