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Southern Spaces
A journal about real and imagined spaces and places of the US South and their global connections

Wanted eLove: Queer Square Spaces and the Revolution in Digital Intimacy

Emory University
Published December 17, 2019

Overview

Eric Solomon surveys queer geospatial digital dating applications through a historical genealogy of masking/coding in queer American thought and homotexts. He concludes with an analysis of the work of contemporary poet Danez Smith and their lyrical responses to queer square spaces.

Queer Intersections / Southern Spaces is a collection of interdisciplinary, multimedia publications that explore, trouble, and traverse intersections of queer experiences, past, present, and future. From a variety of perspectives, and with an emphasis upon the US South, this series, edited by Eric Solomon, offers critical analysis of LGBTQ+ people, practices, spaces, and places.

Queer [__] Revolution? 

"The place in which I'll fit will not exist until I make it."

—James Baldwin

"The gay revolution began as a literary revolution." This is the first bold statement in Christopher Bram's 2012 cultural history Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America. From before the homophile movement of the 1950s to the post-Stonewall gay liberation movement to the virulent activism of ACT UP and other HIV/AIDS activist organizations to the normalcy wars of the 1990s and the fight for marriage equality, the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement has occurred in the streets and in the press, in the courtrooms and in the bedroom, at the intersections and with the hash tag, challenging and revolutionizing American life.

Collage with recurring textual and visual elements including masks, with the words "the place in / which I'll fit / will not exist / until I make it" in the center.
“Queer Square Spaces,” Collage by Eric Solomon, March 2019.

In this article, I suggest that the latest "revolutionary" movement in LGBTQ+ life is not one found in the streets or in published literary forms long familiar to us but in the digital square spaces through which queer intimacy is being reimagined and reenacted. Forms of activism and intimacy have shifted from the mediation of bound rectangles of printed books and pamphlets to the square profiles of gay geospatial social networking and dating applications. It is these square spaces that stand in contrast to the LGBTQ+ normalcy wars of the 1990s and the subsequent proliferation of narratives of assimilation and hetero- and homo-normative relationship structures. Dating and "hook-up" geospatial applications like Grindr, Scruff, Daddyhunt, Growlr, Jack'd, Hornet, Chappy, and others have radically altered the terrain of queer intimacy and precede similar "straight" applications like Tinder that used them as model. As Polly Vernon wrote in "Grindr: a New Sexual Revolution?" (2010): "Grindr is reconfiguring the landscape of human relationships."1Polly Vernon, "Grindr: a New Sexual Revolution?," The Guardian, July 3, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/jul/04/grindr-the-new-sexual-revolution/print. Some have described this reconfigured landscape as one of networked intimacy and liquid love, extending Zygmunt Bauman's ruminations into digital terrain.2See Lik Sam Chan, "Ambivalence in Networked Intimacy: Observations from Gay Men Using Mobile Dating Apps," New Media & Society 20, no. 7 (2017): 2566–2581; Mitchell Hobbs, Stephen Owen, and Livia Gerber, "Liquid Love?: Dating Apps, Sex, and the Digital Transformation of Intimacy," Journal of Sociology 53, no. 2 (2016): 271–284. My essay asks several questions to which there are no definitive answers: What do we do with this revolution in queer life? What do we do with this networked intimate landscape? What do we do with this thing called liquid elove?

While others have examined some of these applications' nefarious psychological or public health ripple effects, here I consider two of these applications, Grindr and Scruff, to discuss the vocabularies (a digital lexicon that includes "Masc4Masc," "Woof," and "Tap," among others) and rhetorical methods that queer men deploy to relate to one another anew in both generative and troubling ways. I follow Robert F. Reid-Pharr's assertion that all identities are "essentially permeable and thus impure," and "all names (black, gay, man) are ultimately monuments to the impossibility of ever fully distinguishing self from other."3Robert F. Reid-Pharr, Black Gay Man (New York: NYU Press, 2001), 12. Though impossible to fully distinguish or delineate, and only tenuously related to any authentic representation of self, the square profile spaces of digital dating apps provide stark relief (in literal, discrete boxes) between self and other even if the avatar-self often fulfills the estranged, "other" space in that formulation. In this way, although these apps have revolutionary capabilities and foster a myriad of positive affective encounters both virtual and actual, like earlier moments in queer activist intensity and homotextual production, we are again making code of ourselves in our relational affective structures through mediated digital games of masking, ghosting, haunting, catfishing, kittenfishing, benching, breadcrumbing, cushioning, firedooring, lockering, self-pornographying, among the many other terms in this perpetually expanding digital lexicon.

Finally, I consider lyrical responses to this new "square space" in LGBTQ+ dating practices, namely the poetry of Danez Smith, as a way to illustrate the merging of Bram's high "literary" queer revolutionary tradition with the ongoing "digital" revolution Vernon and others seek to understand. Hopefully, this merger pushes us to think more critically and expansively about the various manifestations of "revolutions" in queer intimacy across time and (real and virtual) terrain as filtered through language, data, "code," and the ever-present "Mask" of queer life.

Mask4Masc: A HomoText(ual) Micro-History

"So we are taking off our masks, are we, and keeping / our mouths shut, as if we'd been pierced by a glance!"

—Frank O'Hara, "Homosexuality" (1954)

Title Page, Xavier Mayne, The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as a Problem in Social Life (1908). Image is in public domain.

