The phrase “I’m not really into Asians” is something common for Kyle to hear.
The bi man from Toronto, who did not share his full name, told Global News he was once told this by a man on a dating app.
“[He said] he was willing to give me a try because I looked meaty,” he explained. “Racism and dehumanization in one simple sentence. I’ll never forget that.
“Racial abuse doesn’t have to be outlandishly brash to stick with you. Sometimes simple microaggression can cause a huge stir.”
He added for every 10 men he matched with on an app, one or two would make racist remarks.
“The thing with online dating match apps is racists filter out themselves by not matching me based on my appearance, so the ones I do match with that are racist/ignorant are either ones who struggle with internalized racism (they are POC themselves) or are very ignorant/fetishizing.”
Dating in the LGBTQ community in general isn’t easy, but when racism gets involved, it can be hard for some to find love or a casual hookup.
“I want to say that there are many great, kind, charming, loving people in the LGBTQA+ community and you can definitely find them through these online dating apps,” he said. “But in order for us to move forward as a community, discussions about racism need to be talked about and dealt with so that POC can feel empowered and not marginalized within their own community.”
Haran Vijayanathan, executive director at Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP), said there are various forms of discrimination online.
“Instead of politely declining an advance made, people are quite rude when they reject people,” he said. “When we hear the stories of our service users and their experiences, it is sometimes hard to stomach the blatant disregard for basic respectful treatment of individuals.
“There is a polite way to let people know you are not interested. Sometimes the levels people go to let people down is quite disturbing.”
ASAAP offers a one-on-support program that highlights racism in the dating world.
“We alert them to the fact that racism exists and give them tips on how to handle it including reporting to the folks who monitor the app, human rights tribunal [and] where to go for help if they have been harmed emotionally/psychologically.”
‘No Black, no Asian’
Speaking with Global News, a handful of gay men said phrases like “no Black, no Asian” are common on gay dating apps like Grindr. In 2018, the company launched an anti-racism campaign to tackle some of these messages of hate, the BBC reported. The site added it would ban anyone “bullying, threatening, or defaming another user.”
Jason Garcia, a gender non-binary person from Edmonton, said they often still see these phrases and others on apps like Grindr.
“[I see] in particular profiles that say either ‘No fats, no femmes, no Asians,’” the 25-year-old said. “I’ve recently seen a rise of people putting racial preferences on their profiles. Commonly, I’ve seen ‘whites only,’ ‘white people preferably,’ whereas on the flip side, I’ve seen ‘Asians are a plus’ in events where their race is fetishized.”
Garcia is part of the Latinx community said people of colour (POC) can become even further marginalized.
“As a POC, it feels certainly disheartening to know this is just a common, day-to-day experience putting yourself out there in an online format, especially within a community that already experiences a degree of marginalization.”
Experiences can be ‘dehumanizing’
Mahlon Evans-Sinclair is a 33-year-old from Toronto. The Black gay man has found success with online dating apps to find relationships, but says it wasn’t always an easy process to navigate.
“It’s frustrating, partly because in the game of trying to find a match, tapping on a profile and reading ‘not you’ because of one facet is like throwing the whole meal away because they put cilantro on it,” he said. “There’s still a whole meal there, so either put it to the side or try mix it in with the rest of the food.”
Evans-Sinclair, an inclusion, diversity and equity facilitator at Anima Leadership in Toronto, adds that on apps, some phrases people use to describe what they are looking for can be “dehumanizing.”
“Comments such as GWM (gay white male) seeking Rice Queen (East Asian) evokes not only dehumanizes, but also layers on an element of expected or assumed femininity in the person,” he continued.
“Similarly the one that would catch my eye most often talks about the want of a BBC (big black c—k) to in essence enact a level of violence onto a (typically) white body that would only be seen in pornography or fantasy.”
He added that, personally, he has experienced prejudice and specific anti-Black racism from both white and other people of colour. “[I] have received
comments from ‘You’re not wild or thuggish. You’re more articulate than other Blacks I’ve spoken to’ to ‘I don’t do darker than me.’”
Daniel Mitchell, 24, of Toronto is Italian and Jamaican. In his experience, he believes Black gay men have the hardest time on dating apps.
“Black gay males are often times fetishized by other ethnicity.” As a mixed-race individual, he was once told he was hot for a Black man.
“Backhanded compliments like that are rooted in racism, and they cause the recipient to question their own self worth,” he said. “Gay dating apps have had a negative impact on my mental health. Nowadays, I try not to take things too seriously.”
Is it just preference?
“This is normal, healthy attraction that just comes innately within you,” she said. “Racism is more purposeful and deliberate demonstrations of hatred towards people who are different.”
She said this could also mean some people prefer to date one race over another.
But Evans-Sinclair argued this notion can become problematic.
“‘Exclusive taste’ has been conflated to mean the same as ‘preference’, so it is deemed to be OK to have a profile read ‘no Blacks, no Asians, no Trans, no Femmes etc. as these are ‘preferences,’” he said.
“It is always telling when I express my own attraction to all ethnicity and i’m met with a resounding ‘oh, really?! I just can’t find that group attractive,’ it tells me that even on the level of platonic relationships there is a healthy amount of racism that is present.”