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The Incredible, Undateable Gay: On Race and Alleged 'Preferences'

By: Les Fabian Brathwaite
8.15.2014

Race in the gay community is already a touchy subject, but when you introduce matters of the heart and (more often) penis, things get touched, slapped, poked and often bludgeoned to death. Now before we get into this, let’s just make something very clear: Not being into someone based on their race is not a “preference.” There’s no different set of social standards just because it’s sex. Whether you think it’s racist or not, that shit’s racist. 

America was literally built on racism. The belief that one race — well, all races — was inferior to another has been ingrained in the fabric of the great American quilt. We can all pretend that racism is a thing of the past with our black First Family, the calculated cultural diversity in media and the overbearing specter of political correctness — but rest assured, racism is as American as apple pie. Really racist apple pie. So naturally in 2014, some people are apparently still stuck in 1950s Alabama, with their dicks and assholes plastered in Jim Crow signs: “white only”; “no blacks”; and the ever-popular Jim Crow law, “no fats, no fems, no Asians.” I’ve seen that language since I first dove into the choppy waters of gay dating.

That's racist!

As a chubby, black, effeminate kid finding my way through this gay, new world that had such people in it, I was traumatized. I felt ugly and unwanted because 18-year-old me was really into white dudes. Like, a lot. I had always been able to find men of all races attractive, but I felt an underlying tinge of shame for my “preference” for the light meat. I figured it was because society had taught me from an early age to value white flesh above my own — above all others.

Moreover, growing up where I grew up, black men were something to fear. They were the men in my family I couldn’t talk to. They were the men I avoided standing outside the corner store. They were the boys in school that made fun of me and called me “gay.” But in time, I came to realize that while those were contributing factors, the real reason I found white men so attractive was because I didn’t find myself attractive.

I often run across discussions of race on message boards or in online comments — also known as where civility and punctuation go to die — when a young black guy laments his treatment at the hands of his white counterparts. Invariably, there’s always at least one white guy — who’s probably been (rightfully) called a racist multiple times — antagonizing the discussion, dropping N-bombs and generally being the kind of douche the Internet has birthed unto the world. He’s the first to argue that the basis of his attraction is a matter of preference, but why, then, does the discussion turn to petty name-calling and offensive rhetoric? More importantly, why does the young black guy care so much? Why did I care so much?

White men appealed to me because they were the other. The opposite. Because they weren’t me. By pursuing them, I was running away from my own insecurities, only to be confronted with those same insecurities whenever I was rejected by them. That in turn would spark the flame of self-loathing as I questioned whether I was good enough and wished, sometimes aloud, that I was white. Then it would be easier, wouldn’t it? Not just dating, but life in general. After all, it’s hard enough being a minority, let alone a minority within another minority. It is because of this sense of double oppression that I — along with many gay black men — don’t feel a part of the gay community or the black community.

Facing rejection, animosity or indifference from both, the gay black man in America is in a constant quest for identity. Trying to find one’s self in other men, I learned, is a surefire way to get lost. It was only when I started to see value in myself that I was able to come to grips with my “preference” and what it meant. By being able to find myself attractive, I’m slowly freeing myself from having my self-worth determined by other people. It’s a process, but there’s nothing more affirming than sucking down two scoops of confidence and feeling your own oats. And while I still like white boys — especially white boys with big butts — I’ve realized that I like anyone with a big butt. If you think about it, my ability to appreciate the ample posteriors of all races is ultimately what Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream was all about. Don’t think about it too hard, but it’s in there — trust me.

That being said, everyone is entitled to his own “preferences.” And no one wants to be made to feel guilty for their choices, just as no one wants to be made to feel less than by the language with which you choose to express said choices. When one treats the color of a person’s skin as the determining factor for attraction, no matter how innocuous the intention, it is an act of ignorance. With gay men, attraction dictates many social cues, such as with whom we choose to interact. And I shouldn’t have to say that, “But I have [insert race] friends” isn’t a valid argument, just as it hasn’t been a valid argument for the past 100 years. In short, we’re all kind of racist. It’s difficult not to be. Race is in the air we breathe.

The thick smog covering America’s past and wafting wearily into its future. It’s only when we have honest, open discussions about race that racism truly disappears. If I were to offer any advice, it would be as simple as this: experiment. We’re living in the most culturally diverse time in history, where race isn’t as simple as black and white. Limiting yourself to one type of guy is first and foremost, boring. Everyone should just date everyone. You get one go-around on this rotating shithole; so why not experience whatever you can? You’ll never know what you may end up liking.

To paraphrase Dr. King, judge not by the color of their skin — but the hotness of their butts.

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