From signalling with colourful handkerchiefs to heart emojis on Instagram, the queer dating landscape has evolved in India

Technology is revolutionising romance and dating apps are helping gay men find love, sex and long-term relationships

June 17, 2022 06:02 pm | Updated December 09, 2022 05:33 pm IST

Finding love is simple in 2022. You leave a string of strategic hearts on another man’s Instagram profile, and you’ve officially made your first move.

Finding love is simple in 2022. You leave a string of strategic hearts on another man’s Instagram profile, and you’ve officially made your first move. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/ For representation only

Aryan, 24, and Kiaan, 20, met each other on Instagram. Somewhere between their matching flower-crown filters and millennial names, they found and added each other, and hopelessly fell in love.

Aryan calls it fate; Kiaan calls it public privacy settings.

Finding love is that simple in 2022. You leave a string of strategic hearts on another man’s Instagram profile, and you’ve ‘officially’ made your first move. There’s no denying the fact that Aryan and Kiaan have had it easy.

ALSO READ: Is online intimacy bringing us closer or driving us apart?

Much before Instagram became a phenomenon and a platform for guys to leave hearts behind on other men’s profiles and complain about why they won’t flirt with each other, the queer dating landscape was a very different place: this journey from the streets to sheets has been a long one. So, how did men find each other before Instagram let us slide into each other’s DMs?

It all started thousands of years ago. Throughout our ancient texts, there have been various descriptions of saints, gods and demi-gods breaking gender norms and myths about love being heteronormative. Gay, bisexual or transgendered — it’s evident that queer-identifying men have always existed. And they’ve been finding each other ever since.

Streetlights to classifieds

Over the decades, we’ve gone past searching for each other under streetlights, signalling with colourful handkerchiefs at traffic signals, and bumping into one another at seedy, dingy bars. Then the 90s happened and India saw its first LGBTQIA+ platform in the guise of Bombay Dost, a queer magazine that completely transformed how gay men met each other. The periodical welcomed men to write letters to others like them, making personals popular much before But as we excitedly filled in our classifieds (and preferences), trends changed once again.

ALSO READ: Food plays a central role in LGBTQIA+ culture and it deserves its place at the table

Online portals such as Yahoo Messenger provided a substitute for the magazines from the 90s, moving us from personals to chat rooms. We hid behind usernames and silhouettes, typing out our ASLs (age, sex, location) in anonymous chat rooms, slowly stepping into a world that’s very reminiscent of the one we know today. In many ways, this was the precursor to modern-day dating. So how did we get to where we are today?

We’ve moved on from clandestine trysts in washrooms to the ones on our phones in ways that were previously unimaginable, because the dating apps of today are a reflection of what mankind has been doing for ages — creating new forms of communication and then fine-tuning them into channels for finding sex, love and long-term relationships.

Get Out: The Gay Man’s Guide to Coming Out and Going Out (HarperCollins) by Aniruddha Mahale 

Get Out: The Gay Man’s Guide to Coming Out and Going Out (HarperCollins) by Aniruddha Mahale 

Finding normalcy

Over the past few years, we’ve sent ‘footprints’ to torsos on Romeo, favourited guys on Grindr, ‘woofed’ at hopefuls on Scruff and super-liked our way through a dozen profiles on Tinder. Technology is revolutionising romance, and we’ve even got the numbers to prove it. With more than 10 million users worldwide, Grindr recorded a surge from 11,000 to 69,000 active new users per month, simply within a span of four years, and that was back in 2015. Contrary to what we will tell you, gay men are obsessed with the idea of finding a sense of normalcy. Which means that we are obsessed with the idea of finding companionship.

And so, we are obsessed with dating apps. We can’t have enough of them. As a self-aware, self-loving gay man, let me tell you something. We don’t have safe spaces when it comes to finding love. Actually, we don’t have safe spaces at all.

ALSO READ: Chennai’s LGBTQIA community finds a safe space at The Queering Mic

See, if our next big love isn’t hidden behind a mesh of profiles on the dating app of our choice, there’s a very big chance he’s not waiting for us at the bar with free drinks (and if he is, there’s a chance he might give us chlamydia). He’s not waiting at the bookstore. And contrary to most romcoms, he’s not waiting for us at the airport.

Conventional ways of finding love are non-existent when it comes to the quintessential gay man of today, so we look for every opportunity, and app, that comes our way. Therefore, even though online dating has been in the headlines for ‘hijacking modern love’ and trivialising the concept of everyday romance, we are at the dawn of a new age. Every year, new dating apps, services and websites show face, making it easier for single gay men to find each other and fall in love. Your phone, unlike your laptop, is the most private thing you own, and something you don’t easily share with anybody.

The previous generation called it ‘cruising’; we call it ‘communication’. Earlier, we would scout the roads and send winks, only now we do it from our smartphones. Technology makes trysting easier, because you no longer need to explain to a policeman why two grown men are parked in a side alley at midnight.

A very public reading down of Section 377 and one global pandemic later, we won’t let anything stop us. No, we are nowhere near the finish line. In fact, as you read this, (gay) men will have devised new(er) ways to meet and mate with each other. There’ll be new apps. There’ll be new websites. There’ll be secret mixers and speakeasy parties. There’ll be a marathon. You just need to know if you’re ready to start the race.

The writer and LGBTQIA+ activist’s book ‘Get Out: The Gay Man’s Guide to Coming Out and Going Out’ (HarperCollins) releases next week.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.