Catholic Official Resigns After Phone Data Tracked Him On Grindr

(image via Mart Production/Pexels)

A high ranking official for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) resigned his position after the conference was approached by a Catholic media outlet purporting to have cellphone data indicating he regularly used Grindr, the gay dating app.

The Pillar, an online newsletter that reports on the Catholic Church, published its claims about Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill and the alleged Grindr use on Tuesday. The post also contends that Burrill “engaged in serial sexual misconduct” as well as frequented “gay bars and private residences.”

Burrill, a priest from the La Crosse, Wisconsin, diocese resigned from his position as general secretary from USCCB on the same day. As general secretary of the USCCB, Burrill was responsible for coordinating administrative work and planning for the conference, which is the country’s network for Catholic bishops.

USCCB spokeswoman Chieko Noguchi told the Washington Post it was Burrill’s decision to resign after being notified of The Pillar’s allegations of “improper behavior.”

The Pillar says an independent firm had authenticated “commercially available records” based on data Grindr collects from its users.

“A mobile device correlated to Burrill emitted app data signals from the location-based hookup app Grindr on a near-daily basis during parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020 — at both his USCCB office and his USCCB-owned residence, as well as during USCCB meetings and events in other cities,” reported The Pillar.

The “commercially available” signal data doesn’t include users’ names but instead correlates a specific numerical identifier assigned to each mobile device. Privacy experts say it’s possible to identify a specific cellphone by checking locations an individual may frequent like their home or workplace.

So, it would appear, someone searched through the “obtained and analyzed data” looking at Burrill’s residence and office space and noted the identifier.

The report went on to conflate homosexuality with pedophilia in an extremely heavy-handed manner even though there doesn’t appear to be any evidence Burrill was in contact with minors through his use of Grindr.

The Washington Post reports experts “have long raised concerns about ‘anonymized’ data collected by apps (like Grindr) and sold to or shared with aggregators and marketing companies.”

A spokesperson for Grindr described the report by The Pillar as “homophobic” and told the Post the data described in the story couldn’t be publicly accessed.

“The alleged activities listed in that unattributed blog post are infeasible from a technical standpoint and incredibly unlikely to occur,” said the representative in a statement. “There is absolutely no evidence supporting the allegations of improper data collection or usage related to the Grindr app as purported.”

News Round-Up: June 25, 2021

Out singer/songwriter KENTÖ

Out singer/songwriter KENTÖ
Out singer/songwriter KENTÖ

Some news items you might have missed:

Nevada Independent: After receiving a cancer diagnosis in March 2020, Shawn Dixon decided she would organize the first-ever Pride parade in her small town of less than 8,000 residents. Her dream of “years and years” will become a reality in Winnemucca, Nevada, on July 16 & 17.

Reuters: Respect LGBT rights or leave the European Union, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told his Hungarian counterpart as the bloc’s leaders confronted Viktor Orban over a law that bans schools from using materials seen as promoting homosexuality.

Instinct Magazine: The valedictorian of a New Jersey high school was almost censored and silenced during his graduation speech by his principal when he began to touch on mental health and his sexuality. But thankfully, the student’s memorization skills saved the day.

New York Times: The Manhattan district attorney’s office has informed Donald Trump’s lawyers that criminal charges against his family business, the Trump Organization, in connection with fringe benefits the company awarded its chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, could be announced as soon as next week.

Justice Dept: Michael Atkinson, 28, Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon, 21, and Daryl Henry, 24, were sentenced to prison terms for their involvement in targeting gay men for violent crimes. The sentences ranged from 11-22 years for luring five men (using the Grindr dating app) to a vacant apartment in Dallas where they held the men at gunpoint, kidnapped, carjacked, and assaulted them.

Out Music: I recently shared the latest from out singer/songwriter Kentö, and today the artist (top photo) drops the official music video for the single, “Silhouette.”

“Silhouette” is the first single off of Kentö’s upcoming album release, Strangers, slated for release later this year. Kentö shares, “I feel like I’m finally making music that is really expressing the sounds that have been in my head all along.”

Dallas Man Pleads Guilty To Violent Hate Crimes Using Grindr To Target Gay Men

Photo of the gay dating app Grindr
Photo of the gay dating app Grindr
(image via Depositphotos)

Daniel Jenkins, 22, of Dallas, Texas, has pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges in connection with his involvement in a scheme targeting gay men for violent crimes using the gay dating app Grindr. Jenkins is the fourth and final defendant charged in the scheme to plead guilty.

From the Justice Department:

Jenkins pleaded guilty to one hate crime count, one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, and carjacking, and one count of use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

According to court documents filed in connection with his guilty plea, Jenkins admitted that he and his co-conspirators used Grindr, a social media dating platform used primarily by gay men, to lure gay men to a vacant apartment and other areas in and around Dallas for robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, and hate crimes over the course of approximately a week in December 2017.

Jenkins admitted that he and his co-conspirators held victims against their will; pointed a handgun at victims and took their personal property, including their vehicles; and traveled to local ATMs to withdraw cash from the victims’ accounts.

