According to my gay friends, I’m not nearly gay enough. I’m not trendy. I never go clubbing. I can’t dance or give sass or do a passable duck face when I’m taking selfies. And I’ve never been to a bathhouse.
I also wear too much plaid.
But my primary shortcoming is that I’m not on Grindr.
Now if you’re as tragically unhip as me you’ll be asking yourself: “What is a Grindr?” Grindr, my friend recently informed me, is an app that gays use to find other gays in the area. For smexy times.
And I couldn’t help but giggle as my Joey-Potter-Friend showed me some of the profiles. Most of them were close-up shots of butt-holes and flaccid wieners. Just staring at us.
“I’m scared,” I whispered to Joey Potter.
“Stop being a prude!” he chided.”Lots of gays hook up this way.”
I continued to scroll down the profiles. And there, at the bottom, was a picture of a Jersey Shore lookalike giving a thumbs up to the camera. His Likes: cars, chest hair, cheesecake.
His Dislikes: Asians.
And apparently this is a thing. A quick 1-minute search on the internet informs me that there are hundreds of Grindr profiles out there of guys who say things like “No Asians, Prease” or “Yuck! Asians!” and other similarly gross declarations.
My Joey Potter friend, feeling sympathetic, told me that on one occasion he met someone through Grindr who immediately stood him up after he found out he was Mexican.
“Oh well,” Joey Potter shrugged. “It’s just personal preference.”
Um. No. It isn’t.
Preference is saying you prefer red velvet cupcakes over ice cream. Preference is saying you prefer Cassandra Cain over Stephanie Brown as Bat-girl. And in the case of attraction, preference is saying you prefer blue eyes over brown ones.
These douchebags aren’t indicating preference. They’re indicating distaste. They could have just said that they prefer having white partners or gone into a long list of different physical characteristics they like that imply an ethnic preference. But instead they chose to make statements like “No Asians, prease” because… I don’t even know. Maybe because they thought it was funny? Maybe because they thought drawing on “No-Engrish-speaking” caricatures of other races is socially acceptable in the 21st century?
And the fact that my Joey Potter friend could sit there and feel like this was fine – that it was cool that someone else could completely dismiss him because of his ethnicity – makes me so angry. It makes me angry because Joey Potter is every man’s type. I am not even exaggerating. He has the looks, the heart, and the wit to win any guy over – gay or straight. Well, provided these guys possess cerebrums.
And yet, my friend feels like this kind of hate is perfectly justifiable. Why? Because people are expressing “personal preference.”
This takes me back to a conversation I had during my junior year of college. I was playing Super Smash Bros with some peers and my bestie Rose was telling us about this guy she met at a club. She gushed about how pretty he was, and how tall, and how dreamy. And after about 20 minutes of everyone gushing with her, Rose finally said, “And he’s Asian.” And apparently this was a big deal. Some of her friends – who, at the time, were my friends – tried gently correcting her: “But he was.. half Asian?” After Rose confirmed that no, Jack (soon to be her boyfriend) was in fact 100% Asian with no Caucasian features whatsoever, another friend said “Huh. I could never date an Asian guy.” Oh, and my favourite quote of the night: “I guess he’s pretty cute… for an Asian.” Second only to: “I could only date one if he’s incredibly hot.”
Hear me out, people: these were my friends saying these things. I had known them for years, taken classes with them, let them into my dorm. We chatted about things like sexism and homophobia and had conversations about The Man and why capitalism is crappy. Y’know. Hipster shit. These were the same friends who tried to set me up with guys and who told me that I lacked the self-esteem I deserved. So why, whyyyyy would you say that you’d “Never date an Asian guy”… to an Asian guy?!
What did they expect me to say? How did they expect me to react? Did they think that making such declarations would miraculously turn me into a Yeti so that in that moment I wouldn’t take their Asian comments personally?
It’s human nature, people: if you make a shitty comment about an entire category of people to someone who belongs within that category, expect that someone to feel awkward.
I’m not naive. I know that people have preferences. And I know that preferences are socio-politically influenced and we can’t help what we like. So many of my friends prefer blonde hair, blue eyes, long legs, tight abs, and Viking-good looks. If we live in a society that celebrates these features then of course we’ll indoctrinate an appreciation for this aesthetic. I for one happen to think Thor is a hunk, that Ryan Gosling needs to call me, and… He-Man? This is what I wake up to every morning.
But it’s one thing to say, “I prefer blonde-haired, blue-eyed clearly gay Viking-gods with battle axes” and quite another to say “I’d never date an [ethnic] guy.” Because whereas the former statement doesn’t necessarily insult people who don’t fall into these incredibly rigid standards of beauty, the latter says this:
“It doesn’t matter how handsome he is, or how smart, or how generous, or how much he loves me. He could be the nicest man on the planet and make a decent living and be totally awesome to my friends and family. Still, I can never love someone who is [insert ethnicity]… because of the colour of their skin. Or the slant of their eyes. Or because I’ve been told by the whitewashed media that people who belong to this category are [all wimpy; or gang-bangers; or cheaters; or sexist; or self-hating; or greedy; or some other such genetically-determined, fucked-up behaviour] .”
This isn’t just wrong. This is dehumanizing. In some ways, it’s even more dehumanizing than taking a picture of your butt-hole and sending that out into the world. Because at least in the second scenario you’re deciding which body-part you want others to identify you with. But see, Asians don’t get to decide whether or not non-Asians see them all like this or think things like this. And black women don’t get to decide when assholes say things like this. And my Joey Potter friend – who again is perfect and lovely and wonderful – didn’t get to decide that one day some racist dude would describe him as “undesirable” because…
You get my point?
I’m not saying that people should ignore their preferences and deliberately start dating men or women who look different from the dream person they’ve always imagined. I’m not even telling you to question those preferences. I’m just saying that merely having a preference does not in any way validate you saying nasty things about people who fail to conform to your definition of hotness. If you ever feel the need to tell someone that you don’t date [insert ethnic person] because of [insert some bullshit reason], please… just don’t. And especially don’t say it to the [ethnic person in question].
Otherwise what you’ll get is a rant like this.
Do yourself a favour, okay? Avoid the rant.