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Why Gay Men Need A More Effective Space To Connect

12/12/2016 11:36

It's such a saturated market. Grindr, Gaydar, Hornet, Recon... the list goes on and on. And it doesn't take a lot to work out what they're all aimed at achieving: impersonal one-night stands (the polite way of saying sex). Just the names are enough to suggest that and when signing up, members are actively encouraged to divulge intimate and private details. However, what if you're a gay man looking to meet a few new friends or heaven forbid a potential boyfriend?

Hook up apps are all fine and well. They serve a (I want to say 'valuable' but I can't bring myself to) gap in the market and it would be impertinent and rude of me to suggest otherwise. However, if you are looking for something more it's a real challenge and I've been there, from the apps, the dating sites and the networks that promote promiscuity. It left me feeling shallow and craving something more substantial; a friendlier and less superficial alternative.

It isn't all superficial though - don't get me wrong. There are some great aspects to the gay scene as we know it. In the UK gay rights have never been better and we must thank the gay scene for being a visible force in the fight for equality, along with the advocates, politicians and public figures who've helped fight for that. We live in an age where we're free to marry who we love with far less discrimination this year than even a decade ago and it is improving constantly. So, why are we turning to hook-up apps more than ever? Since when did it become the 'norm' to sleep with someone we'd only met moments ago online or at a gay bar? I know it happens across the board - it's not only gay men. The trouble is that it's a lot more accessible for gay men and a lot more of a challenge for them to find somewhere more serious to find romance or friendship. The gay scene has declined hugely as a result of the internet. Gay bars focused on sociability, connectivity and friendship have been closed down. The gay bars that are left operating seem to focus on young 'hot' bodies and portray a rather shallow, sometimes seedy, image.

Online dating seems to have divided hugely. Straight singletons have a considerable number of more serious and respected online dating sites (some of whom do even cater to gay men but really don't invest in what they're doing there for us). When did you last see an advert on the tube or a bus for serious gay dating with two men holding hands? Chances are you probably haven't. And yet studies suggest that the pink pound's purchasing power is worth £6 billion annually. That's a substantial market and with conservative estimates that around 700,000 people in the UK alone identifying as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) it seems to have been missed out. For gay men it seems to be primarily about hook-ups and not much else. And if you're partnered or happily single and just want to meet up with like-minded friends, then sadly your options are limited.

I probably sound like a real 'spoil-sport' right now but the gay scene needs something more engaging. I've just setup The Omyx Club in an aim to attract gay men to a more engaging space, both online and at our events. One month in we're already looking at places where we advertise and having a bit of trouble in doing that. The only visibly gay publications, venues and spaces where our theoretical target markets are, for the most part, go against our brand and we're rather frightened to advertise with most of them. The magazines seem to be covered in topless photos, promote toys, gay saunas and miss out on the more engaging side of the gay world. There are exceptions of course, but they are few and far between.

The lack of a more upmarket, engaging, friendly or professional angle to the gay scene is pretty worrying. Is this what we've become? I dread to think what my straight colleagues would think if they really knew how shallow the gay scene was. I've had conversations with female colleagues of mine at work and old friends from my school days. When I've previously told them what apps like Grindr offer (and even shown them on a couple of occasions) they've been visibly shocked. So, in a perhaps long and roundabout way - there is most definitely a need for a more effective space for gay men to connect. A space not focused on sex but focused on friendships, relationships, business networking and normal day-to-day life.

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