Thursday, January 15, 2015

On Snow Queens, Rejection and Preferences (Again): Is It True What They Say About This Black Man?

It's amazing to me what some people assume about you after they've read an interview with you and/or your blog and/or possibly even your book. (Thanks for reading, by the way.) As a journalist, I've spent half of my life dishing it out -- questioning, judging, assuming -- and now I finally understand what it feels like to be on the other side of the magnifying glass.

No, I still don't know how bad Jennifer Aniston has it, and I hope I never do, but I do know what it feels like to be ripped apart by complete strangers in print.

I know I bought this on myself. You don't write a book called Is It True What They Say About Black Men? and dwell on topics as inflammatory as race and racism and not expect to have to dodge some sticks and stones. That comes with the territory, and frankly, it's a small price to pay for starting a dialogue about important issues and possibly opening someone's mind to a point of view they hadn't previously considered.

Oh, but those incorrect assumptions! They get me every time.

One of the most infuriating ones is the one that pegs me as a "snow queen" because I write about my experiences with non-black men. Just because I write about one thing, or two things, doesn't mean I don't experience anything else. For the record, I have dated black men, but considering that my book focuses mostly on my years spent living in countries where there is a dearth of black men, would it not make sense that most of my recounted encounters, especially the ones in which the racial themes of my book figured, would be with non-black men?

Should I have included that one night in Bangkok with a black guy from Philadelphia and a white one from Australia to prove that my lust has no racial limitations? Or the black colleague I once pursued who rejected me because he already had a boyfriend (a white boyfriend, incidentally)? Or the black guy I once went out with in New York City whose ex was a closeted Z-list celebrity (and who stalked me for a month afterwards)? Or the one in Cape Town who had the softest lips ever?

Even if I had never dated a black man, that wouldn't mean a thing. As I pointed out in my recent interview with Queerty, it's not a lack of experience with a certain race that's racist. It's allowing that lack of experience to dictate your future experiences. It's not the fact that you've never been with somebody of a certain race but rather, making a preemptive strike against ever doing so. I've never done that, and I have never written a sentence, or uttered one, to suggest that I have.

Then there's the assumption that I criticize gay men who reject suitors based on color because I'm bitter. Several detractors have assumed it happens to me and therefore, I've launched a crusade against it. Like everyone else, I've been rejected countless times over the years. I've made my peace with it. I deal and move on.

That said, I have never been overtly rejected by a guy because of my race. I'm sure there have been plenty of guys who weren't into me for that very reason, but I've never had one of them say to me "I'm not attracted to black guys" or "I don't date black guys" or "I don't cross racial lines." Ever.

My arguments regarding race and attraction (or rather, lack thereof) are based entirely on observation and empathy. I certainly didn't include a chapter on anti-Asian racism because I've suffered under it. Despite what Rose McGowan thinks, there are gay men out there who can see beyond causes that affect them directly.

If anything, I've had my pick of men while living abroad, and I've devoted far more of my book and much of my writing to questioning that. So no, I'm not reacting to rejection but quite the opposite. I've said it before, and I don't mind saying it again: Just because a guy wants to have sex with me does not mean he's not racist. Too many white men (three) have called me the N word moments after trying to get into my pants for me to think there's racism only in color-based rejection that bruises one's ego.

The final thing I want to address at this moment isn't about assumptions but rather excuses. It's discouraging when gay men defend those "No Asians" profiles by saying guys have a right to want to cut to the chase and not waste anyone's time. In other words, expediency is everything. The feelings of other people? That's just collateral damage.

I'll never understand how gay men who spend their lives clamoring for fair and respectful treatment have no problem tossing sensitivity out the window in pursuit of a quickie. Who cares if someone gets hurt by reading "No blacks" or "No Asians" or even "No whites" (yes, it does happen, too, and I consider it to be just as racist as the others), as long as they get what they want?

Enough with the preferences argument. Been there, heard that -- over and over and over. It still sounds like hogwash. There's a difference between never having dated a certain race but being open to it in theory, and preferring one race over another but being open to all of them in theory, and lusting and loving behind a velvet rope. That's when you give in to this sort of pre-determined attraction and take the time to write "No blacks" or "No Asians" or "No whites" or whatever in your dating profile because it's too time-consuming to simply ignore the people who contact you whom you're not into.

Racism, like sexism, isn't just about hate. (You can be sexist and love women, racist and have minority friends.) It's about exclusion and sweeping generalization. It doesn't necessarily twirl its moustache. It doesn't make you bad, just human. Ignoring it and pretending that it's something that only influences other people is when the evil creeps in.

If there is a message I want to get across with my writing on the subject, it's this: When you look at people, stop seeing colors and ethnicities and nationalities and sexual preferences above everything else. Start seeing individuals first. Who knows? You might learn something about the world outside your bubble, and by extension, about yourself.

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