Dear White Gay Men,

It’s time to start desegregating the LGBTQ+ community. Much of gay socialization is centered around opportunities to date or meet men, and blatant racism is endorsed and defended under the guise of “preference.” Many of you date men who look just like you, or men of color who can pass for looking just like you. Let’s be clear: your only “preference” is to perpetuate racism without criticism.

Now, now, before you get your Andrew Christians in a bunch, I’m willing to admit that it’s not entirely your fault — you’ve been had.

First, understand that acknowledging the ways in which you perpetuate racism is not nearly as painful as being on the receiving end of that racism. Ignoring these things as a community isn’t going to solve anything, and talking about it isn’t what’s dividing our community — racism is.

As a black, Latino gay man raised in the conservative South, I too once internalized problematic beliefs. Long ago, I believed reverse racism was a thing and thought “preferences” made sense. At the time, I didn’t even sleep with men of color (and trust me, I’ve been making up for lost time). It wasn’t until I started taking steps to actively challenge my beliefs and how they affect others that I woke up. It’s important for those of you who call yourselves allies to do the same.

To unpack and understand what makes sexual preferences racist, you have to understand that anti-blackness is a core American value. It’s as American as apple pie. But before we get there, we need to talk about the most common defenses of your sexual “preferences”:

“It’s not racist. Some guys don’t like short guys or hairy guys or guys with green eyes.”

This is a false equivalency and there’s this thing called intersectionality. Men of every race can be short, hairy, or have green eyes. Only black people can be discriminated against for being black people.

“I just like what I like. Would you say that I’m sexist because I don’t like women?”

No, I wouldn’t, but I might say that it’s sexist to use women as props to defend bigoted beliefs. This might be the most infuriating argument and the one with the least intellectual depth. Puddles are deeper than this. See, here’s the thing about your sexuality: it wasn’t taught to you. You were born gay, it isn’t a choice — it’s just the way you’re wired. The difference between your sexuality and your “preferences” is that you weren’t born with preferences. To imply that you were born finding black people unattractive is to say that race-based discrimination is genetic. Doing this is dangerous, because it makes the perpetrator of said racist behavior the victim of their own “uncontrollable” racism, instead of a free-thinking agent and perpetrator of bigotry.

Sexual desire and socialization are linked. To act as though the two exist in mutually exclusive contextual vacuums is intellectually dishonest and only absolves blame from the abusers. We like the things we like because we grow up learning that they are good, beautiful, and normal. We aren’t taught to view people of color this way.

One of American culture’s most recurrent and endemic themes is the adoration of whiteness. White faces are sold as the forefront of everything, to be sought after and adored. It’s so pervasive that Roland Emmerich whitewashed the origin of the gay rights movement — Stonewall, started by black trans woman Marsha P. Johnson — in his 2015 film, Stonewall. This blatant rewriting of history only further shows a problem the community suffers as a whole. White gay men have sanitized and commoditized the culture of queer people of color while giving us no credit and even less respect.

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