Discrimination and racism have become a hot topic nowadays and especially within the gay community. Every day when I log into Facebook, I see another comment, question or statement acknowledging the fact that racism exists within our community.
I applaud anyone who stands up for what is right. Although, it’s hard to accept, it’s taken an administration of hate and divisiveness to wake everyone up; I guess it’s better late than never.
As an African-American male racism didn’t slap me in the face until my 30s. For most of my adolescence my mother shielded me from racism. Although, looking back; I’m surprised I did not experience racism earlier in life. For most of my entire education, I attended predominantly white schools. It was not until my late 30s and after my 10-year relationship ended (with someone white) that I started to experience racism. I guess not being a part of the dating scene had its benefits. Plus, it was before technology.
However, the moment I plunged into the world of hook-up sites and apps my delusional idea that racism did not exist was quickly proven to be untrue. It does exist, and it was a hard pill to swallow after being in a healthy 10-year relationship with a person my grandmother, a woman raised in the south, North Carolina to be exact and who experienced racism, would say my partner did not see color. She loved him deeply. That is also the reason I walked through life thinking racism could not exist in a community marginalized for decades.
The burning question, how can racism plague an ostracized community? I’ve asked myself this question daily, but I am not the only person perplexed. A friend recently posted the following question on Facebook, and yes; he is white, not that it matters, but it points out that a population of gay men is waking up.
His question: “Anyone else find it ironic how the gay community celebrates diversity and yet judges others that are different?”
I found the responses interesting, here are a few:
“I’ve spoken VERY loudly about discrimination over the years, and it’s so hypocritical that racism exists within the gay community.”
“If you are a white muscle gay male who doesn’t wear makeup you are fine!”
“I bite my lip when it comes to the gay community.”
“That’s in every community sweetheart.”
The range of comments was either heartfelt or humorous. When it comes to racism or discrimination, a lot of people get uncomfortable, and it’s evident when somebody makes a joke out of a serious question.
As a gay black man who is attracted to white men, I’m understanding that racism has always been a part of our community. However, many of us, including myself, either deal with it, ignore it, or just turn a blind-eye.
Within the community, racism has been masked by the word ‘preference’. When a white guy says, “I’ve never dated a black man before,” or believe it’s acceptable to write “WHITES ONLY” on their profiles you have to wonder. Is the person displaying a naive perception of racism or are they blatantly negating the fact that blacks in our country had to face signs like “WHITE ONLY” for decades?
Honestly, as a black man; it’s hard to say if the person who has ‘Whites Only’ on their profile should be labeled a racist. Their lack of understanding and compassion is undeniable. However, over the years; I am beginning to acknowledge my part for the discrimination within our community. As a black gay man, I’ve dealt with it. I have also been afraid to speak up because certain white guys become immediately defensive when you utter the words, “racism exists within the community.”
The other day I was reading OUT magazine’s article, “Raise the Bar: Discrimination in Queer Safe Spaces,” an article that validated how gay minorities feel and how I’ve been feeling over the years. I’m 44 so my time hanging out in bars is limited, but I can recall how I felt at 20-something and it was not always a welcoming feeling.
When it comes to discrimination within our community; changing it can only begin when gay business owners and community leaders promote and reinforce inclusivity instead of being afraid to celebrate diversity. For example, “In 2012, the manager of the popular bar requested their then graphic designer from the LGBTQ publication Metro Weekly to produce a flyer for an Olympic-themed happy hour. When the proof was forwarded to the manager, David Perruzza, he requested that the image is changed to a “hot white guy” instead of a black man because “[t]hat’s more of our clientele.
The image never came out, and the bar ultimately decided to remove the black model from the picture and use no one. But this past week this exchange has quickly become just another piece of evidence to queer people of color in Washington, D.C, and even across the US, that LGBTQ bars continue to be a place where people of color are not welcome.”
Gay pride represents us all and should last longer than one day and night of dancing and hook-ups. The gay community is a vibrant and diverse one, and we should honor that. Our differences are why I celebrate being gay. Racism has affected many in our community over the years and probably will for the rest of my life but I am no longer afraid to stand up for equality.
Foremost, I am a person and hope that one day that the color of my skin is no longer an issue. Until then, I will continue to reject racism in our community.