A brief historical framing shapes how I think of the generative and troubling dimensions of digital square spaces in contemporary queer life. The figurative "Mask" permeates queer writing and thinking since the first American homotexts, a term I use here to describe explicitly gay/queer-centric publications.4While my conception is perhaps connotatively less complex, I take "homotexts" from a 1978 essay, "Homotextuality: A Proposal," by scholar Jacob Stockinger, who coined the term "homotextuality" to signify one way the then nascent field of gay and lesbian studies might bridge formalist criticism with thematic approaches. The term "homotextuality" itself has a robust history in transnational academic queer literary scholarship, including Robert K. Martin's "Gay Studies in the Victorian Novel" (Newsletter of the Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada 13, no. 1 (1987): 69–71) and Terry Goldie's Pink Snow: Homotextual Possibilities in Canadian Fiction (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2003). However, as more recent scholars like Catherine A. Davies have written, in the push for a field of homotextual criticism, Stockinger and others often reduced and conflated specific contexts, unique experiences, and cultural moments: the homotextual became the homotext, finite, concrete, fully knowable and not reflective of the spectrum and unknowability of human sexuality, real and imagined. As Davies writes, this model of "homotextuality" seems "to reduce all experiences of same-sex desire to a singular phenomenon" (32). Following Davies, my use of the terms "homotexts" and "homotextuality" herein is not meant to imply singularity or coherent continuity but intersectional moments where what is convergent or divergent might be observed. For me, these moments take place in the "homotexts": fictional, poetic, and nonfictional published works and the "texts" of square spaces. Like Davies, this essay focuses on the "intersections of these divergent lines of gay experience" (Davies 32, emphasis provided). See Jacob Stockinger, "Homotextuality: A Proposal," in The Gay Academic, ed. Louie Crew (Palm Springs, CA: Etc. Publications, 1978): 135–51 and Catherine A. Davies, Whitman's Queer Children: America's Homosexual Epics (New York: Continuum, 2012). In 1906, Edward Prime-Stevenson, writing as "Xavier Mayne," published privately in Italy Imre: A Memorandum, one of the first openly homosexual novels written by an American. Mayne's The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as a Problem in Social Life followed two years later, becoming the first study of homosexuality by an American author. Imre's narrative proceeds through parts with subtitles like "Masks" and "Masks and—A Face" and includes lines such as "The Mask—the eternal social mask for the homosexual!—worn before our nearest and dearest" and "I understood perfectly that a man must wear the Mask."5  Xavier Mayne, Imre: A Memorandum (Naples: The English Book-Press, 1906), 146, 111, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015019188047;view=1up;seq=7. Mayne's The Intersexes extends these ideas from the fictional to the nonfictional mode and further discusses the pre-U.S. homophile movement's imperative preoccupation with "the Mask":

To hide from his closest friends, from suspicion by the world! Hide it he must. Accounted a diseased human thing, an outcast from men, a beast . . . playing his part like a man . . . . Ever the Mask, the shuddering concealment, the anguish of hidden passion that burns his life away! . . . The Mask, ever the Mask! It becomes like the natural face of the wearer.6Xavier Mayne, The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as a Problem in Social Life (Privately Printed, 1908), 86, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/002080887.

In Imre, Mayne writes of the "man-loving man"7Mayne, Imre, 111. as well as "the Friendship which is Love, the Love which is Friendship" in his exploration of Uranian love.8Mayne, Imre, 150. Largely deployed by early "homosexual" thinkers, writers, and advocates like Stevenson, uraninan was once a term used to understand homosexuality, gender variance, and describe same-sex affective bonds. While Imre has a mostly happy ending, the novel still views the "love between two men" as a "nameless horror," one necessitating the mediation of social "masks" to be enacted.9Mayne, Imre, 111.

While I cannot do justice to the richness of either Mayne's Imre or The Intersexes herein, "Xavier Mayne" kicked things off and marked the spot; he put his finger on a queer tension that continues into our present. Foundational to the homotextual literary-activist tradition in the United States is this tension between what Martinican poet-philosopher Édouard Glissant might call transparency and opacity, the desire for love between two men expressed publicly versus a private "anguish of hidden passion" symbolized by the Mask.10Glissant troubles the transparent/opaque binary through his "right to opacity," a right for what one scholar understands as "stubborn shadows." See Nicole Simek, "Stubborn Shadows," symplokē 23, no. 1-2 (2015): 363–373. Glissant states, "As far as I'm concerned, a person has a right to be opaque." See Manthia Diawara's film Un monde en relation (2009). Similarly, he writes in Poetics of Relation, "Opacities can coexist and converge, weaving fabrics. To understand this truly one must focus on the texture of the weave and not on the nature of its components" (190). See Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, translated by Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997). As Christian Sancto has written, this right need not be understood solely in the judicial-legal sense but as performative. See Sancto, "Visibility in Crisis: Configuring Transparency and Opacity in We Are Here's Political Activism," InVisible Culture 28 (2018), https://ivc.lib.rochester.edu/visibility-in-crisis-configuring-transparency-and-opacity-in-we-are-heres-political-activism/. In many ways, this article pays attention to the intersecting performative textures of the mask woven in queer history as one that has persisted, necessarily so for many subjects even as political visibility has increased and expanded legal rights for LGBTQ+ US subjects. Such century's old attention to transparency and opacity in queer cultural production takes on new connotations in the Photoshop age in which it is now possible to modify, highlight, de-focalize what or who can be seen clearly and what or who might be made cloudy. We find this early thinking replicated from 1908 through the official Homophile years of activism beginning in the 1950s, beyond groups like the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance in the 1970s, through Gay Men's Health Crisis and ACT UP and into our digital present. We can trace the replication of the masked figure through close attention to the genealogy of "coded" thought in queer American life.

Top, Cover of The Ladder, October 1957. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Image is in public domain. Bottom, Cover of ONE Magazine, February 1959. Photograph by Eric Solomon, 2018. Courtesy of the Don Kelly Collection, Cushing Memorial Library & Archives, Texas A&M University.

From the masked jester of the Mattachine Society to a cover of the Daughters of Bilitis publication The Ladder, post–World War II homophile imagery extends the preoccupation with a necessary secrecy as protection in the era of the Lavender Scare. High literary writers such as Gore Vidal wrote in "code." (Vidal authored pulp fictions under the pseudonyms of Katherine Everard, Cameron Key, and Edgar Box). As Stephen S. Mills writes in his 2014 poem, "A History of the Unmarried," "Frank O'Hara loved Vincent in code: / (F) hearts (V)." This hyper-coded, anonymous and pseudonym-onous form of queer ontology and relationality is the received narrative of queer life at midcentury, when studies of sexual deviancy and the closet-structure were at their apex largely as a result of the social, economic, and indeed existential dangers of visibility.11Another figure of note in this genealogy is William Alexander Percy, who biographer Benjamin E. Wise calls a "sexual freethinker" and who negotiated his same-sex desire against the backdrop of the Mississippi Delta in the first half of twentieth century. Although best remembered for his memoir Lanterns on the Levee (1941), much of Percy's early poetry contains coded referents to Classic Greek tropes of man-man love and friendship in line with other Uranian writers. For an overview of Percy's life and work, see John Howard, "'Our Country'—Benjamin E. Wise's William Alexander Percy," Southern Spaces, April 17, 2012, https://southernspaces.org/2012/our-country-benjamin-e-wises-william-alexander-percy.

