Something is rotten in the gay community. Suddenly, it's become worse to call someone a racist than to actually be a racist.* How did this happen?
The modern and mainstream gay man (including me) seems to perceive race on two different levels. First, there's the social level on the surface, comprised of knee-jerk liberal reactions to the general concept of race and racism. There is a common sentiment among gay men that boils down to this: "As a disenfranchised minority, of course I'm not racist or sexist or classist or blah, blah, blah."
Then, you delve deeper into a sexual level, and that's where things get bitchy. Rejection is an intrinsic component of being gay today, because we live in a society where we're tolerated to bust our asses making straight people look good but we're not allowed to get married like them. To make things worse, sexual rejection isn't even rejection from straight people. It's rejection from other gay men. Ouch.
Because we gay men are encouraged to relate to each other solely on this sexual level, race suddenly becomes a touchy factor. Racial preferences exist whether we like them or not, and some gay men are particularly, even gleefully, cruel about how they choose to advertise what color they prefer their men. (On that note, I personally don't think racial preference is racism; it's just kind of boring. Who goes to Yogurtland and only gets one flavor? Not I!)
After I wrote "The Beautiful Gay Man of Color," a popular gay blog framed my view as having only two facets: 1) I was "aesthetically marginalized," or 2) I was complaining. First off, let me just say that labeling minority voices as "complaints" is a profoundly lazy way to justify ignoring us. Secondly, there was an annoying implication being made that my self-worth was based on whether white men wanted me.
Let me be clear. I eat boys for breakfast. I'm not sulking in a sad corner of sexual rejection. I apologize profusely if that bursts any bubbles of misguided superiority. If you base your self-worth on an imaginary sexual caste system, I have endless pity for you. That's no way to live your life.
Here's the truth: When we gay men of color voice our concerns, we're not complaining about our love lives. We're concerned because the face of the gay movement is a white one, and we don't want to be left behind. I want to say that I am part of this movement. I want to tell my kids someday that I fought alongside my gay brothers and sisters for my right to have my own family. I want to know that it'll get better for us, too.
My fellow HuffPost blogger Zach Stafford wrote a piece last week in which he brought up a rumor that RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Sharon Needles used the "n-word." Don't get me wrong: I am obsessed with Sharon Needles. I am Team Needles all the way. But, my gosh, the way some people lunged at Zach (who is a gay man of color) for daring to accuse a white gay man of being racist, or at least cavalier about race! Because, you know, such a thing is unheard of.
Well, I personally believe that it's worse to be a racist than to call someone a racist. I think that it's always healthy to discuss race, even if we step on some toes. We're all big boys. We can handle it. When we gay men talk and are honest and exchange our own experiences and relate to each other on a level other than a sexual one, the community will get stronger.
You can argue that racism exists everywhere, and you'd be right. But here's the wonderfully unique thing about being gay: It transcends race, class, gender, location, even time. Gay people are everywhere, and we come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Acknowledging this can only be a good thing.
Because as much as Republicans would want you to believe, gay men are not just pieces of meat fucking each other. We are the leaders of the next great movement in human rights, and if we listen to each other without judgment or fear, that is when things will truly get better.
Being an out gay man is a privilege, and with that privilege comes an obligation to be the best community we can be. Let's start acting -- and talking -- like it.
*Special thanks to Brendan Deiz of the Anchor Babies for letting me use this quote.
This piece also appears on Justin Huang's personal site I AM YELLOW PERIL. Also check out Huang's radio debut on Global Voice Broadcasting's Finding Cupid.