Love stories can be weird.
I meet Shamita, a high-flying lawyer at friend’s birthday soiree. She’s pretty, she quips about pop culture and politics, and makes Kim Kardashian jokes over dinner – I find myself instantly attracted to her. Over drinks, we bond over our mutual appreciation for menthol cigarettes and men who refuse to commit.
Am I falling in love?
Not so fast, lover boy. Somewhere over our third gin-and-tonic, as we bemoan the lack of desirable men (but not mates) in our lives, and are this close to being each other’s back-ups when we are well in our 40s, Shamita throws the quintessential jab at my sordid dating history:
‘But it’s okay if you are a slut, you are gay!’ she splutters, as I gently thump her on her back.
‘Yeah, that’s the whole point of Grindr, isn’t it?’ she grins.
Is that supposed to be endearing? Amusing? Consoling? Comforting? My platonic love story – like all my other romantic escapades – dies an early death. It was too good to be true anyway. Plus, she hasn’t read my piece from last week, where I rebuke people (such as her) for so harshly judging the love lives of flippant gay men (such as myself).
I am not amused.
As a 30-year-old gay man, I have no qualms about being on Grindr (or any other dating app for that matter). I have heard the ‘buh-dupe’ sound everywhere I’ve gone – the club, the gym, at Starbucks, my favourite restaurant, and this one weird time, from the pockets of my local general practitioner.
Apps like Grindr (and the motley crew of matchmaking apps it is part of) have been the gold standard for men to meet (and mate with) other men. But then again, what about dating (read: hook up) apps for straight people? Certainly, Tinder might be the closest thing to a hook up app for non-gay folk, but it absolutely falls short of being a full-fledged mate-making service. There’s no space for sexts and all the ensuing unsolicited dick pics. Surely, gay men aren’t the only group of people who want to engage in casual (but also toe-curling) sex. So where is the disconnect?
It’s in the relationship that people believe gay men have with their ideas of casual sex. Is it the first of many nights of morning-afters? An all-access pass to the neighborhood sex clinic? A jigsaw puzzle of ‘what not’s’ before you find your ‘why not’? A patchwork quilt of essential bouts of heartbreak? Or most importantly, the first stop in your rites of passage of finding a relationship?
What is it not?
A parameter for approval by anyone else. While acceptance by ‘this’ society is useful in many ways, we lack foresight when we try making it our primary goal. LGBT equality stands for many things – better representation, more visibility and the scraping away of prejudices and the patriarchy. But most importantly, it stands for living the best lives we can lead.
Equality has never been about being palatable to society. It’s about having the freedom to do whatever you want to do, just like our heterosexual friends – our relationship with NSA sex included. We have half a dozen other battles to fight, because when you are already dealing with transphobia, racism, sexism and violence against LGBT youth, there simply isn’t any time (or fu*ks to give) about who is having sex with whom, and how often.
Just remember one thing: You’ll never win with a homophobe, just like you’ll never win with your mother. So there’s no point trying to please one (mothers on the other hand, are a different case). Instead, go live your life as vividly as you can. That can mean swiping at gold-rimmed mason jars for your wedding registry, or swiping right on half a dozen boys on Tinder in a single night.
At the end of it all, you have to do ‘you’.
Or just about anyone you want to.