Yet, the pages of homophile periodicals also espoused calls for decoding. The Mattachine Review's September 1958 issue featured the article "Discard the Mask," which in its very title gave the movement an ethical imperative. ONE Magazine featured similar stories, "Homosexuals Without Masks" (November 1958) and "The Tragedy of the Masks" (February 1959).12See Craig M. Loftin's work for deeper critical insight and overviews of much of this ONE Magazine material; Loftin, Masked Voices: Gay Men and Lesbians in Cold War America (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2012); Loftin, ed., Letters to ONE: Gay and Lesbian Voices from the 1950s and 1960s (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2012). In one of the era's most direct but lesser known homotextual calls for unmasking, Foster Gunnison, Jr., listed as vice-president of the Mattachine Society of Florida, wrote of "The Agony of the Mask" in a 1966 story published in short-lived D.C. homophile periodical The Homosexual Citizen: "Secrecy destroys self-identity . . . To attempt two lives in two worlds at once and still emerge whole would seem to be well beyond the adjustment capabilities of most persons . . . 'The trouble is that for the work's sake you must wear the mask.'"13Foster Gunnison, Jr., "The Agony of the Mask," The Homosexual Citizen 1, no. 4 (April 1966), Don Kelly Collection in Gay Literature and Culture, Cushing Memorial Library, Texas A&M University. In this latter quote within the quote, Gunnison is relating to his readers the feelings of a clergyman who wrote to him and, as Gunnison writes, "shall remain anonymous." Again, the imperative of secrecy and anonymity especially when confronted with the realities of economic survival.14For an overview of Gunnison's papers, see Charles McGraw, "Archives and Sources: The Papers of Foster Gunnison, Jr, and the Politics of Queer Preservation," History Workshop Journal, no. 65 (2008): 179–187.

Across the 1960s, such "anguish" and "agony" over the Mask gave way to a radical if not revolutionary gay and lesbian sensibility in line with the broader social climate and movements. For example: former Students for a Democratic Society member Carl Wittman's 1969 A Gay Manifesto calls for removing the mask of the Mattachine in order to perform a new show: "We've been playing an act for a long time, so we're consummate actors. Now we can begin to be, and it'll be a good show!"15Carl Wittman, "A Gay Manifesto," in We Are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics, ed. Mark Blasius and Shane Phelan (New York: Routledge, 1997): 380–388. Martha Shelley's "Gay is Good," modeled after homophile activist Frank Kameny's earlier coining of that phrase, understood that "the worst part of being a homosexual is having to keep it secret."16"Martha Shelley" is the pseudonym for Martha Altman. For a discussion of her name evolution, see Eric Marcus, "Making Gay History: Martha Shelley," February 21, 2019, in Making Gay History, produced by Nahanni Rous, podcast, mp3 audio, 24:18, https://makinggayhistory.com/podcast/martha-shelley/. See Martha Shelley, "Gay is Good," in We Are Everywhere, ed. Mark Blasius and Shane Phelan, 392. Such activist homotexts responded to publications like Gunnison's "The Agony of the Mask" and still earlier works, such as Xavier Mayne's, in their coalition-building, consciousness-raising calls to visibility as a form of liberation.

And yet, the homotextual periodicals of the gay-Pride era reflect the continuation for masking and secrecy albeit in different forms; post-gay liberation, the inherited coding of queer sexuality and desire for intimate companionship simply evolved to include hanky codes, gay bar and bathhouse secret codes, and other gendered and sexualized forms of inclusion or exclusion. In a letter to the editor published in NEWSWEST, a Los Angeles newspaper for gay people, titled "Those 'Bitches' Need Love Too," San Francisco native Steve Edwards writes, "I only hope that someday we will no longer feel those fears which make us erect such masks, and we will be able to communicate openly and honestly with one another, and without judgment."17 Steve Edwards, "Those 'Bitches' Need Love Too," NEWSWEST, February 19, 1976, Don Kelly Collection in Gay Literature and Culture, Cushing Memorial Library, Texas A&M University. Many proponents of queer digital life celebrate the "open" and "honest" communication that digital applications afford in and for our present, a post-Stonewall line of thinking. The history of liberation is not so simple and the progress narrative too-readily susceptible to critique. The Mask persists, and our attention to both how and where—even if we cannot answer why—it persists is necessary for our coalitional cultural politics.

Cover (top) and page (bottom) of NEWSWEST, no. 20, February 19, 1976. Photographs by Eric Solomon, 2018. Both images courtesy of the Don Kelly Collection, Cushing Memorial Library & Archives, Texas A&M University.

Few homophile periodicals showed people's faces and much of the material produced by queer writers at midcentury used pseudonyms, like Vidal, replicating Stevenson's "Xavier Mayne" of 1906/1908. While the "ecstasy" of the 1970s might be read as closet doors thrown open and masks removed, I am not alone in arguing that the mask began to take on other forms, wherein the Castro Clone stood in contrast to what Steve Edwards called the "bitchy queen," and the liberated queer world began its own pathway to homonormative standards and expectations. The rhetoric—such as the text-phrase Masc4Masc—and faceless torso profiles common to gay digital dating applications in our current moment are directly related to this history of masking, coding, and erasing certain kinds of sexual and gender identity and performance from mainline queer politics and cultural figurations.18See, for example, Roderick A. Ferguson, One-Dimensional Queer (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2019). What do we do with the anguish, the agony, and the ecstasy of Masc4Masc in today's queer digital landscape? How is the call for discretion, as in "R U discreet?," any different from earlier terrains of queer intimacy in printed homotexts? Is "Gay is Good" just an appositive for "Grindr is Good," with both "Gay" and "Grindr" standing for gay white masculine-presenting cisgender man? Isn't the Mask still Masc?

This too-brief history gets us to the present, but what do we do in the current digital cruising utopia? My point in setting up this somewhat reductive rhetorical-historical genealogy is to show that before the HIV/AIDS crisis derailed much of this conversation around coding and secrecy in queer life due to its vital-viral and highly publics direct-action politics, many queer homotexts sought to articulate a way of being in the world that directly negotiated the nuances of the "Mask," both within and for queer life. Second, the advent of the digital age and its attendant concerns of mediated spaces of desire and intimate encounter are not by their nature new concerns. Sure, the technology has changed, and the "text" of earlier literary homotexts has been transposed into the text messages exchanged between digital app users. However, as much as this medium shift from text as "literary" to text as "digital"—from the denotative text to the highly visual and spatial domains of digital life—has expanded the definitional dimensions of what we mean when we say textual, rhetorical, spatial, and visual, many of the relational and affective dimensions of digital dating applications echo the coded concerns of earlier generations of queer revolutionaries. In this, LGBTQ+ culture might be more prepared for the hyper-mediated identities and split subjectivities inherent to digital life because of this received history coupled with the already mediated intersectional identities and self-definitions that many of us embody.19Indeed, there is something to be said for a comparative intersectional analysis of the ways in which the "mask" and "masking" have functioned in other historically marginalized and socio-politically oppressed groups using a not explicitly queer framing. For example, in the African diasporic tradition one could trace "masking" from Paul Lawrence Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask" (1896) to W.E.B. Du Bois's "double-consciousness" (1903) to Franz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks (1952) to Maya Angelou's spoken-word "Mask," among many other entries in a rhetorical genealogy of black thought.

