The LGBTQ Community Must Reckon With Its’ Own Racist Failures

REUTERS/Chip East

(Warning: This piece uses words and discussions of a sexual nature that some might find objectionable.)

When that cop murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, he wasn’t murdering a person. George was a thing to him. An inconvenience. A nuisance that wasn’t worth enough consideration to even take his hands out of his pockets. To many in the LGBTQ community, I am not much better.

Sexual racism within this community is not new. Though I’m no longer in the dating pool, these are actual comments I once received while attempting to find love – or sex – in a city once considered the LGBTQ ‘Mecca’:

  • “I’ve never been with a Black guy before.”
  • “You’re cute for a Black guy.”
  • “I could never sleep with a Black guy.”
  • “I’ve always wanted to sleep with a Black guy.”
  • “I’m not into Black guys.”
  • “The thought of sleeping with a Black guy makes me physically sick.”

This is the casual racism with which you must contend if you’re a gay Black man, even in a reasonably diverse city such as San Francisco. While it may surprise some, it’s not surprising at all to the gay Black men who understand that the gay community is just as racist as the rest of America.

Justifications for these types of comments are generally gathered under the umbrella of ‘preference’ i.e. someone merely stating a sexual preference. We are told that these men can’t be faulted for what works for them in a sexual context.

That is correct. I can’t and don’t fault someone for their sexual tastes. But there’s a difference between acting on a preference by saying “I could never sleep with a Black guy” when a simple “I’m not interested” would have sufficed. Having a preference has nothing to do with negating someone’s existence based on race, nor acting out overtly for the purpose of demonstrating that belief. Having a preference does not give anyone the right to be a racist asshole!

John Mayer infamously said in a Playboy interview, “My d*ck is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke c*ck.” Instead of affirming what works for him in a sexual context, he invoked the entirety of America’s horrific treatment of Black people to proudly proclaim his lack of desire for Black women.

That’s not very different than hearing, “the thought of sleeping with a Black man disgusts me”. Someone saying that isn’t affirming their preference for lighter skin or straighter hair. They are affirming that who I am in the world as a Black man is repugnant to them, and not worthy of consideration for either sex or a dating relationship.

Having faced rejection and denigration, it’s then suggested that we should date guys who explicitly express interest in being with Black men. This is an actual response I received:

Being referred to as a fetish is no better than being called ‘repugnant’. In either case, I’m not a fully-realized human. I’m an object; a thing. It’s the same reason that someone could put their knee on the neck of another human being with no sense of empathy or compassion. George Floyd was an object; a thing. To that cop, he was not a human being. And to many gay men, neither am I.

So you’ll understand my immense skepticism at seeing members of the LGBTQ community marching in support of BLM when I know that, almost immediately afterwards, many will be doing the very thing they opposed while trying to get laid. But they’ll be doing it under the acceptable banner of sexual preference, not racism.

I once worked in the internet group at a gay video company and remember, all too well, decisions made to not hire or use pictures for Black models being made without supporting data to show that there was a race-based financial impact. Even when it came to dollars and cents, anecdotal stories and ‘preferences’ were used to justify racial biases that might possibly have affected the company’s bottom line in a positive way.

In a move that can only be described as ‘better late than never’, Grindr, a hookup app used by gay and bisexual men, removed its’ race filters.

“We will continue to fight racism on Grindr, both through dialogue with our community and a zero-tolerance policy for racism and hate speech on our platform. As part of this commitment, and based on your feedback, we have decided to remove the ethnicity filter from our next release.⁣”

Grindr Instagram Post, 6/1/2020

While I applaud Grindr for their statement and action, they’re one small part of the longstanding problem of racism within the LGBTQ community.

I realize that all of this could be part of a larger discussion on human sexuality, and not just within the LGBTQ community. However, I’m not interested in that discussion at this time. As Pride month ramps up across the country, my only desire is for the LGBTQ community to stop paying lip service to the idea of Black equality while simultaneously wielding a “David Duke c*ck”.

Stop objectifying Black men for what you think we can do for you. Most importantly, don’t think that any discrimination you’ve faced as a gay man can equate with the systemic oppression that Blacks have faced. This isn’t a moment to say, “I’ve suffered too.” It’s a moment to recognize that gay Black lives matter, and not merely for your derision or your pleasure.

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