Sunday, January 16, 2011

"No blacks. No fems.": Hooking up and Black/Femme-phobia

Disclaimer: In this post I mainly focus on black-phobia because that's the type of racism I can speak to the most, however I recognize that racism plays out in many ways for different races on these sites. This piece speaks to my experiences as a black man of African descent, and not necessarily those of black people of other descents or ethnicities.

"I'm a masculine guy and I like the same. No fems! Into whites and Latinos. Not into Blacks. (Sorry no offense)." I looked at the picture next to the profile, which showed only the torso of what was obviously a white guy. A hooking-up newbe, I'd been perusing this sex site for a couple weeks, barely able to get a bite. By now I'd seen enough "no femmes" and "not into feminine dudes" warnings in numerous profiles to get wise to the fact that the more masculine you looked, the more ass you got. The race issues I noticed during my initial introduction was also jarring, when, in retrospect, they really shouldn't have been all that surprising. It quickly became obvious to me that the hook up scene, because of the anonymity it affords, is where oppressive attitudes and ideas about race, gender, and bodies, play out in the most unabashed way.

Signing up for an a4a account was one of my first declarative steps into the nsa/hook up scene. I was newly on hormones (again). Newly out as a transfag - a trans man who is attracted to other trans and nontrans men. I wanted to explore my sexual attraction for nontrans men in particular. Meeting nontrans men in real life proved to be difficult, since they were usually put off by my, then, gender ambiguity. I ventured into the world of a4a and manhunt because I liked the straightforwardness of these sites - you meet someone, message for a short bit, and eventually fuck if your interests are aligned. After my first few times perusing, I was blown away. So many profiles were like warped responses to gay male stereotyping around manhood; phrases like "no fems" or "I'm a masculine man. You be the same," abound. I noticed a lot of black and brown men included these phrases in their profiles. On one level, this rejection of femininity was demoralizing, especially for a black trans man who was already grappling with notions of masculinity: what it meant and how to authentically express it.

At the same time, I wasn't that far into my transition and I was encountering men who saw me as a feminine boy and were drawn to me for that reason. I remember messaging this one white guy for a period of time. He was married, lived somewhere in the suburbs and wanted me to come over when his wife was out of town. I looked at this guy's picture, and, yeah, he was hot. He had that blue collar, salt of the earth thing. I was really into guys like that. Guys with big, hulking frames. Muscles and hair. Large hands and thick cocks. After I unveiled my body pics, he became more interested. "I like really feminine boys," he messaged back. I froze. Feminine? Me? That was certainly not how I saw myself. Was this reaction femme-phobic on some level? Does the fact that I'm mostly attracted to tough-looking and growly dudes make me complicit in all the sexist shit I see on these sites? These questions still plague me endlessly. I notice that every time a guy rejects me, saying or implying that I'm not masculine enough, I run to the gym in a bid to make my muscles bigger and more pronounced.

The many manifestations of racism on the sites are staggering. There are your profiles riddled with ridiculously racist language, where the authors clearly want nothing to do with dark skin. These typically have qualifiers like "Latinos & Asians preferred". The shameless ones, however, do away with subtleties, opting instead for clear warnings like "No blacks". Manhunt is particularly bad. First of all, it's a white-heavy site. Secondly, you have to pay for unlimited access, which means men on that site tend to come from middle-class, or higher, backgrounds. I lost count of the many "no blacks" profiles, posted by both white guys and many of men of color. Black-fetishism, I noticed, was another offshoot of racism. As my physical transformation progressed and I started passing more as a dude, there were some interesting reactions to the complexities of my racial and gender identities. Sometimes white guys will hit me up, wanting me to fulfill their Mandingo fantasies about being fucked silly by a black man. More often than not, these guys just looked at my body pic and neglected to read my profile (where it says I'm trans). 8 times out of 10, revealing the truth about my gender sent them scurrying.

So why do I keep going to these sites? Well, there's nothing wrong or dirty about wanting to fuck and/or be fucked. How you seek this out, as long as its consensual for all the parties involved, is and should be your choice. Amidst all the fucked up-ness around race and gender, I've had some amazing encounters with folks I've met on the sites, some I'm still in contact with. NSA sex is where I'm at, currently. I'm going to explore this without shame and with my fully eyes open. Sadly, the hook up scene isn't the only place where blackness is demonized or femininity feared. I have no real insights on how to not internalize this, but constant self-reflection helps. Frank conversations with friends who have a low-tolerance for bullshit helps, as well as not judging yourself harshly when you realize you carry around some of this baggage.

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