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Why race preferences on dating apps are wrong wrong wrong.

Last week, OutNews Global reported on findings by Stonewall that 51% of BAME LGBT people had experienced “discrimination or poor treatment” from others in the LGBT community, with the figure rising to 61% for those who identify as “black”.

These statistics shame us all. Crikey – even in this day and age it can be a challenge being out and proud both in the workplace and in wider society (the same report found that 68% of LGBT people feel uncomfortable holding hands in public) so, without wishing to come over all People’s Front of Judea, why on earth are we putting up with such rampant prejudice within our own communities?

Speaking exclusively to OutNews Global, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Executive Director of UK Black Pride commented, “I am thrilled that Stonewall has undertaken this important research to quantify what we, as Black LGBT+ people, understand inherently because we experience it daily.

Phyll-Opoku-Gyimah. Photo: Ajamu

“From dating apps to the streets, many in our community do not feel accepted or valued, and the necessity for us to have a safe space we can call our own is the reason we set up UK Black Pride 14 years ago. As Stonewall’s report suggests, organisations like UK Black Pride are as vital as ever, as we continue to agitate for justice and visibility for Black LGBT+ in Britain and beyond.”

OutNews Global is a proud supporter of UK Black Pride. In fact, our sister publication DIVA Magazine is the event’s headline sponsor, and our parent company Twin Media Group publishes the UK Black Pride Guide free of charge. And yet we can’t help feeling uncomfortable that, even in a socially liberal, progressive country like Britain, a significant number of our LGBT siblings feel that they need their own safe Pride space. This is not a failure of the dozens of Pride events themselves, most of which are staffed by dedicated volunteers, but of the white LGBT community who, as a whole, contribute to the sense of “otherness” experienced by gay people of colour.

And nowhere is this more apparent than in the preferences detailed by some people on dating apps, often put in overtly racist language such as “no chocolate, no curry, no rice, no spice”, a form of words to make even the most un-PC libertarian wince. Setting aside this all-too-common use of derogatory language, is it inherently racist to express one’s sexual preferences on a dating profile? Is expressing a preference for white guys no different to admitting that you fancy tall men, men with beards or skinny twinks?

We approached a group of white gay men, all aged in their early 20s, in a well-known gay bar in London’s Soho. Jimbo, 23, told us, “I don’t see anything wrong with it. Why waste everyone’s time. I don’t fancy black guys and I don’t fancy Asian guys. That doesn’t mean I’m racist, it just means that like everyone else I have my preferences. What’s wrong with expressing it?”

Everyone else in Jimbo’s group of friends agreed that dating app preferences were a quick and easy way to cut to the chase, although they claimed that they never used derogatory language themselves. One of the men, who asked to remain anonymous, showed me one of his profiles which stated “white guys only please – no offence”.

I have no doubt that most of those who express racial preferences do not believe themselves to be racist, and I have some sympathy with their argument that there’s nothing wrong with broadcasting our preferences in the hope of hooking up with someone we fancy, and yet we need to ask ourselves where these preferences originate.

Being white in a majority white ex-colonial power exposes us to prejudices and preconceptions about other races about which we might not be aware: black people are less intelligent and more sexually animalistic, South-East Asians are submissive and more compliant…and so on. Unpleasant reading, but the cultural and societal basis of many of the prejudices faced by LGBT people of colour.

So when a person of colour sees “no blacks” on a white guy’s dating profile, he may see more than a simple preference, the equivalent of other physical characteristics. He is seeing the culmination of centuries of prejudice, where somehow he is “lesser” because of who he is, something entirely outside of his control and of which he should be, and may be, proud.

If you’re LGBT, you will know how this feels. You will have been on the receiving end of “bantz”, workplace microaggressions and possibly even physical violence. You will, at some point, have been made to feel shame about who you are, to be not quite as valued as your heterosexual counterparts.

So be aware of how your words can affect others. Think about WHY you have the preferences you so easily broadcast on social media, and where your preconceptions might come from. And then, perhaps, think twice about expressing them. Believe me, there are a heck of a lot of people out there who have had long and happy relationships with people who they may not have considered to be “their type”, so you might even be doing yourself a favour.

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Rob Harkavy

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