Normally my awesome editors just let me make puns and dick jokes and wax poetic about the golden days of Must See TV Thursdays… except for ‘Inside Schwartz’. (Remember that one? That was hard to watch.) But this time, in honor of Black History Month and all the people of color who comprise an integral part of the LGBT community, they asked me to write about racism within the LGBT community. Cool – challenge accepted!
Except that I’m white.
And asking me to write about racism is like asking me to write about a vagina: I haven’t personally experienced either. Sure, I’ve certainly read enough about both; my graduate work was on the experience of African-American students at predominantly white colleges. But I’ve never been the victim of racism, and “I’ve dated a black guy, so…” has become dangerously analogous to “I have a black friend, so…” (Though full disclosure – I have dated a few black guys. And Latinos. And Asians. Hey man – hot is hot!).
It’s hard to have a conversation about race within the LGBT community because those of us who identify as LGBT are, in and of itself, in a minority. (And it’s even harder to have a conversation about race and try to relate it to “Friends”, as I want to do, primarily because it wasn’t an issue that was ever explored… they didn’t even have a special Kwanzaa episode… perhaps featuring the return of the Holiday Armadillo?) Sure, I can look at it from my perspective and draw some correlations: I’m gay and technically legally disabled (even thought my doctor won’t give me a handicapped parking pass which sucks cuz sometimes there’s a handicap space RIGHT in front of the movie theater) so arguably I have some experience with direct discrimination. But while these two things do indeed make me a minority, they are statuses that can be hidden… and if I do indeed choose to hide them, I’m seen only as ‘white man’; I’m seen as ‘majority’. Our brethren and sistren (it’s a word) of color don’t have it as easy as I do. At the risk of being reductive, I’m gonna piggyback off a point I made in last month’s column, regarding this horrible and pervasive phrase: “no fems, no fatties, no Asians”.
Let’s break this down: guys who are “fem” or “fat” – you know you’re seen as fem or fat. It’s not a surprise to you. So, to compensate, a lot of “fem” guys will ‘butch it up’, as a way to fall more into the fantasy or prototype of what is attractive to gay guys (and don’t give me that – yes you do. You certainly aren’t opening with “OMG did you see Bernadette Peters Live on PBS?! SLAAAAAY MAMA! Anyway bro, DTF?”). So to hide this, you can butch it up if what you’re looking to do is get laid. It’s not like he’s spending the night. (He’s probably allergic to your five cats anyway.)
For the fatties out there – man, people can be tough in this age of steroids and ‘prescription’ testosterone. Look, if you feel confident about the way you look – live your life and don’t get down about the guys who are judging you on your appearance. Plus, confidence is ridiculously sexy. Then again, everyone is judged for their appearance. So if it’s really getting you down, you can make some lifestyle changes. But Asians… can’t just stop being Asian; they can’t un-race themselves. Fem guys can hide their natural proclivities by lowering their voice, fat guys can change a profile pic to a more flattering photo with less chins… but Asian guys can’t just be less Chin (nailed it).
This begs the question – when gay guys put these types of things on their dating profiles, are they being honest, or are they being racist?
I just got back from a long weekend in Atlanta and was asked the inevitable question: “What’s the main difference between the gay scenes in Atlanta and LA?” While there are several solid answers to this question (one being that LA has tank tops and pool parties 10 months out of the year; Atlanta has this weird fashion trend where gays and straights wear short-shorts with a long sleeved plaid shirt tucked into said shorts with flip-flops and any SEC team’s baseball cap 10 months out of the year), one of the answers is the differences in the cultural make-up of the LGBT communities in both cities (brace yourself for a broad generalization): In Atlanta, I’d say the majority of gay guys are white; the next biggest group are African-Americans, then Latinos, then Asians. In LA, I’d say the majority of gay guys are white, but then it’s pretty even between African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians. (“Dan – you can’t just say that!” Hey – told you this was broad. But Atlanta is, to this day, the only city I know of that has a gay club that caters exclusively to African-American men.)
My point in saying this is that, according to most of the sociological research out there, the greater exposure you have to a group of people, the more likely you are to accept those people. But, that doesn’t seem to add up in the gay community. The plight of the black gay man in the South is markedly different than the plight of the black gay man in California; there seems to be an inverse effect: white gay men in the South, despite their exposure, seem much less likely to be open to dating someone who is black. Also, I can tell you that it is much more likely that someone would say ‘no blacks’ in Georgia than it would be in California… and it would be much more taboo to see that in California than it would in Georgia.
So here on the West Coast – there’s no racism, everything is fine, and this article is perfect. You’re welcome.
Except we all know that’s not quite true. There was a study done in 2015 that showed 70% of gay men disagreed with the argument that sexual racism is “a form of racism.” Not agreed. Disagreed. So again, I ask the question: are we being honest, or are we racist? Since I need to pull the trigger on this and actually have a point of view – I say no. I say we like what we like and that’s it. That said – it certainly begs another question: what unintentional damage are we doing to someone who may identify with one of the groups we are excluding? Also – I’m white, so…
Anyway – chocolate queen, rice queen, bean queen, curry queen, and my latest favorite: mashed potato (a white guy who only dates white guys). We have all of these terms that apply to the kinds of people we, or our friends, are attracted to. But I wonder if the conversation would change if we were so cavalier with verbiage that indicated the opposite: “Oh her? She’s an anti-chocolate queen. No black men for her.” I have a feeling that would start to change things pretty dang quick. In the meantime, since I can’t stop racism (but I don’t really need to cuz everything is fine, remember?) let’s all make a conscious effort to be more careful with our language.
I’m not going to take any more of your time by white-splaining the plight of African-Americans in this country, so in closing I’ll say this: interracial marriage was illegal until 1967. Our black brethren and sistren have been fighting an uphill battle all of their lives… and being an LGBT person of color certainly hasn’t made that battle any easier.
So happy Black History Month y’all. Volunteer, make a donation, make a change… better yet, make out with a black guy.
Change starts with you.
Dan has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Master’s degree in Higher Education. He worked as an Assistant Dean at Emory University for 5 years before moving to Los Angeles in 2008 to pursue his lifelong dream of writing television. Since then, Dan has written for Make It Or Break It (ABC Family), Pop-Up Video (VH1), and currently writes for ABC Family’s hit show The Fosters, and he says he’s going to f?inish writing hfis ?irst movie any day now. You can f?ind more at beef?inthetr?ile.blogspot.com, and you can reach him on Twitter and Instagram at @beef?inthetri?le.