Gay hookup apps are grab bags of disappointment, discouragement and dick pics that require a thorough power-wash once you’ve reached in an expectant hand and rifled around a bit. The founders of Hanky hope to change that by fostering an “invitation-only, tight-knight community,” but Hanky still falls into the same trap of other gay apps.
In order to join Hanky, one must have an invite code, or apply for a membership that is in turn voted on by three current members. For every 10 applicants, eight don't make the final cut. Aiming for exclusivity, the process instead smacks of elitism—though that's not how the founders see it.
"The guys coming in represent a colorful palette of types, ethnicities and personalities," co-founder Jonas Cronfeld told me via email. "The atmosphere on Hanky is not snobbish and elitist, but incredibly diverse and representative, just without all the creeps and scumbags. The limited access makes our users more welcoming, since everyone has been vetted or invited by an existing member."
Cronfeld's perspective, however, may be slightly skewed since he didn't think other gay apps were elitist at all. "Quite the opposite," he insisted.
Well, let's just make something queerly clear: unless you're a "masculine," muscular, cisgender white man under 50 (read: 35), you probably do find gay apps elitist.
When I first read about Hanky, that was my main concern: that this would just be The A-List of apps—you know, that god awful reality show following the alleged cream of the gay crop in New York (and then Dallas) only to die a slow and deserved death on Logo a few years ago.
While Cronfeld and co. realize that they'll probably never reach 5 million users like the Grindrs, Scruffs and what-have-yous of the cyber world, the screening process hasn't dampered interest in Hanky. The app is currently admitting about 3,500 new users a week.
That's not particulaly surprising, because there's no better way to ensure success among a marginalized group than pitting members of said group against one another. That may not be Hanky's motive, but it's certainly a by-product. Implying that one may not be good enough is often incentive enough to try anyway.
And if you don't make it—to paraphrase that paragon of relationship virtues, Woody Allen—who wants to belong to any club that would have someone like you for a member?
I haven't tried out Hanky for myself because as part of my #SoberJanuary I'm giving the apps a rest, but I must admit the prospect of cruising without getting hit on by a 2’5” hunky robot is promising. But that doesn't address the real issue with gay hookup apps.
The so-called gay community has an unspoken hierarchy of attraction, and men, at the end of the day, have trouble going against our natures—which is to throw our dicks at as many targets as will have us. In order to truly change hookup apps, there must be a change in behavior and of patterns. And that's an individual change, not something that can be done on a community-wide level. No matter how curated that community is.
Les Fabian Brathwaite—gold lamé hanky, left pocket.