I admit it. I’ve never really cared to watch the Oscars. The thought of watching the pretty and rich win awards makes me queasy, but I couldn’t escape the recent awards season buzz and #OscarsSoWhite. This hash tag usually pops up this time of year when the perceived white-washed nominees are announced. Outrage is expressed and a million think pieces explore whether Hollywood is racist. I don’t have a clear answer for Tinseltown’s predicament. But for whatever reason, I know, straight white men still rule the roost there — from getting top dollar salaries to the lionshare of roles and accolades.
So this got me thinking; surely Hollywood isn’t the only one with the diversity problem? What about our own community? I started looking at the imagery targeted at gay audiences from advertising, TV programming, and even pornography (i.e. gay-for-pay) for an answer. It became frustratingly clear that just like in Hollywood, the white straight male is the height of desirability in our gay world too.
This ideal masculinity is perpetuated by our gay media, where it predominately looks up to white heterosexual lumps of muscle. Heaven forbid anyone out of this cookie cutter image be celebrated. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad these featured straight men support our community — guys like Nick Jonas and Channing Tatum — and I’m certainly not on some straight-man-hating rant. However, I’m bored at how their sexed-up imagery is continually sold to us. Are we gay men too busy adoring the white straight male and salivating over their supposed sex appeal that we’re muting our own diversity?
Gay men are no homogeneous bunch, particularly regarding our ethnicities and the inherent spectrum of masculinity and femininity we all fall on. Unfortunately, this phenomenon of pandering to the white, straight masculine image threatens diverse representation and open minds.
The phrase "straight acting" is commonly thrown about by gay men. It basically means a man who is considered so masculine you’d be shocked at his homosexuality. This term is popularly used on gay dating profiles to describe one’s mannerisms or how they expect potential mates to be. I’m the complete opposite of this desired masculine image. My dark earthy skin tone, feminine facial features, and limp wrists contradict the accepted white masculinity championed by the gay media.
My non-appeal was further emphasised by my short-lived mobile dating app experience. I enthusiastically set up a profile and uploaded a selfie in the hope of meeting someone. I must have messaged a million guys, but my responses bordered on zero. I ignored the reasoning behind the lack of interest and rested my insecurities on app glitches. However, when I finally came across some honest profiles and their preferences for "no Asians, fems or chubs," the writing was clearly on the wall about my own desirability.
These shallow virtual dating avenues are certainly not a broad representation of the gay community, but they do expose some unpalatable truths. Discrimination concerning masculinity and race transcends the imagery in our gay media to the wider gay community.
Such dating profiles don’t make me angry anymore, but more worryingly I’m left feeling unwelcome. They radiate hostility and insinuate that if you’re not white and masculine then you’re worthless. I suspect some white gay men who’ve not had an ethnic friend or neighbor, or seen positive, diverse representations of queer guys, are unlikely to give the "alternative’ man a chance." We’re all entitled to our preferences, but to abruptly highlight someone’s race or body type and mask it as a preference is delusional — it’s simply racism and body fascism.
The thought of being a racial minority within a gay minority is daunting at times. Perhaps, boundaries can fall once Mr. White, Straight-Acting Guy is pushed off his pedestal and diversity finally gets the recognition it deserves.
VISH GAIKWAD is a London-living, Britney-loving "gaysian." Follow him on Twitter @vishdelishuk.