In Trump’s America, racism on gay dating apps is getting worse
Posted on June 7, 2017
“Ross Hammond hadn’t received a message in weeks.
A 30-year-old gay man who lives in New York, he keeps a folder filled with various dating apps on his phone—including Grindr, Scruff, and Tinder. Since moving to Hell’s Kitchen two months ago, he says he can “count on one hand” the number of messages he’s gotten from men in the popular Manhattan gayborhood.
Hammond, a bearded aspiring musician with an endearing nervous energy, decides to engage in a little experiment over coffee in a Harlem café: He changes his profile picture to a male friend’s photo. The friend is cute and clean-cut, but most importantly, he’s white. Hammond gets 50 messages in less than a half hour.
Hammond isn’t surprised. He’s pretty used to this. His current profile, in which users are asked to describe themselves, attests to the frustration he experiences as a gay man of color navigating the world of online dating. “It doesn’t matter what I write in my profile,” Hammond says. “You’re not going to read it because you’re automatically going to make assumptions about me based on my race.”
Recently, someone sent Hammond a message that has stuck with him. “You fucking chinks are the reason why there’s so much racism in the gay community,” it read.
Hammond’s experience is a sadly common one in online dating spaces. Christian Rudder, the founder of OkCupid, told NPR back in 2014 that there’s a “bias” across platforms against black and Asian users. “Every kind of way you can measure their success on a site—how people rate them, how often they reply to their messages, how many messages they get—that’s all reduced,” he claimed at the time. A year after Rudder’s comments, researchers in Australia polled 2,000 gay and bisexual men, finding that 70 percent felt that excluding a sexual partner based on their ethnicity wasn’t racist. These respondents believed that having disclaimers on your profile like “No Blacks, No Asians” was just stating a preference.
The topic of sexual racism has become a contentious one in the gay community in recent years, as many queer and bisexual men rely on their phones in the way they once did their local bar. And if these spaces are operating as the new gay club, that leaves certain types of people in these online communities out in the cold, waiting for their chance to finally be let in.
As gay men of color explain, it’s can be difficult to find your place in a community where you’re too often shut out by people who believe that exclusion is harmless—and even natural.”
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