News article

Date: 17. March 2016

Gay Dating in China:
Pretty Much Just Grindr

Earlier in 2016, the Kunlun Tech Company in Beijing hit the headlines when they bought a majority stake in the gay dating app Grindr. In spite of this, many of the international LGBT were confused due to the fact that China banned TV programs which featured lesbian and gay couples in accordance with guidelines that prohibited the portrayal of "abnormal" sexual behavior and relationships.

However in this particular case, Kunlun was "excited" to be able to invest $93 million in such an app whereby the users constantly seek out other people in order to indulge in this so-called "abnormal". "We have been very impressed by Grindr’s progress to date and are extremely excited about the future of the company," Kunlun chairman Yahui Zhou announced to the New York Times. "We will continue to seek out and invest in high-quality technology companies led by top-tier management across the globe."

This is no fluke, of course. The most popular same sex dating app in the world is actually Blued and not Grindr: a program founded by Chinese CEO Gene Le. With 15 million users at the very least, it certainly shows just how big the population or China is, as well as the whole activity of cruising for sex with a smartphone.

"People [in China] are more in the closet and less open about [homosexuality], but the beautiful thing about the smartphone is that it’s a private device,” Blued investor David Chao revealed to The Wall Street Journal. "Having a very private phone and being able to communicate with the gay community is a dream come true."

Gay sex was decriminalized in China in 1997, however there is little protection under the law for same-sex couples: marriage between them is illegal and there is very little support with only 39% believing that it ought to be permitted.

It is therefore encouraging to see something like Grindr being taken into account. Popo Fan, whose documentary Mama Rainbow was censored in China, said businesses tend to move much quicker than the government does when it comes to acceptance. This is simply due to the size of the gay market in China. Thanks to technology, businesses could count the market size. Once the profits were seen, it is clear that they couldn’t be ignored.

"Pink dollars has been a very big topic in China, because of the green of the economics," Fan told The Advocate. "Companies like Kunlun? They want the gay money."

A lot more business leaders in China are starting to realize that LGBT compatriots are equals and are starting to believe that censorship laws ought to reflect it. This move is helping to empower the whole thing from the beginning.

Popo Fan acted as director during the Beijing Queer Film Festival. Even during 2013, various tactics had to be used: screenings taking place in foreign embassies, basements and buses in order to stop the police from raiding. He certainly has noticed how culture is changing -same-sex couple walking hand in hand- but Fan wants the government to keep up the pace when it comes to legislation.

"Companies like Grindr should take some responsibility," Fan said. "They should try to work with [nongovernmental organizations], because if gay people here don't have equal rights," it will be bad for everyone’s business.

When asked how Grindr planned to address LGBT issues in China, a company representative issued the following statement on "the importance of user safety" in the Asian nation:

While China's human rights record has evolved for the better in regards to LGBTQ issues in the past few years, we will always monitor regions for user safety. We take our users' privacy and safety extremely seriously. Beyond our continuous outreach and informational campaigns around health, wellness, and political action through Grindr For Equality, we regularly partner with local charities and organizations around the world to amplify their own efforts and protect our members. Grindr is also a closed system, and we take steps as specific as removing geo-location data in countries where safety is a real time issue, and securing user information with the most stringent current means. We continually implement new standards to protect our users, and our new partnership will only help, not hinder, this core goal. It will also open our reach to China’s LGBTQ activist groups and let Grindr For Equality to partner much more closely with them.