Moving beyond Fetish… The opportunities for growth and joy via black and white gay male relationships

By | June 13, 2011

I have spent half of my dating life with white men.

As far as I can see, there is a great deal of confusion and mayhem regarding how these seemingly divergent groups get along, partner up and develop loving, committed non exploitative relationships.

What is this thing we call attraction ? Is it learned ? Can it be redeveloped?

I remember a friend of mine telling me that when he came out that he already knew the type of guy he found appealing (he already had a type). I thought this was laughable because I was certainly not this astute. My attraction grew and changed as I did the same.

For a number of years, I was completely undeniably unattracted to white guys.

This explains the hearty guffaws I would muster whenever a white guy either wanted me to see him as a sex partner or thought I should worship at the throne of whiteness simply because. After some years of failed relationships with my brothers, I had to take a serious look at both my actions and theirs.

I made the decision to be treated well and no longer gave a shit what package it came in.

I opened myself to some other very different types of men. I was not sitting around longing for whiteness and yet I ended up dating a very sweet Greek guy who was not out to his family and friends. Spoiler alert: if you are out don’t date someone who isn’t.

We had several problems.

Some of which were racially oriented. I learned a great deal about myself and the seduction that is white supremacy and internalized racism. I got to look at the many assumptions both groups make about the other.

Growing up white folk only existed in our home via tv/movies.

It was very easy to make the decision that all whites were happy, well adjusted , employed and wealthy. In the other bit of nonsense, it was assumed that I was from the ghetto, poor, lacking in both imagination and drive and of course loved whiteness and clung to the misguided belief that whiteness and not my own doing would be my salvation.

If you combine these very disturbing and familiar ways of thinking and try to construct a relationship with ignorance, assumptions, fears and titillation of being with the “other” you have a definite recipe for disaster.

This initial foray into interracial dating provided a great deal of insight and allowed me to take this newly acquired information into the next relationship and then of course the one after that.

An element that consistently showed up that had to be constantly challenged is the very comfortable and familiar agreement that I (the black guy) would do all of the heavy emotional lifting and the white guy would take on the role of financial parent.

Given the current financial climate, many men of color (black men), myself included , are unemployed or severely underemployed. While the economy is not to blame, it is wise to consider that everyone does not have access to the same resources.

This does not excuse certain situations(not looking for work, not developing new skills) but instead sheds light on the dynamic that has a great effect on the two men involved in an intimate relationship. If the black guy does not have full access to his emotional life and therefore is not the one who will “carry” the ball emotionally and or socially and the white guy is broke as hell, the old stereotypes won’t work.

Like all relationships, we enter them with some understanding, no matter how misguided or false, that certain things will occur and certain needs will be met.

If these things aren’t hashed out early and often particularly when you throw race and class and same gender into the mix, it can lead to some nasty disappointments and very off-the-mark conclusions. Primarily, one of hurt feelings and grave miscommunication.

We, as men, particularly in the context of intimate relationships, are not taught to recognize emotional pain.

In particular, we are not taught to recognize pain that is engendered from the standpoint of race and or class. In some of my more personal intimate relations, I often find it challenging (not impossible) to recognize and understand the pain that white males have.

I have often decided and stated: “you’re white and male and living in America, snap out of it.”

When two men get together the thing that attracts them, their maleness, is often their undoing. Regardless of our intent , we can very easily fall into predictable, unproductive and pointless patterns. How do we do the dance of intimacy that can be life sustaining and glorious ?

For one thing, we can refuse to fall into the trap that I have heard many well meaning but misguided white guys fall prey to.

We can stop with the “I don’t see color” business.

It is truly not a selling point and definitely does nothing to sweeten the pot. I am very brown so if you are looking at me and don’t see it then our next course of action might involve having your eyes checked.

Let me explain that what needs to happen is not a lack of seeing but instead the decision to see as Malcolm X would say with “new eyes”.

I encourage any one who dates outside their race to see not through the eyes of domination, imperialism and colonialism but to see via the heart and what my sweet bf refers to as a commitment to care for the “whole person”.

Dating outside one’s race doesn’t automatically mean I have a healthy dollop of self hatred. In the same way that dating within my race doesn’t mean I am free of self loathing.

True love and care of another human being is challenging, difficult work.

If the only thing holding the relationship together is a hardy helping of the oppressor’s fantasy fueled limited pornographic gaze, you are heading for trouble. Fantasies and limited views of people won’t look so tasty when your man can’t find a job or is struggling with an addiction.

The commitment to being enthralled with dark or white skin won’t help when the flu takes all that yumminess then adds a fever, cranky disposition and the trots to the picture.

