Last night I was minding my own business watching a terrible Netflix show instead of doing work I was meant to be doing, like any normal person, when I saw on social media that a Daily Beast article was causing a bit of a stir.
As a member of the LGBTQI community, there quickly comes an all-too-familiar feeling in situations like this. I have read too many articles that have maligned my community, or treated issues that affect the community with little sensitivity or care. Yes, it’s 2016 and if things were fair I wouldn’t need to feel wary when clicking on an article related to LGBTQI people published by a large media organisation, but well - here we are right?
I clicked through to discover an article by a writer named Nico Hines, who was filing pieces from Rio. This one was (at that point) titled: “I Got Three Grindr Dates in an Hour in the Olympic Village.”
My highly-developed Spidey-Gay senses started tingling and I knew instantly, without reading further, that this article would:
1) be about gay and bisexual men and
2) at some point the author would point out how straight he is
If you didn’t read the article (that has now finally been taken down, after initially just having the worst parts edited out), let me break it down for you.
Hines wanted to report on the dating and sex habits of Olympic athletes, using ‘a range of dating and hookup apps’ like Bumble (for sexy bees I guess?), Tinder, and Grindr. Let’s just pause here for a moment to acknowledge, even if nothing else happened in the article, what a boring and pointless article idea this is. Young athletes use dating apps to hook up with each other? People like sex? What brilliant and subversive reporting, someone get the Pulitzer ready!
But not to worry, Nico found a way to make it more interesting for everyone by almost immediately turning focus solely onto male athletes who were interested in hook-ups with other men. The thinly veiled homophobia behind the piece suddenly became not so thinly veiled, as the article became about men who will have sex with anything that moves, even a shlubby Nico Hines! Hilarious! It’s not like straight men at the Olympics are probably having heaps of anonymous and casual sex as well, right? It’s not like Nico could write an article about it from his own experience, or the experience of a heterosexual dude. Nah, best just write a mocking and scandalous article about a minority instead. Journalism at its finest.
But don’t worry you guys, at least he wasn’t being dishonest, as he stated in the article:
“I didn’t lie to anyone or pretend to be someone I wasn’t —unless you count being on Grindr in the first place — since I’m straight, with a wife and child."
YES NICO. YES I DO COUNT THAT AS LYING OR PRETENDING ACTUALLY.
A heterosexual journalist signs up to a dating app specifically for men who want to meet other men, and pretends to be interested in meeting up with them. He did not have in his profile that he was a journalist, working on a story. Instead he simply said that he:
“confessed to being a journalist as soon as anyone asked who I was.”
Oh right, well that’s okay then. As well all know, most people using a hookup app immediately ask the people they match with for their life story, including if they happen to be a straight journalist. If all of this seems sleazy and gross and pointless, you are correct. But unfortunately it gets even worse, and moves into legitimately dangerous territory.
Hines goes on to describe some of the men that he saw on the app (all done with an undertone of mocking condescension of course). It is these descriptions that have justifiably caused the biggest outcry, and the part that gave me a pit in my stomach.
He starts out by discussing some athlete profiles on Grindr, and the types of people they included. He lists five or so people by nationality and sport, including specifying that one is a record holder in a particular area. He then explicitly says:
“…and a [specific sport] player from a notoriously homophobic country.”
At this point steam started coming out of my ears.
This is the moment that should have given him pause and caused him to reconsider what exactly he was doing, if he cared at all. He typed the words, which means he thought the words. That sentence is Hines admitting that there are men he is targeting on this app that come from places where it is not safe to be gay or bisexual. He not only acknowledges this, he then carelessly writes what sport they are participating in, and publishes it in an article.
But it gets even worse, as he then goes on to write in more detail about a different athlete (I have removed the identifying details).
“The [height], [weight] athlete from [nationality], who sent his address, had a Rio 2016 duvet cover as his main picture. His profile read “I’m looking for sex” in both English and [language].”
This sentence is absolutely breathtaking in its straight privilege. This sentence is absolutely breathtaking in its disregard for the safety of the subjects of his article. The country this athlete is from has been reported on by the Human Rights Watch as failing to protect LGBTQI people from harm and discrimination. Hines not only lists the man's nationality, but lists specific identifying physical features. It would be extremely possible to find out who this athlete is based on the descriptions, as it would based on the descriptions he gave about the first group of athletes.
I talk about straight privilege here because this is an extremely clear example of what that means. Only a person who has never once in their life been in danger due to their sexuality could be so careless. Only someone who doesn't know what it is like to not feel as though you can be yourself in the place you live could invade the privacy of people trying to be themselves. Only a man who has never faced discrimination or hostility or fear because of his sexuality could go so far as to legitimately place people in danger for the purposes of an article about athletes having sex.
To give you a clearer idea, openly gay Olympian Amini Fonua from Tonga tweeted his thoughts about the article:
Without the outing of men who were simply attempting to go about their personal business, the article would have been bad enough. LGBTQI people are not animals in a zoo. We are not some other species that deserves to be infiltrated by heterosexual people in order to report on what we are doing, or our sex lives. It is possible for straight people to write on LGBTQI issues, but this piece was a derisive and mocking and homophobic article written for a pointless reason, in an unethical manner. If you wonder why there isn’t more openly queer athletes, look no further.
With the addition of the outing information, this article was reprehensible. The personal lives, safe spaces, and privacy of people in the LGBTQI community are not for your entertainment. And the safety of LGBTQI people is certainly not yours to jeopardise for a shitty fluff piece.
So, that's why we're mad. And also why i took it upon myself to fix the title for Mr Hines.
Follow Rebecca Shaw on Twitter.