If you’re a POC in the gay community, it comes as no shock to you that it can be a challenging space to exist in. You face the same battles against heteronormativity, but with the ever-present shadow of racism hanging overhead. If anything, discrimination from the LGBTQIA+ community can feel even worse because it comes from a place where you’re supposed to feel safe.
Addressing how our preferences can unwittingly uphold racism is an important conversation for the queer community to have.
POC ARE SICK OF HEARING THAT IT’S A ‘PREFERENCE‘
Research from Cornell University shows that black men and women are 10 times more likely to message whites than white people are to message black people. The same research also shows that 60 percent of same-sex relationships start online. With that in mind, understanding how our preferences intersect with racial ideologies is vital for the gay community.
We’ve all chanced across that dating profile on Grindr or Tinder that specifies “Whites/Blacks/Latinos only”. You can switch out the “Black/Latino” for “Asian/Latino” and vice versa. Noticeably, the race that’s rarely excluded in the preference list is white people.
In a recent move, online dating apps for gay men removed ethnicity filters from their platforms during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. This was ostensibly to show support for POC and mitigate racial tensions in these digital spaces. It suggests a systemic issue with race and the LGBTQIA+ community.
What someone who is a POC will often hear is, “I’m not a racist. I just have a preference.” It’s a pretty convenient catch-all that excuses white people from having to admit their inherent biases.
Academic research into the sexual racism that occurs on online dating platforms explains that they are designed to create microcosms in which people are encouraged to judge others based on looks. Bronwyn Carlson, Professor of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University says, “The way in which those platforms operate, it is about discriminating against particular groups, and everyone knows it,” reports ABC News.
People who want to defend having a racial preference will say, “You can’t force people to be attracted to someone they aren’t,” or, “Why do you even want to date someone who isn’t attracted to you?” The argument is flat and one dimensional. If it were one, or two or even a thousand people who felt this way it would present no issue at all. But when it’s a majority of your community, the effect feels crippling.
Nobody wants to date a racist, let alone be considered one. But a social experiment conducted by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that gay men who disclose preferences based on ethnicity are considered to be racist even by participants who believed in having racial preferences. They were also considered to be less dateable and less attractive by participants of the study.
If you are one of these people who states a racial preference in your profile settings, nobody is trying to say that your preference is intentionally racist or that you’re a bad person.. But if you react defensively to a POC telling you that your behaviour reflects painful racist tones, it informs us that you care more about being called a racist than you do about perpetuating racism. It’s very revealing.
I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a POC who believes racial preference occurs organically. It’s a by-product of generations of racial division. But acknowledging that and trying to do the work to unlearn those ideologies is more important to us than hearing, “It’s just a preference.”