Star Observer’s Benedict Brook takes a look at the New South Wales politicians using Grindr to attract votes ahead of tomorrow’s state election.
THE chances of Penny Sharpe picking up on Grindr aren’t looking great.
For a start, there’s no face pic.
This, as regular uses will tell you, is a complete no-no.
And secondly, well, Sharpe’s a woman and Grindr – and many of its competitor apps – is chiefly known as a playground for men seeking the company of other men.
But luckily for Sharpe, most recently NSW’s shadow transport minister, she is not looking for NSA (no strings attached) but rather to become an MLA (member of the Legislative Assembly).
As the hours countdown to Saturday’s NSW State Election, politicians are spruiking their wares wherever they can.
For candidates in inner city LGBTI-centric electorates, that can include pop-up ads on dating apps imploring people to put politics above pick ups.
“It’s not a space I play in regularly,” said a sheepish Sharpe, who is standing as Labor’s candidate in the inner west seat of Newtown.
“But I’m sure that some of my volunteers have profiles.”
Sharpe, who didn’t reveal whether her vollies had steered her though the basics of selecting Grindr tribes, said using the app was a trial for this election.
“For us, it’s a totally new way of talking to people and we know there are lots of people who aren’t as engaged,” she said.
“I’m not on Grindr,” insisted Sydney state independent member MP.
“This is the first time I’ve done it.”
The MP, who is also going to the polls this weekend, said he was first alerted to the possibility of using apps last year by Greens candidate Sam Hibbins who snatched the seat of Prahran from the Liberals in November’s Victorian state election.
Hibbins is thought to have been one of Australia’s first politicians to use hook-up apps as a method to reach voters.
“There were great results in Melbourne in a very comparable seat to mine,” Greenwich said.
“And it’s a platform gay men use in Sydney and with which I’m able to communicate with a big part of my constituency.”
Greenwich said if it proved successful he wouldn’t rule out using other apps such as the bear-focused Scruff or Blendr.
Using Grindr to spread political messages was pioneered a little over a year ago by Dutch politician Jan-Bert Vroege who simply changed the photo on his own profile to that of his political party and invited people to join him at an election debate.
However, it’s no panacea.
Last May, Irish politician Phil Prendergast used Grindr as part of her European Parliament re-election campaign but ultimately lost the seat.
Sharpe’s ads were paid for out of her campaign funds while Greenwich’s Grindr presence is courtesy of campaign group Out For.
Launched just two months ago by Sydney locals Andrew Wolfson and Paul Friend, OutFor has raised $5000 to support the campaigns of candidates they deem as having a proven track record on LGBTI issues.
Sharpe, Greenwich and Coogee state Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith – all of whom are openly-gay – are being promoted by OutFor, including through social media channels.
“In Melbourne, we saw first hand how it does work to at least let people know there is someone in politics who will fight for you,” Wolfson said.
OutFor told the Star Observer that ads for each politician wouldn’t appear on Grindr without the candidate’s approval.
Notley-Smith said he hadn’t specifically turned down a proposal to place campaign ads for him on the app so, as such, he couldn’t be sure he wasn’t popping up on mobiles from Bondi to Bronte.
“You can’t rule out I’m not on Grindr but I can rule out that I have an account,” he joked.
Like Sharpe and Greenwich, Notley-Smith said if he was on the app it was definitely his first time.
But if it proves successful perhaps Grindr may have to add a new tribe following “rugged”, “twink” and “jock”: “pollie”.
Article | Benedict Brook.
This article is being republished on gayexpress.co.nz as part of the exclusive collaboration with Australia’s leading gay magazine and website, Star Observer and express.