There’s a recycled line I use in my dating profiles: “Hate masc/racial b.s. Our president is bad enough. We don’t need it here.” It’s a nod to my own self-defined policies that allow me to enjoy, or at least hate less, my experience on the apps and my desire, as I’ve done in print from from time to time, to get people to think a bit more about the way they conduct themselves and interact online. I’m the first to admit that it’s a bit preachy, but for the most part, I haven’t gotten much blowback—with two recent notable exceptions.
One dude, a white guy wearing nothing but briefs and a Halloween mask, messaged me unprovoked with a resounding endorsement of Trump, followed by some rather insulting memes about Obama and Hillary that no doubt have proven invaluable within the (alt) right’s digital arsenal. The second dude, a headless Latino torso, messaged me, also unprovoked, quoting my jab at “our president” and expressing his sadness at yet another “blind citizen.” His profile identified him as a proud Trump supporter and he had “NO tolerance” for “fems, DEMOCRATS, sloppy bottoms, power bottoms, trannys, vegans, vegetarians, occupy protesters, gay marriage supporters, prius drivers n environmental fruitcakes!” I, however, was the blind one—if he meant blind to the bullshit.
Too often, any attempt to have a calm, mature dialogue with someone of a different political faith ends in these kinds of antagonistic, decidedly immature reactions. And as a liberal/progressive person—an environmental fruitcake, if you will— I generally point the finger of blame at conservatives. After all, I’ve yet to hear a valid reason why anyone who’s not a corporation—because they’re people, too—or an old white man would vote for Trump. Particularly when everything he ran on, and everyone he’s surrounded himself with, goes against so many of what are considered core values: respect, equality, fairness, not sexually assaulting women. Thus it’s 2017 and ideology has been incontrovertibly conflated with morality.
Over time I've come to realize that a guy not being into me because of my race doesn't necessarily make him a bad person—dealing with, or avoiding, myriad issues, sure, but not necessarily bad. So then, can I also divorce one's ideology from one's morality? And how does this fit into the queer community, where you’re expected, by default, to be a liberal, progressive, environmental fruitcake?
Out of the Conservative Closet
Increasingly, there have been more conservative gays “coming out of the closet”—an ultimately insulting parallel that likens what can be a traumatic experience to what can be a media opportunity. They feel isolated as a minority in the queer community, though they’re most likely cis white men who would otherwise pass for the majority, with little to no concern for trans people or queer people of color. Feeling ostracized within a minority, it’s understandable, then, to double down on that isolating factor. Just as I have embraced my blackness, gay conservatives can now embrace their conservatism—which is, and always has been, just another form of whiteness anyway.
Now, I’m a lifelong liberal because my life has benefited from liberal policies—as a poor, black, gay, immigrant, orphan, I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for the more socialist leanings of the government. But just as my life informs my ideologies, so must that of a gay conservative. If you’re not that well acquainted with struggle, then why would you be attuned to the struggle of others? Or, maybe being an otherwise all-American, upstanding white man, you feel left out of the patriarchy, so by “coming out conservative” you’re inching your way back in. Or maybe you’re just wealthy enough to benefit from Trump tax cuts and can blissfully ignore everything else. Whatever the case, that’s fine. There’s no gay rulebook that says you have to be a diehard Democrat—let’s just not perpetuate the idea that it’s an act of bravery if you’re not.
Perhaps after suffering a lifetime of slings and arrows that come with being queer in a black man’s body, and the daily microaggressions I face while seeking to be seen as a fully realized human being in a world, and a community, that routinely denies me that humanity, my patience and capacity for understanding a cis white man feeling victimized for aligning himself with a party that affirms his whiteness and his maleness is all but exhausted. The struggle is real, certainly, but for some the struggle is "fake news." And that, kids, is what we call white fragility.
Make America Date Again
I moderated a panel on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, hosted by Out in Tech—a nonprofit providing resources and mentorship to LGBTQ youth and activists around the world—on the influence of dating apps in the queer community. One of the panelists, Jane Reynolds, Senior Editor at OK Cupid, mentioned a new feature that allowed you to weed out any potential suitors who didn’t jibe with your political outlook, just as we’ve all been doing on other forms of social media. It makes sense, after all, if you still “feel the Bern” or are still “with her,” would you want to cross the aisle, even with the possibility of walking down the aisle? But, as dating apps have made abundantly clear, dating and fucking can be mutually exclusive—so would you even want to have sex with a Trump supporter?
The idealist in me says I would at least be open to going out with a conservative gay if he’s otherwise a “good person”—after all, it’s not like I haven’t been treated badly at the hands of so-called liberals. Is one man’s naked lust for my “BBC” (and I don’t mean the news) or another blocking me on Grindr for the offense of texting while black any less disgraceful if he voted for Hillary? But the pragmatist in me wonders what we would actually have in common? The Real Housewives? Only if it’s Atlanta or New York, i.e. the best ones. And what if we can't even agree on that universal truth?
The other day I was listening to the NPR Politics Podcast—which if you’re not following, and you’re at all interested in politics or whatever the hell is happening in Washington right now, you should—and in response to a listener’s question about beginning to heal the deep-seated resentment in our country, the hosts suggested, ironically enough, you “open up OK Cupid...and date someone on the other side of the aisle.” Citing problems that have historically been divisive in the nation, such as race and religion, they argued that interracial and interfaith love helped move the needle towards bridging those gaps. Obviously, race and religion are still very divisive factors in America, but maybe we all, then, need a little more idealism. And if going for a drink with a Log Cabin Republican can foster a modicum of understanding, well, I’ve been on worse dates.