Even after Grindr removed its ethnicity filter, ABC reports that gay Australians of colour are experiencing deep racism on the popular dating app.
PhD student at Monash University, Gene Lim, is researching the impact of “sexual racism” against Asian men. As a gay Asian man, he told the ABC it is something he’s experienced first-hand.
“The first thing you start realising is that a lot of people don’t find Asians attractive, and it directly affects your self-esteem,” he said.
Lim said the feedback he’s received from participants in his study shows that sexual racism impacts mental health and sense of belonging.
“There are a lot of times when people like myself, we just don’t feel like we should be there,” Lim said.
“Your white friends are hooking up left, right and centre. And you’re the only one in your friendship group who hasn’t had a date or even a hook-up in months,” Lim said.
Grindr announced it was removing its ethnicity filter back in June and also included community guidelines that stipulate racial abuse and discrimination will not be tolerated.
“We will also remove any discriminatory statements displayed on profiles,” the guidelines state.
“You’re free to express your preferences, but we’d rather hear about what you’re into, not what you aren’t. If you see someone breaking the rules, please report them… and we’ll take it from there.”
Lim said despite its removal of the filter and the guidelines, it was difficult for the app to take action.
“I know of instances where, after someone has been reported for racism or even other offences, they face zero consequences whatsoever,” he said.
“Grindr is not ever incentivised to crack down on these individuals. They only take immediate action against people trying to use their platform to advertise paid services.”
Lim told the ABC he believes Grindr should use its position in the gay community to lead the conversation about anti-racism. It previously ran a campaign about inclusion that Lim said shouldn’t be a one-off.
“Grindr had the Kindr campaign in 2018, which sparked some really good conversations, but then they just stopped it abruptly,” Lim said.
So what is sexual racism? It’s when a person says they aren’t attracted to someone because they are a particular race, describing it as a preference not being against a certain race.
Bronwyn Carlson, a Professor of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University, researches how Australia’s First Nations people use social media and digital technologies (dating apps).
Professor Carlson told the ABC dating apps amplify issues that exist in society because they’re set up to judge people based on appearances.
“The way in which those platforms operate, it is about discriminating against particular groups, and everyone knows it.”
Carlson said dating apps like Grindr could do more to address racism on their platform.
“I don’t think dating apps take this seriously… and I guess there’s really no money in taking it seriously,” she said.
She also highlighted issues with Grindr and other dating apps being based overseas and not having a local complaints or moderation team, which means the local understanding of racism is lost.
“Who takes care of this stuff is offshore. So they look at what is racism in their own country and context,” she said.