Jenkins further admitted that he and his co-conspirators physically injured at least one victim and taunted the victims based upon the co-conspirators’ perception of the men’s sexual orientation.

In March 2019, Michael Atkinson pleaded guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping charges in connection with this case. In December 2019, Daryl Henry and Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime and other charges in connection with this case. Sentencing for these three defendants is set for June 23.

At his sentencing, scheduled for October 6, Jenkins will face up to 26 years in prison.

Atlanta Police Report Series Of Robberies Initiated On Grindr

Officer Eric King, LGBT Liaison for Atlanta Police Department
Photo of the gay dating app Grindr
(image via Depositphotos)

Over the past four months, at least 8 gay men in Atlanta have been reported being robbed by men they met on the dating app Grindr.

During a press conference Wednesday, Sergeant Rodney Jones of the Atlanta Police Department’s robbery unit told reporters, “From February to May, we have had eight instances where male victims were lured to remote locations by use of the Grindr app.”

“After the date concludes, the suspect will rob the victim, often taking their wallets, keys, or even vehicles,” added Jones.

Each of the victims told the police they met their assailants on Grindr. The robbers, using stolen photos for their profile, would strike up a conversation with the intended victims and then move the chat to text messages.

Jones says most of the robberies occurred with the perpetrators wielding a handgun “at the end of the date.”

One victim reported that he had picked up the Grindr ‘date’ and drove to a remote part of Atlanta. Once there, the robber pulled a gun demanding the victim “give me the car and everything you got.”

Police say they’ve traced at least one Grindr profile to some of the robberies, and described the potential suspects as being six feet tall, slim but muscular build, late teens to early 20s, dark-skinned Black men with short dreads.

The authorities believe one alleged robber is responsible for many of the crimes which have taken place in the northwest part of the city, while another man (or possibly two) have committed similar crimes in the southeastern area of Atlanta.

Officer Eric King, LGBT Liaison for Atlanta Police Department
Officer Eric King, LGBT Liaison for Atlanta Police Department

It’s possible even more Grindr-related robberies have occurred as police believe some men may be embarrassed to report the crimes.

Also taking part in the press briefing was Officer Eric King, who serves as the LGBT liaison to the Atlanta Police Department. King offered some tips on how to improve safety when meeting someone new from Grindr.

He advised having a video chat with the potential date before meeting up in person. And if you are driving to meet that person, look up the address to make sure it makes sense as opposed to showing up and finding it to be a remote location.

“Find a partner or a friend that you trust that you can notify when you’re going to meet somebody,” added King. “Meet at a grocery store. Meet at a public place before you reconvene somewhere more intimate.”

This isn’t the first time Grindr has been used to target victims.

In January 2020, I reported on a Michigan man whose Grindr date went horribly wrong after being targeted via the dating app.

And in 2017, four men pleaded guilty to violent home invasions set up on Grindr.

Watch the press conference by the APD below.

Podcast: POSE Announces Series Ending, Killer Uses Grindr To Find Victim, And More

The Randy Report podcast delivers the week's top stories in a quick, convenient podcast - 'the 60 Minutes of gay news - only shorter'

The Randy Report podcast delivers the week's top stories in a quick, convenient podcast - 'the 60 Minutes of gay news - only shorter'

In this week’s podcast:

• A new Gallup Poll shows more people identify as LGBTQ than ever before

• Virginia has outlawed the use of the ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ legal defenses

• Houston police have arrested a man who assaulted and killed a man he met using Grindr

• The Equality Act begins its trek through Congress (again)

• The largest Protestant adoption and foster agency has announced it will open up its services to LGBTQ families

• And the creators of the acclaimed FX series POSE have announced the upcoming 3rd season will be its last

All that and more in this episode of The Randy Report podcast

News Round-Up: February 26, 2021

Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons
Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons
Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons (photo via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

KTNV: Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds (above) is donating his childhood home in Las Vegas to help LGBTQ youth. Reynolds’ home will serve as Nevada’s first-ever Encircle Resource Center which helps more than 70,000 kids and their families each year.

Instinct Magazine: Benjamin Davis has been charged with capital murder in the death of a man Harris County deputies said he targeted for robbery. His tool? The gay dating app Grindr.

Kenneth-in-the-212: Check out the weekly round-up of the what’s what in LGBTQ publications like Wilson Lai (below) covering DNA Magazine.

Cover of DNA Magazine
(image via DNA Magazine)

Reuters: The U.S. Justice Department has charged more than 300 people with taking part in the deadly storming of the Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters, and at least 280 have been arrested.

The Advocate: A worker at KFC was fired for screaming ‘f*cking queers’ at a gay couple picking up food via the drive-through window.

Stonewall Gazette: The short film, The Dirt Between My Fingers, follows an unlikely friendship when two boys meet under strange circumstances. A coming (out) of age short film about first love.

Grindr Poll: How Has COVID Affected Your ‘Social’ Behaviors?

