To say that black people suffer from discrimination is stating the obvious. What is maybe not so obvious is just how much racism there is against black men in the gay community. Discrimination in the gay world sounds like a bad joke, right? Is this our dirty, dark little secret?
Let me be blunt: I’m glad I’m a white gay man. Seriously. Just talk to any black or biracial gay man and they will quickly enlighten you about just how much discrimination, both overt and subtle, they endure on an almost daily basis – and that’s just from other gay men. Can racism even be considered subtle? Well, it can certainly creep up on those gay men on the receiving end of it, I’ve been told. And every, single time it happens, it just isn’t particularly nice.
The statistics sure don’t paint gay communities as accepting and colour-blind. A survey by the UK’s Pink News in June 2015 revealed that fully 80% of black or biracial gay men had experienced racism of some sort in the community. One 47-year-old gay black man was quoted in the survey as saying how, “The only approach I’ve had at a gay bar was when I was asked if I supplied drugs”. Yes, because all black men are drug dealers, of course. An Australian study of 2000 gay men published in July 2015 asked the question: “Is Sexual Racism Really Racism?” The researchers in the study found that the answer to that question was…well, yes. Aaron Talley, a Chicago-based black gay rights activist, went as far as to declare that gay pride days and parades are basically for, by and about gay white men. That may seem extreme, but just Google the search terms ‘racism gay black men,’ sit back and be stunned by just how many articles come flooding in…
There is the flip side, of course. There’s no denying that, just as in the straight community, black men have a certain allure and even, dare I say it, sexual mystique about them amongst many gays. For many, black men are the epitome of power and strength and sexual prowess. If you’re a gay man with a pulse, you know what I mean. I alone have heard the well-worn cliché of “once you go black, you never go back,” or whatever variation on that theme, more than a few times! And it’s usually said by some gay white man who literally trembles (or shivers) with lust at the thought of yet another escapade with a virile, sexy-as-hell black stud. With those white men, your chance as a fellow white man of getting some nooky with them is about as slim as Victoria Beckham on the Paleo diet. There’s no denying that black men have their fans amongst gay men. But that ‘sexual pedestal’ in itself must get so wearisome, if not annoying and downright patronizing, for many gay black men. I am reminded of a really great black guy I once met when I lived in Los Angeles, who joked about how everyone just assumed that he would be a great dancer, even though he had two left feet and zero sense of rhythm! And he also winked and quipped about the size of his ‘package’ – which he assured me didn’t quite meet that stereotype of black men either!
But is it all about racism? Many articles on this issue of racism in the gay community cite numerous examples on apps and sites across the board where gay men blatantly write on their profiles that ‘blacks need not apply’ for hook-ups or even relationships. This offends many, and who am I to presume how that makes gay men of colour feel? But the gay scene abounds with barriers and cruel preferences. I have had countless opportunities lost because I am not well-built. Or because the idea of hiking is about as thrilling to me as having root canal surgery. Or because I’m not hung like a Grand National stallion. Jesus, the gay world, online or in real time, is hardly a kind, sweet place. We all know that. But where do sexual or even cultural and social preferences step in? Do they have no place at all? When do we get to discuss those uncomfortable questions openly and frankly?
Perhaps I shouldn’t presume precisely because on a day-to-day basis I am not instantly disadvantaged because of my skin colour or perceived race. Gay black and biracial men come into the gay scene already with so much more baggage piled on them that a slight, any slight, from the gay community must feel like the most cruel and unacceptable of ironies. I need to accept that as a very real possibility, as should any gay white man. In the meantime, I can only hope that gay black men indeed embrace the fact that black is beautiful, black does stand out and black does have its place in our screwed up and complicated gay communities. I’m reminded of proud black men like Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Lenny Kravitz, Hounsou Djimon – not too shabby. In the meantime, I’m suddenly in need of a coffee – dark and strong and black