It's hard not to be aware of what your identity means when you separate it out, but more recently I've been compelled to think about what some of my identity often means together. When chatting to a young white gay male in a bar, it's odd to think that someone who is very often the victim of reckless unthoughtful comments and abuse can single out someone based on being black.
It usually starts with assuming that because I'm a black guy I'm always up for a conversation about my penis size. Now, it's almost always met with laughter and usually deemed to be complimentary but when you really think about it you start to realise the whole conversation is quite demoralising after your fifth conversation of night. Apparently, black gay and bisexual men are only worth dating once you confirm their dick size is in line with stereotypes because of course there are no other compelling reasons you might 'go black'. I can tell you now that's both short sighted and stupid at the same time.
How do I take anyone seriously when I feel like a naughty fetish, or like I'm on someone's list of things to 'do'. And I really wish it stopped when you entered relationships, instead I find my partners greeted with comments like 'oh he's exotic', because all black people come from a place called 'black land' and are a rare species that even David Attenborough has yet to find. Rare species that are of course 'straight acting' (a term I loathe) and aggressive.
Now all of this might sound funny, but actually it all amounts to something quite serious. It's serious because whilst exiting racisms course isn't a simple 'unsubscribe' option you can tick at the end of the day, checking your privilege and thinking about what you communicate is a start. Now this concept shouldn't be new or unfamiliar to the LGBT community, we're all aware of the frustrating situations we sometimes end up in when someone says something insensitive or just offensive so why can't we apply it to intersections of our community?
It's not that hard surely? But time and time again I'm met with situations I just shouldn't have to face. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say the LGBT scene works almost entirely for gay white men on every level. It's apparent in LGBT media, LGBT campaigning and most obviously in LGBT social spaces. A recent example of this is the backlash the Royal Vauxhall Tavern received over Charlie Hides who often performs in blackface as Laquisha Jonz.
Now my first reaction initially was surely this was outdated a long time ago and then I realised it didn't even deserve that observation because quite frankly that implies trivialising the lives of black working class women was ever OK but one thing it did highlight when I looked through some of the Twitter response is the sheer amount of people who just didn't see how offensive and inappropriate it was. I can tell you now that it's not uncommon for drag acts in the UK to express racist slurs halfway through a performance and I can guarantee almost nothing is done by the management of the clubs or the crowd of individuals laughing along to their act.
Some of my worst bar and club encounters have been as far south as Luton and Brighton and as far north as Manchester and Newcastle so it's safe to say these experiences are widespread but don't be tricked into thinking London is the progressive exception because it really isn't. It's important to note that these experiences are exacerbated online via apps like Grindr and Tinder where you're forced to encounter people you can often ignore in person. If I sent you screenshots of some of the messages I've received and many of my friends have you'd be shocked into silence. For some reason I'm supposed to find fetishisation of my body and my apparent lifestyle flattering. Why did you feel the need to express your continuous need for black men to me?
I'm sad to say that it's so relentless sometimes I'm often left feeling relieved I haven't met another 'progressive' racist every time I meet someone new. Surely I shouldn't need to feel like that? Reggie Yates' Extreme UK documentary which aired on BBC Three on the 7 December 2015, focused on the experience of young black and Asian gays, bisexuals and transsexuals but failed to investigate some of the experiences they face when they reach mainstream LGBT spaces. There was even one scene where he visited Derby Pride and was able to count the black and minority ethnic people on one hand and, although there was a focus on the black and Asian communities response, it failed to highlight the experiences they do encounter with their white peers once they have plucked up the courage to 'come out'.
For some reason the LGBT community seem to be content with being arbitrators of equality and acceptance providing it doesn't mean pulling them up on their prejudice behaviour. How long will it take for the LGBT community to realise that solidarity can't be selective? You can't welcome black people for the party and then dismiss their experiences moments later when it really matters. When over 80% of gay men say they have experienced racism within the LGBT community it's time to we recognised this as an important issue that needs to be dealt with it head on - not least because we have a long shared history of oppression but because at the end of the day its the right thing to do.