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We Talked to Gay Men on Grindr Who Are Visiting New York to See the Pope

Pope Francis has been hailed for his progressive stance on LGBT acceptance, but we wanted to find out if he passed the ultimate test: Grindr.
Photo via Wikipedia

"Are you looking? Are you masc? Are you in town to see the Pope?" I opened Grindr on my iPhone, changed my profile description to "here for pope," added a bunch of prayer hand emojis, and moved forward with my crusade.

Grindr is a lot like studying for the SATs. At first it's pretty difficult to navigate, but after some practice you begin to get it, your situation doesn't seem as bleak as it once was, and you realize you're just operating within another elitist institution. As soon as you crack it, all you can do is your very best. But do things change on the infamous hookup app when the leader of the Catholic Church is in town?


Sort of.

There are about 1.25 billion Catholics in the world. As of 2014, there are around five million active monthly Grindr users. Given these facts, I undoubtedly found myself looking for an overlap in the populations while the Pontifex Maximus graced New York with his presence. Pope Francis is a beloved cult figure, and his first visit to the States has prompted an array of news items, critical essays, and Internet memes (including a grayscale photo of the Pope captioned "Francis Ha"). But within the queer community—at least the community that visits hookup apps—reactions to the Pope's arrival are rightfully divisive.

I'm here to see Beyoncé.

Not only is Pope Francis the first Jesuit, non-European pope, but he is also the first of 265 other leaders of his kind to challenge the Catholic Church's forever-held views on homosexuality. By no means is he the figure the Advocate painted him out to be when they named him Person of the Year in 2013, but his rhetoric has been less inflammatory and slightly more tolerant than that of his predecessors. This is relative, of course—we're operating on a scale with radical bigotry on one end and mild-to-light bigotry on the other.

Like all other popes before him, Pope Francis is still against same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption. It's also not entirely clear if he even supports gay civil unions. Though when asked about homosexuals at the beginning of his papacy, he caused a stir with a response that contradicted Vatican tradition and potentially marked a semblance of progress. "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord's good will," he said, "who am I to judge?" Not exactly an endorsement, but it was still enough to rouse the queers of New York.


Since arriving to New York, Pope Francis has visited the 9/11 memorial, spoken at the UN General Assembly, sang with kids at a school in Harlem, celebrated Mass at MSG, and roamed around in his cute little Fiat car. Was his presence felt on Grindr as well?

When I wandered through Midtown on Friday morning, opened up the app, and tried to find users interested in the teachings of the Holy Father, the response I received was typical. I was ignored, blocked, and harassed with ill-lit dick pics.

I found one profile that actually used a photo of the pope, but that user failed to respond to my "Hi Pope Francis" message. Moving on, I decided to interrogate tourists, hoping to find a secret network of individuals who were meeting up, or at least chatting, as a result of the Pope's visit.

This line of inquiry led to disappointment too. "Are you here to see the pope?" I asked an anonymous user. "Of course not, lol," he typed back. "I'm here to see Beyoncé."

I met a user who went by "When in Rome" who seemed promising, but the last time he had seen a Pope was in 1997.

Beginning to lose hope, I met up with Danny Domínguez, an NYU student who is both openly gay and Catholic. Domínguez proudly attended the pope's Central Park procession Friday afternoon.

"I am extremely grateful for the progress the Church is making when considering the modern perspective of Pope Francis. Having a pope that neither condemns my sexuality nor strives to change it means that I can go to mass without having to care if anyone can tell I'm not straight," Domínguez said.

"While there is still so much to be done in terms of sexuality and gender equality in Catholicism, I look to the future of the Church with anticipation and endless hope for my rights and voice as a gay male of the Catholic faith."

Domínguez, however, is not a Grindr user. So I went back to the app to make one last attempt at making a connection with the elusive man who is both a fan of quick and dirty hookups and the Pope. It was then that I found an anonymous user who was on a quest from Dallas, Texas to see the Papal in New York:

As it turns out, there's no secret network of gays who get off on the combination of Catholicism and iPhone apps. Grindr is known for being an efficient app that offers men the opportunity to meet with other men. It's also been a platform that's quick to follow the trendy. When Game of Thrones airs many users are quick to change their names to their favorite characters from the hit HBO series. The same logic, it seems, follows for the pope's visit. Men on the app mentioned him in some way or another in their profiles, but the men I encountered weren't exactly screaming, "Fuck me daddy" for the head of the Roman Catholic Church.