The Single Files: Gay girl crushes and Grindr guys
Ireland's gay scene 'crosses age groups, nationalities, social class and professions', with gay and straight people going to clubs such as Crush (above). photograph: babs daly
Ireland's gay scene has changed radically in 10 years and with it the experience of being single. Hook-ups are easier than ever and rigid stereotypes have broken down
Being gay in Ireland has changed utterly within a generation. The decriminalisation of homosexuality, the growing visibility of gay people in the media, entertainment industry and politics, the advent of civil partnership and the ongoing movement for marriage equality have all contributed to make gay Ireland a more diverse, open, and younger scene.
Being single and gay in a social scene that is traditionally made up of bars and clubs is also changing. In Dublin, with a population too small to sustain an exclusively lesbian bar, for example, the scene is mixed along gender lines, spreading out of gay bars to individual nights catering to niche as well as mainstream tastes.
New events are constantly cropping up, at which gay and straight people mix: there is the upcoming new queer night Orange, and the new lesbian night Crush. There are polysexual club nights such as War, and old-school venues such as the front bar of The George, which has been nicknamed “Jurassic Park”, because of the age of the clientele.
And it’s a diverse scene. Walk into a gay bar in Ireland on any weekend and you’ll find an assorted crowd, one that crosses age groups, racial lines, nationalities, social class and professions. But in many ways, the gay bar’s pull as a setting in which to, well, pull, has evolved. It’s now also a place of entertainment.
For 16 years Declan Buckley aka Shirley Temple Bar, who is in a relationship, has overseen Ireland’s longest-running gay night, bingo on Sundays at The George on George’s Street in Dublin. “Maybe gay people aren’t as interested in being on a scene as they used to be. All of the various things the scene provides gay people – partners, the sense of community, solidarity in a greater environment – are those things disintegrating as gays become more integrated in mainstream society?”
Being gay and single throws up the same diversity of opinions among gay men and women as it does among straight people. There are some marked differences, however, such as how gay men use technology to access encounters.
Online dating is embedded in gay and straight worlds, and gay men were early adopters of technology, using the social network Gaydar.co.uk and populating Grindr, a geolocation online app where men hook up for dates and sex. Nearly every gay person has an opinion on Grindr. Some blame it for the demise of gay bars. Others say it’s a great way to meet people. Some highlight its addictive nature.
“What are your options?” asks Stephen Byrne (26), an illustrator. “You can go out to gay bars . . . talk to lots of different people, but . . . people wait until ridiculous o’clock to make their move and everyone is only interested in one thing . . . Option two: Grindr. It’s like alcohol. If you want, you can use it in moderation.”
Byrne recently gave up both Grindr and alcohol. As for the former, “You can use it in a healthy way, go on once a day, check your messages, say hi to someone. For me, and for the majority of guys I know, it’s an addiction . . . Grindr is stopping guys in bars from making moves because they know it’s there, and they know they don’t have to try.”
John Sullivan (31), a commercials producer, has a more neutral outlook on Grindr. “Grindr is what you make of it. You could be sitting at home on a rainy night and end up striking up a conversation with someone you might have a lot in common with. You could be chatting to them over a couple of weeks and end up going on a date, as I did last week.