Since coming to London last year, student Balaji Ravichandran has been impressed with the freedom that gay men enjoy here. As an Indian, though, Balaji has noticed that white gay men’s attitudes to a guy like him can at times leave something to be desired.
“Sorry, not my type.” This is probably the most frequented reply I’ve received on Gaydar – or “DismayDar,” as I choose to call it.
Personally, I have nothing against the cruising website always busy with people (gay, straight, or otherwise) craving for sex.
It is, in many ways, much better than the hypocrisy of people claiming to want longer relationships and not bothering to call again or return your messages.
Indeed, having been in Britain only for a year now, I’ve rather enjoyed my frequent flings, thanks to the occasional few who don’t mind my skin colour, or those who do not have “Caucasians only” in the “Looking for” column of their profiles.
Yet, having used it for almost a year, along with a host of other dating websites, and having been a part of the “gay scene” (an unfortunate epithet) in London for an equal amount of time, I can’t help thinking that there is subtle, yet very palpable racism within the community.
When I mention this to many of my gay friends in the UK, they refuse to believe it. They point out that there are a significant number of interracial relationships within the gay community. I wholly agree.
What’s more, most of the men I’ve been with were white. In fact, I once admitted that if one wanted to see real and overt racism, one must go to the Berlin gay scene-how would you feel if people in their hundreds refuse to acknowledge you even exist?
That’s exactly how it felt – for me, anyway.
But to say that Britain is highly tolerant and that it is not as bad as some other European nations is not to say that a person with coloured skin is treated in exactly the same manner as a white would.
Far from it. If you don’t believe me, log on to any gay dating website and read the profiles of a few white people at random.
You are more likely to see the following epithets than any discernible description of themselves or their prospective partners (sexual or otherwise)- “Sorry, not into Asians;” “Sorry, coloured skin just doesn’t work for me;” “Whites only, no offence.”
An oxymoron, if there ever was one.
Could this be something related to the realms of online dating alone? Not exactly.
I’ve encountered more cold shoulders and “thanks, no thanks” on Old Compton Street than Dating Direct or Gaydar. Admittedly, this may not be race-related at all.
Many a gay man refuses even to acknowledge another’s presence in busy gay clubs these days. No smiles, no exchanges of conversations – people seem to move about in cohorts drinking and dancing, with little else being accomplished.
With more people flocking to online dating, the social side of bars seems fast diminishing.
Personally and professionally, I’ve seldom encountered racism in Britain. The episode surrounding Shilpa Shetty is nothing more than a media gimmick to which unsuspecting TV addicts paid too much attention.
However, when it comes to establishing a connection deeper than friendship, and one that ventures into a long-term commitment, hesitancy does seem to set in.
Strangely, this is not related just to whites, as some within the Asian and black community (usually fed up with racism) often assume.
A number of black and East Asian men have told me personally that they’d rather prefer to settle down with people of their own race than any other.
I find this whole scenario quite disturbing-not least because in some ways, it labels people on the basis of their colour, and personally, I’m opposed to labelling people on the basis of anything but their individual selves.
I wince when someone describes me as “Asian,” and some of my British-born friends do not like the label “British Asians” either.
“We’re just British,” they say. Some think I’m in denial about my racial roots, as are my “British Asian” friends.
But, my racial roots basically have nothing to do with the person that I am.
I feel insulted when websites like Gaydar try and construct an identity in my profile, based on my race, and that of my prospective partner.
That ethnicity and race is still a column in all profile applications is a cause for concern when it should have no influence in deciding any aspect of people’s personal and professional lives.
With the exception of crude racists, I think most people would agree.
I’m all for freedom of speech. If someone is uncomfortable with the fact that the colour of my skin is brown, let him say so (if I hit on him) and stay away from me.
What I cannot digest is the fact that even in this day and age, and in a tolerant society like Britain, race still plays a substantial role in people’s lives. Gay people, of all, must know the perils of discrimination, subtle or overt.
That a significant proportion of the gay community subscribe to discrimination, in itself, is regrettable. What’s worse, many websites don’t seem to mind either.