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What may be a simple hookup app in North America can be a lifeline for LGBT individuals in countries rife with homophobia. Below you’ll find six ways apps such as Grindr, Scruff, and Growler are improving the lives of our brethren in remote areas of the world.

1. Globally: Building Community

First and most importantly, gay apps can help ostracized gay, bi or questioning men connect with the LGBT community. Unlike other minority statuses, such as racial minorities, LGBT people don’t usually have LGBT parents or role models. They can feel cut off. Gay apps offer the opportunity to privately chat and connect with members of their community.

2. Cuba: Connecting from Home

The Cuban LGBT community faced a unique housing issue until 2016. When communism took hold of the country, locals could no longer own property or housing. Consequently, Cubans would live in the same house they were born in their entire lives. This directly prevented a gay ghetto from forming in any major city such as Havana. Although wifi hotspots weren’t available on the island nation until 2015, gay apps have since helped the community find each other even without a designated neighbourhood.

3. Uganda: Protection from Police Raids

Grindr for Equality (a socially responsible arm of the company) has tips on destinations or regions that are experiencing higher police raids or issues with the LGBT community. It can send that information to its members in the area to warn them about taking extra precautions until the heat subsides.

4. Globally: Accessing HIV-Friendly test sights

An international concern for gay men across the globe is HIV, AIDS and sexual health. Using Geotargeting, Grindr offers links to HIV-friendly sites for local gay men to seek advice and get tested for HIV/AIDS. It also suggests where to purchase PrEP and PEP.

5. India: Finding Gay-Friendly Roommates

In India, locals (gay, straight or otherwise) often live in their family home until they are married. However, marriage isn’t a common trajectory for gay men in this region, and it can be challenging to move out. Grindr works with the local charity Gay Housing Assistance Resource to connect LGBT roommates.

6. Globally: Refugee Assistance

LGBTQ individuals can use Grindr’s Geotargeting to navigate underground railroads and escape violence and oppression. In the short term, users can find shelter or safe havens until they acquire legal refugee status in gay-friendly countries.

While we wanted to focus on the positive impacts of gay social apps internationally, we feel it’s necessary to point out one of the potentially negative impacts as well.

7. Globally (Especially Russia): Targeting Gay Men

Gay, bisexual and questioning men have been targeted through apps and harassed, abused and, in extreme cases, abducted in Russia and other regions. Director of Grindr for Equality, Jack Harrison-Quintana, told National Geographic in a May 2017 interview that the company takes proactive action to suggest safety practices in these regions, such as not including your face in your profile picture.

While not one of these apps was created with international LGBT aid in mind, they’ve all had a positive impact on global gay men. We can’t help but be thankful to the developers for turning the tables on what it might mean for someone to “get lucky” online.

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