Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bullying of a Different Color

I just read an article about racism within the gay community that opened the box of a lot of ugly memories.

I remember my twink days well.  At one point, I was having a fling with another, fellow twink who was white.  It was, well...we were young.  Then, he met this other guy who was slightly older than myself.  And, also white.  They immediately hit it off and started to "fling", themselves.  Then came the cruising of the clubs.  Then came the phone conversation:  "Well, David and I were talking, and we both decided that we're too good to waste ourselves on a black guy."  Needless to say, I'll never forget that phone call.  Or, the deep hurt I felt from being told I wasn't good enough because of my skin tone.

I remember, also from my twink days, and after being blown off by my former partner because I was black and, in his own words, unworthy, going to a gay club downtown.  It was a very popular club at the time and was packed to the gills.  Shortly after arriving, I saw him:  my Mr. Right!  Six-feet, lean, blond and blue.  With a smile that wouldn't quit.  My first thought was "I'm taking him home tonight".  I made strong eye contact with him while he was, um, working, and we exchanged pleasantries.  "Win!!!", I thought.  I thought wrong.  At the end of the day, he went home with a man roughly twice my age, at least a half-foot shorter but easily 75-100 lbs heavier. (close your eyes and envision THAT!)  Oh, did I say that he was also white?  So, once again, the reinforcement was there:  I'm inferior because of my skin-tone.

Fast forward to San Francisco, 1986.  I'm no longer a twink, but I'm still young, and still a lean, very handsome (so I was told), athletic man.  Black man.  I had a lot of acquaintances in the Polk Gulch area with whom I socialized with regularly.  One night, five of us had been out just enjoying the evening:  couple of beers, lots of laughs, fun stuff.  One suggested that we go back to his place and have an orgy.  I couldn't believe my ears!!!!  Everyone was in agreement.  So, off we merrily go.  His apartment was only a few blocks away, on Sutter.  Upon entering his apartment, he turned to me and said "Sorry, you're not invited.  This is for white guys, only."  He may as well have pulled out a .45 and shot me in between the eyes.  I cannot even explain how hurt I was, or how low I felt upon hearing that, once again, my skin-tone had rendered me unworthy.(I will say, though, that one of the guys strongly objected to the host's exhibition of racist ignorance, told the host so, and we had our own fun for the evening.  Still, the damage had been done.)

In this article, they speak of racism within the gay community as if it's a new trend.  As you have just read, it's nowhere near a new thing.  It's a large reason why I disengaged myself from "the gay community" long ago.  Those three instances alone proved to me, beyond a doubt, that I didn't have a place within the community.  Well, I guess I did as long as I kept myself segregated.  To my disadvantage, in this case, I just happened to be born "color-blind".  Even in today's world, it still exists.  Maybe, because of the far-reaching instantaneousness of the Internet, even to a greater extent.  I've checked out several of the online dating sites and, lo and behold, the ones I've found attractive have profiles that clearly states that I'm not in their realm of attraction.  Even with those who list their wider diversity, "black" is not one of their suitable preferences.

I found it quite telling, this segment taken from the article:
"After having a few drinks with my friend, I walk home through the garment district in midtown Manhattan. I see a gay male couple walking hand in hand down the street... Their relaxed and happy faces turn frightened when they see me, and they immediately cease holding hands and separate. On this late night in an unfamiliar area of the city, I am not seen as a member of the LGBT community. I am black. I am male. I am a threat."
That's a snapshot of the real world.

So, what does this have to do with the anti-bullying, stop-teen-suicide campaign that I've immersed myself in?  Do you think that all gay teens are white?  Well, the obvious answer is "of course not".  Like the symbol of our pride, they are every color of the rainbow, so to speak.  So, what happens when young, black Tony falls in love with white Michael only to have Michael tell him "I'm too good to waste myself on a black guy"?  Will that be the straw to break the proverbial camel's back?  Wouldn't those words be a form of bullying?  If your answer is yes to either, the battle is even tougher than first realized.  But, to further complicate matters, how exactly does one address this issue?  Do we teach the black and minority LGBT teens that they've got yet another battle they'll have to fight, and this foe will come from within the ranks of the LGBT community?  Well, that will go over well.  Do we tell they the black and minority LGBT teen that (s)he may as well forget about finding a partner outside of their race because, in the LGBT community, white is king?  What exactly is the answer?  We're begging, no demanding!!!, that the world start treating us, the LGBT community, as equals.  As well it should!  Yet, we don't even treat our own as equals. 

The last piece of the article was, I think, my favorite.  It speaks volumes.
"We all have 'preferences' and that's certainly our right," he says. "But we don't have a right to make people feel inferior because they look different from us— any more than straight people have a right to make us feel inferior because of who we choose to love. Not in this day and age. Not after all we've gone through. Not anymore."
 We have a lot of work to do.