However, in grappling with the often white-cis-gay-male reductive square box of Grindr, we are reminded that masking is a diachronic process through which oppressed groups cope with power structures. Individual acts of masking and collective calls for inclusivity are not concerns unique to Grindr and other digital applications, and to be clear, one can choose to wear the Grindr mask for reasons that are not necessarily non-inclusive or normative. Real and virtual cruising is as complicated as the desire they follow, and I do not suggest here that any group is using Grindr the "right" way. Rather, we may learn from transnational queer-of-color critique how to grapple with those who wear such a Grindr mask and what that mask means for the queer revolutionary present. Much of José Quiroga's work on masks and codes in the Latin American context is essential. Quiroga informs us that, for some, "homosexuality" might be "understood as a constellation—lines of flight, encounters where the code allows for its sparks to fly off in all directions."20José Quiroga, Tropics of Desire: Interventions from Latino America (New York: NYU Press, 2000), 22. As one reviewer of José Esteban Muñoz's work writes, all "cruising is a way of moving with 'no specific destination'; the ultimate goal is 'to get lost [...] in webs of relationality and queer sociality.'"21See Sara Warner, "Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (review)," Modern Drama 54, no. 2 (2011): 255-257. Quoted in Joshua Chambers Letson, Tavia Nyong'o, and Ann Pellegrini, "Foreword: Before and After," Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: NYU Press, 2019), xiii. Allowing codes to fly off in all directions with no specific destination in "webs" of queer sociality serves as one ethical imperative for how queer people might frame and reframe intimate digital square spaces to consistently resist the reductive hetero- and homonormative structures that exist across twenty-first-century actual-virtual-digital life. Furthermore, in understanding that the "the space of the [digital] mask goes beyond the certainties of assumed identities; it aims, on the contrary, to blur them," we may bring the decades-long norm-confronting work of the queer to bear on the realm of digital queer spaces and the persistent calls to trouble the mask structure for queer life.22Quiroga, 3.

But perhaps this rippling constellation of comments and concerns with masks and codes and inclusivity has gotten ahead of itself. All of this questioning must originate with one question: what are Grindr and Scruff (et al.)? For some, these are still subcultural phenomena, and so I want to take a moment to gloss them. Both Grindr (launched 2009) and Scruff (launched 2010) exist across a spectrum of Web 2.0 geospatial gay social networking applications and mobile platforms targeting narrow intimate markets. As of 2017, Grindr had over 27 million users in 192 countries; Scruff counted 12+ million users in 180 countries. As Andrew DJ Shield has written in "Grindr Culture: Intersectional and Socio-Sexual," with Grindr,

There are no algorithms to match users: instead, Grindr participants initiate contact with (or reject) each other based on one profile photo, about 50 words of text, some drop-down menus, and private chats. By centering on the [square] user photo, Grindr's interface hyper-valuates visual self-presentations, which shapes an individual's experiences on the platform, especially when the user's body provides visible cues about a racial or cultural minority position, gender non-conformity, or disability (150).23Andrew DJ Shield, "Grindr Culture: Intersectional and Socio-Sexual," Ephemera 18, no. 1 (2018): 149–161.

Scruff operates similarly wherein the visual—what is masked or unmasked, concealed or revealed—is, by format and medium, privileged. For both, the textual masks remain in the roughly "50 words of text" that users may select to (mis)represent themselves; both Grindr and Scruff offer a limited range of racial categories, but over time, each has expanded the lexicon of identity constructions, and Scruff, it should be noted, was the first to include space for trans-identification within the homonormative digital app "square-space" framing. Anyone of a certain age can download and use these applications, making them democratic and participatory, in line with Lev Manovich's five principles of new media, and, as spatial and participatory applications, they are in line with Janet Murray's four affordances of digital media.24See Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001); Janet Murray, Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011). Neither Grindr nor Scruff explicitly markets itself as a "hook-up" application; both contain current features like Scruff's Ventures or Grindr's global "Explore" grid that encourage queer travel and exploration and position the platforms as thinking both with and beyond sex. However, most users download the apps for the purposes of cruising or "looking," representing what Tim Dean writes as the heavily mediated nature of gay men's sex lives. As such, the apps operate forcefully as virtual "hook-up" spaces within the queer cultural imagination.25Dean challenges scholars to understand "how erotic contact is mediated" and how we "constitute our objects of research via the languages we use to describe it [...] sex is mediated not only by vernacular but also by expert nomenclatures" (225). He writes, "Looking for UAI' [the scholarly acronym for 'unprotected anal intercourse'] is not something you see on Grindr or cruising websites" (225). See Tim Dean, "Mediated Intimacies: Raw Sex, Truvada, and the biopolitics of chemoprophylaxis," Sexualities, 18, no 1/2: 224–246. In this vein, serosorting (or serodiscrimination) is common on the apps, and many users disclose some degree of sexual health information and sexual practice preferences on their profiles.

Cruising for sexual contact, then, is central to the revolutionary "square spaces" of queer digital intimacy. Rusi Jaspal thinks of Grindr as spatial, as "a new space for sexual self-definition," (189) and Evangelos Tziallas writes of the liberating "self-pornification" the apps enact for many users. These "square spaces," then, are generative of new sexual possibility and definition even if that full possibility has not yet been and may never be attained. Jaspal writes,

Prior to the advent of the Internet, Gay and Bisexual Men used particular social and physical contexts to meet other men, such as saunas/bathhouses, and bars/clubs (Berubé 2003). In the 1970s, for example, many Gay and Bisexual Men employed subtle signifiers (e.g. ''hankie code'', colored handkerchiefs worn in back pockets) to communicate their sexual preferences (Snyder 1989). When the Internet became widely available in the 1990s, it revolutionized the ways in which Gay and Bisexual Men could connect with one another (188).

Like others before and since, Jaspal notes the transitional "revolutionized" landscape of queer intimacy afforded first by the Internet and later by smartphone apps. As John Walker writes, "LGBTQ people have long used digital spaces as a means of connecting with others like themselves . . . Scruff et al. are simply among the latest technological means through which we've learned how to make those connections."26John Walker, "Before Grindr and Scruff: A Brief Oral History of Gay Men Finding Each Other Online," Splinter News, July 19, 2016, https://splinternews.com/before-grindr-and-scruff-a-brief-oral-history-of-gay-m-1793860384. Furthermore, both how we make those digital-intimate connections and how we might use digital technology in the service of our scholarship is a topic queer historian John Howard explores in "Digital Oral History," where he writes, "Digital queer history" both "helps us expose illegitimate hierarchies of productively illicit practices, generating both challenges and possibilities for shattering normative structures of sexual pleasure and desirability" and encourages researchers "to ponder just how far we are willing to bend the rules, as we aggressively push unwieldy old institutions in revolutionary new directions."27John Howard, "Digital Oral History and the Limits of Gay Sex," in Queering the Countryside: New Frontiers in Rural Queer Studies, ed. Mary L. Gray, Colin R. Johnson, and Brian J. Gilley (New York: NYU Press, 2016), 329, 331.

