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Interracial Intentions

I think most Gay people have a hard time understanding interracial contact because they are skeptical about the intentions of those involved.


By Chasen Gaver

Sometimes, when Gay people have problems understanding why most of the men I date are Black, I ask them: "Do you have any difficulty understanding why I'm more attracted to men than women?" When they say "No," I ask: "Then why do you have difficulty understanding my preference for Black men?" You would be surprised at how defensive some Gays get when the subject turns from sexual orientation to racial orientation.

Or maybe you wouldn't be surprised.

I think most Gay people have a hard time understanding interracial contact because they are skeptical about the intentions of those involved. I don't pretend to speak for all Gay White men but I have thought a lot about my interracial intentions and I'll share some of these thoughts with you so you can decide which intentions are honorable.

I arrived in the nation's capital in 1975 and met a Black man who was 15-years-older than I. Russell, like many of the Black Gay men I've known, dated both Black and White men (as well as Asians). He met me after ending a six month relationship with a Black dancer.

We were together for thirteen months. Although there are things about that first relationship that I regret, Russell and I have remained friends because he appreciated the "child" in me while helping me to grow up. Russell was the son of a West Virginia bootlegger, and his hard-nosed perceptions of life contrasted with my college textbook approach to living.

He had a professional job, had helped raise two children (he'd been divorced by his Black wife five years before we met), and was an art collector. I was jobless, single, and called myself a "writer," although I'd written less than two dozen poems.

I'm giving you these details because I'm sick of hearing how Gay White men have so much to offer and Gay Black men are all "down and out." It was a Gay Black man who helped me prepare a résumé that led to my first permanent job. It was a Gay Black man who introduced me to supportive artists (like photographer Emily Cravedi) who made my writing career possible.

It was Russell who so impressed a visiting cousin of mine that my family still asks about Russell in their letters. This mentor also sensed that I needed independence more than I needed him.

By this time I had a large group of friends. Some of my White friends were sure that I would do better with a White lover. "If you're looking for financial stability," one friend advised, "stop looking at Black men."

But the White men I met were not good role models. They seemed socially shallow, politically wishy-washy and they seldom taught me anything I didn't already know. The Black men I met were intellectually curious, politically opinionated, and, when we didn't see eye-to-eye, at least I encountered a different set of cultural assumptions.

I also recognized early on that it is limiting to measure a person's worth by whether or not he can raise half the down payment on a condo on Dupont Circle. That's why I quickly part company with Black Gays who won't consider dating anyone except Whites.

There is an underlying assumption on the part of many of these Blacks that Whites have a monopoly on virtue. As one Black man said to me: "What can any Black man do for me that a White man cannot do faster?"

I call this the "Lena Horne Syndrome." Lena Horne married a White man early in her career although she did not love him. She said in an interview that she made herself love this man because she believed he could open doors for her that no Black man could open.

I don't deny the inequities of power between Whites and Blacks in this country, but I question anyone who belittles the contributions of the oppressed. This was probably on the mind of the college professor who once warned me that all interracial marriages were "culturally degenerate."

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