Identifying: Roles Play Gays

I catch myself mindlessly scrolling through my phone a lot lately. I mean, it's a lot of information to digest. Global news, life tips, Pinterest, masc jocks, fem piggy bottoms, verse twinks; I'm suddenly engrossed in online cruising and I feel like I've just opened my gay Pokédex. Just how many ways can you say what body type, or type of queer you identify as, or have a particular affinity to? With a history of identifying through code words and signs, it makes sense to have so many terms. But in the modern out world of gays, especially entering the digital age, what are we really saying? What lines are we drawing and what does that say about us and where we're headed?

The amount of terms at large is quite vast: masc, fem, jock, bear, twink, otter; even "new" terms like power gay and pocket gay are just a few to name. Many of these terms are used to communicate identity and preference, which are things we define while finding ourselves, but they are also used in ways that cover up the discrimination they exhibit. Class, race, body image, and gender identity are heavily scrutinized in the sexual selection process, even though such factors don't always pan out to be as enriching as they’re presented. There may be a particular corner of preference, but there's no point in using these terms to downcast or shame those who don't fit in.

The site Douchebags of Grindr is a perfect example, where men soliciting for attention and "fun" openly discriminate without batting an eyelash. Their verve heightened by being in a digital space, these superficial interfaces reveal the lack of respect, care, or sense of community that we proclaim to hold so dear. I mean, when did it become decent to proclaim "no shorty's, asians, fats, or fems" (all typos included), while sporting the name "Don't be gay?" In the transfer from the real world to the digital, these terms are emphasized and magnified, especially when it comes to defining individual sexual fields. As Tristan Bridges defines it, a sexual field is a space in which erotic capital is qualified, quantified, and understood to have purchase. The digital world is putting more stock into traits which fuel our sexual fields, and giving us more freedom and responsibility over these fields in the process.

As we become more connected with our online personas at the hip, though, we're emoting a lot more hang ups and issues that have been built up, not just against others but within ourselves. Maybe there needs to be a guidebook of rules and regulations, so I can navigate which class of queer I'm in. Maybe being "just into white or latino" is truly "just a preference." Who knows if it's ok for a 30+ year old man to be referring to himself as a frat boy? All in all, it speaks a lot to where our community is, and maybe with a little more insight, we can find out where we're lacking.

In the articles to come I'll be focusing on the grand picture these terms contribute to making. What complications are created from these perspectives? Why are sexual fields so important in the modern gay world and how does it relate to our outlook? Who/what are we leaving out and what are we keeping in? Why is it so important to pinpoint any of this in a gay/queer light? Through experience, conversation, and fact, this column aims to complete a masterpiece, one that will rack our brains and force us to connect better as peers and create a true home and sense of pride.

Grindr profile paintings by artist, Adam Seymour. Click here to view more of his work.