Grindr and what old-fashioned queer activists can learn from it

A week ago, I thought Grindr was tedious. In my mind, it belonged with partying gay first years at college, who’d much rather get smashed on vodka than smash the system. I felt above it – but a few days’ use just changed my mind.

I went to visit family at the end of May, whose bunting-strewn coastal town embodies bourgeois straightness: at a jubilee do I was assured I’d have wife, kids and mortgage ten years from now, and on my relatives’ shelf was a Christian book calling ‘homosexuality and transvestism’ abominable. School uniforms were gender-coordinated, with five year-old girls paraded in blue gingham smocks. I felt like a closeted extra in The Stepford Wives. When out of sheer boredom I activated Grindr, it turned out I wasn’t alone. Amongst the shirtless pictures and awkward chat, I found a 21 year-old student not yet out, a newly decloseted 16-year-old and a father of two who’d married straight to please his parents. I was glad they’d found someone to talk to, and as an old style campaigner for a million different things, I wished other communities had resources like that. Imagine if all the atheists in pews had a version of Grindr, or all survivors of abuse; imagine if police with guilty consciences could communicate, or jobbing financiers with ethical concerns about the City. Imagine anti-choice extremists picketed your clinic, and your feminist-locating app summoned counter-protestors.

There’s more to Grindr than superficial sex talk – like Craigslist before it, and phone box ads before that, it’s become a way for isolated queer guys to find each other. And however hedonistic its use might be, I’m glad gay sex is foregrounded in a well-known app. In my first term at university, our annual queer-themed night was discontinued on the grounds of being ‘salubrious’ (the previous year’s rodeo penis was too much, apparently) to be replaced with a ‘festival’, where wearing ‘fig leaves, nipple tassels, G-strings or anything you wouldn’t be happy to have your mother send you off in’ was forbidden. A finalist I knew worried it would ‘sanitise queer culture’, and I see now what she meant. In Soho I’ve seen juice bars replace sex shops. I watch my friends read Attitude, complaining about the small ads. It’s suggested queer people will be better regarded if we hide the naughty things we like to do, talking only about ‘love’, as if sexual experience were incidental to being gay and should be kept quiet. This stops us challenging ideas of straight sex as the norm, and it strips us of agency. I turn on TV and see Stanley Tucci in The Devil Wears Prada, then mincing X-Factor contestants: gay men who are makeover experts but would never change the world. On Grindr, I’m a do-er – someone whose sexual identity involves choice and action, and has consequences.

I’ve concerns, of course, especially with its lack of inclusivity. That the app isn’t inclusive of queer women or non-binary genders is troubling; it reflects a still-androcentric LGBT culture, which sees gay men with iPhones as its figureheads. Why no catering for other genders or sexual groups? I won’t even talk about the ‘str8-acting’, ‘no fats or femmes’ contingent.

It’s depressing, too, that 43 years after Stonewall we’re still as marginalised as Grindr shows. Yes, my relatives’ sleepy town has a smattering of gay bars and a pride parade, but I only found that out through Google. To arrive as an outsider is to see no queer presence at all. It shouldn’t take an iPhone app for us to notice each other; by now we should have rainbow flags on every street. If we want to queer the world, we have to do better.

But at least Grindr lets us measure how erased we are, and puts closeted guys in touch with one another. Future activists might well find use for it, too. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but there’s much more to this app than meets the eye.

My sister’s four-year-old, and her Jesus-belief

‘I taught English to a supermarket manager abroad’, says my sister. We’re eating, and each remembering time spent overseas.

‘No you didn’t!’ Her four-year-old sits between us, incredulous.

‘Before I had you’, my sister explains.

‘When I was in your tummy?’

‘Before that.’

‘When I was with Jesus?’

An hour or two later, and again I’m sat at the table, typing this post. My sister, actively evangelical and apparently fearing awkwardness, changed the subject swiftly, and the lump in my throat I swallowed then has re-emerged now.

