At the start of pride season, Grindr announced it was finally ditching its “ethnicity filter” after dragging its feet for over a decade.
But as it turns out, though well intentioned, removing the filter has actually created a new set of problems. Specifically, for the very people it aimed to help.
In a statement posted to social media last month, Grindr announced it was getting rid of the filter to show support for Black Lives Matter and in honor of pride.
“How can we launch a month of celebration when so many of us are hurting?” the company said. “It is our responsibility to speak out against the hate and violence that such a vital part of our community continue to face.”
But in an new op-ed published by the UK’s GQ, gay Black writer Otamere Guobadia explains how some BIPOC users actually used the filter to escape the overwhelming sea of white profiles that they are constantly confronted with whenever they log on, and how not having it has created a less friendly, less safe experience for them.
“For many Black gay men and gay men of color, the ethnicity filters allow them to find other men and befriend and build a community with them free from othering, fetishization, and white gaze,” he writes.
Guobadia argues that many BIPOC users have felt so abused by white gays that they are not particularly interested in engaging with them on the app and are instead looking to meet guys who share their experiences.
“Many gay men of color are only invested in romantic relationships with other gay men of color for this very reason,” Guobadia writes. “The ethnicity filters allowed them to curate an experience centered on them for a change.”
(Quick side note: Before you go crying “reverse racism,” please take a moment to educate yourself on what that term really means.)
Furthermore, Guobadia adds that doing away with the ethnicity filter don’t address the underlying issues that have plagued the app since its inception in 2009.
“Many [BIPOC] use it to necessarily create a dating experience insulated from the default whiteness and white supremacy that often pervade both the app and the gay dating world writ large,” he writes.
“Without seeking to understand these issues, and the way white men fetishize and marginalize Black men on their app, this is a small plaster on the racism that we face within the community.”
The fact remains that our grievances run far deeper, the repercussions of which spread far further and devastatingly than dating apps. Queer communities have always had a fraught relationship with Black sexuality. Black queer men have found both their experiences and existence systematically erased. Contemporary conversations in the LGBTQ community position Black masculinity as both an outsider and archetypal villain.
Guobadia concludes by saying that gay BIPOC should be allowed to “furnish and curate spaces and experiences distinct and away from the strictures and impunity of the white gay-ze.”
Grindr has long been criticized for not doing enough to combat racism on its platform.
After peddling the “it’s just a preference!” argument for nearly a decade, in 2018 it launched its #KindrGrindr campaign to encourage users to stop making statements such as “no blacks and no Asians” on their profiles.
However, many users remained unhappy that it continued to offer an ethnicity filter, allowing users to filter out ethnic groups of their choice.