By Jason Fontelieu

The first thing Grindr Editor-in-Chief Zach Stafford was asked during his lecture at this university April 19 was if he “travels” or “hosts.”

“Do people know what that means?” he asked, laughing. “I would be a host.”

The lecture, moderated by advocacy group Generation Progress press associate Giovanni Rocco, focused on Stafford’s life, from the beginning to present day.

Before working for Grindr, Stafford was a writer for The Guardian and editor of OUT magazine. He currently is also the editor-in-chief of INTO magazine.

Growing up in a majority white town in Tennessee as a mixed-race person, Stafford quickly grew accustomed to being known as the “other.” He noted the struggles he endured; most notably, dealing with the fallout of his half-brother, a white cop, shooting an unarmed black man in 2013 in an essay for The Guardian.

“[The essay] forever changed my career and changed about how people thought about me as a writer,” he said.

Stafford also reflected on his time reporting on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

“[Trump] is as awful in person as you imagine,” he said.

He also addressed Trump’s negative comments about Chicago he’d made in the past.

“Chicago, for him, is this black city where black people are allowed to run around unchecked with guns, even if they bought them legally,” he said. “What you’re trying to see is a community dealing with supreme economic oppression, suppression, lack of housing, lack of education and trying to get by.”

Stafford also delved into the topic of the gay “hookup” app he works for, noting how Grindr is one of the first geosocial apps of its kind, coming out even before Tinder, and how the average user spends about 54 minutes a day on the app.

He also addressed the controversy around Grindr being accused of leaking users’ HIV statuses to other companies, calling the accusations “categorically false.”

“People don’t buy HIV data, it’s illegal for pharmaceutical companies, the biggest industry that would even want to market towards HIV positive people,” he said.

Freshman government and politics major Shania Garcia-Herrera said she found the lecture “empowering.”

“[Stafford] shows the intersectionality that is important to the LGBTQ community and how we should be focused on the struggles of all members,” she said. “It’s comforting to know that we’re not being swept under the carpet.”

Stafford had a few final words for his fellow members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

“Be selfish. Be narcissistic. We grew up in a world where we’re taught not to do that,” he said. “To care about what you want is radical.”

The lecture was livestreamed on the Generation Progress Facebook page and can be found here.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Grindr’s Facebook page.

Jason Fontelieu is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at jcf037@comcast.net.

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