By Anna Merlan
By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
In fact, it may be that we have more interracial relationships not because we're less racist but because we've yet to face the real race taboo: marriage. Studies of unwed interracial hetero couples indicate that concern about their families' prejudice and possible discrimination against their unborn children are the main reasons they don't marry.
Census data confirm mixed-race couples are less likely to be married than same-race couples. When you separate straight couples into the married and unmarried, the unmarried are twice as likely to be interracial (14 percent versus 7 percent). Which means that unmarried (by definition in 2000) same-sex couples have no greater propensity to interracially couple than unmarried straights.
Here too, it appears, "calling it marriage" matters. Until gay men and lesbians have equal access to marriage and child raising, we won't really know if we'll do any better than the straights.
At bottom, choosing a mate is a highly individualized and muddled process. While a racial fetish or color blindness may get you from the bar to the bedroom, it's not going to get you through the drive home from Thanksgiving with his resentful maiden aunts. The same-sex census couples are cohabiting after all, and more than a quarter of them have been together for over five years.
Instead of homosexuality heightening racial tolerance or racial-sexual fantasies, I think our greater propensity to interracially couple is due to our smaller population size and our shared queer experience.According to Rachel F. Moran in her book Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance, straights (she never mentions same-sex couples) have been slow to couple across race lines because our society is still so racially segregated. If they don't meet at work or in their grocery stores or bars, how can they hook up?
Historically, gays just haven't had the numbers to live apart. Using the best estimates available, there are about 281 million of them and 6 million of us. We are more likely to interracially couple for the same reason different-sex Hawaiian couples (a whopping 30 percent) do. Because of our limited and somewhat isolated pool, we're thrown together more and don't have as much latitude to exercise our same-race preferences.
Even if straights were thrown in one another's way more, they wouldn't have nearly as much to talk about. Whether swapping coming-out, HIV infection, or recovery stories, we have shared experiences that cut across racial lines. Gay proms and student groups aside, most of us have lived lives that distance us from our racial communities and pull us toward each other. And for some of us, particularly whites who tend to take whiteness for granted, sexual orientation is more central to our identity than race.
The summer I worked in Greenville, Mississippi (civil rights, of course), just one month after coming out, illustrates my points. There were no gays in Greenville and nightlife revolved around the gas station that sold Slurpees. Not a good location for a gay awakening. Then suddenly, at midsummer, my employer made a crack about the town's whistling, black homeless man. Turns out "Pepsi" was Greenville's only known homosexual. We never hooked up, but that may be because I never saw him againdespite my vigilant lookout. As my employer's jokes kept rolling, I felt closer to the vanished Pepsi than anyone else on that mosquito-encrusted delta. Fifteen years later, I still feel a tie between Pepsi and me.
OK, maybe Greenville is extreme. But according to demographer Gary Gates, Census 2000 identified same-sex couples in all but a handful of U.S. counties (mostly in Nebraska) no matter how unpopulated. And even smaller cities have a limited number of gay institutions that serve to corral us together.
In Kansas City in the '80s, there was only one good gay dance club, the Edge. So we all went there: lesbians and gay, black and white, young and old, the trannies and the wheelchaired. My interracial dating began at the Edge. While I was clinging to my goth "girlfriend" and trying to look world-weary at 17, a black boy strode over and asked, "So, are you gay?"
The idea that someone could be disappointed that I was not gay sparked a revolution in my worldview and self-image.
While our limited numbers and shared experience seem the most compelling explanation for our greater propensity toward mixed-race coupling, our behavior once we get to the big cities is not encouraging. The moment we reach critical mass, we resegregate.
Here in New York, to shuttle between Sprung, Papi-licious, Habibi, G, and the Web is to move between worlds.
This spring, Badlands, a bar in San Francisco's Castro district, was accused of scrutinizing the bags and IDs of black patrons more closely than those of whites. This is the very problem that led to BWMT's creation in 1980.
I'm not saying we haven't come a long way. But being gay is not do-it-yourself sensitivity training. Ironically, the more political progress we achievethe easier it is to be outthe more our rainbow may be in danger. As we become more like, and liked, by straights, we risk losing one of the forced treasures of being small and apart: those dancefloors, meeting rooms, and parades where we became people of all colors together.
Brad Sears lives in Los Angeles and teaches sexual orientation and disability law at UCLA School of Law.