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Weeding out ignorance online

Posted: June 10th, 2016 | Back Out With Benny, Columns, Featured | No Comments

By Ben Cartwright | Back Out With Benny

I hop on Grindr every so often, and if you’ve been in the radius of me after I’ve been drinking lots of wine, you may have received one of my drunken invitations to cuddle.

Gay social and hook-up apps may have their ups and downs, but I’ve met some cool people on the various incarnations of these types of sites — remember AOL chat rooms? Hyper-terminal bulletin board services? Gay.com?

I’ve certainly come across my share of trolls, headless profiles, racist “preferences,” and of course, the guys who want “no one over 30,” as if all life stops and we move into retirement homes at 30.

Benny Cartwright (Photo by Rob Lucas Modern Aperture Photography)

Benny Cartwright
(Photo by Rob Lucas Modern Aperture Photography)

But someone I was “Grind-ing” with a few days ago sent me a message with a question that was so interesting to me: “Are you masc or fem?”

That question has always bothered me for a number of reasons, but since I hadn’t been asked it in awhile, it really struck me as just such an odd thing this time. First of all, I wouldn’t even know how to answer that question. I don’t particularly fit into society’s definitions of either of those categories and I’m not sure I’d want to befriend someone who wants to put someone into a box.

I also understand the underlying reason I was being asked that question was likely the result of this guy’s internalized homophobia.

Based on his profile, which had the famous “Masc 4 Masc” descriptor in it, he wanted to make sure I wasn’t some “flaming queen” — because in his eyes, dating, befriending, or hooking-up with someone who feels free to express their beauty like that may actually force him to the realization that he is gay. As if sticking his penis into another man’s body didn’t already make him gay.

I thought long and hard about how to answer the question. For a moment I thought about replying with something like, “Well, I’m not really either one” and see what he said, but I didn’t even want to validate his question. Sure, he was hot, it was late at night, and I was feeling thirsty, but this question was a real boner killer.

After typing in several responses, and then deleting them before pushing send, I decided to just block him. I didn’t need to engage with someone who could potentially become argumentative or rude if I answered the question the way I wanted to answer it, and why would I want to date, befriend, or hook up with someone who wouldn’t be interested in me anyway, just because I might not be as masculine as he required?

One of the good things about these apps is that a lot of people post their biases, ignorance, and stupidity right out there in the open, so it’s a very easy way to filter them out before having to go through the work of a date. And while a lot of people say these apps are killing the bars and in-person social scene for gay men, I have found that there are some really great guys out there in the world — we just need to put down our phones to see them!

I’m a huge proponent of social media and our ability to connect with each other because of our smartphones, so I’m not one of those who likes to preach that we should turn off our phones and experience the world. I think the world can be experienced in a number of ways, and having technology increases the ability to experience things we couldn’t otherwise.

But it is interesting to look down the bar and see every single person sitting there staring at a little screen and not speaking to each other.

As a result, lately when I’m alone having my wine at a bar, I’ve made it a personal rule to put down my phone for long periods of time, and just listen to the music and sounds of the bar, read newspapers, and talk to others.

I’ve had to brush off the old tricks of using my eyes to attract another person, and it’s been fun.

In fact, just the night before I wrote this column, I looked up from my phone to see a guy that had been sitting across the bar glancing at me all night (of course I didn’t notice these glances until I put my phone away). He ended up walking over and sitting down and we had an hour-long conversation. Now I’ve made a great (and cute) new friend — who likes me just the way I am, whether I’m masc, fem, or something in between.

Get Out With Benny

There is so much going on this month, and it won’t stop with Pride coming up next month. This Saturday, June 11 is the sixth annual Out at the Fair, which is an LGBT day at the San Diego County Fair. The day will include LGBT-inclusive entertainment, resource booths, a group photo, and all the fun that the fair offers. Tickets and more information are here outatthefair.com.

That same evening, The Center will host our annual Pachanga de Frida to raise funds for Latino Services. The festive party includes food, dancing, and lots of tequila. One of my favorite musical groups, the Manny Cepeda Orquestra, will perform. This is one of my favorite events of the year, and you’ll love it! Get your tickets at events.thecentersd.org/frida.

National HIV Testing Day is held annually on June 27. There will be numerous events happening around town that day, as well as Saturday, June 25, to attract attention to the purpose of the day, which is to remind everyone of the importance of regular HIV testing. Even if you only test once a year, use this day as a reminder to do so.

You don’t have to wait for June 27, however. The Center offers free HIV testing Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. As a bonus, everyone who comes in and gets tested receives a free Starbucks or Chipotle gift card.

Please help us to #BeTheGeneration by knowing your states. More information is at events.thecentersd.org/test.

By the time of my next column, we’ll be gearing up for San Diego Pride weekend! Get your rainbows ready!

—Benny Cartwright is the director of community outreach at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. He can be reached at 619-692-2077 ext. 106 or outreach@thecentersd.org. Note: Byline photo by Rob Lucas Modern Aperture Photography.

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