#BLM: Grindr’s Ethnicity Filter

This week, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, Grindr decided to remove its ethnicity filter. This filter did what it says on the tin: it was a feature of the LGBTQ+ dating app that allowed users to filter their matches by their ethnicity, a feature that was consistently called out for its contribution to perpetuating racism within the LGBTQ+ community. As this change, at long last, takes place, there are mixed reviews from LGBTQ+ people of all ethnicities, with some saying that Grindr is doing too little to combat racism on their platform, and others lamenting the loss of a way of finding sexual partners with similar cultural experiences.

Why only now?

On one hand, it is about bloody time. Grindr has been facing criticism for the ethnicity filter for years now, so I wonder why it has taken so long to remove something so controversial. Of course, there is some contention as to whether the filter itself is an inherently bad thing, with many claiming that it is an innocent display of preference, but it has been largely condemned by POC users of the app, who feel discriminated against. In short, if you believe that you’re attracted to no members of a certain ethnic group, you believe that they are all the same, and therefore similarly unattractive. The filter certainly implies that race creates an inherent personality type, which is true of all members of that race, so it isn’t difficult to understand that it both reduces people to racial stereotypes, and then perpetuates these stereotypes. Grindr has allowed reductive stereotyping, ranking of these stereotypes, and then omission and ignorance to those of negatively stereotyped groups, to take place on its app for far too long, so we can only be thankful that they have finally taken positive, progressive steps towards embracing racial diversity in all its glory.

Was it the worst thing?

As I say, not everybody was against the filter in the first place, which is partially why it has taken so long to get rid of. Plenty of people who used the filter defended it as they thought it was an innocent preference, as if finding all hispanic people unattractive doesn’t convey a sense of negative racial stereotyping. I think we can all agree that these people are plain wrong: race should not enter into your attraction, and if it does, you need to evaluate exactly why you find certain ethnic groups unattractive – it probably isn’t justified.

However, these were not the filters only defenders. There are POC users who were grateful for the filter, as they felt that it was the only way to be visible on the app. For many, looking for shared cultural experiences with other users of the same ethnic group, this filter was a brilliant way not only to find compatible matches, but to ensure safety against racists. For queer people of colour, the filter enabled them to refine their searches to those who had similar cultural experiences to themselves, meaning they could feel more compatible and more safe. For queer people of colour, being filtered by others was, if nothing else, some insurance against accidentally coming across racists on the site. For queer people of colour, by filtering out white users, they suddenly became visible to other POC users.

Is this enough?

About bloody time indeed, but what next? In this crisis point of analysing all of our own contributions, both positive and negative, to the racial conversation, we must all make sure that we don’t stop here. All of us, having shared petitions to our Instagram stories, must think about what we will do next; how we will be anti-racist everyday for the rest of our lives. Grindr is no exception. Having finally removed a filter that allows racism to fester on their app, they must take decisive action going forward in order to contribute to the continuing clean up of the LGBTQ community. It is a diverse, welcoming community, but it has racism like any other, and we must all do our bit to remove it. So, what will Grindr do next?

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