Grindr through Mysore’s Eyes

Its December and Thanksgiving was silent. Three months in India felt like a lifetime, but at least I am not getting homesick. I have so much love for this country that sometimes I feel like staying and finishing my career in Mysore. This is a place where I know I will not die of a heart attack because of work stress. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have had a few wonderful experiences, some of them not as pleasant, but learning experiences that I will take back home with me. It is interesting how life works in different countries because of culture, religions, and politics. It is also stimulating when we can learn about sexual minorities in a country where society rejects those that they consider different. I have been very lucky finding a gay friend in Mysore, but I still have conversations where I feel that I am not doing enough for my community. I do know that changes can be made by taking small steps, but when I can listen to a human being talking about how harsh life can be, and I can see in his eyes how he suffers in his own unique way, I am grateful to be a part of a country that at least allows people to have some kind of freedom of speech.

My friend and I have been spending time together for the past two months and when we sit down to talk we converse for hours. This past week we were watching a movie and out of nowhere we started talking about how he feels after being in India for the past 5 years. He said when it comes to relationships he feels unlucky in finding a partner to spend the rest of his life with. I asked my friend why he thought it was so difficult to date in India? especially south India? In his opinion, in some countries on the East side of the world, because of culture, religions and family expectations, being a homosexual is a dishonor. Being part of an “unnatural” group is seen as challenging the community. It’s a way of not supporting a family and bringing shame to your relatives. However, this does not stop men from having sex with men to satisfy their sexual needs.

Internet websites and phone applications have been created in cyber world to give easy access to all types of relationships. For example, Grindr, a major company created for gay dating is one of the most important organizations that allow many individuals to have some kind of interaction in different parts of the world, I have known this phone application for a few years, and when comparing American Grindr culture to India Grindr culture it is kind of similar. The application is used by gay men and is also used by a small portion of the transgender community. We all look for different types of relationships, but in the end, we want to feel the freedom of being who we are. In my experience, Grindr is mostly used for people to hook up, explore their sexuality, and communicate with others locally. However, my idea of what Grindr is has changed while in India these last few weeks.

A few weeks ago, I decided to open the application and explore “The Grindr World” in Mysore. For what I have experience in America, men will often cover their faces but will show their bodies and will only send you their picture by inbox if they are interested. In Mysore, I believe that 90% of the men will have a picture of an artist or someone’s picture found on the internet. I asked myself, why do men in India not show a bit of who they are even with the changes in laws? And the answer for me was very simple, they are still scared of laws, societal repression, violence, and rejection. Most men on the online application are looking for a safe space to meet other men in India; a place where they can fulfill their romantic feelings and sexual desires. In my opinion, Grindr in India has become a space where Indian men and others can communicate within the homosexual community and feel that they are not alone in the world. It’s a place where people can be themselves and not worry about being excluded by society. A great example of this culture is me because this is the place where I have found my current friend. It is interesting how he describes the application in his own words. For him, Grindr is a place where people connect, meet, and exchange stories and experiences in a country that until a few weeks ago criminalized same-sex intercourse. A phone application that allows humans to have some kind of mental balance, body exploration, and fulfill desires that they cannot fulfill being around people that do not see gay life as equal.

I have known Grindr for a few years now and I can say that I have got to the point of not even looking at the phone application in America, because in my opinion it exploits men for a sexual encounter. But getting to know Grindr in India has opened my eyes to explore a world where people in the shadows need apps like this to feel relief from the pressure of family and friends. For me, the app has become a space of learning about gay culture in India and understanding a different kind of feelings and opinions. I think that us gay men in America have this negative image of dating sites and we don’t see beyond our expectations of how websites should work. Getting to know a few men in India has shown me how important social networks can be when laws and rejection surround us. Social networks can also be a space to fight for rights and show the world that we all are humans navigating and exploring the different tastes of the rainbow. I guess that at the end of the day we all have our own opinions, but we should explore other cultures to see how others use MEDIA!

Go, V. F., Srikrishnan, A. K., Sivaram, S., Murugavel, G. K., Galai, N., Johnson, S. C., … & Celentano, D. D. (2004). High HIV prevalence and risk behaviors in men who have sex with men in Chennai, India. JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes35(3), 314-319.

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