So your gay ass is looking for love. Or sex . Love or sex. Maybe both. Probably not neither, if you’re here, because you’ve come to an article about the best gay dating apps .
Gay dating apps are a scourge. They’re also a necessity. Guess what: that’s all technology. Homosexuality does not make you worse, or better, than the conveniences of modern society. The thing is, they do differ from the standard offerings, even when you are on the standard offerings: the clandestine nature of gay love and a decade of Grindr mean even in the most mundane of places we find a way to switch it up. It’s a wilderness out there and it can be terrifying if not demeaning.
We’re also dealing with a time where a community, built on nightlife and safe spaces, is having to stick around at home: it might be that gay dating apps are now your predominant way of engaging with the community. The stakes are higher, the needs different. It’s never been a weirder time to be trying to figure out gay dating apps, especially now Grindr is becoming a place for conversations with men you may not get to touch for months.
Take it from a sodomite who knows: I’ve dated my way across multiple continents, I’ve topped, I’ve bottomed, I’ve got into inadvisable threesomes , I’ve navigated saying no to the HnH crowd, I’ve lost ones that should have been LTRs and I’ve had LTRs with people I should avoid. I have met some of the most amazing men in my life on apps, and also some of the worst. That being said, some of the biggest dirtbags I’ve ever let into my bed were people I met in cafés and bars (and also some of the best men in the world). Nowhere is safe, nowhere is perfect, nowhere is all bad. No one is going to just show up on your doorstep: if you want monogamy, or polyamory , you’re going to have to work for it.
No one is going to just show up on your doorstep: if you want monogamy, or polyamory, you’re going to have to work for it
But depending on what you’re looking for, and where you are in the whole rigmarole, will change your experience. So here is a guide to the best dating apps out there for love, lust and everything in between.
1. Grindr Known for: being the biggest and most utilitarian
We all knew we would start here. Miss thing is the standard, the OG, the black monolith that appeared before the chimps in 2001: A Space Odyssey and changed the face of man. Except in this case, all the primates are yelling “Got a dick pic!? Got a dick pic!?”
Grindr sets up the basic template of how all gay dating is or isn’t: everything is reactive to Grindr whether it wants to be or not, so if you like or dislike this app is going to formulate where you go from here. Grindr, fundamentally, is based around location: men appear in order of descending proximity and everything else goes from there. You can filter by various categories, but fundamentally, the nearer they are the more you will see them. Get used to seeing the same 30 faces and get used to running into them at Waitrose every Saturday, even after they turned you down.
The most blessed and cursed thing about Grindr is – because it’s so ubiquitous – that it really is a broad church. Here you will find the fetishists just trying to indulge their kink (totally fine!) the couples looking for a third (also fine!), the people trying to organise chemsex parties (slightly less fine!), the escorts trying to find clientele (should be more fine!), the straight boys without a pic on the hunt or dick (a very thorny thicket!) and maybe, just maybe, a G B or T person looking for a hook-up or a date.
Grindr has improved a lot over the years: you now have the ability to post multiple pictures, alert someone if you’re into them without having to say a word, and actually get bloody notifications without paying.
There are also some interesting additions of recent, including the fact profiles now allow you to mention your preferences about being sent, or receiving, NSFW. You can engage in all the usual conversational beats – “Hey, wuu2?”, “Got pix?”, “Top or btm?”, “Host or travel?”, “Into smells?” – or you can try to play it a bit different. No shade, all T: Grindr is the most economical and ergonomic of dating platforms and if that’s not your scene – if you’re looking for the nebulous, wibbly-wobbly badinage of human interaction – that’s not what this menu was ever designed for. That being said, you may find some people looking for conversation! That’s not impossible! But don’t judge people if that’s not why they’re here: Grindr has a very utilitarian role to play and it does it well. Nobody came into the digital world looking for the sexual prude police. Judge nobody and dox no one.