Black and white photo of two smiling men in swimming trunks, one's arm around the other
Frank Thompson and friend at Stauch Bath House, Coney Island, New York City, New York, 1940–1953. Courtesy of the New York Public Library Manuscript and Archives Division, digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/8fe9736d-0a51-cbc8-e040-e00a18063096.

Indeed, this "revolutionary" research is ongoing in many new digital directions as we seek to understand not only the history and development of queer intimacy and affective intensity across various spaces (saunas, bathhouses, bars, clubs, hanky codes, apps, etc.) but also how these newer "square spaces" are playing out in real lives in the here-and-now and how "square space" interactions and encounters might constitute academic evidence within our disciplinary methodologies. First, let me approach the question of Grindr/Scruff as "academic evidence." While many have studied this proliferation of queer dating and hook-up apps since 2007 in terms of the sociological, technological, psychological, or public health impacts of these apps, taking study into those "new directions," here I am more invested both in how queer culture understands them, uses them as means of communication and homotextual composition as well as forms of affective intimate encounter, both virtual and actual, and in their relationship to a long history of LGBTQ+ masking, coding, and inclusionary/exclusionary practices.28For excellent studies in some of these areas, see Rusi Jaspal, "Gay Men's Construction and Management of Identity on Grindr," Sexuality & Culture 21, no. 1 (2017): 187–204; Lik Sam Chan, "The Role of Gay Identity Confusion and Outness in Sex-Seeking on Mobile Dating Apps Among Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Conditional Process Analysis," Journal of Homosexuality 64, no. 5 (2017): 622–637; Evangelos Tziallas, "Gamified Eroticism: Gay Male 'Social Networking' Applications and Self-Pornography," Sexuality & Culture 19, no. 4 (2015): 759–775; Jack Turban, "We Need to Talk about How Grindr is Affecting Gay Men's Mental Health," Vox, April 4, 2018, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/4/4/17177058/grindr-gay-men-mental-health-psychiatrist. In terms of queer visual rhetoric, it is striking that the logo for Grindr is a mask, usually a black mask against a yellow background or a yellow mask against a black background. Scruff's logo is a bold "S" or its full name in silver against a black background. The niche target audience for each app is somewhat different: Scruff came into being for more mature, hirsute men and pogonophiles in direct contrast to the somewhat younger and smoother early users of Grindr. Such contrast across similar apps remains if often in less stark relief. The evidence attests: although digital applications may represent a certain form of revolution for queer life and a new kind of text for scholars of sexuality to study, the mask—in its textual, spatial, and visual dimensions—persists.

How then are these "square spaces" playing out in real lives in the here-and-now? As one example, as a graduate student I served as co-facilitator of a Queer Men's Discussion Group with an office of LGBT life for two years. During one session, my co-facilitator and I discussed Grindr and Scruff, and while the specifics of that conversation are confidential, the range of responses were vast: from validations of the democratic (even if anonymous) importance such spaces afforded to critiques of their utility for queer life, embodied experience, and issues with inclusivity. In 2016, Gay and Lesbian Review editor Richard Schneider commented on this range of use-value that we are still debating:

Cruising today is more likely to be carried out on smartphone apps like Grindr and Scruff [...] So rapid has been this shift to cyber cruising that its implications for GLBT identity and community have yet to be worked out [...] the cyber world and the classic GLBT world have one thing in common: the possibility of projecting an identity that's either authentic or disguised, out or closeted—or something in between.29Richard Schneider, Jr., "In Time for the Holidays: 'Cruising,'" Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 23, no. 6 (2016): 4.

"Identity that's either authentic or disguised, out or closeted—or something in between," again this cyclical tension from the origin of homotextual literary activism, like a spiraling vortex or the seemingly endless image of a Mac's rainbow wheel, returns to us in the digital age. Does one catfish, use other pictures as one's own or ghost, disappear once the allure of the code wears off? R U discreet enough? As we can see, the spaces may have changed, the media may be different, the vocabulary expanded, but the concepts and discourse remain. The ghosts of Xavier Mayne's foundational "Mask" in queer life echo in the ghosting and catfishing encounters mediated by the "filter bubbles" of modern queer digital dating technologies, where the homotext leaps from the printed page of novels and pamphlets to the applications on mobile devices. While this critical, historical, and conceptual framing could go deeper (and it is my hope that this article stimulates further academic and popular conversations), I want to close with a mention of one queer literary figure whose work negotiates the "revolutionary" square space.

The Swipe, the Tap, the Woof, Oh My!: Danez Smith and the Grind of Mediated Digital Desire

". . . everyone on the app says they hate the app but no one stops . . ."

—Danez Smith, "a note on the phone app that tells me how far i am from other men's mouths" (2017)

If Xavier Mayne gave us the evocation of the "Mask" in the wilderness years of pre-gay-rights America with Imre, if Frank O'Hara's poem "Homosexuality" evokes the lyrical (mis)understanding of the mask in 1950s America—"So we are taking off our masks, are we, and keeping / our mouths shut, as if we'd been pierced by a glance!" (1954)—if Mark Doty's 1995 poem "Homo Will Not Inherit" provides us with the landscape of "Downtown Anywhere and between the roil / of bathhouse steam [...] he said to me, I'm going to punish your mouth" of queer spatial intimacies amid post-Stonewall, post-AIDS, 1990s-normalcy-wars, perhaps it is Danez Smith's poetry that gives us both the agonies and the ecstasies of the Grindr mask in our digital age. Danez Smith: the latest queer-literary-activist revolutionary.

Smith's poetry evokes the simultaneously and somewhat paradoxically troubling and generative dimensions of gay digital dating social networks. Smith is a black, genderqueer, and HIV-positive poet and performer whose work often demonstrates how digital intimacy both reinforces and challenges the "essentially permeable and thus impure" nature of identity.30Reid-Pharr, 12. The structure of Smith's first collection (2014) evokes HTML code wherein each section inserts one word into the title [INSERT] BOY: first [INSERT] BOY becomes [black] boy then [papa's lil'] boy, [ruined] boy, [rent] boy, [lover] boy, [again] boy. In the poem "Craigslist Hook-Ups," the speaker recounts three hook-ups orchestrated through online personal ads where the language evokes the expanding lexicon of queer affective terminology: "forgive me father for I have called another man daddy"; "a sloppy chorus of sir yes, please & thank you."31Danez Smith, [INSERT] BOY (Portland, OR: Yesyes Books, 2014), 61, 62. Such language, developed within the queer vernacular and transposed onto Craigslist before becoming lyric evocation in Smith's poems, is potent in its virtual and actual allusions.

