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In an age of ‘Kindr Grindr‘ and niche apps celebrating tribes, black gay men still don’t have an app just for us. Instead, we tend to log on and land somewhere between “no blacks” or “BBC only!” Dating in 2019 is based on the present, preferences, prejudices, and proximity. But, when you fill in your wants and desires, are the words in your dating app profile– a preference or prejudice?
Let’s start with the basics. Preference is defined as a greater liking for one alternative over another (or others). Prejudice is the unjust or discriminatory treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex. So, when someone says: “No fats, fems, whites, or under 30; just my preference.” Is it or isn’t it?
Through the ‘preference and prejudice’ we come across daily on gay dating apps, I wanted to see how I measured up against a lot of these “preferences.” So here we go…
I once heard a guy in a bar say; “I’d never date a fat girl. It shows she lacks discipline and doesn’t care about herself. You only have one body, and that’s what you decide to do with it? No, thanks.” I sat back and felt a lot of ways. On the surface, it sounded like this was a prejudice. And then I realized, I had a similar view.
For me, it was: “I’d never date a guy with abs; he’s probably going to expect me to be in the gym and run marathons.” But hearing his preference made me realise, I was projecting my own insecurities. “No fats” through his paradigm could probably make sense to someone who attaches fitness to ambition. But, often, when it’s “no fats” on a profile, the subtext feels discriminatory.
As a man who leans HWP (height-weight proportionate), I’m guilty of feeling uncomfortable when I read this in a profile. But, a good part of me has accepted that if my body is a deal-breaker, thanks for saving my time. Under this lens, it doesn’t feel like prejudice towards me or larger bodies. Though I can’t help but ask… do you still approach someone even if you aren’t their type? I mean really, how many people really end up with their “type” anyway?
My dad once said: “you know you’re different, a bit effeminate, but it works for you”. I was shocked! Firstly, I didn’t know he knew such a big word. Secondly, it felt like my dad’s new love language was shade. And finally, I felt angry. How dare you suggest that I, as a man, have anything less than masculine qualities?! It was a sobering moment.
Somewhere along the dating path, I adopted the thought that men didn’t like overly feminine men. I thought, If I display feminine qualities, I am less attractive and desirable. But for many of us, “no fems” is rooted in a desire to please someone and fit in. For me, it was my dad. He didn’t like it, so I hid it. For you, it could be the same thing, or something totally different. Yes, we all have daddy issues! And those issues usually manifest into a prejudice versus a preference.
But you know what I find most interesting? Many black gay men will say that overt femininity on men isn’t attractive, pleasing or desirable. Yet, a good deal of guys who wield this request throw “girl,” “bitchhh,” and other lingo that celebrate a type of freedom we only house in our friendships. How do we celebrate the multiple ways we exist for the men in our lives and not feel emasculated about it?
Racial Hang-ups are a thing. My primary friend circle is black men. All of us date only black men, except one; he’s married to a white guy. The rest of us site cultural differences, fetishisation, and discomfort for a race that we simply feel don’t like us. It’s our preference. Meanwhile, people are continually inviting white people to the cookout, which means nothing in the dating world.
Hanging out, hooking up, and committing to a relationship for many of us just isn’t an option. I have no real interest or desire in white men, but I don’t put it in my profile. To me, it reads like a prejudice. And without that statement, I am left to receive plenty of wildly obnoxious and offensive requests. I can’t help but wonder, even though I don’t say it, am I just as bad as the guy searching for BBCs? Is my ability to remain PC worth receiving disturbing messages based on my race?
No one under—
Of all of these, I am guilty of having an age restriction in my current charge to find a partner. A few months ago, I met a guy, 22, and my “type” as I know it. Fortunately, in my years of living, I knew what it was; one night of fun. But he wanted to know what it would take to date me. I pushed back, and he grew upset and frustrated. I explained to him that he’s simply too young and that’s my preference. We forged a friendship of some sort.
After some time passed, we linked again. He shared that he was dating multiple guys and travelling much more! For me, it was an informed restriction, albeit a challenging one. Sometimes preferences are in place as a means of protection, and under this section, it makes sense. I saw the happiness and joy of his 20s on him and knew I did the right thing. While this action could seem like a prejudice, in context, life simply taught me to implement this boundary.
In the end, our “nos” are in hopes of us finding the guy who makes us say yes. Are we perpetuating a culture of shame by calling attention to the things we want or don’t want? How much of what we “want” is listed versus what we “don’t want?” How much of what we “want” is what we even get? Does anyone even read app profiles fully anymore? What I will say is that dating is fun and important. It is, essentially about collecting data. In turn, we should use that data to determine what we prefer, or simply don’t want.
I encourage you to understand the boundaries and restrictions you’ve placed on dating. Preferences come from experience and insight. Prejudices come from displaced fear and ignorance. If you don’t want to date white men, uncut men, and overweight men, fine. But keep in mind the delivery. Yes, the old saying applies, “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Choosing kindness is the right approach, Grindr. But, let’s not leave it up to an app, we must do the work too.
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