It’s official. Like him or not, Trump is now the President of the United States of America, which means he’s a role model–and not just for people who voted for him or who live in the U.S. When he mocks a disabled reporter or trash talks women from his global stage, he’s telling the world that it’s OK to be a bully and say whatever is on your mind regardless of how it may affect others.
So what does this have to with the LGBTQ community, which generally leans toward the liberal side of things? Whether we realize it or not, the words and misdeeds of people like Trump leave their mark. You don’t have to be what the world perceives as a typical supporter to follow their example.
When Teflon Trump waves the “politically incorrect” flag, also known as “assholery,” over and over, and we keep letting him get away with it, we’re sending a message that bad behavior won’t necessarily go unrewarded.
That message can resonate with people who voted for Hillary Clinton, and it seems to have slowly seeped into the gay community over the last several months.
Grindr has never been a bastion of subtlety or delicacy, but guys there are increasingly treating each other like mere flesh for fantasy. To too many, we’re now all merely anatomy, not even worthy of being spoken to in complete sentences. “Hung?” “Into?” “Top?” “BBC?”
Of course, size and role have always mattered on hook-up apps, but as a friend pointed out on Facebook, guys on Grindr have recently become “more severely terse.” In part, it’s the ongoing effect of the social media age. People are now free to say what’s really on their minds, show their true colors, because the internet allows them to do so anonymously. It’s also the era of instant gratification. Everybody wants their candy—and with as little effort as possible.
It’s no coincidence that, as Trump rose from political joke to the 45th U.S. President, spreading his message of non-acceptance throughout the world, Grindr behavior has simultaneously become considerably cruder. Few guys, it seems, bother wasting their time on complete sentences anymore. Some don’t use words at all, only sharing a series of XXX pics in hopes of catching their prey.
I don’t think gays have gotten ruder and cruder because they’re bad people. And they’re no more horny than they were back when Trump was best known as the “You’re fired” guy on The Apprentice. But as he assumes his new position behind the desk in the Oval Office, everything has changed. His spectacular success in spite of a continuous stream of social scandals has conditioned many of us to think it’s OK to ignore rules of etiquette, if questionable means lead to desirable ends. Let’s cut to the chase, throw decorum out the window. All that matters is winning the prize—a roll in the hay, the presidency.
The cause and effect isn’t as simple as Trump tweeting something outrageously indecorous and a gay guy somewhere in Middle America thinking, Oh, now I can start sending unsolicited nudie pics to hot boys on Grindr. It’s more circuitous and far-reaching than that. When irresponsible social behavior at the top goes unchecked, it fosters a global environment where sensitivity and tact are no longer social priorities. Consciously or subconsciously, we’re all affected.
And it’s not just on the online hook-up scene. I’ve been writing about LGBTQ and race issues for a decade now, and recently the comment sections of politically minded articles written by me and by others have been filled with such blatant bigotry that I’ve had to look away. So many people seem to be tossing out their filter and letting their true colors shine too brightly.
It’s like we now have permission to give in to our basest basic instincts. I’d bet money that somewhere, at this very moment, some Grindr user who calls himself “XXL” is boasting, “I don’t even wait. And when you’re XXL, they let you do it. You can do anything… grab them by the balls.”
Trump didn’t create this particular monster. He’s not that smart. But he’s tapped into something that’s been bubbling under the surface, waiting to spill over. I’m sure he wouldn’t approve of those increasingly more brazen x-rated shots on Grindr (he is, after all, up with straight white men only and, as he said so himself, has “never had a gay thought in his life”), but they’re part of the package in this new age of uncensored and unaccountable.
Do what you want. Say what you feel. And you might still get to be President one day.
Jeremy Helligar is the author of Is It True What They Say About Black Men?: Tales of Love, Lust and Language Barriers on the Other Side of the World. You can tweet him @Theme4Gr8Cities