Ending Signs of Discrimination in Online Profiles

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We see signs of racism and discrimination all over the place. They’re in our media, our history, our criminal justice system, and there is no question they’re coming from our president. Unfortunately we also see them throughout our LGBT community. One place they’ve become quite pervasive is in online profiles in gay apps. These expressions of “no Blacks’ or “no Asians” are just like a display you’d see in a storefront window and they are just as destructive. At Hornet such language is prohibited in profiles. We simply don’t tolerate it.

A profile is an expression of who an individual is. It’s very similar to a storefront. Storefronts entice customers with pleasing window displays and gay men titillate their newest and next connection with sexy photos. Both craft text meant to catch the attention of a passerby, such as “Sale”, “New and Improved”, “Money Back Guarantee”, or “Passionate”, “Educated”, or “Hung”. A storefront and a profile can also display the ugly parts of our humanity that can have an impact on the surrounding community.

Signs of prejudice have taken many forms, from “No Blacks” signs that were inescapable in the Jim Crow South, to the “Faggots Stay Out” sign at Barney’s Beanery in ultra gay West Hollywood. It took a change in the law to remove such signs from businesses but similar displays in online profiles can only be removed through ongoing change in policy.

Why do some gay men feel so compelled to put a “No Blacks” or “No Asians” signs in their profile? It’s an intentional act to create such language in a profile that will be seen by the entire world. Are they so tortured by a deluge of unwanted messages from men of color that they must post an advisory in their profile? When you stop and think about it the whole thing seems rather absurd. The only thing it accomplishes is showing the individuals for who they are while polluting the online community with stigma and discrimination.

There is already so much hate and prejudice on the internet and it takes very little for people to reveal it. I once had a guy online call me a “stupid wetback” because I didn’t respond to his initial message of interest. Of course I was insulted, distressed, and angered but I was also thoroughly shocked.

I was shocked that he leapt to hurling a slur so quickly. It was so jarring in the midst of the sexy exchanges I was having with other men. I was immediately reminded how quickly and unexpectedly racism infiltrates everyday interactions. We hadn’t even had an chat it was just that first thing that came from him when he felt I had committed the audacious act of rejecting him. I told him that if that was his go-to response then it revealed so much about him and that maybe he would benefit from intense psychotherapy. He replied by trotting out the old, “Some of my best friends are Latino,” response. Racism is nothing if not predictable.

Community members shape online communities. The values created by a platform serve to steer it in a direction that is beneficial to everyone. That is what we strive to do at Hornet- create an online community where gay men can make meaningful connections, regardless of ethnicity, gender expression, body type, or HIV status.

A majority of men of color around the globe foster our online community. It reflects the perspectives and experiences of queer men from varied and diverse backgrounds and the confluence of these elements strengthens our community.

When people stop putting “No Blacks” or “No Asians” text in their profiles the problem of racial discrimination and white supremacy is not going to be solved but it’s a step in the right direction. We’ll never be able to scrub hate and prejudice from the internet but we can foster communities that reject stigma and discrimination.

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