Black gay men face shocking bigotry


Within our communities we see how discrimination affects us, but Black women, Black people with disabilities and Black gays often face a double form of discrimination.

A good example is the contentious issues raised when Black gays are involved in mixed relationships and that tension is reflected in the broader politics and culture of gay communities. FS Magazine (published by the gay men's health charity GMFA), recently highlighted this in a study.

The study interviewed 850 Black, Asian, South Asian, Arab and mixed race and white gay men on their views and experience of racism, and the results were shocking with one white gay male responding: “I actually feel physically sick at the sight of too much Black flesh”.

Not surprising then that 80% of Black guys, 79% of Asian guys, 75% of South Asian guys and 64% of mixed race guys who were interviewed in the survey had experienced racism from white gay men. Nor is it surprising that 63% of Black and South Asian men said that racism is a bigger issue for them than homophobia.

Peter, a 23-year old Black man from Leeds, tells of the most repugnant racist remarks he is subjected to, particularly from drag queens. “I could sit here all day and tell you about them ... every time I pass a drag queen who is MCing/DJing, I think to myself ‘please don’t make a racist comment…’”

Gerry, a 35-year old mixed race guy from Glasgow, reported similar experiences: “I’m more conscious of my skin colour than my sexuality … people comment more on my skin in a derogatory manner.”

Carl from London told FS magazine: “White guys will generally only talk to a Black guy in a bar because that’s their sexual preference, otherwise they will ignore you.”

Wayne, also from London, reported, “The only approach I’ve had at a gay bar was when I was asked if I supplied drugs," further lamenting that this was “terrible behaviour, that was not only insulting, but humiliating, since I thought the approach made was due to a romantic intent.”

Asian and South Asian gay men report similar experiences. Here is Shabbs,  a 31-year old South Asian man  from Coventry recounting his experience of racism at the annual Gay Pride march: “Going to a gay pride event and hearing racist comments from gay men directed towards you makes you feel unwelcome in a community you want to be a part of,” he says.

In a sad comment he told FS: “I’d rather be somewhere that’s homophobic than somewhere that is racist, because I can pretend I’m straight. I can’t pretend to be a different skin colour or race. So racism is a bigger issue for me.”

The racism Black gay men face today seems to indicate that far too many white gay men have attitudes that reflect Britain's colonial era, with many expressing a crude and unreconstructed racism.

The extent of gay racism extends into social media.  The gay online scene, also reflects the reality of white gay men’s racism. Online dating sites have their own colour bar: their modern twist of ‘No Dogs, No Irish, No Blacks’ being ‘No chocolate, rice or spice’. Others simply say their preference is ‘White only.’

It’s almost impossible to talk about Black sexuality, gay or straight, without touching on white objectification of Black people, an issue black women know well. In the survey, 82% of Black gay men reported they felt sexualised or objectified by white men on the gay scene.

Martin relates his experiences: “I always feel like my skin colour is being fetishised. I get messages like ‘I’ve never had sex with a Black guy before’ like I’m a rare collector’s item.

“I was sleeping with someone just this week, who on the date was perfectly normal, but then as we lay together he came out with phrases like ‘my little Black boy’, ‘I love the taste of your Black skin’.”

Mickel, 30 from Birmingham, said: “Sometimes it is very clear that some guys just want to have sex with you for the experience of sleeping with a Black man, and a lot of the time you just become a fetish to white men. They have no intention of going out with you; they just want you for sex.”

Such attitudes have harmful effects, as Martin Hodges from GMFA:“There are significantly higher rates of suicide, self-harm and mental ill health among Black gay and bisexual men ... Of course you can’t just say this is purely the result of sexual stereotyping or experiencing racism on the gay scene, but it is clear that there is a major health challenge here which needs to be addressed. We also see higher rates of HIV among Black gay and bisexual men, despite data which suggests that there isn’t much difference in risk behaviour or HIV knowledge between Black gay men and white gay men.”

The Naz Project provides sexual health and HIV prevention and support services to selected Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities in London. They specialise in providing culturally appropriate services and a supportive environment enabling people to access healthcare.

Vernal Scott from Naz told FS: “Naz is behind a series of initiatives specifically designed to address sexual health and personal development from a Black LGBT perspective.

“We have a lot of work to do to redress the damage caused by the negativity experienced by our communities. The impact is quite corrosive, causing Black gay men to present late with HIV and other infections because they anticipate services will not understand or be conducive to their cultural experience.”

It is vitally important that the gay movement engage with organisations such as UK Black Pride that promote unity and co-operation among Black people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender.  To also produce a clear anti racist strategy to combat racism within the white gay community. It is equally important that mainstream Black organisations ensure that Black gay men are included in the fight against racism.

Lee Jasper