Through a combination and series of circumstances, some fortunate, some not; some of my doing, some not, I've found myself single for the first time in a long time. A long enough time to feel like I don't know anything about "modern gay dating".
This isn't a Sex and The City single-gal-swag post at all, so you can breathe a sigh of relief (or not), but more an observation. An observation of something that I can't escape and something that makes no sense to me while making sense to me.
Grindr and apps like it always seem to have the pre fix "hook-up app: x" are ubiquitous for the modern gay homosexual. In fact, Grindr and apps like it fulfill the role the village square may have played in the area before telephony. You go to Grindr et.al to see, be seen, to admire, be admired, to promenade or just to lurk. While the village square has changed places; from the central plaza of a village owned by the commons, to a series of tiny squares an inch times an inch arranged in groupings of one hundred, two hundred if you want to pay for the privilege to not talk to even more people.
These online spaces that are not actually spaces in the conventional sense of the word have replaced other 'actual' spaces where queers would go to see and be seen, to admire and to be admired, to promenade or just to lurk. The fact our meeting places are more virtual than tangible is not a bad thing as such, it's just queer culture changing and shifting as is to be expected when society as a whole changes and shifts. Sure, some would argue that the loss of queer dedicated clubs, bars and bookshops is a shame, and it largely is but if those spaces are not serving the community's needs but rather simply feeding a nostalgia of something that is now gone and quite possibly never actually was then let the community vote with its feet; and so it was and so it has been.
Yet, regardless of whether this queer space is virtual or actual it's incredibly surprising to me how absolutely and totally unwelcoming it can be to enter it as a non English speaking background, culturally and linguistically diverse, English as a second language, multi-ethnic, bi-lingual, tan, brown, ethnic, person of colour, immigrant, refugee, blah, blah, blah from elsewhere.
This is not some sort of trite woe-is-me-I'm-so-ugly-no-one-likes-me rant either. I don't think I'm conventionally attractive, in that if you were to scan the covers of magazines as a barometer the of what this society considers attractive, you won't find a picture of someone like me. I'm tall, and I wouldn't say I'm as wide, but I'm certainly not waif-ish. I joke with people and not without a sting, that I'm losing at the 'stereotypically attractive' genetic lottery for I would describe my body as a lot like a snake that ate a pig, I'm lean at either end with a big block of roundness in the middle. I'm learning to be ok with it, slowly but I am.
A part of me wants to argue that I'd be a lot better at accepting the skin I'm in if there were no absolute and total scumbags proclaiming to all and sundry that they don't want 'Asians, Indians, fats or femmes'. However, I don't think people putting this
I understand that people have preferences, I do too. The common rebuttal to the idea that singling out potential sexual partners based on their race is racist (which it is) is that we all have preferences of what we want from a partner. Having preferences for people that are based on or characteristic of someone of a particular race is not racist but making broad and sweeping generalizations of someone based on their race alone and no other factor is. By failing to consider a person based on their merits but only on their race is racist, in fact that's the definition of racism.
Someone claiming 'no Asians, no Indians' on their profile, first of all needs a lesson in geography and secondly is making a sweeping and broad generalization that out of the two billion plus people in the Asian continent they would not find one person attractive. To that, I call bullshit and also racism. You're not exercising and highlighting your preferences with a statement like 'no chopsticks', you're not even being witty or clever, just racist.
I mentioned above that this overt racism doesn't make sense to me while also making sense to me. Let me elaborate on that, it doesn't make sense to me that as a community we are calling, even demanding that we be treated with respect and dignity but we can't extend the same levels of decency to our own people, in our own spaces even some of the time. It also makes perfect sense that we as a society, queer and non queer alike have been, since our birth subjected to Eurocentric ideas and ideals of beauty, culture and desirability. That alone is not an excuse though, because then otherwise every person's profile would say 'no Asians, no Indians'. We all have agency, particularly when acting out on racist sentiments.
I think I've reached a point in the whole "learning-to-accept-I'm-not-attractive-in-the-Eurocentric-way-we-have-been-taught-is-attractive" journey where it doesn't wear me down as much. I've stopped thinking of myself as someone burdened and afflicted with the characteristics of an Amerindian, Spanish- Mayan crossbreed to someone blessed to have curly, jet black hair, a squat nose and, caramel colored skin. The personal is political, the political is also very personal, particularly for people of colour like me who find themselves in spaces that are far from welcoming. And because the very act of showing my brown face with the not so delicate nose and unruly hair on an app littered with the overt racist comments of many an idiot is an act of defiance then I'm going to continue doing it.
When I learnt to accept that I can defy racist stereotypes just by stepping into an unwelcoming space and being unapologetic about being there, then showing my face became something that was a little bit easier to do- it does still sting though.
It's also a heavy burden to bear.
What about you, what do you think? Have you experienced this yourself?