Real life: “Online dating helped me connect with a community of men”
I first created a profile on Gaydar in the early 2000s, not long after it started – it was only available on desktop at that time. I didn’t have a proper laptop back then, but I was using an internet box for access through my TV, it was a cheaper way to access the internet at that time.
Throughout the 2000s and beyond, I had this profile – regularly updating pictures and adding new content to make me more dateable – whatever that meant. For me, it was always a work in progress.
There were a few dates and booty-calls, but friendships were also made. Sometimes, sex wasn’t even involved! I wonder if this has been lost since the birth of the app-based dating sites?
You see, back in the day – only a bit over a decade ago, but now seems like a lifetime – your Gaydar profile had content. It was like a mini Facebook profile. I probably used to have more information on my Gaydar profile than I do on my current Facebook profile – I don’t want a work colleague knowing the type of guy that I’m attracted to, or what I do under the duvet.
A Gaydar profile could really open a person up. Most people had a picture on their profile, so – in a gay fish-pond like the Glasgow scene was in the 2000s – you were regularly bumping into people whose profile you’d seen on Gaydar. Gaydar was pretty much it at the time.
The coffee date was a thing. I met one of my best friends on a coffee date we’d arranged through Gaydar. We got on fine, but it was quite clear from the start that we would be better as friends than as a hookup – sex was pursued elsewhere.
Gaydar used to make a noise when a new message was received. There was one guy – I liked his profile so I’d sent him a message. I spent a week waiting for that noise to indicate that he’d replied. Eventually, we happened to bump into each other out and about. We started meeting up and developed a friendship over a number of years, regularly seeing each other and socialising. Sex was never involved but, if it hadn’t been for Gaydar, I might never have noticed him or spoke to someone who was as interesting as he was.
The chat-rooms were a big thing. Each region had their own chat-room. Entering the chatroom for Glasgow really felt like entering a gay bar at nineteen or twenty in the mid 1990s. You were suddenly the new person and were clocked. A lot in there already knew each other and comments were made, or you were immediately hit upon by private chat requests.
The chat-room was a social space – an appendage to the pubs or saunas in the city. For many, it was a point of contact with a scene and a community that – for reasons personal to themselves or location – they couldn’t physically access.
Sometimes, drama from the chat-room would spill over into the real world. I’d sometimes overhear a conversation in a toilet queue or words snatched near the bar. There would be talk about something that had been said in the chatroom, or a recognised face that had ignored someone’s online advance.
Nowadays, dating apps have become more succinct with the initial information provided. It really is about being direct. People don’t have time to make a listicle of what they like and don’t like. Guys don’t need to upload lots of extra pics – you can just link to an Instagram account.
For a certain demographic of guys, Gaydar was a milestone in being able to instantly connect through the internet with other guys, with a culture, with a community. It has had to adapt, but who in this world hasn’t?