Somehow I think this is pertinent to some areas of my PhD research, albeit it is still a half-formed idea in my brain. This particular post has a little background story on it:
When I had a conversation with my friend the other day, we talked about relationship in general and the difficulties of gay men who are non-scene oriented to meet their potential partners offline. Out of a sudden, my kind and helpful friend mentioned that he has a friend who is single and interested to meet up for a date. I asked for a few details of his friend, and then I caught myself asking this question: “is your friend interested in meeting an Asian gay man for a date?”
He was rather bedazzled by that question of mine. He wasn’t sure why I was asking that. And I elaborated it further to him: “some people have a particular ethnic preference when it comes to who they date.” He nodded, and then the conversation sort of faded away, with both of us realized that ethnic discourse somewhat became a reality in modern dating practices. Moreover, I think the term ‘preference’ is highly contested and loaded.
In relation to that (however remote it could be), this conversation makes me realized about the impact that these gay hook-up/ dating mobile applications can have in my offline environment. Since when I start to question whether my ethnicity is desirable or problematic to others? I try very hard to recall my days back home in Malaysia, thinking about the ways in which I used to date. I do not remember ethnicity being a factor that I have to be wary about. And if that conversation that I had with my friend happened in Malaysia, I am pretty sure I will not be asking the same question at all. Perhaps I will be saying yes and go on a date instead of being worried about my ethnicity.
However generalized and assumptious this might sounds like, I do think that the these mobile applications(being one of the most widely use methods for gay men to look for another) play a significant part in constructing my perception of the dating scene in relation to my own ethnicity. These apps make me aware of my own ethnic identity; they make me think about my ethnic identity in a conscious way that I would have otherwise ignored in my daily life. The interface of these apps put my ethnicity into categories that I can select and make it visible to others.
As our mundane daily life is intertwined with technology, we are made aware of these online environments could indeed, impact on our offline settings in an unprecedented scale. Tudor (2012) argues that mobile application like Grindr blurs the distinction between online and offline, and it has the fascinating capacity to queer our offline space. To queer in this sense, is not as simple as just turning a space into a designated queer space; it is to queer the identity between online and offline. It confuses you between your online and offline identity, and issues that are normally ignored in our routinised daily life are now being brought onto the surface. Additionally, to queer in this notion also implies that ethnicity is being queered and questioned; do we all fit into these cookie-cutter ethnicity selections? What does it mean to possess a certain ethnic identity in relation to online dating? I have more questions now than answers.