I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to say. Moments later, I found out they take part in Operation Christmas Child, used by U.S. fundamentalists to make converts of impoverished children. I don’t know how to tell my sister this, or ask if she knows – if she’s aware, specifically, of their director’s <a href=”″>statements</a> that Islamic nations deserve nuclear attack and the children of Hindus are ‘bound by Satan’s power’.

Though I don’t think she compares to Franklin Graham, I’m worried that if I tell her how OCC indoctrinate children, I’ll end up accusing her of doing the same. And what really worries me is that I’d be right.

A tenth of her large household income goes to her church, part of the charismatic Newfrontiers network. Other members meet regularly at her house, and held prayer sessions in each part when she first moved in. The playroom shelf includes a home-made magic wand, on the end of which a gold star bears the ballpoint pen inscription, <em>JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD</em>.

My sister has a right to her religion – I wouldn’t tell her otherwise – but I’m worried by her child’s subjection to it. I’m worried, and I don’t know what to do.

If this seems shrill, I still remember vividly my own religious childhood. I remember the Lord’s Prayer on my knees each day at infant school, being told I had atheist relatives now in Hell, and my nine-year-old tantrum at a careless hairdresser – then going to bed in a cold sweat, terrified of God’s wrath since I’d wished death on her. I remember saying in junior school that my father, previously violent, was a demon walking the earth, and remember thinking it. I remember the demonic spirits Mum feared in the house, the distinctive smell that alerted her to them, and the prayer – the assertion, ‘Jesus is Lord!’ repeated on a loop – we said to repel them. I remember the fit I had aged seven or eight, when at her phonecall the head of our church came to the house to resolve an argument, and the sudden feeling of being crushed but what I’d now guess were chest cramps. I remember being told, in the aftermath, that when I told him to go away, it was Satan talking.

Though it’s likely there are members of my sister’s church far more extreme than she, I don’t see her child suffering most of this. That makes me glad. But her belief aged only four that she ‘was with Jesus’ stems from the same indoctrination – literally – as my belief in a God who could hurt me, a demonic father and a lake of fire.

If a psychiatric patient were in my sister’s care who would believe everything she said, she’d think before speaking; she’d take care not to pass off personal beliefs as undisputed facts, since the patient couldn’t ever take them with a pinch of salt. But due to a medical condition – infancy – her four-year-old is credulous to just that degree. To hear a child that age refer to Jesus like a classmate suggests a total unawareness that doubters exist, or that other deities have ever been proposed. ‘Teach the controversy’, we’re sometimes told. Quite.

It’s possible that if I wanted children of my own, I’d be accused by some of teaching them atheism, but I’d never try to pass my unfaith off as a universal standpoint shared by everyone. There’s enormous disagreement about which gods exist, if any; I’m one of fairly few who think there are none, but I wouldn’t want to pretend all adults agree. The worry I feel now is the same I felt watching the recent, viral ‘<a href=””>No homos in Heaven</a>’ clip, and seeing the WBC’s ‘God hates the world’ sung by a child. Yes, these are much more extreme religious beliefs, but they spring from the same supernaturalist vein as any belief in Jesus. To take one religion’s claims as read by the age of five risks an impaired ability later on to sort truth from fantasy; it opens the door to extremism, and credulity in general.

It’s tempting, as a blogger, to write as if you hold solutions for everything. But I’m worried that this happens in my family, and I don’t know for the life of me what to do.

Religious sexism from my family’s bookshelves

Today I found a book on my brother-in-law’s shelf, with his name inside the cover: Leadership is Male (a clear, concise look at what the Bible teaches), by J. David Pawson. I’ve just read it, cover to cover. Here, with the author’s original italics and phrases underlined as they were with pencil in the book, is a selection of excerpts. The bits that were really outstanding, I’ve emboldened.

“A skeptical age which views “truth” as subjective, relative and reached by cultural consensus finds it hard to conceive that sincere conviction can be based on the revealed mind of God rather than the concealed motives of man.”

