March 22, 2017
When a gaymoji says it all
by Kait Howard
Grindr may have recently appointed a (video?) poet in residence, but don’t take that as a sign that the gay dating app is pushing for more literate discourse among its users. In fact, Grindr is going all in on the craze for pictographic communication by launching their own line of “gaymojis.”
As Guy Trebay reports at the New York Times, Grindr has responded to increasing use of emojis among their users by developing its own “visual language of rainbow unicorns, bears, otters and handcuffs” to fill what the company’s founder, Joel Simkhai, told Trebay he sees as “the need for emoji that were not previously available.” The project grew out of the sense that the standard set of emojis available to most are “not evolving fast enough,” as well as pure demand from a younger demographic that eschews words in favor of goofy or clever symbols. Trebay notes that while some were surprised at “the sale last year of a 60 percent stake in Grindr to a Chinese investment conglomerate specializing in online gaming,” it helps explains the app’s evolution into “an eroticized version of Candy Crush.”
“Maybe it’s best if we just abandon language altogether — certainly it doesn’t seem to help us talk clearly about sex and desire,” jokes Dan Piepenbring at Paris Review Daily in response to Grindr’s decision to unleash a hundred new emojis—for $3.99, you can unlock another 400—into its users’ messaging repertoire. Lifehacker’s Mike Albo echoes that sentiment, noting that “there was a time when gay guys had to use old-fashioned words and speech to convey how we felt or what we wanted.” Which is true, but then so did everyone else, and this is a dating/hookup app we’re talking about.
More interesting, perhaps, is gender and sexuality professor Doug Meyer’s observation that gaymojis are a far cry from the “secret hankie or hatband codes once used to signal identity in the era of the closet.” As he told Trebay, “The corporate element is a new part of this. Having a common corporate language created to benefit business ends up excluding a lot of people and creating very particular and normative ways of thinking about sex.”
Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.