First things first, I love, love, LOVE the amazing work you are doing here. I’ve only recently discovered your blog and I’ve been reading nonstop. You’re an amazing writer, and your pieces are appreciated by this 18 y/o Kenyan queer boy.
So I’m planning to attend college in the US, and I’ve always thought it’ll be when I finally break away from my homophobic environment and start dating guys. However, I’m starting to realize how due to the media I consume, my taste in guys has always been hot/conventionally attractive masc guys, and I’ve been wondering if this, though completely fine, doesn’t feed into internalized homophobia.
As a black guy, I know I would be very disappointed if reached there and found part of the gay community to be racist ie: that my blackness is considered a flaw of some sort (though from what I can tell, there may be elements of truth there. Sheesh). And so I worry I’m feeding into the other “-ism”s when I–a (mostly) masc presenting guy–perceive femme, old, or disabled gay men as not really attractive to me, regardless of how much I respect them.
I’d appreciate if you gave advice on how to expand your normal dating type.
P.S: Please drop your IG. Couldn’t find you there and I’ve heard good things…
Let me welcome you to our strange shores. You will find that gay men here — like gay men everywhere — are not immune from society’s worst features. Some gay men are racist. Some are not. Seek out the good ones.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being exclusively attracted to masculine or “conventionally attractive” men. I never shame desire, even when desires seem to support existing prejudices. There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about body standards, gender roles, and behavioral standards, which include the dogmas that men should be masculine and women should be feminine. Body/image standards exist because many people in a certain region find those features appealing, and conventional gender roles are pretty standard across cultures (although, to be sure, some colder, less religious cultures — like Nordic and Germanic ones — have more relaxed gender roles, and these places tend to be more gay-friendly). The people who accept these roles and standards are not all morally bankrupt. In fact, they have little choice in the matter. We are all products of the cultures we’re brought up in.
It’s a weightier task to ask why most people enforce gender roles and behavioral/image standards, but we don’t have to go into that here. You’re allowed to like what you like, and more to the point, you can’t really control what you like — at least not at the beginning of your sexual journey.
You’re brand new to queer culture, so the only thing you know is the culture you’re from, which by your own admittance is very homophobic. Homophobic countries tend to enforce traditional gender roles stringently, so it makes sense that you find masculine men attractive.
That may never change — and it doesn’t have to. A kinky playmate I had a long relationship with in college said these wise words: “You can’t control what makes your dick hard.”
The only thing you can do — and what I encourage you to do — is keep an open mind. Be curious. Be adventurous. I know many open-minded men who only like masculine guys because that’s simply what they like, yet I know far more closed-minded, sexually uncomfortable men who only like masculine guys because that’s what they’re supposed to like. Feminine men trigger their internalized homophobia, their misogyny, their shame. See the difference?
You like “conventionally attractive” men, but that’s a meaningless phrase. Conventions differ widely from culture to culture. When I lived in Zambia, a woman in the village of Zimba where we lived complimented my mother: “You are old and fat!” My mom was neither old or fat by American standards, but we were in a place where a good percentage of people suffer from malnutrition and median life expectancy is low compared to more developed countries — few people have access to a hospital and AIDS ravages bush communities. To the woman, my mother had desirable qualities because they were rarer there.
Conventions in the U.S. tend to infect other parts of the world and global image standards have, over time, become more Americanized. This is because our greatest export is entertainment media. In the U.S. (and, increasingly, the rest of the world), image standards are set for us by television, movie stars, fashion brands, and other consumer products. My tastes were shaped by these things and yours were, too.
By the time a queer man is aware of internalized homophobia — when he’s old enough to understand the concept — he’s already internalized whatever homophobia he’s experienced. Awareness helps, but you can’t turn the clock back and impart your younger self with your present knowledge. The only thing you can do, going forward, is ask the kind of questions you’re asking now. Try to recognize and combat your internalized homophobia when it appears. You won’t suddenly find every kind of man attractive, but you will be happier.
Internalized homophobia makes some queer men grow up to be right-wing, anti-LGBTQ politicians who pass laws that harm us. They live and die in the closet and can’t be saved, pitied, or loved. And sometimes it makes queer men like us — men who try to be the best versions of ourselves with what we have. I wish I knew why some of us go one way and not the other; I had all the ingredients to be an ultraconservative bigot, yet I’m me. It sounds like you turned out well, too. Before even reaching college, you’re asking questions I did not ask at your age. By asking them, you’re probably not going to be a homophobic bigot. And therefore I predict your “type” will naturally expand as you grow.
When I went to college, I thought I was exclusively into masculine blonde men close to my age. A decade has passed since then and my “type” has expanded to include men of nearly every size, age, skin color, and presentation — and even a few women. The man I’m dating now would not have been attractive to when I went to college. Tastes change, and yours probably will. Don’t force it. Just nurture a hungry curiosity about the world — chase new experiences and new people — and leave the rest to time and experience.
Lastly, your Blackness is not a flaw. Don’t say or think that again. As a queer Kenyan, you have a powerful perspective — one the world badly needs. I’ve actually been to Kenya. I know it’s homophobic, but it’s also a beautiful place. If you haven’t already, read about the queer Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, one of the most prominent Africans to ever come out publicly as gay, who won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002. The U.S. is a racist country with some good people in it — find them. Black culture and Black people are beautiful. Anyone who doesn’t think so is trash. Discard them.
My Instagram is not exciting — I am a boring, bookish person — but my handle is the name of this blog: @LoveBeastly.