Words by Vish | @VishDlish 
Photo © www.flickr.com/mdomondon

A few months ago, on Valentine’s weekend I was visiting a close friend. Now, how would I describe her? To put it frankly – she’s a privileged, white, heterosexual woman. Now don’t be thinking I’m throwing shade at her it’s simply the truth. This truth became more apparent when we started discussing my previous FS article about sexual racism on the gay scene.

She found the article topic difficult to digest. Stating “No Asians” on a dating app in her mind, is no different from saying “No blondes” or if her heterosexual husband said “No men”. Now this opinion was difficult for me to digest! I felt twitchy and uncomfortable hearing it and the words “NO, NO, NO, NO!!!” kept ringing in my head. However, when it came to responding I became tongue-tied – I couldn’t articulate my feelings clearly. A part of me even wondered if she had a point? Is it really that simple? Then it dawned on me – she was wrong and here’s why.

I’m an empathetic gay man and I understand where my friend was coming from. You see if you’ve never been subjected to discrimination based on your skin colour or cultural background then it’s a form of privilege. I’m not putting a downer on anyone’s privilege – enjoy it I say! But the trouble with privilege is that it can overly simplify people’s views on issues they haven’t experienced. This is true in many spheres of life, such as powerful (usually straight) men undermining feminism or when the rich patronise the poor. This lack of empathy is depressing and bothersome to me.

Since my sexual racism article went out to the gay world, I’ve had a few similar responses. I’ve been accused of making an unnecessary ‘issue’ out of people stating their racial preferences. That was not my intention. If you’re only into a particular race fine. I’m not interested in shaming anyone. I just want to draw attention to the fact that racism does exist in wider society and stating abrupt racial preferences on dating apps feeds it. It’s important that racism doesn’t contaminate the LGBT community. We simply don’t need that shit, we need unity.

You may think, “Well who cares, the whole point of Grindr is to get off quickly and stating preferences saves time.” True. But let’s not under-estimate the wider impact of these hook-up apps. Their use is getting more and more prominent to a point where many gay men choose not to visit the scene as much. I wouldn’t be surprised if more and more gay establishments start closing because gay men would rather flirt over an internet connection than in reality. That’s convenience for you. So if technology makes dating easier, the flipside is that it can make people discriminatory. The truth is, I’d rather be blocked and ignored than come across someone’s hostile racial preferences.  

Leaving Grindr aside, being a gaysian (gay Asian) on the commercial scene was somewhat daunting for me at first. It’s normal to be insecure when you don’t look like the white majority. But these feelings subsided eventually. I would like to see more Asian men break their barriers and enjoy mainstream gay culture. But, understandably, fear can hold us back.  Many South Asian gay men wouldn’t publicly out themselves because of family/societal rejection. In a way, BME (Black and minority ethnic) gay men are behind our white peers in the quest for gay liberation, but it’s gradually improving. 

Luckily I haven’t been subjected to aggressive racism on the gay scene. It could be partly due to me being super gentrified. I’m not religious; I don’t wear ethnic clothing and at times I speak with a plum in my mouth. This leads me to question is my gentrification a type of privilege? Perhaps so it seems to me the more ethnically diverse looking and acting you are, the more racist/xenophobic shit you get.

The type of racism I receive is more passive. This passivity is usually covered with awkward smiles, but laced with discomfort or hostility underneath. I’ve experienced a few occasions where white gay men would talk over me or through me or they simply wouldn’t see me. Such passive racism ultimately leaves me invisible. This makes me feel cold, when all I want is to engage with our community.

Sometimes, it seems the white gay majority has forgotten the fight that came before the privilege they’re currently enjoying. After all, a few decades ago they experienced similar struggles to those currently faced by BME gay men. As I’ve said before, privilege is awesome. However, I’d like the gay majority not to get blinded by privilege and overlook the racial minorities in our vibrant community – we’re in this together. 

If I could time travel back and respond to my friend. I would pose the following question to her – why can’t people just apply some empathy on Grindr? Whatever her response, I know for sure that statements like “No Asians” and “No Blacks” are dangerous. These words carry racist connotations that hark back to an archaic time where BME people were segregated and abused due to their race. Have your preferences by all means. But, let’s all be empathetic to the fact that racism still exists and abruptly stating racial preferences unhealthily perpetuates it.  

How NOT to be racist on Grindr

You would think that in this day and age most people would be able to tell the difference between racism and preference, but no. No matter how many people tell you writing “No XXXXXX” on your profile is racist people still do it and think it’s OK. 

Nobody is saying you HAVE to have sex with someone you don’t fancy. But we are saying that you shouldn’t publicly state that you do not find Black men attractive. Imagine going into a shopping mall, standing on a chair and publicly shouting  ‘I don’t fancy Black men’. You wouldn’t do it, would you? But because it’s text on a screen it’s somehow OK? Well, no it’s not. We, as a community need rethink how we treat one another. Dating apps have allowed us to become irresponsible and not care about other people’s feelings. We need to learn what the meaning of ‘respect’ is and start using it. 

If you don’t fancy a certain race - fine, that’s your choice, but don’t be an asshole about it. Stop being racist. If you are someone who publicly states “No XXXXXX” please do yourself a favour and delete it. As Vish said, he’d much rather you ignore or block him than have that thrown in his face. Have some empathy and have some respect.