Gay, Brown, and Ambivalent About Dating White Men

As a gay person of color, I examine my discomfort around the idea of dating white men based on my own personal experience.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Eleanor Chin

I am a Bengali Hindu gay male. While I have never had a boyfriend, I’ve considered the prospect, feeling attracted to several different people of various backgrounds over the years. However, attraction did not mean I felt comfortable with the idea of dating all the men I had developed an infatuation for. My mother, believing in the archaic caste system, says she will arrange my marriage with a Bengali Hindu Brahmin (and more specific subcastes) girl. At times, I accepted these requirements, except for the gendered part, hoping that it would make it easier for my parents to accept my sexuality. I have since decided to find a guy who can understand the intersection of being queer and of color through similar experiences.

As a queer person, one of the reasons for the conflict that arises when I feel attracted to a white man is that many white queer people believe their queerness takes away their white privilege. Difficulties from being queer are not monolithic. It can be much more difficult for black and brown queer people to express their sexualities. Additionally, black and brown people have to deal with racism every day, regardless of their sexual identities, whereas queer white people don’t. The denial of white privilege among many queer people pushes the belief that being part of one minority can erase the benefits that come from being part of another majority, which ignores the difficulties of queer people of color. While I do not believe that all white queer people think this way, this general rhetoric makes me uncomfortable with the idea of dating a white person.

White queer people also have privilege within the queer community. They are more represented in media than queer people of color. This portrayal leads to a culture in which people have minimized their understanding of the queer experience to the experience of white queer people, often leading to ignorance toward the lives of queer people of color. Queer people are pressured to fit one image of queerness perpetuated by white standards. Not fitting in can make queer people of color feel othered by queer white people, which contributes further to my hesitance around the idea of dating white men. I do not want to be in a relationship in which I am expected to live up to a standard perpetuated by a society that only understands white queerness.

Additionally, I feel like only a person of color can understand, based on similar experiences, how I have to tackle my culture’s treatment of homosexuality, sex, and sexuality. In many South Asian families, homosexuality is not discussed because it defies the cisheteronormative standards perpetuated by the expectation of arranged marriage between a man and a woman. People are not allowed to own their own sexualities, and sex is taboo as it is seen as a source for having children, not for pleasure. The idea of homosexuality is associated with deviance to these norms and therefore seen as wrong. Seeing how similar stigmas exist in other cultures has led me to think it is better for me to date people of color because they can understand from similar experiences why I am not always comfortable expressing my sexuality. While progressive families exist in communities of color and strict, religious families exist in white communities, taboos around homosexuality can be widespread across communities of color while similar stigmas are specific to certain families in white communities, making the experience quite different.

Queer people of color have to deal with the struggles that come with their racial identities and sexualities in a way that white queer people do not. White queer people have privilege because of their racial identity and within the queer community. For these reasons, I question my comfort with the idea of dating white men because our experiences with our sexualities are vastly different. For me, a successful relationship would require me and my partner to understand each other’s struggles, and I am unsure if understanding can be developed without having similar experiences. Therefore, I will continue to feel ambivalent about the prospect of dating white men, thinking of it as a natural product of being less privileged and less represented.