Chris Cherrie works at verynice, a design and branding consultancy based out of Hub LA’s Media Lab. He may be young, but he’s driven. And Canadian. He founded Fraternize, an educational site for men to share experiences, knowledge, and questions about sexuality, dating, and sex. He’s broadening access to information about sex and gay culture that’s not taught in mainstream classrooms but is increasingly necessary given the prevalence of dating apps.
You’re a wunderkind working on a ton of different projects that are all quite impactful. Can you describe them? How’d you get the idea for Fraternize?
I am a Canadian designer who graduated from Otis College of Arts And Design about a year ago. Currently I am working at the sex-positive retailer and educator the Pleasure Chest as the designer. While at Otis I wrote my thesis on Grindr and its impact on the young guys who like guys of Los Angeles and the future of the gay community. Post thesis I designed a website and application, Fraternize, that exists as a community for guys who like guys to connect, learn, and explore manhood.
The idea for Fraternize evolved from the research I had done and the problems I had articulated. Primarily used as a tool for fast, convenient and discrete digital cruising, the largest all-male geo-social application, Grindr, facilitates an online existence for men-who-have-sex-with-men, otherwise known as MSM. The convenience of the application’s GPS technology makes finding an anonymous sex partner quick and easy. Grindr is the result of a long history of methods of gay cruising like the Hanky Code and the Tearoom Trade, which existed because men were forced to have sex with men while in the closet. In a more liberal 2014, sex via an app is less about a fear of being “outed” and more about the convenience of sex at your fingertips. Online existence through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is intrinsic to the youth of today who have grown up on the internet. As cruising has never been this accessible, voluntarily disclosing sexual orientation online through Grindr is critical to the social development of any gay youth (homosexual, bisexual, or curious male) living in a metropolitan area. In search of an identity, gay youth log online to find answers that may not be addressed in a classroom. A classroom where homosexual health and sex education do not exist. As a young gay man I am interested in the language of cruising, its evolution, and its effects on contemporary MSM culture, specifically in regards to the development of gay youth. I feel that for the 15 to 25-year-old gays of Los Angeles, who lack knowledge about the ramifications of anonymous sex, lack the preparation for gay life and experience the ease of cruising through Grindr, destabilizes the gay community in contrast to the homosexual society that previously existed during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s.
As a solution to these problems gofraternize.org provides sexy and fun info on gay sex an lifestyle information like an intro to gay life. While at the Hub I developed the Mostly Everything You Need To Know Toolkit For Guys Who Like Guys which includes the Gay Slang Dictionary and a Directory of different types of Guys Who Like Guys.
You just led a workshop at UCLA on digital gay culture and how technology has affected gay hook up culture. What did you find working with the students ? What are some of the anxieties and excitements you saw about technology and relationships?
I find that with pretty much every workshop there is an “aha!” moment like “oh shit this is crazy” as if making apparent the combination of technologies like Grindr, a lack of sex ed, undereducation about gay life style, and unawareness of AIDS finally puts things in perspective for young guys who like guys. No one teaches us this stuff and we have to google answers or log on to grindr to find out what it means to be gay.
Can you share a story or exchange from the site that has surprised you or affirmed the need for this platform?
Every time I show the tutorial video of the future of Fraternize, the theoretical website and app that I designed at Otis, guys are like “When will I be able to create a profile!”
How have you seen Fraternize act as a player and as a response to some of the “digital cruising” technology?
To me, Fraternize should exist in combination with apps like Grindr, Scruff or OK Cupid, like a prerequisite. Fraternize is an educator and a facilitator of friendship. Its about sex, but not for hookups. Fraternize provides the tools and education for a guy to go out and have fun without being unprotected.
Your background is in design. How do you see design and impact related?
In my opinion design flows into every aspect of this project. By taking the research and pouring it into every decision in order to make an impact. Every decision aesthetically, systematically, and theoretically stems from design.
Even though you don’t come into the Hub all the time, what has been your favorite part of being part of the community?
I wish I could be there 24/7! The members and staff are inspiring and its a great environment to share ideas. As a recent grad I’m still learning and its great to be able to learn from those who have more experience.