“The perils are practical as well as theological. Discipline could be as much affected as doctrine. The problems of single and separated mothers in bringing up children, particularly boys, could spread to the churches. The link between dominant mothers and homosexual sons is already recognised.”

(In reference to Genesis 1:27: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”) “Why should sexuality be mentioned in the same “breath” as the divine image? Is there a connection? … [One] approach emphasises “corporate personality”. God is tri-personal, plural (“Let us make man in our image”). Man and woman together reflect Father, Son and Spirit. If this thinking is valid, there would be subordination as well as equality in “manhood”, as in the Godhead. But the Bible never draws the parallel. One would have to speculate as why Jesus never married or even why there are not three sexes!”

“Woman was made for man; the reverse is not true (1 Corinthians 11:9). Her primary function is in relation to him; his was already established without reference to her (v 15).”

“Woman was made after man. His priority in time has other implications. The “firstborn” carries responsibility for and authority over later arrivals, as Paul indicates in 1 Timothy 2:13.”

The male represents the divine side of the partnership, the female represents the human.”

“Husband and wife are no more interchangeable than God and man!”

“For God reveals himself in male terms. He is our father, not our mother; our king, not our queen; our husband, not our wife (Ba’al, not Astarte). God incarnate had to be a man. An androgynous Christ, much less an effeminate one, would be a distorted image (Holman Hunt’s painting, “The Light of the World,” is unfortunate, the hair, face and figure taken from female models).”

“Christian feminists constantly refer to some statements in the Bible applying feminine terminology to both God and Jesus, implying that in some mysterious way they are bi-sexual and would be thought of more accurately as such.”

“We are in danger of changing the image of God into a reflection of the sexual confusion of our secular society, a deity who has more in common with Hermaphrodite (the son of Hermes and Aphrodite in Greek mythology, who became joined in one body with the nymph Salmacis) than with Yahweh, the father of Jesus. The biblical word for this is idolatry.”

Genesis 3 is here taken as fact rather than fiction, history rather than myth[.]”

“Chronologically, Eve was the first to sin.That is because Satan approached her first. Why did he do so? … Was this a deliberate defiance of God’s order, tempting Eve to take the lead, to adopt the masculine role? Or was Eve more vulnerable in some way (which might imply Satan’s cowardice!)?”

“[Eve] took immediate action based on her own judgment, not even consulting her husband, much less her Maker.”

“That Adam followed her with neither argument nor protest put him in the feminine role, which may explain why, theologically, Adam was the first to sin!Adam is regarded as basically responsible for her as well as for himself. He could and should have rebuked her and interceded for her (Gen 3.12), not realizing that “she led me” implies “I followed her.” In taking a “feminine” role, Adam was abdicating his position.”

“The “Fall” introduced “struggle” into their respective spheres of activity (note how this became the watchword of men like Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Hitler).”

“Eve is also punished, but in relation to her family. … In relations to her husband, her “desire will be to him,” an unusual Hebraism which means an ambition to control, manipulate, possess someone (as its occurrence in Genesis 4.7 clearly shows).

His reaction will be not only to resist this takeover, but to use his greater strength to “rule” her. Male domination is the inevitable result of this “struggle” for supremacy of wills. In Genesis 3.16 lies the real explanation for the centuries of exploitation and suppression of women[.]”

“The patriarchs’ wives were attractive to look at because they were attractive to live with, because they happily accepted a subordinate position relative to their husbands (“lord and master!”)[.]”

Fact: Jesus was a man. Not bisexual, not homosexual. … A divinity revealed in male terms could only be incarnate in masculine form.”

“Discipleship is spelled out in male terms – “whoever does not hate his wife…” (Lk 14.26; no mention of “her husband”).”

“Jesus would not put women in a position of directing men. However offensive this may be in our day, it is the interpretation most consistent with the Scriptures (OT) in which Jesus believed and those writings of the apostles later recognised as Scripture.”

“[Peter’s] main point is that the best way for a wife to convert her husband is to change herself! She must not tell him what she thinks he should be or do; rather she must become more attractive to look at and more attractive to live with (both will result from a right inner attitude to the husband).”

