The following interview is part of Out's "Dating PrEP 2.0" series, in which four notable experts from various fields offer advice on how to prepare for dating as a modern queer man. Watch the full series on Out.com.
For Dexter Mayfield, "racism and rejection have kind of gone hand in hand" in dating. The key to fighting them, he asserts, starts from within.
"We really just have to have an internal conversation with ourselves and like, what makes me the happiest in the physical body that I have now. Have some grace with yourself, have some grace, embrace your flaws, and embrace those things that make you unique," says the body-positive model, influencer, host of CBS's Come Dance With Me, and advocate for plus-size men on the runway.
Once that "internal conversation" occurs, "everyone will appreciate everyone's beauty so much more," asserts Mayfield, who recently made headlines for recreating Out's Swimsuit issue, which redefined sexiness for queer men.
But the path to self-love isn't instantaneous. "I think you really have to be your most authentic self from jump and understanding that you're not going to know what your authentic self is off the bat," he says. "It's not an overnight journey. It takes time, so much time to really dig in and really understand who you are as a person. So if you move through that with a genuine sense of authenticity, I think that that is the first step to really rebuilding the community as we know it now."
The key is also finding joy, and for Mayfield that comes in several forms. "For me, that includes music, that includes dance, meditation, that includes prayer, that includes time with family. If I am sexually active, that includes PrEP and includes so many different things. Self-care looks different for every single person."
And acceptance in dating is a two-way street. "A main advice that I would give to anybody entering into any dating space is to be open, because a lot of times, something that comes your way, you've never seen before you've never interacted with before, but for some reason, you vibe with it. Don't be afraid to explore that. Be open to whatever the universe may bring to you."