The chaotic reality of being a trans man on Grindr: From d**k pics to existential crises

A phone showing a bright yellow screen and the word Grindr

Using Grindr or Scruff is a chaotic experience for anyone of any background. But throw in being a trans guy, especially a fat Black one, and it gets even spicier, writes Jackson King.

I remember my early, tentative foray into the shadowy but alluring world of gay hookup apps. It was sometime circa 2019.

I was newly out as a trans guy and curious about the tantalising trysts awaiting me on the tiled grid of the Grindr explore page.

Now, some of my experiences were things universal to all trans men who cyber-cruise. Things like explicitly mentioning you’re trans in your bio, only to have this ignored, and later become the reason you’re handed a swift block after an otherwise pleasurable exchange.

That was lesson number one: men don’t read bios!

This reality, that hookup apps run on a kind of feral, reading-phobic horniness, has led to a number of humorous interactions.

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My favourite genre of these is the hopeless request for a d**k pic.

Now don’t get me wrong, I could send a well-lit and beautifully composed still of my T-d**k, or even the strap-on I use for topping, and that would be a perfectly valid response. It also goes without saying that there are trans men who’ve had lower surgery and could also fulfil such a request.

But I know that in my case, the d**k pic enquirer will likely be a little surprised at the image he receives in response. And this is fine, because you can’t reasonably ask to see what’s in someone’s pants and then be offended by what they show you!

That said, I personally prefer to send my lewds to what I know will be a loving and receptive home. When hell freezes over, pigs fly, and the NHS has adequate and timely phalloplasty services, I’ll have a different story.

Another kind of universal trans masc experience on the apps is disclosing that you’re trans and then becoming a stand-in for a therapist while your admirer processes his feelings about this.

You can expect some flip-flopping between “I’m open-minded so I’m up for it” and confessions of yonic terror. It’s quite an experience to cause an existential crisis in a queer man by being attractive to him yet having a p***y.

At the other end of the spectrum are the men searching specifically for a ‘bonus hole boy’, known within the trans community as chasers.

Their opening line tends to be a declaration of how much they love cunnilingus, followed by the reassurance that they’ve been with trans men before (and are therefore competent in how to satisfy you).

I’ll be honest, in the early days I used to be really put off by messages like these. But as I’ve gotten more secure in my gender and more comfortable with the fetishism and directness inherent in all gay cruising, it no longer bothers me.

Queer men fetishise everything and everyone: muscles, d**k size, beards, bellies and so on. Being fetishised for a body part I happen to have isn’t unique to me as a trans guy. For the record, I’m not against sleeping with chasers, but that’s an article for another day.

Being a fat, Black trans guy on Grindr is even more complex

So far what I’ve covered speaks to trans men’s experiences on hookup apps in a general sense. But there are specificities to being a fat and Black trans man that bear discussion too.

Earlier this year I wrote about whether the UK is approaching a “transf*g tipping point”, a moment of heightened awareness that queer trans men exist.

While I do think we’re seeing a move in that direction, there’s one thing that’s missing: in the public understanding of what transmasculinity can look like, there’s not much variety.

The popular image of transmasculinity is white, thin and twinky. I of course, am none of these things, which can mean that even cis gays who are into trans men, do not know what to do with someone like me.

I’ve sensed this both on the apps and in physical cruising spaces, where my Blackness and fatness renders me legible only in terms of the ‘BBC’, dominant top, rough guy fantasy. But pair that with having a p***y and it simply does not compute for a lot of men. White men particularly, but not exclusively, in my experience.

My bodily contradiction of being a big Black man with a p***y can send people into a tailspin, the same people who would comfortably top a waif-like white boy with a vagina.

I say all this not to be all woe is me. Do not worry, dear reader, I’m still getting laid. But I do think it’s important to emphasise that transmasculinity is not monolith, and we should aim to acknowledge a plurality of stories and experiences, experiences determined by desirability politics alongside other factors.

Trans men are as varied as cis men. So don’t be surprised when you message that beautiful Black bear and it turns out he’s trans, or when a hot older daddy steps into the gay sauna, removing his towel to let the front hole fly free.

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