2. Scruff Known for: beards, fuzz and being a bit of a more talkative Grindr
On the surface, Scruff is Grindr-for-people-with-beards. It tends to attract older, scruffier men and, due to some of its design features and its cub/bear/otter demographic, has more of a reputation for eloquence. It also has the “woof” feature, now taken by Grindr and its competition, which acts as a speedy way of saying, “Whether we talk or not, make no mistake: I wanna tap that.”
Scruff also allows for private picture albums, though videos are only allowed for premium customers and sometimes albums, for no good reason, will be locked in part to others even when the user grants permission to a prospective beau. Am I speaking from personal experience? Absolutely.
The general expectation is that a private folder being shared can be one of two things: proof of identity from someone scared to be out or nudes . If you’re proudly out and your private album is not nudes people will be angry. I can confirm that because I was out and didn’t post nudes, everyone hated it. Frankly, I think I’d have hated it too. Still got laid though. So you know... it’s a choice.
3. Chappy Known for: allowing you to filter out men based on your intentions
When I used Chappy back in the day, its main sell was the sliding scale at its top: slide in one direction and you could filter for men looking for “mr right”. Sliding the toggle in the other direction got you “mr right now”. As it was new, and late to the party, it meant that people flocking to the app were ones tired of the current market and looking for something new. I had a pretty high ratio of good dates, anecdotally. The scale has changed what it allows you to filter between and they’re still trying to settle on what exactly the two poles will be, but it can be useful for those who want – without blocking account after account – a way of find people who are looking for exactly the same outcome.
It’s from the people behind Bumble (and other apps) and was born out of a desire to provide an alternative to the Grindr-centric marketplace. It’s got, probably, a smaller pool, but a pool that has had enough of the rest of the options out there and is looking for something different. If that’s been your experience so far, you’ll probably find someone like-minded there.
Worth noting: as part of the Badoo and Bumble family, Chappy also has video dating services available for users if you want to meet the people you speak to but are still not comfortable meeting in person.
4. Feeld Known for: threesomes
So you’re looking for something unusual. Maybe you want to be a third for another couple or you’re a couple looking for a third. Maybe you’re looking for polyamory or a specific kink. If you happen to be part of a relationship or group looking for additional parties, than Feeld really has cornered that market: it’s not got the friendliest UI and it can be a mixed bag between people who are really into this for the long haul and those who are dipping a toe in. Messaging on the app behooves moving it to the real world, or WhatsApp, pretty quickly, but it’s probably your best option if you want to expand your relationship, even just for the night.
5. Surge Known for: not being known
Surge is… I mean, it’s… what is Surge? It’s… Well, it’s the exact same interface as Tinder, but for gay men. But here’s the thing: have you ever heard of Surge? Who is using Surge? What are people getting from this app? If you really enjoy the ability to swipe left and right because the gamification of human sexuality is a real thrill for you, Surge gives you all you want and more. Otherwise, there’s nothing to suggest this app is a home to any particular approach to dating, or demographic, that you wouldn’t find on more mainstream apps.
6. Growlr Known for: being a real teddybear’s picnic
A dating app specifically for bears, cubs and all men who fancy those aforementioned dad bods . Whether you enjoy the categorisation of gay men’s bodies or not, these apps exist and people use them. If you yourself feel a little bit more body-conscious and want to be in a space where being both sexual and thicc is praised rather than risky, Growlr might be an excellent starting point even if you move on elsewhere.
7. Mr X Known for: helping quench your thirst for daddies
Formerly known as “Mister”, Mr X is designed for gay men over the age of 30. It’s not particularly competent, or especially jazzy, and when you get to smaller apps with less known niches it’s often just a smaller pool of the same people you saw on Grindr and Scruff. But Mr X does exist. Since coming back under its new, slightly sci-fi name, Mr X also works in the background to try and find you potential partners who match the type of men you’re already trying to date (a lot of apps keep track of the categories most of the men you’re trying to chirpse belong to: Scruff’s data I often found dangerously illuminating). In that way it’s not dissimilar to Hinge and is also available on desktop as well.