Top, Cover of Danez Smith's Don't Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017). Bottom, Cover of Danez Smith's Homie (Graywolf Press, 2020).

However, Smith's second collection Don't Call Us Dead (2017)—their most recent collection is the forthcoming Homie (2020)—directly references the "square spaces" of mobile gay social networking. Indeed the "phone app" of Smith's poem, "a note on the phone app that tells me how far i am from other men's mouths," is most assuredly Grindr. Sometimes through enjambment, Smith's poem juxtaposes the generative aspects of Grindr encounters, virtual and actual, with the troubling ones as in the opening line: "headless horsehung horsemen gallop to my gate / dressed in pictures stolen off Google."32Smith, Don't Call Us Dead (Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press, 2017), 32. The figure is "headless," a form of masking common on the apps, which makes him both a "horsehung" horseman, a desired object literally de-faced, and a fraud, "stolen off Google." Smith further evokes how Grindr both concretizes and undermines identity with lines like, "No Fats, No Fems, No Blacks, Sorry, Just a Preference :)" and the accompanying poem entitled "& even the black guy's profile reads sorry, no black guys" to whom Smith addresses the lines "if no one has told / you, you are beautiful & loveable & black & enough & so—you pretty you—am I."33 Smith, Don't Call Us Dead, 32–33. Identity squared-in, then challenged, and ultimately reinforced, sex acts orchestrated and denied, intimacy of various types: Smith's poetry evokes all of the messy complexity of queer digital life through spaces like Grindr, spaces that often reflect the homonormative, transphobic, racist, misogynistic spaces of everyday life. Beyond swipes and taps and woofs, Smith's poetry gives us the get-down-grind of mediated digital desire, what Legacy Russell calls "digital orgasm."34Legacy Russell, "Digital dualism and the glitch feminism manifesto," Cyborgology 10 (2012), http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/12/10/digital-dualism-and-the-glitch-feminism-manifesto/. Smith's poetry sees potential (re)generation in what Foster Gunnison, Jr. earlier troubled: the "attempt" at "two lives in two worlds at once," the masks of the virtual and the actual, from which one might "still emerge whole." The attempt may fail, but for Smith there is something potent and beautiful in such failure: "…everyone on the app says they hate the app but no one stops…."35Smith, Don't Call Us Dead, 32. The desire, despite frustration, for more: connection, intimacy, the mediation of two subjects in two separate worlds, a search for some version of (e)love. As David B. Hobbs writes, Smith's poetry "comments on the world and at the same time bends language to hope for the possibility of another."36See David B. Hobbs, "Between the News and a Prayer," The Nation, November 15, 2017, https://www.thenation.com/article/danez-smith-between-the-news-and-a-prayer/. Arguably, this, too, is what the gay geospatial dating applications that Smith riffs off have the potential to do, a possibility to echo and extend the ethic of José Esteban Muñoz's Cruising Utopia: "We must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds. Queerness is a longing that propels us onward."37 José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: NYU Press, 2009), 1.

Furthermore, I want to highlight that beyond references to Grindr and similar apps, digital referents permeate Smith's work. Smith's "elegy with pixels & cum," dedicated to late gay porn star Javier "Kid Chocolate" Bravo, illuminates the dehumanization and objectification of Bravo as well as the glorification, veneration, and immortalization of him afforded by digital life, where "men gather in front of screens to jerk & mourn," again the juxtaposition of liberating carnality and affective intensity.38Smith, Don't Call Us Dead, 48. "[E]legy" is followed by "litany with blood all over," which visually depicts the process of Smith's own seroconversion through digital manipulation: the palimpsestic word cloud of "my blood" and "his blood" becomes increasingly muddied as the separation between the two is impossible to discern, a pool of typography where words mask other words.39Ibid, 51–52. Far from the smartphone's mediation of desire between two autonomous subjects, what these apps reveal through Smith's imagination is a proliferation of desires; the word cloud of Smith's poetry where the digital separation between "him" and "me" becomes increasingly palimpsestic and opaque represents a deliberate blurring, an opacity of unknowingness and unintelligibility, that reflects and replicates the messy masking of the constellation that is desire.

Printed black text "my blood" and "his blood" are copied and pasted all over a white page, overlapping in some areas.
A page from Danez Smith’s “litany with blood all over,” Don’t Call Us Dead (Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press, 2017). Photograph by Eric Solomon, 2019.

What Danez Smith offers in their poetry is both the context of digital orgasm and an instructive tool, a guide of sorts, to queer digital life for their readers. Smith does this through poetry that reflects the digital form: lowercase lettering throughout, digitally rendered word clouds as poetic meditation, phrases of text struck-through in translucent moments of self-editing, even the separation of poetic sections via two backward slashes evokes the unavoidable presence of digital coding in Smith's lyrical ruminations. Smith's is both digital poetry, written within and for the revolution in queer intimacies and affective human landscapes of the Grindr age, and a lyrical extension of the masked-coded and inclusive coalitional concerns that have permeated homotexts across time in the American queer intimate literary landscape.

Grindr is "Glitch": Or Is the Mask Here to Stay?

"Culture was a way of talking and not talking, it was the code and it was also the mask" (26).

—José Quiroga

I have tried to provide the rhetorical-cultural-spatial-historical, and Smith gives us the lyrical, but perhaps there is more to say about the theoretical potential of Grindr and other apps. I want to end by thinking of Grindr as glitch, a slippery place full of radical cultural potential. In a 2015 article, trans-studies and feminist scholar Jenny Sundén discusses gender as a broken technology, one she thinks of as "accidental error" through the digital term "glitch."40Jenny Sundén, "On trans-, glitch, and gender as machinery of failure," First Monday 20, no. 4 (2015), https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5895/4416. While I will not go into Sundén's use of glitch in terms of gender, glitch, etymologically from the Yiddish word glitsh meaning "slippery place," "forces us to pay attention to the materiality and fragility of new media."41Sundén. In this way, Grindr and Scruff are glitchy wherein the possible is sometimes materially attainable via the screen's mediation of fragile and imperfect connections. The proliferation of LGBTQ+ dating and hook-up digital applications clarify and cloud, reveal and conceal, seeking transparency and enacting opacity—a glitch between the virtual and the actual that represents the expansion of the possible as well as the continuation of a m/Mask, a posture once thought of as a "glitch" that was "fixed" via gay liberation and its attendant progressive narratives of closet deconstruction, increased queer visibility, and greater social acceptance.

