Grindr Has Left A Cultural Impact On The LGBTQ Community. But Can The App Survive?

Jul 27, 2019
Originally published on July 27, 2019 12:53 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

I'm Scott Simon. Grindr, the mobile dating app, is now on the market. It's been on the hunt for a buyer after its current Chinese owner was accused of sharing users' HIV status with third parties. Grindr was launched a decade ago as a way for gay men to meet, and not just for dinner and a movie. But in addition to its legal issues, Grindr has disappointed some LGBTQ people.

Mathew Rodriguez is a former staff writer at Grindr's own news site, Into. He joins us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us, Mr. Rodriguez.

MATHEW RODRIGUEZ: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: What did Grindr want to be for queer people?

RODRIGUEZ: Grindr was at the intersection of two very interesting phenomena and historical timelines. Grindr was the newest iteration in a long history of the way that queer people found each other, right? So we're talking about going back to classified ads, chat rooms, you know. So I think Into and Grindr more broadly were trying to evolve and really find out, hey, what does it mean for queer people to connect? And it doesn't only have to be for dating or for beyond dinner and a movie, like you said. I think that it could also be, like, what does it mean to use stories about queer people to foster connection?

SIMON: How did things change when Kunlun, the Chinese owner, took over?

RODRIGUEZ: So I would say that because of all of the ambitions that Grindr had when I got there in July of 2017, it was a very potent time. It was a time where there was a lot of excitement for all the things that Into could do. And I would just say that there was a cultural shift when Kunlun took over and that there was a - somewhat of a cultural mismatch.

You know, when you buy an app, I don't think that - coming from a completely different world and having a lot of heterosexual leadership, I don't think they understood that this wasn't an app that was just on your phone that maybe you didn't have as much to do with your identity. This was something that people felt really strong emotions behind.

SIMON: What did it mean for a lot of people who worked at Grindr, established to be a voice and a part of the lives of queer people in the United States, to have the president of Grindr say marriage should always be between a man and a woman?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, I can tell you there were a lot of people who were saying, you know, it's really important that the people who are in charge of an app that is so much a part of queer life really have queer people's best interests at heart and felt that the story that we told was an important one. So that was very validating.

SIMON: Why would somebody who has those views on marriage, that it's only between a man and a woman, want anything to do, much less own and run an app for queer people?

RODRIGUEZ: Grindr made money. And I do think that, at the end of the day, you know, we were under a corporation that had to make money. But I think that that is really the question that's at the heart of it, is can someone who doesn't understand Grindr's place in the community - should they be the person making money off of the app, right?

That's also something that we were really concerned about. Who is making that money, and who are the people leading and making decisions? And are they aware of the very complex role that Grindr plays not only in American queer people's lives, but queer people's lives abroad? So I think that's really at the heart of it as well.

SIMON: Mathew Rodriguez, an editor with TheBody.com, which provides HIV information and support. Thanks so much for being with us.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.