Antisocial Networking

When I first got involved with a local LGBTQ community centre, part of my not-so-secret homosexual agenda was to interact socially with some homosexuals, in the semi-secret hope that one day I might find a sex partner. That has not really worked out. I ought not to be surprised that nobody is interested in being my sex partner (seriously: who was I trying to kid?) but I am somewhat surprised that I have not had more social interaction.

Outside of Pride celebrations, it seems that few people come out to LGBTQ-themed events. Trans groups get okay attendance, and there is a games night that is reasonably popular, but other groups are sparsely attended. Sometimes I wonder whether Lurkville should bother having an LBGTQ community centre at all. (It should, of course, if only because the trans community needs more safe spaces.)

For a long time I blamed integration and assimilation. For the most part, this culture is more accepting of LBGTQ people than it was in the past, so there is less pressure for people who identify on the spectrum to form their own isolated social groups. Gay people party and socialize with their straight friends readily, and thus feel no compelling need to socialize at their LBGTQ community centre.

To some degree I also figured that it was also bad marketing on the part of the community centre (which is my fault, of course; if I cared enough I could do some publicity, but I don’t).

I think there are other factors, though. One is that we have outsourced our dating/hookup lives to the apps: Grindr, Scruff, Tinder, Her, Bumble and so on. When we are looking for love we assume everybody else is on the Internet. Before the Internet people had to find each other in other ways, which often meant gay bars and dances. Those scenes are disappearing now.

Honestly, gay bars and dances are not really my scene either. I feel the best way to build community is via shared effort, so I take quilting bees and barn raisings over boring parties and loud music any day of the week. But the apps seem worse still, in a really pernicious way. Gay bars and dances are sexualized spaces, but at least there are things to do (dancing, talking) other than trying to find a partner.

With the apps, the focus is on dating/hooking up. It feels like a constant job interview. There is little room for socially interacting with people you do not feel sexually attracted to. And when somebody decides that they are not sexually interested in you, things get awkward. Maybe they stop responding to your chats. Maybe they say something unkind to make you go away. At least at a social gathering you can talk and dance, and if you are not interested in your prey/predator then you have a plausible excuse for doing something else. Or you can have a good conversation and get on with your lives. (I guess Walter did that recently via a dating app, but that seems rare.) The dating apps seem much more stark. In principle you can use the apps to find platonic friends, but I have a feeling most people do not use the apps that way, and that changes the social norms.

Also, to me the apps seem backwards, because my sexuality is backwards. Call me a naif if you want, but in the hypothetical universe where I get laid I would like to get laid with somebody I like as a person. Looks are a part of that, but they are not everything, and it is possible to find people attractive who do not match one’s physical ideals.

Oddly enough, I think the BDSM community addresses this problem better than the LBGTQ community does. The BDSMers are famous for “munches”, which I presume are less sexualized than play parties, and give BDSMers opportunities to meet others who share their kinks and might be interested in setting up a scene (following the long contractual negotiations, of course). I feel the LGBTQ community tries to organize along similar lines, but for the most part it is not working out. And yet many of us lament how difficult it is to find nice people online. There is a disconnect here.