The founder of Mr X, Carl Sandler, also founded Daddyhunt – an app designed for meeting “daddies” – and Knki, an app for people in the fetish community. If either of those happen to be your particular taste, they also might be worth trying.
8. Adam4Adam Known for: being a bit of everything
Adam4Adam – a long-standing American dating website, predominantly used in the US and yet also sponsoring posts among the European thots I just happen to follow on Instagram – has now moved into the app game as well. Adam4Adam has somewhat garnered a reputation as a place where untoward types would find closeted gay servicemen and public figures and out them. This isn’t the site’s fault, but institutional homophobia’s, but it’s worth mentioning. The site is free and also offers live cams, pornography and a sex shop.
9. Romeo Known for: being the gay equivalent of the European Union
Otherwise known as PlanetRomeo and GayRomeo, this site and app are both huge in German speaking countries. If you’re in Berlin or Munich , or even Zurich or Vienna, you may have more success using Romeo than other apps. That being said, usage in the UK is low – about 2 per cent of its total user base in 2016 – so it might not be your best domestic bet.
10. Hornet Known for: keeping gay men in dangerous countries safe
Never heard of Hornet? The likelihood is that you live in a country where homophobia isn’t a criminal offence. Although Hornet exists all over the world, it becomes a saving grace in countries where Grindr is banned or dangerous due to fake profiles being out to catch you and incriminate you ( Saudi Arabia , Chechnya, etc, etc). For example, Hornet is the biggest gay dating app in Turkey, where you’re “safe” in Istanbul and Ankara but in danger everywhere else. The thing is that it’s also an app where people are being incredibly discreet due to the same dangers. It’s also not safe to use Hornet in some countries, like Indonesia, where it was banned in 2016, or the UAE.
11. Squirt Known for: being very cruising-centric
Squirt has long been proud of being an uncensored online hub for cruising. It then made the move into a slightly-more-censored dating app, Squirt Mobile. It’s perhaps the most explicit and the most body-focused. If that’s your vibe, this might be the one for you.
12. Jack’d Known for: being a space for Black men and men of colour
The fairly young app is focused on men of colour and caters to NSA rather than LTRs. If that’s the kind of sanctuary you need, get on it.
Women like Bumble because it puts them in control – while guys can still express an interest, women have to start the conversation. This works well in theory, and is a help if you’re prone to dodgy opening gambits, but many women are so unused to instigating chats on dating apps – and probably dread the witless replies TBH – that some of them forget to message men and instead wait for them to make the first move. Bumble does have a pretty decent rep when it comes to people actually searching for something meaningful, however. 13. The straight ones Known for: being focused more on dating than hook-ups
The apps designed for heterosexuals have slowly but surely also become homes for sodomy, though with something like Bumble the purpose is different: as the fundamental sell is that women can initiate conversation. As we have actively exorcised them from said conversation, it’s basically just Tinder until Bumble decides that only bottoms can say hello.
However, while it might seem that trying to force our square peg into a round hole is the wrong way to go, they are worth the time. It’s less geographical, so the pool is wider and often gay, bisexual and trans users have come here because they want to date more than they want to hook-up, if that’s what you’re after.
In my experience, the apps have more selective and more exasperated user pools as you go from biggest to smallest: Tinder is basically the same as trying to get dick on a bus, Bumble is full of the people who are sick of Tinder’s shit, Hinge is for those who found Bumble too exasperating. I got to the Bumble level and then I found my boyfriend and love of my life, which is a shame in some ways because Hinge seems like a really great app for making strong connections and not a shame in the more important way that I’ve got somebody who I can use as an excuse to get out of social events I don’t want to go to.
Now read Best sex toys for men
The new rules of digital dating
How to tell your partner (and anyone else) that you have an STI