Photograph of a large golden statue of a head with a rainbow striped mask over the face.
Wigan Pride, Wigan, England, August 13, 2017. Photograph by Flickr user Nikon Ranger. Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The digital glitch is often liberating, generative, reductive, ridiculous, troubling: as Zadie Smith questions Facebook and new media gadgetry: "Doesn't it, suddenly, look a little bit ridiculous? Your life in this format?"42Zadie Smith, "Generation Why?," New York Times Review of Books, November 25, 2010, https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2010/11/25/generation-why/. Sure, square spaces are not enough; they're not fully YOU, whatever that you might actually signify; they are not revolutionary enough, not inclusive enough, echoing many of the masks and troubles of our current moment. But as the history of LGBTQ+ movements and the spatial terrain of intimate encounters attests, to quote James Baldwin, "The place in which I'll fit will not exist until I make it."43Baldwin quoted in Claudia Roth Pierpont, "Another Country," New Yorker, February 9, 2009, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/02/09/another-country. Or as Smith's contemporary Saeed Jones writes, "However many masks we invent and deploy, in the end, we cannot control what other people see when they look at us."44Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019), 106. Or, to give the last word to Danez Smith, "We do what we queers do—taking scraps and making an abundance."45Danez Smith, "Reimagining Ourselves in an Increasingly Queer World," New York Times, June 16, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/16/us/danez-smith-lgbtq-essex-hemphill.html. "Grindr is glitch": one slippery place wherein queers continue to make a world that fits them and their forms of loving. 

Acknowledgments

First, I would like to thank Don Kelly for his generosity, trailblazing, queer curation, and friendship. Much of the thinking in this piece originated during my tenure with the Don Kelly Research Collection Fellowship in Gay Literature and Culture at Cushing Memorial Library, Texas A&M University. Thanks to the Cushing Library and fellowship team, especially Rebecca Hankins, Michael Jackson, Krista May, Francesca Marini, Leslie Winter, and Jenny Reibenspies for their assistance and warmth during my time in Texas. Thanks as well to the students in my spring 2019 American Studies course, "Queer Intersections, American Outlaws," for helping to expand my thinking on these topics through our discussions. Finally, thanks to those Grindr and Scruff (et al.) users who continue to imagine and enact new possibilities for queer life.

About the Author

Eric Solomon earned his doctorate in English from Emory University and is a visiting assistant professor of English and American Studies at Oxford College, Emory University. His work is featured in Southern SpacessouthPop Matters, and Mississippi Quarterly.

