Kiss and Tell12 December 2019
I was sitting at a café and doing my readings when my phone buzzed. A friend of mine had sent a screenshot of a conversation she had with a guy on Tinder to our group chat of 12 women of colour and captioned it: “white men could never.” He had sent her a rather cheeky text and we collectively agreed that she should go on a date with him. Another friend sent a screenshot of a conversation that she had on Hinge. We told her to run the other way. Soon the chat started buzzing about the men we’ve dealt with on various dating apps and we got into the cursed and problematic experiences we’ve had with white men.
Look, I don’t hate white men. Heck, my first boyfriend was a White Melbournian boy. I only dated him because he looked like Michael Clifford from 5 Seconds of Summer and he only dated me because I wasn’t white. Which is worse? You tell me.
As a woman of colour, I’ve had my fair share of being fetishised to dealing with culturally insensitive remarks. Ask any other woman of colour too and they’d tell you the same thing. It’s frustrating and quite frankly, disheartening. Navigating dating in a majority-White space can make you feel like a tourist spot or a beautiful land that colonisers rush towards like bees to honey. Being called exotic is expected to be taken as a compliment and speaking good English seems to take your matches by surprise. I’m not saying ALL my experiences with white men are tragic cases, but they can definitely be better.
After my breakup with the Michael Clifford lookalike, I started seeing more people of colour. Not that Michael Clifford ruined white men for me, I just felt more comfortable around people like me.
The boyfriend after Michael Clifford was Arab like myself. It was nice because he was my best friend then and it felt more like a genuine connection. We bonded over listening to old mainstream Arab songs and talking about our families. We seemed to have a number of mutuals and turns out he was the cousin of a family friend. What was even crazier was that we had actually met each other numerous times as children. The relationship was a good five years but that didn’t turn out well. The break up was horrible because mutual friends felt like they needed to pick a side. Family politics came into play and navigating social events where our families are bound to bump into each other was truly an uncomfortable situation for me. It’s been a year since the break up and I still feel uneasy meeting with his family members.
But dating people of colour different from my own back- ground had its struggles too—language barriers when trying to communicate with family based overseas, un-learning stereotypes and re-learning your partner’s cultural norms and my personal favourite: being told that as a woman of colour I’m not “cultural” enough because “my beliefs are too Westernised”. The whole “my mother thinks you’re beautiful but you probably have to change the way you dress. It’s too tight-fitting for her liking, I hope you understand. It’s my culture.”
Or that when my queer identity gets brought up it gets shut down (especially by cishet male partners) because “it’s not okay in my culture”, “it’s not okay in our religion” and “yeah, no you’re definitely straight because you’re with me now.” Queerness is still taboo or frowned upon in many religions and cultures and my involvement in queer rights has either rubbed partners the wrong way or has created this superhero complex in them. They’d attempt to put a cloak over my activities so as to “save me” from their family finding out that I believe in equal rights and am against oppressing marginalised communities. Some would even express their concern when I get too friendly with a female-identified individual, more than when I do with cishet males because it’d hurt their ego if they were to “lose me to a girl”. Of course, not all communities of colour are hostile to queer folx and if I dare say, I think these partners of mine were using culture to mask their homophobia. I guess erasing and dismissing my identity was a big sign, huh?
Dating with a positionality like mine is tough. I feel like at least one part of my identity gets erased at some point of another. It’s either get fetishsised or be forced into the closet. Queer dating as a person of colour on the other hand presents safety risks—but maybe I’ll talk about that in my next column ;)
So what I’m trying to say is…
I shouldn’t date.
But if I don’t, you wouldn’t be here having a read.