“If “neither male nor female” [in Galations 3:28] means that Christianity recognizes no differences in nature between men and women, then their roles are totally interchangeable in marriage (what could be “wrong” with a loving homosexual relationship?).”

“[Paul’s] theme is the inheritance of the blessing promised to Abraham and his “seed” (singular spermati, indicating one, “enos” male, free descendant). It could not be inherited by a slave (Ishmael) or a girl or a Gentile.”

“The underlying principle is that gender differences at the beginning of creation remain as a feature of the redeemed community. This is to be expressed both functionally (women are not to teach men) and visibly (men are to have “uncovered” heads and women “covered”).”

“The word “submit” is not applied to husbands [.] anywhere [.] in the New Testament. Nor is there even a phrase for husbands which ‘assumes’ the verb from v21 (such as: “Husbands to your wives”). Nor is it valid to remove all notions of direction from the concept of “headship”. The husband is to be head of his wife in exactly the same manner as Christ is head of the church. No one has ever suggested that the church is not subordinate to her head.”

“However, Paul rightly emphasizes the balancing obligation of the husband also to love his wife as Christ loved the church.He must develop as well as direct, love as well as lead, sanctify as well as superintend, give himself as well as guide her. Few wives would be frustrated with such a husband!”

“Gender must not be confused in gatherings for worship. It is offensive to God (this is why homosexuality and transvestism are an “abomination” to him) and is of significance (we are not told what) to the angels (v10), who also attend our services.”

“Much as we may dislike it, Paul is apparently excluding women from dialogue with teachers in a church gathering, even to simply asking [sic] questions! Husbands are the right ones to engage in such dialogue and that should be done in the private context of the home[.]”

For a woman to direct a man is an act of “violence”; it violates the order of creation.

For that is the ground on which Paul bases [his] prohibitions. They express quite literally the “order” in which Adam and Eve were created (v13). A further reason it to be found in Eve’s part in the Fall, in which she “was deceived” and “became a transgressor.” Her assuming the role of leadership had disastrous consequences and must not be followed by other women.”

“[Paul’s] overall objective was positivethat both men and women should have the right attitudes to each other and engage in the right activities appropriate to their gender.This is what righteousness is all about.”

“…on this issue of women’s liberation into leadership, charismatics are joined by other evangelicals, by liberals and by radicals. And “secular” humanists are shouting the message louder than any of them. Such a broad climate of opinion makes it vital to discern between the leading of the Holy Spirit and the pressure of the ‘spirit’ of the age!”

“Could Satan benefit from [undoing gender roles]? He is the original vandal, finding pleasure in destroying what God has created. He is determined to break up marriages (which are based on difference of gender, Gen 2.24) and families (which are rooted in paternalism, Eph 3.15). Contrary to widespread delusion, God is for sex (it was his idea!) and Satan is against sex. Through unisex and homosex, the devil is separating sex from gender, the physical from the social. He knows this will weaken authority in the home – as it also will in the church. He has encouraged unilateral independence from the beginning. The confusion of identity in contemporary society has his stamp on it (some of the most complex pastoral needs this writer has encountered concerned those who had already had or were seeking a “sex-change”).”

“The shortage of men on the mission field, the unavailability of men to do pastoral work in Korea, the dearth of strong men in English churchesnone of these can ‘justify’ the use of women in leadership.”

“Negatively, we must stop putting women in positions of leadership over men.”

“Local churches must give top priority to evangelizing and disciplining men, as Jesus did. … It is better to teach a man to lead his wife and family than provide women’s meetings and youth clubs to compensate for a godless father.”

“…there are real differences between men and women, both in their nature and their relationships, which are rooted in the original creation and will be permanent features of a healthy society. Any attempt to obliterate these distinctions (even in the name of equality), whether through legal or social pressure, will in the long term damage our humanity, causing confusion (particularly crises of identity) and frustration (as we try to be what God never intended us to be). A unisex society is contrary to divine creation, not just Hebrew tradition.”