Trans* and Grindr
Richmond and its queer community have spent the past week in mourning, celebration, and activism that centered around the Trans* identity through programming related to the Transgender Day of Remembrance. As the week passes, a real challenge begins as we work towards building an inclusive community. We must sustain a focus on eliminating the everyday crisis experienced by Trans* folks in the LGB-T* community. Dr. Jillian T. Weiss wrote a thorough article about how Trans gets excluded, marginalized, and ostracized in the LGBT acronym.
Transsexuals violated the tacit social understandings of the homosexual community in the U.S. both by failing to pass and passing too much. Transsexuals, and later transgenders, were disparaged because some were “passing” as straight through embrasure of stereotypes of gendered behavior, i.e., effeminacy for MTFs and hyper-masculinity for FTMs, and embrasure of heterosexual practices and privilege by identifying their same-sex practices as heterosexuality, thus rejecting homosexual identity. They were also looked down upon because they violated cultural norms of sexual behavior through gender ambiguity, visible androgyny and genderqueerness, thus violating the accommodationist idea that they are ‘just like you.’
A key component of the queer community is the sexual community, which becomes problematic as it incorporates a ‘trans* sexuality.” Weiss specifically mentions how “[Trans] were also looked down upon because they violated cultural norms of sexual behavior through gender ambiguity, visible androgyny and genderqueerness, thus violating the accommodationist idea that they are ‘just like you.’” Our sex lives become an intricate component of our identities, friendships, and politics. I have written previously about the politics of Grindr and the dichotomies of gender performance in gay dating/sex rituals. As a popular space for sexual organizing and connecting, it is ripe for examination as a place that sparks crises, fear, and discrimination. Grindr currently has over 4 million users in 192 countries and receives over 10,000 new users a day, which makes it the largest network of queer men.
I was recently at a bar and a conversation came up about Trans* folks on Grindr. The group was surprisingly divided about their ‘right’ to use Grindr. Grindr is primarily marketed towards Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning men but as Queertly discovered from an official statement:
we do NOT discriminate on a basis of race, religion, orientation, or gender identity. All users are freely welcomed to use Grindr.
If you do not wish to see this user in your cascade, feel free to block this user as we would recommend you do with any user you do not wish to see.
So – if your friends(trans/non-trans) were banned, it was NOT due to the fact they are trans. It was due to the fact that they violated our terms of agreement and posted content(be it picture, or text) of an inappropriate nature. If they would like to contact our review team and provide us with their device ID information, we would be more than happy to advise them on the reason for their ban.
No data exists on the various profile texts and its content. Yet, a casual survey of a 100 profiles will yield various results that espoused a desire for: “Masc Men Only,” “Only Manly Men,” Man for Man,” and various reiterations of the term ‘masc’. This desire on performance does not focus on the body so a hyper-masculinity for FTM should pass peer review of Grindr? There are hardly any profiles that call for more feminine, gender queer, or trans* men/users. This constant repetition creates a system of policing that replicates gender constructs with a prioritizing of the masculine. This system does not erase the negative associations or systems of oppression like misogyny that are linked to the these gender constructs. The infamous queer theorist and activist Judith Butler calls for use to end the violence that is imposed by the mirroring of gender systems.
As a community, how do we begin to understand and orient ourselves and our desires so that we do not replicate systems of oppression? How do we understand and conceptualize our understanding of gender and its relationship to sexuality? It will take many steps towards ending the violence, oppression and ostracization directed toward trans* individuals. An easy first step can be to check the text of your own dating profile to ensure it doesn’t exclude or reinforce a hierarchies. What other seemingly small encounters in our daily lives act to judge, subjugate, evaluate, and ostracize others? What can we do to eliminate the everyday crises and sustain our community?
Jon Henry comes from the small town of Washington, Virginia. Xe finished xes degree at the University of Richmond and was named GayRVA.com's Out.Spoken. Richmonder of the Year for 2011. When not in class, xe is either in the studio or rabble rousing with other queer activists. Follow xem on Twitter.
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