Similar Publications

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1. Polly Vernon, "Grindr: a New Sexual Revolution?," The Guardian, July 3, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/jul/04/grindr-the-new-sexual-revolution/print.
2. See Lik Sam Chan, "Ambivalence in Networked Intimacy: Observations from Gay Men Using Mobile Dating Apps," New Media & Society 20, no. 7 (2017): 2566–2581; Mitchell Hobbs, Stephen Owen, and Livia Gerber, "Liquid Love?: Dating Apps, Sex, and the Digital Transformation of Intimacy," Journal of Sociology 53, no. 2 (2016): 271–284.
3. Robert F. Reid-Pharr, Black Gay Man (New York: NYU Press, 2001), 12.
4. While my conception is perhaps connotatively less complex, I take "homotexts" from a 1978 essay, "Homotextuality: A Proposal," by scholar Jacob Stockinger, who coined the term "homotextuality" to signify one way the then nascent field of gay and lesbian studies might bridge formalist criticism with thematic approaches. The term "homotextuality" itself has a robust history in transnational academic queer literary scholarship, including Robert K. Martin's "Gay Studies in the Victorian Novel" (Newsletter of the Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada 13, no. 1 (1987): 69–71) and Terry Goldie's Pink Snow: Homotextual Possibilities in Canadian Fiction (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2003). However, as more recent scholars like Catherine A. Davies have written, in the push for a field of homotextual criticism, Stockinger and others often reduced and conflated specific contexts, unique experiences, and cultural moments: the homotextual became the homotext, finite, concrete, fully knowable and not reflective of the spectrum and unknowability of human sexuality, real and imagined. As Davies writes, this model of "homotextuality" seems "to reduce all experiences of same-sex desire to a singular phenomenon" (32). Following Davies, my use of the terms "homotexts" and "homotextuality" herein is not meant to imply singularity or coherent continuity but intersectional moments where what is convergent or divergent might be observed. For me, these moments take place in the "homotexts": fictional, poetic, and nonfictional published works and the "texts" of square spaces. Like Davies, this essay focuses on the "intersections of these divergent lines of gay experience" (Davies 32, emphasis provided). See Jacob Stockinger, "Homotextuality: A Proposal," in The Gay Academic, ed. Louie Crew (Palm Springs, CA: Etc. Publications, 1978): 135–51 and Catherine A. Davies, Whitman's Queer Children: America's Homosexual Epics (New York: Continuum, 2012).
5.   Xavier Mayne, Imre: A Memorandum (Naples: The English Book-Press, 1906), 146, 111, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015019188047;view=1up;seq=7.
6. Xavier Mayne, The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as a Problem in Social Life (Privately Printed, 1908), 86, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/002080887.
7. Mayne, Imre, 111.
8. Mayne, Imre, 150. Largely deployed by early "homosexual" thinkers, writers, and advocates like Stevenson, uraninan was once a term used to understand homosexuality, gender variance, and describe same-sex affective bonds.
9. Mayne, Imre, 111.
10. Glissant troubles the transparent/opaque binary through his "right to opacity," a right for what one scholar understands as "stubborn shadows." See Nicole Simek, "Stubborn Shadows," symplokē 23, no. 1-2 (2015): 363–373. Glissant states, "As far as I'm concerned, a person has a right to be opaque." See Manthia Diawara's film Un monde en relation (2009). Similarly, he writes in Poetics of Relation, "Opacities can coexist and converge, weaving fabrics. To understand this truly one must focus on the texture of the weave and not on the nature of its components" (190). See Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, translated by Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997). As Christian Sancto has written, this right need not be understood solely in the judicial-legal sense but as performative. See Sancto, "Visibility in Crisis: Configuring Transparency and Opacity in We Are Here's Political Activism," InVisible Culture 28 (2018), https://ivc.lib.rochester.edu/visibility-in-crisis-configuring-transparency-and-opacity-in-we-are-heres-political-activism/. In many ways, this article pays attention to the intersecting performative textures of the mask woven in queer history as one that has persisted, necessarily so for many subjects even as political visibility has increased and expanded legal rights for LGBTQ+ US subjects.
11. Another figure of note in this genealogy is William Alexander Percy, who biographer Benjamin E. Wise calls a "sexual freethinker" and who negotiated his same-sex desire against the backdrop of the Mississippi Delta in the first half of twentieth century. Although best remembered for his memoir Lanterns on the Levee (1941), much of Percy's early poetry contains coded referents to Classic Greek tropes of man-man love and friendship in line with other Uranian writers. For an overview of Percy's life and work, see John Howard, "'Our Country'—Benjamin E. Wise's William Alexander Percy," Southern Spaces, April 17, 2012, https://southernspaces.org/2012/our-country-benjamin-e-wises-william-alexander-percy.
12. See Craig M. Loftin's work for deeper critical insight and overviews of much of this ONE Magazine material; Loftin, Masked Voices: Gay Men and Lesbians in Cold War America (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2012); Loftin, ed., Letters to ONE: Gay and Lesbian Voices from the 1950s and 1960s (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2012).
13. Foster Gunnison, Jr., "The Agony of the Mask," The Homosexual Citizen 1, no. 4 (April 1966), Don Kelly Collection in Gay Literature and Culture, Cushing Memorial Library, Texas A&M University.
14. For an overview of Gunnison's papers, see Charles McGraw, "Archives and Sources: The Papers of Foster Gunnison, Jr, and the Politics of Queer Preservation," History Workshop Journal, no. 65 (2008): 179–187.
15. Carl Wittman, "A Gay Manifesto," in We Are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics, ed. Mark Blasius and Shane Phelan (New York: Routledge, 1997): 380–388.
16. "Martha Shelley" is the pseudonym for Martha Altman. For a discussion of her name evolution, see Eric Marcus, "Making Gay History: Martha Shelley," February 21, 2019, in Making Gay History, produced by Nahanni Rous, podcast, mp3 audio, 24:18, https://makinggayhistory.com/podcast/martha-shelley/. See Martha Shelley, "Gay is Good," in We Are Everywhere, ed. Mark Blasius and Shane Phelan, 392.
17. Steve Edwards, "Those 'Bitches' Need Love Too," NEWSWEST, February 19, 1976, Don Kelly Collection in Gay Literature and Culture, Cushing Memorial Library, Texas A&M University.
18. See, for example, Roderick A. Ferguson, One-Dimensional Queer (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2019).
19. Indeed, there is something to be said for a comparative intersectional analysis of the ways in which the "mask" and "masking" have functioned in other historically marginalized and socio-politically oppressed groups using a not explicitly queer framing. For example, in the African diasporic tradition one could trace "masking" from Paul Lawrence Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask" (1896) to W.E.B. Du Bois's "double-consciousness" (1903) to Franz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks (1952) to Maya Angelou's spoken-word "Mask," among many other entries in a rhetorical genealogy of black thought.
20. José Quiroga, Tropics of Desire: Interventions from Latino America (New York: NYU Press, 2000), 22.
21. See Sara Warner, "Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (review)," Modern Drama 54, no. 2 (2011): 255-257. Quoted in Joshua Chambers Letson, Tavia Nyong'o, and Ann Pellegrini, "Foreword: Before and After," Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: NYU Press, 2019), xiii.
22. Quiroga, 3.
23. Andrew DJ Shield, "Grindr Culture: Intersectional and Socio-Sexual," Ephemera 18, no. 1 (2018): 149–161.
24. See Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001); Janet Murray, Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011).
25. Dean challenges scholars to understand "how erotic contact is mediated" and how we "constitute our objects of research via the languages we use to describe it [...] sex is mediated not only by vernacular but also by expert nomenclatures" (225). He writes, "Looking for UAI' [the scholarly acronym for 'unprotected anal intercourse'] is not something you see on Grindr or cruising websites" (225). See Tim Dean, "Mediated Intimacies: Raw Sex, Truvada, and the biopolitics of chemoprophylaxis," Sexualities, 18, no 1/2: 224–246.
26. John Walker, "Before Grindr and Scruff: A Brief Oral History of Gay Men Finding Each Other Online," Splinter News, July 19, 2016, https://splinternews.com/before-grindr-and-scruff-a-brief-oral-history-of-gay-m-1793860384.
27. John Howard, "Digital Oral History and the Limits of Gay Sex," in Queering the Countryside: New Frontiers in Rural Queer Studies, ed. Mary L. Gray, Colin R. Johnson, and Brian J. Gilley (New York: NYU Press, 2016), 329, 331.
28. For excellent studies in some of these areas, see Rusi Jaspal, "Gay Men's Construction and Management of Identity on Grindr," Sexuality & Culture 21, no. 1 (2017): 187–204; Lik Sam Chan, "The Role of Gay Identity Confusion and Outness in Sex-Seeking on Mobile Dating Apps Among Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Conditional Process Analysis," Journal of Homosexuality 64, no. 5 (2017): 622–637; Evangelos Tziallas, "Gamified Eroticism: Gay Male 'Social Networking' Applications and Self-Pornography," Sexuality & Culture 19, no. 4 (2015): 759–775; Jack Turban, "We Need to Talk about How Grindr is Affecting Gay Men's Mental Health," Vox, April 4, 2018, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/4/4/17177058/grindr-gay-men-mental-health-psychiatrist.
29. Richard Schneider, Jr., "In Time for the Holidays: 'Cruising,'" Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 23, no. 6 (2016): 4.
30. Reid-Pharr, 12.
31. Danez Smith, [INSERT] BOY (Portland, OR: Yesyes Books, 2014), 61, 62.
32. Smith, Don't Call Us Dead (Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press, 2017), 32.
33.  Smith, Don't Call Us Dead, 32–33.
34. Legacy Russell, "Digital dualism and the glitch feminism manifesto," Cyborgology 10 (2012), http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/12/10/digital-dualism-and-the-glitch-feminism-manifesto/.
35. Smith, Don't Call Us Dead, 32.
36. See David B. Hobbs, "Between the News and a Prayer," The Nation, November 15, 2017, https://www.thenation.com/article/danez-smith-between-the-news-and-a-prayer/.
37. José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: NYU Press, 2009), 1.
38. Smith, Don't Call Us Dead, 48.
39. Ibid, 51–52.
40. Jenny Sundén, "On trans-, glitch, and gender as machinery of failure," First Monday 20, no. 4 (2015), https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5895/4416.
41. Sundén.
42. Zadie Smith, "Generation Why?," New York Times Review of Books, November 25, 2010, https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2010/11/25/generation-why/.
43. Baldwin quoted in Claudia Roth Pierpont, "Another Country," New Yorker, February 9, 2009, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/02/09/another-country.
44. Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019), 106.
45. Danez Smith, "Reimagining Ourselves in an Increasingly Queer World," New York Times, June 16, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/16/us/danez-smith-lgbtq-essex-hemphill.html.