Topics such as intimacy, relationships and being online were discussed during "Love in the Age of Grindr," a forum that took place May 19 at the Rehab lounge in the Lakeview nightclub Circuit. The event took its name from the Grindr app, whose site markets it as "the largest all male location-based mobile social networking tool for the iPhone or iPod touch."
The panelists were three people whose dating/relationship status all differed: Ed Negron, who has been in an open relationship for almost a decade; Keith Ecker, who has been in a monogamous relationship; and Kylon Hooks, who is single. Psychotherapist/writer John D. Moore moderated the forum, asking the panelists questions submitted by the audience and occasionally following up with his own inquiries.
Among the audience's inquiries revolved around relationships and intimacy: Can you have one without the other? Hooks responded that "you can have relationships with or without intimacy" while Ecker added that there can be intimacy even in a hook-up: "Even the sex act can have aspects of intimacy."
Negron was asked about his relationship. He replied that "it was not easy at first." He added that it is "important to say, 'Yes, I've been with someone else' but details aren't necessary." Negron also stressed the need to have "rules up front." Ecker said that he had been in an open relationship before his current one, but they "did not have the level of trust needed" to maintain openness.
Several questions dealt with the finding Mr. Right ( or Mr. Right Now ) online. Regarding standard guidelines, Ecker said, "With hook-up websites, the medium is part of the message. If you're looking for relationships, you're not going to the right site." Hooks added, "It's about the type of connection you're looking to make. Love can happen on Grindr if you're open to that experience." The answers led Moore to comment that his next book would be called "Love is Not a Mental Health Disorder."
Another question was, "What if the person doesn't look like his photo?" Ecker made the audience laugh by saying it "depends on what way they don't look like their pic" although he quickly became more serious and added that he would probably ask the guy to leave, saying, "They don't deserve your respect." Negron said that it "depends on how horny I am and how much the person lied."
Deception also played a part in the question, "What if someone lies about his status?" Hooks said, "It's my responsibility to take care of myself." Negron underscored Hooks' point, saying, "Always play safe" before adding, "You can't expect [ someone ] to be 100 percent honest the first time you meet him."
Project CRYSP, which addresses gay men's health holistically, sponsored the forum. A Chicago Department of Public Health-supported collaboration, CRYSP's partners include the Center on Halsted, Howard Brown Health Center, Test Positive Aware Network and AIDS Foundation of Chicago. See www.lifelube.org for more information.