Maybe it’s time we all got to know a few (or more) gay/bi/trans people of color.
Earlier today, I learned of the controversy surrounding Derrick Gordon. Gordon was the first National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball player to come out as gay. Since then, he has transitioned into being a YouTuber.
That brings us to yesterday when Gordon released a video with Darren Young, the first openly gay WWE star. The two discussed why they both don’t date other Black, Gay men. Young explained that his first boyfriend was Asian and it was a good experience. As such, he’s chosen to stick to dating Asian men. Then Gordon states that he’s personally attracted to older White men. Both emphasize that their personal preferences aren’t about skin tone or Black men, they just prefer Asian and White men specifically.
The overall response from Gordon’s viewer base was that the self-initiated video lacked purpose and smelled of self-hate (their words). While Gordon’s original purpose was to finally and conclusively address the issue, he failed to see that saying he is only into older White men does ultimately make it about race. That said, he’s entitled to his own personal pursuit of happiness and love (but more on that later).
Now, I know that some readers may already be rolling their eyes. After all, we’ve touched on this issue before. I’ve already written about how celebrity black gay/bi men are rarely seen dating other black gay/bi men and DEAR LORD we are all tired of the “preference” conversation. But this conversation keeps popping up for a reason, and I feel the need to find a positive and constructive path for it. So to veer away from making this article a cancel culture post about Gordon or Young, I’d rather focus on dissecting and redirecting the issue.
Where Do We Go?
Now if you know you like something, you’re going to pursue that something above other things. If you’ve had a good experience with Asian men, you’ll probably look out for Asian men first. But the viewpoint shared above often comes with an air of exclusion. An idea of “only” and “never.” “I would only date Asian or White men” comes with the underline message of “I would never consider dating Black men.”
Of course, Black sensitivity to exclusion is significant (for obvious reasons), but the message is still there all the same. What we need to remember is that both sides can have valid perspectives on the issue. Gordon, Young, or whoever else can say “only” and mean it just as much as others can hear the “never.”
But if so, how do we move on from here? We can’t just keep having this conversation over and over again, can we? I think the first step is to take the time to hear each other and not just talk to be heard. But also, consider how our words are being heard by others around us. How do our words change based on their perspective? I’m aware that some will read this article feeling it’s pointless and rehashing racial tides. And to some extent, I agree. But also, as a Black, Gay man, I feel compelled to share my perspective. And I hope you’ll be open to it.
Next, I offer the solution of exposure. In order to hear and be heard, you have to first find someone to talk to. And who better for conversations about GBT, Black men than themselves? So to now steer away from the preference debate (finally, I know), here are 3 ways to find your next conversation partner.
Note: From here on out, I will be referring to Black men who are gay, bi, or transgender as the umbrella term Queer. This is simply for sake of brevity, but fair warning for those uncomfortable with the term.
Find Black Queer Spaces
At the core of this article, is the need to go out and meet new Black, Queer voices and faces. A situation that reminds me of Ellen Pompeo.
Ellen Pompeo, the lead star in long-running medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, spoke with the Pickett-Smith family on Red Table Talk earlier this year about growing up around the racist areas of Boston. Being at the center of that hate, she decided to meet Black people and figure out for herself what Blackness really meant.
“I have a long history with the issue of race. I know both sides… I grew up in an Italian-Irish neighborhood in Boston. It doesn’t get any more racist than that. We’re going back, you know, thirty years now. That’s my experience. It’s very real. It’s, actually, the racism is what drew me to Black people. ‘Cause I was like, ‘What is it? What is all this anger and these name calling?’ And it just made me so curious. And I always had Black friends.”
Willow Smith also responded positively to Pompeo’s message of parents’ need, “To teach your kids not to be afraid of different kinds of people.”
“Right, which only comes from exposure,” Pompeo highlighted.
Grey's Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo opens up about her interracial marriage and the challenges of raising bi-racial children.
Posted by Red Table Talk on Thursday, December 6, 2018
But exposure isn’t just important for parents to do for their kids. It’s important for individual adults to do for themselves as well. Take the initiative to go to QPOC clubs, find local community spots were QPOC gravitate, and see the complexity of Queer, Black men.
For instance, the city of Philadelphia has Tabu, a formerly humble dive and sports bar. But since buying out ICandy, after its owner was caught saying the N word, the establishment as seen an increase of QPOC. Then, there’s the Mazzoni Center, which supports LGBTQ people with sexual health tests and treatments. Due to the increased effects STIs have on the Queer and Black communities, Mazzoni is a sort of QPOC Community Center.
Find places like Tabu and Mazzoni in your area and thrive in that experience. Then maybe subconsciously, or consciously, that idea of “only/never” will change. If not, at least you’ll make new friends and see the world a little differently.
Watch QPOC Representation
But perhaps you don’t live in a major city. Perhaps you’re in a suburban area were QPOC, and specifically Black Queer men, don’t congregate as frequently. Then, you can turn towards entertainment and media representation.
Of course, this task has its problems of its own. Namely, there’s a small amount of Black queer representation compared to our white peers. As the recent GLAAD “Where We Are On TV” report states, 52% of the 120 LGBTQ regular and recurring characters on broadcast networks are people of color, and 48% of the 215 LGBTQ characters on cable TV are people of color. While 52% and 48% seem like high numbers, remember that POC includes all non-white characters such as those from the Asian and Latinx communities. Not just Black characters.
That said, there is representation out there. You just have to dig a little deeper. There are, of course, the big flagship names like Moonlight, Pose, or Noah’s Ark. But then, there are other avenues to look into as well. For instance, consider looking up any web series that include or center on Black Queer stories. Or, look in your area to see if any theatres are producing plays about these stories. And if not, consider sending them a message or letter asking them to do so.
For decades and centuries, Black people and people of color have been able to, and were forced to, emphasize with White stories, representation, and perspectives. Surely, we can all do the same for Black, Queer stories.
Go On Dates (Including Platonic Ones!)
Lastly, you can always just get past any biases and go on a date with a Black man.
If you haven’t had any luck finding Black and Queer people in “real life” spaces, try finding them on digital ones. While Grindr is known as “the gay app,” it is primarily in celebration of muscular white men. Whether you agree with that or not, QPOC felt it. As such, many found the dating app Jack’d and made it the gay dating app for people of color. Consider getting that app and setting up a date.
But, of course, asking you to go on a romantic date when you’ve already decided not to date Black men is asking a lot. So instead, maybe consider going on “a friend date.” It doesn’t necessarily have to be with a stranger. Maybe you know a Black man (queer or otherwise) at work or through a mutual friend. Set up a day to get coffee or go see a show/movie. Social interactions with new people don’t always have to be romantic.
Of course, all of this comes with one (major) stipulation. You need to have the initiative in the first place. At the end of the day, life is about the personal pursuit of happiness. As such, should you have to care about fixing pre-determined biases? Not necessarily.
While exposure is the key to this problem, it’s ironically a problem only for those without the power to fix it. So I have to end this article at the start.
First, you must ask yourself three questions. “Would I ever date a black man?” If you say no, you then have to ask yourself why. Then ask yourself, “Do I want to fix this?” If no, that’s your prerogative. Live your life. If yes… go back and read this article again.