Opinion | White gay culture’s toxicity resembles racism


Photo Courtesy of Delta News Hub/Flickr

Delta employees participate in NYC Heritage of Pride on June 25, 2017. Columnist Dennis Austin argues that White gay culture’s toxicity resembles racism.

By Dennis Austin, Senior Columnist

We must acknowledge and accept a harsh reality. There exists a segment of white gay culture that is just as inherently racist and problematic as their white heterosexual counterparts. 

Contrary to what some may believe, there does lie — beneath the culture of queerness — an insidious obsession with whiteness, to the point of idolatry.

There is the blatant display of racism seen on gay dating apps. Australian men of color, for instance, discussed facing racism on these apps. One man remarked in the article that once someone saw he was Indian, he was met with rejection.

The summer of 2020 engineered a global conversation on the value of Black life, which factored into Grindr’s decision to remove its “ethnicity filter,” that the company at one point stated was to help minorities find similar company. It also had the unintended effect of being used to filter users who did not fit the typical, white male standard of attraction.

Physical and sexual attraction is, admittedly, not absolute. Attraction is a nuanced emotion; however, we cannot ignore the role society has played in telling us who and who is not attractive. For many years, part of the problem Black men and women faced was their depictions in film and music. The persistent stereotypes of fatherless Black men and ratchet Black women displayed us in a distasteful light.

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    Of course, a segment of society may not view us as desirable, when their only exposure to Black people came from those toxic mediums. Suffice to say, the same train of thought can be applied to those in the gay community who are only attracted to white men. In contrast to the images we saw of white men and women in the media, and it is not difficult to figure this problem out.

    Gay media is mostly white. Music, television, social media and LGBTQ culture, in general, are dominated by facets of white gay men. It is not only the issue that these circles are majority white, but as seen repeatedly, some majority white gay circles are the complete antithesis of diversity.

    When protests of racial injustice were at their peak last summer, various white LGBTQ members expressed their “allyship” with African Americans. The problem? It meant nothing.

    I cannot tell you how many white gay men flaunted the struggles of the Black community on social media as a trend to gain clout, only to maintain their all-white social groups. “The Gay White Male Brunch Brigade,” as I like to often call it, gives off an appearance of being liberal, but their actions are anything but.

    Of course, it would be wrong to paint the LGBTQ community with a broad brush. 

    I have seen the work many white members of our community have done to educate our community on racism, to encourage diversity not just in terms of skin color, but of thought. I applaud them for their efforts in providing these positive experiences consistently, that unfortunately at times, comes with little recognition.

    Readers will surely ask what justifies this commentary? I am a Black gay man. No this is not me “coming out” — I have been openly gay for many years. In conversation with other Black gay friends of mine, they have told me the stories of being turned down for dates, even courtship – not because of any glaring personality defect, but because they, much like I was at times, were told, “I’m not into Black men.” I, like many other Black men, have had to deal with being fetishized, either online and brazenly in person.

    Of course, you will have the usual suspects who will bend over backward to defend this blatant, unrequited racism in the gay community, notably from white males. 

    Their usual go-to is, “Well, people have preferences,” which is hilarious considering that these are regularly the same people who enjoy repeating Martin Luther King Jr. in that we should be judged by our character — not by skin color. Except when it suits their racism, of course.

    “Preferences” could be someone not choosing to date an individual who may be overweight or obese, and I, like most people would find that acceptable. Barring a medical condition, your weight is your choice. The presence of melanin, however, is not something one can discard.

    Later this fall, here in C-U and in Chicago, we will see the resumption of Pride Fest: events focused on issues related to our community.

    The major emphasis is on unity and togetherness and that pride is not only relegated to sexual orientation but an embrace of who we are and how we, in our lives, express ourselves. The latter, I can endorse without hesitation, but the former, in terms of unity, is questionable. 

    Save for the few times a year, the gay community comes together, are we truly united? 

    It seems to me that for all the conversations of unity, we do an excellent job of segregating ourselves. Bears, otters, twinks, jocks, etc. are all categories to discern one gay man from another. And all of us (myself included) find ourselves engaging in this categorization of each other.

    Even in major urban cities, such as Atlanta and Chicago, you may notice predominant pride events focused on Black LGBTQ members. Now, of course, reactionaries will want to say “Isn’t that racist, too?” Not quite. 

    Having spoken with nonwhite gay men, these are venues where they don’t have to deal with episodes of racism they have encountered in mostly white spaces. They don’t have to worry about being fetishized, turned down due to “preference” and feel as if they do not have a place in the wider LGBTQ community.

    It’s not just me nor my nonwhite LGBTQ brethren who recognize this problem. I have also spoken with white members of our community who have seen these very same problems play out. Albeit different for them, they do acknowledge that while our community has and continues to make overtures of unity for all of us, nonetheless, we do fall short in some areas of providing a welcoming environment for those who are not white. That must change.

    Dennis is a senior in LAS.

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