Despite the wet weather in London, UK Black Pride held its fifth annual event in Regent’s Park last Saturday. The day after, I was lying in bed catching up on the news online when I saw a PinkNews.co.uk article on the festival. The comments from some readers towards the black and Asian community caught my attention. These posts alarmed but did not surprise me. This led me to think, is gay racism a fact or myth?
As a mixed-race gay man, I have always been honest and open with my white friends about my own experiences of racism. A sad fact of life is that people who are visibly ethnic and gay are not immune from racism from either white gay or straight people. I have experienced my own fair share of racism and discrimination, direct and indirect. To be told often that I am “not like the others” is an insult to my race and identity.
It doesn’t matter how nice you are as a black or Asian person, how well you get on with white people, how many white friends you have or how good-looking and cool you are, no one is immune from racism. Prejudice in all forms is as prevalent in the gay community as it is in the mainstream, it’s pointless saying otherwise. It is naive to think that just because white gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people themselves are a minority and have their own challenges in life, that they are welcoming to visible ethnic gay or indeed straight people.
The comments I read on that story reflect a fraction of the white gay community who are racist. Some may think members of the white gay community would be more understanding when it comes to issues of diversity, fairness and equality, but often white gay people are no better at demonstrating tolerance than mainstream white society and this is a fact.
One reader said that UK Black Pride seems a ’strange’ concept and added: “If it were White Pride, it would be called racist.” Prides throughout the UK take place every other month of the year and these do not readily accept visible ethnic gay men and indeed women into the mainstream white gay community.
Another commentator wrote: “Just more black separatism and antagonism. Very few black people come out and when they do all they want to talk about is imaginary racism of white gay men because they have been sexually rejected by white gay men.” That says it all.
When black and Asian people feel like they do not belong, they see no other choice but to hold a pride where they can meet other like-minded people, black, white, gay and straight, without the need to try and fit in. Those who complain have no problem with the concept of pride events in general. But what they do have is a problem with this event for BME (black and minority ethnic) people.
It’s ignorant to think that this event was being held because black and Asian people have been “blown out”, rejected by white gay men. For whatever the reason, if BME people feel they need or indeed want to hold this type of event, then why not? Why shouldn’t members of the BME community enjoy the same rights and freedoms as the rest of the UK population?
Even today gay dating sites like Gaydar have comments such as “Sorry, no blacks or Asians”, “Not really into Asian guys… no prejudice, just not my thing…” and “If you’re black or Asian, please don’t message me, nothing personal” on individual profiles.
Now, I fully understand that people (black and white) have preferences and it’s not for others to interfere, but many of these dating sites like Gaydar don’t have a section or tick box where you indicate your dislike or non-interest of others. These are unsolicited statements by white gay men who have feel the need to declare to the world their disregard for a whole race of people. On what grounds I do not know?
We live in a country that is predominantly white and straight, however the world has changed. This is something we all have to get to grips with. People of all colours have helped to put the ‘Great’ in Britain over hundreds of years from Asia to the Caribbean and this shouldn’t be forgotten, especially by white LGBT people. When you’re the only black face in a room of 20 people, it is not your sexuality that others see first, but the colour of your skin. There is no closet to come out of. If there is going to be a debate on black LGBT issues, then it at least needs to be a real and intelligent one, based on facts not myths.
Kevin Maxwell is a writer and performer and lives in London. His personal website is kevinmaxwell.co.uk