Diff'rent Strokes

Mixed-race loving in the gay community turns the rainbow into a reality

If you see a black man and a white man touching anywhere other than a sports venue in the United States, most likely they're lovers. Or so I've always joked. Well, actually, always assumed. Straight men in this country still rarely stray across the black-white divide when looking for friendship, while for gay men race has more often been a lure than an obstacle.

Black and white gay men seem not just to be together, but more prominent than ever—from the sexy pair on Six Feet Under to Lawrence and Garner, the two whose sex life the Supreme Court glowingly affirmed when it declared sodomy laws unconstitutional. This summer, New York City's Men of All Colors Together (MACT/NY) and the National Association of Black & White Men Together (BWMT) will celebrate their 25th anniversaries.

While black-and-white couples remain rare in the U.S., a new analysis of Census 2000 data indicates that same-sex cohabiting couples are much more likely to be interracial than their different-sex counterparts.

Queer love: What's race got to do with it?
photo: Amy Pierce. Prop styling by Jaime Keeler. Makeup by Kemboi/ButtaSweet Ink.
Queer love: What's race got to do with it?

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    The study, by UCLA School of Law's Williams Project, reveals that 12 percent of gay couples are mixed compared with 7 percent of straight ones. This difference holds up when you control for age, education, and urban living, factors that correlate with interracial coupling and distinguish gay from straight. The bulk of these couples are Latino-white (43 percent), distantly followed by black-white (14 percent), Asian Pacific Islander-white (11 percent), and black-Latino (3 percent). This pretty much mirrors the breakdown for straight couples, except that significantly more interracial gay couples than straight are black-white (14 percent versus 9 percent).

    Why do gays engage in more mixed-race loving? Well, as a WGM (discounting my Native American grandfather and occasional crushes on the opposite sex) who has coupled with BGMs (discounting those who were actually biracial and the one who just married a woman), my initial response was that we are less prejudiced. Having overcome one form of bigotry, our eyes open to the irrationality of others.

    But then this Christmas, guess who? My sister brought her black boyfriend home. Sitting with myblack boyfriend, I started to get the creeps. Growing up in Missouri, my best friend had siblings who all married blacks. I had dismissed their partnering choices as a manifestation of the hyper-sexuality that whites in this country have projected onto blacks. Was I no better? Even after all those African American studies courses in college?

    imagephoto: Amy Pierce. Prop styling by Jaime Keeler. Makeup by Kemboi/ButtaSweet Ink.
    Come to think of it, given my friends' reactions to my partners, I can't say the LGBT community goes easy on interracial couples. Or maybe I just don't understand the more positive nuances of "dinge queen." Even friends who haven't directly criticized my partner choices hardly let them go unnoticed. Most dismissively generalize that I'm "into black men" based on a sample of one.

    And I can't say my responses to them indicate an untroubled mind. When I was younger, I'd defensively counter with an exaggerated list of my white partners. Later, I deployed the model-U.N. defense: "But I've dated Asians, Latinos, and a member of the Andorran petite nobility!" More recently, I quietly but firmly state that surely their exclusive same-race dating pattern requires as much interrogation as mine.

    As long as I'm confessing, I've always judged BWMT the way my friends judged me. I've never hesitated to join a group organized around same-sex loving. So what's my problem with one organized around different-race loving?

    Maybe our community's race-based preferences are as suspect as my friends assume. Could it be that a larger percentage of gays than straights are inclined to get off on racial-sexual stereotypes just like a larger percentage live a life of leather? Thumb through the personal ads in any gay rag and you'll see we're not bashful about cataloging our desires with labels like Big Black Top, Hot Latino, White Bottom, and Submissive Asian.

    When you divide the boys from the girls, Census 2000 data indicate that gay men's partner choices account for more of the difference between queer and straight interracial coupling. This may be because the dominant gay male culture exaggerates the broader culture's definition of whiteness as beauty. I attribute this, like most bad things, to gay porn.

    According to John R. Burger's exhaustive study (the poor guy studiously watched thousands of videos) One-Handed Histories: The Eroto-Politics of Gay Male Video Pornography, until 1980 our porn reflected our rainbow—race, age, hairiness, and all. Then came the VCR and bam!, a couple of guys in the Valley monopolized gay video production. As it turns out, they both dug young white jocks and force-fed us their preference for the next decade. Today, we're all lifting, waxing, and Botoxing like mad.

    OK, it may not be completely their fault, but the dominance of the porn star look could lead more gay men of color to prefer whites over each other. Census data provide some support for this: Blacks, Latinos, and API gay men have higher rates of out-coupling than their straight counterparts. The most extreme example: 40 percent of API gay men out-couple, compared to 11 percent percent of API married men.

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