Nearly 15% of Edmonton Sex Now Survey respondents identified as non-white. Approximately 15% total of respondents indicated that they had been discriminated against on an online dating site or app due to their race. You do the math.
Racism continues to be a significant issue for GBQT men. One might think that as sexual and gender minorities, we would be more empathetic to racial and ethnic minority guys within our community. However, research paints a different picture. In one US study of gay and bisexual men of colour, some participants noted that they avoided gay spaces, specifically “gay-bourhoods” as they catered toward white guys and were unwelcoming of men of colour.1 This is especially troublesome as researchers have found high levels of homophobic attitudes in many black communities. 2
The result is that minority men often feel the need to conceal their sexual identity while amongst their racial or ethnic community due to homophobia, while avoiding GBQT spaces due to racism. It’s this social context, in addition to other disparities, that make GBQT men of colour more vulnerable to various negative health outcomes, including HIV. 2
Today, many GBQT spaces are online spaces. But similarly to experiences in the gaybourhood, racial and ethnic minorities also encounter racism and bigotry online as well. In one study of online profiles on a gay hookup site, researchers found that approximately one in six profiles included racialized content. Four in five of these profiles mentioned a specific race they were seeking (aka into white guys), while about two in five mentioned race in an exclusive way (aka no Asians).3
Both white and non-white guys mentioned race in their profiles. However, when studies have further analyzed the content of racialized profiles, they found that non-white guys primarily mentioned race as a self-descriptor – who they are – whereas white guys typically mentioned race in reference to others-what they want or don’t want.4
Additionally, when profiles were analyzed for commentary – either in support of or criticizing the use of racial preference online – they found that white guys were most likely to comment on either side. This underscores the privilege of whiteness. White guys have more power to dictate their sexual preference in regards to race and also assert more authority in managing racial politics in online GBQT spaces.
Many members of the GBQT community claim that seeking or excluding a particular race online is not racism – just a preference. That’s not entirely fair. You can say you prefer not to date assholes. That’s a preference. People can choose whether they will or will not be an asshole. When you’re talking about someone’s race or ethnicity that is something they have no power to change.5
In the studies mentioned above, a large portion of the participants indicated that they weren’t bothered by the mention of racial preference online. However, when you look specifically at those who had experienced racial discrimination online, more than half of them were bothered by it, compared to less than one third of those who hadn’t experienced such discrimination. So, even if you don’t understand the problem with stating racial preference online, know that it is affecting others.
If you want to do something about racism in our community here are some great ways to start:6
- Educate yourself about racism. Understand how it affects the community, what sustains it, and how you can fight it.
- Speak up! Call people out on their racism. Question their ideas on ‘preferences’. Ensure your profile is inclusive.
- When racial and ethnic minorities speak out against racism don’t dismiss them and don’t get defensive.
- Get involved in the broader LGBTQ community
- Challenge stereotypes in the media! Encourage affirming representations of racial minorities that do not objectify or fetishize them.