“frm, age, t/b”: An Analysis of the Simultaneous Inclusivity of Sexuality and Linguistic Exclusivity of a Gay Dating App in Sri Lanka

Sahan Wanniarachchi, Department of English Language Teaching, University of Peradeniya;

Sachin A. Wanniarachchi, English Language Teaching Unit, Bhiksu University of Sri Lanka,

9:50 am – 10:20 am (Room 232)

 

Abstract

Homosexuality, and by extension, “non- normative” sexualities, have yet to be sanctioned or normalized in/ by the Sri Lankan society. Often regarded as a modern “Western concept”, non-normativity continues to be highlighted within the space of majoritarian politics in matters related to non-heterosexuality. However, LGBTQIA+ movements in certain private spaces in Sri Lanka (particularly in the capital city) do exist but rather in very exclusive forms. The location based gay dating app Grindr can be read as one such space which simultaneously liberates an individual’s criminalized sexualities yet excludes based on linguistic capabilities. Text based semi- structured interviews with thirty five individuals from Colombo and Kandy who use Grindr provided data on an individual “knowing” about Grindr, being able to use the app, and knowing and understanding the “proper” language and the lingo which the study used to analyse the exclusivity of the app even though it is famed for its inclusivity. Thirty one participants claimed that the language used on Grindr matters a lot when it comes to picking out a partner despite the nature of the partnership. Among them, twelve had mentioned “English preferred” in their profile description and five had said “English only, please”. Twenty of the participants mentioned that they would not respond to a text with a Sinhala equivalent of “hello”. According to the data collected, a conversation begun with the usual “from/ frm, age and t/b/ (the active/passive role in sex)” was a good indication of the sender’s English knowledge which the participants (barring two) equated with a good educational background; an attribute all sought in any potential partner from the app. Mainly drawing from the scholarly work of Michel Foucault, Arjuna Parakrama, Shemal Wijewardene, and Kaushalya Perera, the study concluded that this particular gay dating app is not as inclusive (in terms of providing with a safe space for individuals to explore and experience their sexualities in a country where non- heterosexuality is illegal) as it seems to be. Its inclusivity is delineated in terms of linguistic capability and social status which not many individuals possess.