When gay hookup app Grindr first launched back in 2009, dating apps were still in their infancy. Marketed specifically at gay men, the app embraced the idea of being horny on main by using a location-based system, designed to connect guys with thirsty twinks and tops in their area. More than a decade later, the app is a cornerstone of gay culture and a one-stop shop for anonymous hole pics.
Yet despite this strictly dickly reputation, the app has been technically open to women — both cis and trans — since 2017. In such a thirsty, queer male environment, how do these women fare?
“I first used Grindr about eight years ago, when I got interested in swinging and alternative sexual lifestyles,” says London-based Holestar, a cis queer woman who also self-defines as a “gender-bending fruitcake” (she’s also a drag legend and a seasoned dominatrix). “I haven’t had any cock for 12 years — it’s easy to get tired of men when their desires are your job — but I thought I’d dip my toes back in via Grindr. I was hoping to meet open-minded bi or pansexual people who are cool with my lifestyle.”
Her reception was mixed, to say the least. “Some were curious as to why I was there, others were straight-up vile and shouty,” she recalls of the guys who would berate her simply for being a woman on Grindr. That said, she did have some sweeter interactions. “People who know me as Holestar would pop up and say hi, thinking it was hilarious,” she continues. “I’ve also spoken to a lot of people who enjoy dressing up for pleasure about makeup and feminine attire — I’m no expert, but I certainly know a thing or two.” Ultimately, she knew she was on Grindr for one reason — to potentially fool around with like-minded, horny queers.
“I got a lot of attention from lazy bottoms who wanted me to bone them into next week,” she says. When she declined, explaining she tops guys for cash as a dominatrix, they would “throw a hissy fit and report me!” Before long, she had been banned for soliciting. Holestar hasn’t used the app since.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not hard to find posts written by gays annoyed at the mere presence of women on Grindr. Tom, a pseudonym, authored one of these posts after he started seeing women pop up. “I’m not sure how long exactly, but it’s definitely been happening for at least two or three years,” he writes via DM. In his eyes, it all boils down to how women use the app. “Gay people already have a harder time dating,” he explains. “We finally have this one thing that works pretty well in terms of connecting us, and then cis-het people can’t fathom not being involved. Either that, or they fetishize us — I’ve seen some girls looking for a ‘gay best friend,’ which is annoying as hell.”
This obviously isn’t always the case. There are plenty of straight and bisexual guys looking to connect with trans women, as well as queer women looking to mix things up in the bedroom with similarly queer guys. Don’t forget kink, too — plenty of guys dream of being cuckolded or signed up for horny threesomes, plus there’s a wide variety of BDSM dynamics that could be explored with users of all genders. More of us define our sexuality as fluid than ever before, so the theoretical possibilities on Grindr are really as infinite as queerness itself.
Still, the decision to open up the app back in 2017 was a deliberate attempt to tackle widespread transphobia. Years later, online forums continue to be filled with threads written by gay guys desperate to kick trans women off. The one trans woman I spoke to off-the-record said she no longer uses Grindr and alluded to her experiences on the app being pretty shitty. (But of course, apps are used by humans, and humans can be assholes.)
Seemingly, Grindr would like to be openly trans-inclusive, even releasing videos to show that trans women are welcome on the app. (A Grindr representative didn’t immediately respond to my request for comment.) But when it comes to cis women on Grindr, these conversations seem to be largely hypothetical — nobody I spoke to indicated they have any notable presence on the app at all. The occasional cis woman that does dip her toe into Grindr forums is roundly told to “get the fuck off” the app and “stop invading our spaces.”
Not everyone has such bad luck, though — in 2015, a woman known only as Adriana told VICE about the “white-hot” threesome she ended up having with two guys as a result of her Grindr escapades. So, you know, there’s that.
To Holestar, though, the open-access, hookup-geared nature of Grindr can make it particularly brutal compared to apps where you need to match before you chat. “For women — well, for anyone on there — you need a thick skin, as some of the users are misogynist, racist, transphobic, body fascist and incredibly judgmental,” she says. As a queer woman, she’s disappointed that boned-up guys were so quick to lash out at her for merely using the app. “They choose to tear others down when they could just delete and move on without comment.”
Ultimately, when it comes to Grindr, there’s only one thing guaranteed for all demographics. “You will be sent a lot of unsolicited dick pics,” Holestar jokes. Women might not be the app’s intended users, but maybe it’s a tiny win for equality that those who do log on have to wade through the same grainy hole shots as the rest of us.