‘Gay Tribes’ on Grindr: Why it’s time to stop categorising each other

It doesn’t make sense

When I say the term ‘gay tribe’, it probably conjures up images of a somehow still surviving, indigenous race of homosexuals. Yet perhaps even more ridiculously, a 'gay tribe' refers to a way of differentiating between men on the gay dating app 'Grindr', and something which has found its way into our everyday discourse about gay men. And I've had just about enough of it!

So what do I mean when I say ‘gay tribes’? Basically, they’re social groupings of gay men by our key physical characteristics. You start off with the more self-explanatory ones: fem, geek, clean-cut, daddy (bluergh), jock. There’s also a twink or a twunk which are effectively young, slim, hairless men.

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A gay man's shopping list.

And then it just descends into a national geographic subscriber’s paradise: in descending order of size/ amount of hair (hair really is a theme in the gay world apparently), you've got a bear, an otter, a wolf – WOLF! I suppose in this technological world it’s easier to download the app than to go to the zoo, but that’s taking the mick. The amount is mind-boggling – you expect Lumiere to waltz in singing: ‘twink soufflé en flambee!’ 'Try the daddies they’re delicious, don’t believe me, ask the otters!’ I could do this for a while.

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There must be more than this provincial life.

In order to shed light on this phenomenon, Rebel Circus last year wrote an article to ‘de-mystify’ the idea of the gay tribe. The article concluded by saying, ‘The idea of “tribes” doesn’t have anything to do with discrimination within the gay community,’ attributing any lack of acceptance of one’s tribe to the ‘issues’ of an individual. That is a load of rubbish. Effectively, it’s a way of labelling each other and narrowing your mind to what you think you find attractive – ‘Oh no, I couldn’t possibly go for an otter, I’m a wolf man!’

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I beg your pardon!

But once you apply a label you make someone else different to you, and frankly I, and lots of other men don’t fit into these. I’m not a jock: I love playing and watching sport but I’m not muscly. I’m not a bear: I have a hairy chest, legs and a beard but I’m not exceptionally hairy. And I’m certainly not a twink. I’m sort of a strange mish mash of a lot of them, as are most of us.

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Just a group of guys not labelling each other, nothing to see here.

So why would any of us like to be defined by one key physical feature that limits us so drastically? We’re already labelled as gay as something that distinguishes us; I don’t think any of us are that fussed by being ‘the gay one’. Why create another community which segregates you further, and one which distinguishes you mainly by your size and the ratio of hair to body?

Newcastle University