For a community that grew as a marginalised subculture, a community that could face the death penalty in many places around the world and a community that, to this day, faces prejudice even in modern “woke” culture - the LGBTQ+ community has its own problems with race, femininity, body shape and disability. From dating apps to sweaty dance floors at 4AM, if you are black, asian, femme, disabled or fat you can be sure to find pervasive attitudes, sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant, that say you are not equal, not worthy and in its simplest form - that you are less. The implications, the lived experience and the intricacies of this subject are encapsulated by Shakona Fire in their performance piece ‘Black Grindr’.
Shakona Fire is a dancer, performer and drag artist who often humorously tackles issues including race, homelessness and body positivity, so it’s no surprise that, to the backdrop of Idina Menzel singing ‘I’m not that girl’ intercut with (and sometimes lip synced too) audio from a 2015 “Gay Guys React To Racist Grindr Profiles” youtube video, Shakona’s ‘Black Grindr’ focuses on what it’s like to be ‘other’ in modern gay dating culture. “I am very proud of myself and my community but there are times when there are issues that I want to highlight” Shakona says about transforming this subject into a performance piece. “You think that you are higher up on the ladder because you are being more masculine or white but you forget that some look at LGBT people all under the same thing - they all don’t like us as a whole.”
In the piece Shakona portrays, somewhat autobiographically, someone who has just come home from a night out or, possibly, a night performing. They are taking off the outfit, removing the stage or public persona and perusing a dating app, no doubt looking for someone to ‘meet’, but as a femme, queer person of colour it appears our protagonist is faced with prejudices reminiscent of 1960’s London. “On the gay apps is basically the same signs ‘No blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ it just says ‘no fats, no femmes, no blacks, no asians” Shakona explains. “You’re encountering...a more modernised form of racism; it’s just on a smaller page and it’s on your phone…” Despite this there is some hope: gay dating app Chappy has introduced the ‘Don’t be a dick’ pledge that every user must take. The pledge, which covers disability too, states in part: ‘I will not disguise my prejudice as preference and I will have no part in discrimination by race, religion, level of ability, gender identity or age’ - so far nearly 400,000 people have taken part. And with articles, videos and people like Shakona tackling the issue too, perhaps attitudes will change within the community or to paraphrase Chappy, people in the LGBTQ+ community will stop being dicks!