Trust me, no matter how cute he is, nobody is appealing when they got things coming out of both ends…

So where do we begin in our efforts to love wholeheartedly someone who on the surface seems so different?

For starters, we hold everyone to the same rigorous standards. We use our minds and not our dicks to determine when and if it makes sense to get and or stay involved with a particular individual. Certainly, I am not alone in recognizing that there have been times when the otherness that is green eyes or blondness or whatever it is that week, has distracted and confused me?

When I made decisions based on some guy’s dreaminess, I always ended up in trouble (broke, resentful).

When I made excuses for someone’s behavior and still decided that this guy was the kitten’s mittens once again there was trouble and upset. A very common occurrence among men in general is the belief that they have to save the world.

There is a general assumption that we are saviors who will right the wrongs of society by helping those we love and care about.

While this is not bad in and of itself, it will provide a basis for the belief and subsequent actions that won’t allow for self actualization nor individual growth via goal setting and accomplishing.

In other words, men, myself included, often feel the need and are societally rewarded for swooping in with all of the answers and saving the day.

If you are required to perform unbelievable acts of heroics on a constant basis this makes it difficult to be human or see the humanity of others.

Once again, it prevents you form being fully present and not performing and seeking accolades as such.

4 thoughts on “Moving beyond Fetish… The opportunities for growth and joy via black and white gay male relationships

  1. JJ

    Great essay Anthony. lol @ “Trust me, no matter how cute he is, nobody is appealing when they got things coming out of both ends…”. So true!

    Interesting that your pattern as the black guy is to do the heavy emotional lifting. Not sure that is generalizable to all interracial relationships. As a white man, I’m more familiar with that being generalized to females in heterosexual relationships, where the women are the ones who feel they have to “do everything” on a day to day basis and carry the emotional burden, and the males are rewarded for occasionally swooping in and solving more specific problems that require a traditionally “male” expertise and response.

    I would be interested in hearing more about what you meant about the emotional burden, whether you meant to generalize it to all interracial relationships. Also interested in hearing from other black and white guys what their experiences have been in that regard.

    Also, about the “you’re white and male and living in America, snap out of it.”: A black ex and I became good friends after we broke up, and awhile back, he failed to recognize a depression I had slipped into because, as he said later, he was sorry that he had underestimated it because he said “I didn’t think it was possible for white men in our society to become depressed with all the advantages they have”. It led to a great discussion between us and we eventually became closer, even though I initially had to distance myself a bit because of his lack of empathy. As a result, we can now look more clearly through each other’s “black” and “white” lenses, in addition to both being better able to distinguish both those lenses from our common lens of both being gay men in America.

  2. dan

    Terrific article, spot-on from so many different angles. Such a rich tapestry to comment on. Perhaps what struck me most forcefully is:

    So, so, so true!

    Let me mention up front that I am a non-black man who is drawn to the man of African descent. And I can think of nothing more important in an interracial relationship (or an interracial friendship and/or professional relationship, for that matter) than seeing with “new eyes”.

    Embracing and appreciating the world through the eyes of those whom we admire, whom we enjoy, whom we work with, whom we love, will not just enrich these myriad relationships. It will enrich each of us as individuals, it will make each of us a deeper, a more understanding and worldly person.

    I am a far better person (I hope!) for seeing the world — i.e., the mundane, the everyday — through “the eyes” of a person of color. It has made me so much more sensitive to the world and all its complexity. It has deepened me, made me understand how electrically charged is the world around me. It has allowed me to appreciate the delicacy of the banal; how something so simple as, say, standing on a line waiting to be served can be so much more than simply “standing on a line waiting to be served”.

    Please don’t read this as a treatise on majority-culture guilt, that my non-black POV is always wrong, always without merit. What I am trying to say is that my non-black POV is not the only POV. The black (or female, or gay, or heterosexual, etc.) life experience offers another way to look at things. And it is incumbent upon those within the majority culture to acknowledge this.

    We’ll each of us be better off for doing so.

  3. dan

    In reading my comment as it awaits approval, I notice that the quote I take from the main article does not appear.

    Here ’tis:

    — what needs to happen is not a lack of seeing but instead the decision to see as Malcolm X would say with “new eyes”.–

    Also, this article cuts such a wide intellectual and emotional swath that my narrow focus on the “new eyes” angle hardly does justice to Mr. Carter’s piece.

  4. MJI

    There’s also the situation of someone attracted across ethnic/racial lines (ie, this society’s “”racial devide””) by fierce opposition to it from autority figures in their young lives/formative years,(….as in parents, clergy, teachers/instructors…), as a way of “”getting back””,….or ongoing personal/political social revolt.


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