The rise of hook-up apps has offered greater freedom, in particular to gay men, but for some it’s a passport for expressing racism they wouldn’t show in the real world. So just how racist are we when it comes to choosing potential partners? Jarlath Gregory asks some gay men of colour about their experiences in Ireland. Photos by Babs Daly.
This article was originally published in the December 2016 Sex Issue of GCN, which is available to read online here.
Last year with the same-sex marriage referendum, the Irish LGBT community joined together in strong solidarity to push equality across the line. But while we pride ourselves on mutual support, there are issues of discrimination and exclusion within our community that we need to address, not least around race.
We may congratulate ourselves on being one of the most welcoming gay scenes in the world, and on being part of an open and accepting country that voted for gay marriage, and while socially the gay scene might seem to reflect this, it’s not the same when it comes to sex. Jordan Boguus, Javier Sequera and Andy Cheung have all been living in Ireland for some time, and they’re here to talk about the issues that gay men from ethnic minorities struggle with when dating.
Some people say that having experienced discrimination themselves, gay people are less likely to be racist. Do you think the gay scene has a problem with racism?
Jordan: I know what you mean – people who go through discrimination are less likely to replicate it. Here, people are just getting used to people like me, so I think gay culture in Ireland
is kind of discriminatory. But I don’t know if it’s in their nature, or they’re ignorant, or apathetic towards it.
Javier: I think sometimes so. Because you can see on Grindr, Hornet, any app, some profiles that say ‘No Asians’ or ‘No Latinos’ or ‘No black people’. That’s racist.
Andy: I haven’t been on the gay scene that much, so it’s mainly on the apps. When I go to a bar I don’t go to hook up. I don’t necessarily know if guys are being racist. I’ve only seen a handful of profiles saying ‘No Asians’, because everyone knows they shouldn’t say those sort of things, but they kind of feel it. If I have a body shot, people might message me, but as soon as they know I’m Asian, they’ll block me.
Do you feel gay men expect you to fit a stereotype?
Jordan: Absolutely, yeah. I’m meant to be the sassy black one. I tie my hair up, and they’re like, ‘You look like The Weekend, or Kele!’ I’m not that one black person you know. I’d say only two percent of gay men in Ireland see me for who I am. I’m not like, woe is me. People see my colour and the way I’m built and they expect me to be a certain way.
Javier: Definitely. In gay life there’s vanity to deal with. If you don’t have the perfect body or a good-looking face or you’re not tall, it’s hard to fit certain stereotypes. And there are stereotypes with race, like people expect a black man to have a huge penis.
Andy: I feel like if you’re on the edge of the community, you’re more likely to feel that pressure when you interact with other gay people, especially in terms of dating. There’s like the whole need to be ‘masc’ nowadays. It’s body issues, it’s how you act; it’s down to the tone of your voice. And then there’s the flipside of guys who are only into Asians, where you have to meet people’s fetishes.
Are gay men more racist on dating apps than in person, say, in a bar or club?
Jordan: Yes, because it’s faceless. Everyone’s a keyboard gangster. I don’t know if I’ve experienced overt racism. Maybe they just don’t reply, whatever. But there have been one or two occasions where guys have been like, ‘Sorry, not into black guys,’ and I have a problem with that. I also think everyone’s a tiny bit racist. There’s overt racism, then there’s racist thoughts – it’s always the intent behind it. ‘Oh, I’ve never been with a black person before’ – that’s the number one thing people say. I’m not a phase or something.
Javier: It’s easier to be a racist on an app, saying ‘No Latinos’ and all that. When you’re in a bar, and you’re drunk, or you’re high, people don’t care. Of course they can be racist, but maybe because of the alcohol, or they’re wasted, they don’t have a problem making out with any guy. But it’s easy to be racist on gay apps.
Andy: There was one of those anonymous guys who propositioned me on a gay app, and when I said no, he started using racist epithets. He was saying really racist things like “Get out of my country”, telling me I’m not Irish even though I was born here and have an Irish passport. He wanted me to take a photo of my Irish passport! It was ridiculous. I managed to troll him back and got him to block me, but that’s how weird it got.
Keep reading to see what our interviewees have to say about preference, how they deal with racism and how Ireland stacks up against other countries.