A personal essay by Fan Popo, translated by Allen Young
Not long ago, a heartwarming story appeared on the blog Humans of New York: anxiously awaiting his Covid-19 test results, a young man opened Grindr and shared his fears with a retired doctor he’d met. The two had no intimate contact, yet the older gentleman offered more than a shoulder to cry on: he brought over quarantine supplies and left them at the young man’s door.
The post got hundreds of thousands of likes on Facebook, maybe because people are especially in need of this kind of positive energy right now. Turns out that Grindr – a hookup app – can be used in diverse and innocent ways. You have to wonder, though: did those two really open the app just out of a desire to chat? Life under lockdown has heightened our sexual anxieties. In a world of social distancing, has the carefree hookup become just another fantasy?
The mood of panic inevitably calls to mind the AIDS fears of the 1980s, when gay men in the US and Europe began to regard each other with suspicion. The crisis left such a deep stigma that virtually the entire community has some connection to it, from the daddies who lived through it to the twinks and cubs who are just coming onto the scene.