The popular gay dating app Grindr asked 10,000 users in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, and India how their ‘socializing’ behaviors have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Just some of the results of the poll:

• 88% say discussing COVID safety helped them make a decision about whether or not to meet up with someone

• 69% say they’ve watched more porn

• 64% say they’ve been more likely to try new socially distant ways of meeting up

• 58% say they’re more interested in a long term relationship than they were before the pandemic

• 31% say they’ve hooked up with a mask on

• 71% say trading pictures and videos on Grindr helped them get off during the pandemic

• 59% of users say their sex drive has increased during the pandemic

• 48% say they’ve hooked up virtually during the pandemic

Head over to Grindr’s blog for more results from the survey.

Who’s been on Grindr lately? (stock image via Depositphotos)

News Round-Up: January 26, 2021

(image via Depositphotos)

Some news items you might have missed:

Right Wing Watch: Religious anti-gay loon Scott Lively told his radio audience that God removed Donald Trump from the White House because he was too pro-gay. #srsly

NewNowNext: Montana’s House of Representatives has voted in favor of two vehemently anti-transgender bills. The first is House Bill 112, which would bar trans student athletes from playing on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. The second is House Bill 113, which would block medical professionals from providing potentially life-saving gender-affirming health care to trans or nonbinary youth.

The Frontier: Last April, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered $2 million worth of hydroxychloroquine based, in part, on Donald Trump’s promotion of the malaria drug for use against the coronavirus. Now, the state is trying to unload nearly the entire shipment.

Instinct Magazine: Nearly two months after coming out as a transgender male, Elliot Page and wife Emma Portner have filed for divorce.

NBC News: A gay New York City couple say they were harassed and asked to leave a restaurant this month because of their sexuality. Because the incident happened in New York, the men may have legal recourse, but in nearly half the states, they would not.

New York Times: Grindr has been fined 100 million Norwegian kroner, or about $11.7 million, for illegally disclosing private details about its users to advertising companies.

Justice Department: The Wisconsin pharmacist who intentionally intended to render hundreds of doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine ineffective pleaded guilty to two charges filed today in federal court. Steven R. Brandenburg, an admitted skeptic of vaccines in general, now faces up to 10 years for each charge against him.

Reuters: The good news – By a vote of 55-45 the U.S. Senate on Tuesday rejected a Republican effort to stop former President Donald Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial on a charge that he incited the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. The bad news – Democrats need more than 5 GOP Senators to vote to convict Trump.

Before Dating Apps Like Grindr There Was…The Hanky Code

What would the hanky code say about a red bandana in your right back pocket
(photo via Depositphotos)

On a Throwback Thursday note, I was recently reminded of the so-called Hanky code used predominately by gay men in the 1970s and 1980s as a method of sexual signaling.

Before we had dating apps like Scruff and Grindr to pretty much ‘lay it all out there’ in terms of what sexual practice, fetish or role one preferred, there was the hanky code. The practice was also referred to as the ‘bandana code’ or flagging.

Basically, men would stuff a colored bandana in their back pocket – left position meant you liked to take the top bunk or dominant role while right pocket wearers were letting the world know they preferred being on the receiving/passive side of the spectrum.

And there was a whole rainbow of interests to express interest in.

Stores that catered to gay men would sell a variety of bandanas along with free decoder lists so guys could make sure they were sending the appropriate signal.

A red hanky indicated an interest in fisting; light blue meant someone might be on the hunt for oral sex; a yellow bandana was a pretty obvious signal for watersports; and green would act as an advertisement for hustlers.

An early version of the hanky code
(screen capture via Wikipedia)

Of course, there was always the chance that a newbie gay might think the hanky thing was just a cool fashion choice. Inevitably, though, a friend would let them know what that brown bandana hanging from their right belt loop really meant.

Eventually, the hanky code became quite an extensive list of hues and shades differentiating to such a degree as to separate light blue, robin’s egg blue, teal blue and navy blue. It practically became its own language.

As time went on the hanky code became quite extensive in colors and shades
(image via Penn StateCC BY-SA 4.0 License)

Some credit a journalist for the Village Voice in early 1971 for coming up with the system while others say Alan Selby, founder of Mr. S Leather in San Francisco, created the first hanky code as a way to sell an accidental over-shipment of bandanas he received.

According to The History Project, the hanky code was predominately used early on by gay men interested in the BDSM movement or the leather subculture. But it soon started to spread into the queer mainstream by the 1970s.

But the nonverbal shorthand began to fall out of favor in the 1980s as anonymous sex habits grew to be frowned upon thanks to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its devastating effects on our community.

Most trends tend to evolve over time, though, and by the 1990s a black and white checked bandana became a way to flag someone as embracing safe sex practices and HIV awareness.

As we moved into the digital age, with increased embracing of the internet, use of the hanky code eventually faded as more overt fashion choices regarding sexual predilections emerged in the gay community like leather harnesses, collars, and more.

But the hanky code is important to remember as a part of LGBTQ history beginning in the 1970s as we grew more confident about signaling not only our identity and visibility in public but also reflecting the queer zeitgeist through the years.

(photo: Muzzlesf, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

(h/t BosGuy)