Words by Maximus Crown | @mrcrownuk Photo: © Chris Jepson

I was born in Nigeria but I became a Londoner long before I was able to read or write, which according to some of my relatives makes me “a black man living in a white man’s world.”

I know that this combined with the facts that I identify myself as a homosexual man who also happens to be HIV-positive hasn’t exactly set the scene for the most scar-free rainbow, but I have never given any of my negative experiences influence over how I viewed the world or what I expected from it. Or at least that’s what I thought.

The truth is that you don’t have to be subjected to discrimination that many times along the road before you begin to expect it at every turn. I can’t say that I remember the first time I got rejected by someone on account of my skin colour, but I do know that it probably happened online and I probably didn’t give it much thought because by the time I had started hooking up with guys, being treated differently because of my skin colour was not a new thing. So being dismissed by the odd cutie here or there was never going to be that big of a deal. Especially if it’s done in the back alley of an the internet or some dark corner of an app. 

I’ve always known that being rejected is a part of the package when it comes to interacting with other people and I will never be able to change that fact. So whether it’s because I’m HIV-positive, too skinny, too camp or because I’m black, people will always have their preferences and I will just have to deal with that, but I’m not sure if I can any more.

I don’t think anybody has ever actually said directly to my face that they do not like black men because this is 2017 and the people that consider themselves not to to be racist try to avoid being at the receiving end of an accusation like that. 

People generally like to think of themselves as good and morally just, so they tend not to be so open about anything that could potentially challenge that perception. But if you spend enough time in the company of anyone who sees you as an equal with views and values that they believe to be comparable, you may get a peek behind the curtain at what really drives some of their impulses and reactions.

Over the past few years we have become increasingly aware of the way many men on dating websites and applications have openly been quite specific about the race of the men they will and will not date. They’ll happily tell us who they won’t date but they won’t tell us why. 

One of the first people I dated told me that he could never be with a white man, and he refused to accept that what he described as a preference was actually a form of racism, because he just didn’t find white men attractive and as far as he saw things it was natural for people to stick with their own kind. This way of thinking is not uncommon. The first line of defence amongst people who adhere to racial preference is that it’s just what they are attracted to and it can’t be helped.

It’s rare that I find myself in a position where I could to my knowledge be discriminated against because of my HIV status. I have had one situation I remember where he and I were sitting, chatting and kissing, at which point I decided to disclose my status. I noticed a change in his body language. He wasn’t rude or disrespectful and even though he took the time to ask me questions about HIV, I could tell that he was uncomfortable and that he no longer wanted us to continue.

The challenge here is  to first answer this: If someone does not find people of other races attractive does that mean they believe beauty is the reserve of their race alone? 

For more information about HIV, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/livingwithhiv