Rejection is something we all have to learn to deal with, yet its universality doesn’t ease its sting. Whether it’s personal, professional, romantic, or platonic, rejection is a fact of life. While I continue to learn how to take rejection, I still don’t know how to dish it out. Whether it comes from an aversion to confrontation, a fear of hurting someone else’s feelings, or the mild trauma of my own past rejections, I find it difficult to say even a simple “No thanks.”
In person, I tense up and smile sheepishly when a stranger makes unwanted advances. On the apps, I go by the doctrine of, “No response means no interest.” Some people find that rude, but I just find it as a way of protecting myself. For a while it just felt like the right thing to do. But in my constantly evolving relationship to hookup apps, I try to reevaluate the way I interact with my fellow thirsty kweens. So recently while in Miami—during the convergence of Miami Beach Pride and the ten year anniversary of Grindr—when a man didn’t take my lack of a response as an answer, I decided to be an adult and state my feelings clearly.
And then I remembered why I regarded silence as my protection.
That word is the sound of pure, unadulterated hate that chafes against my skin like a noose around my neck. For as long as America has existed, it has been a word used to demoralize and cow black people into submission, to diminish us.
For some entitled asshole to cavalierly lob this grenade of a word at me because I rejected him is part and parcel of the black experience not only in the queer community but in this country that continuously, time and time and time and time and time and time again, refuses to acknowledge its own insidious history.
I was going to let it go. I shared the screenshot of our conversation on Instagram, to the universal horror and bewilderment of my friends, then deleted it, and that was that. But the more I thought about it, the more it pissed me the fuck off. That screenshot beat like a tell-tale heart from my phone’s trash bin, haunting me until I forced myself to gaze upon it again, that six-letter word crystalized in pixels, a monument to this god awful person—to whom I address the following open letter:
I didn’t get a chance to say that before you blocked me. But that act of cowardice, much like your use of a word beloved by cowards, wasn’t at all surprising. Cowardice is why the KKK wear hoods, it’s why trolls thrive online behind the safety of screen names and avatars. It’s easy to throw stones and then immediately duck your head to avoid responsibility or repercussions.
I wished I had taken a screenshot of your face and sent it across the internet, exposing you for the racist troglodyte you are. I wanted to make you feel as small as you tried to make me. I wanted you to know that I saw you; that I knew exactly what kind of man you were. I wanted you to know that you fucked with the wrong nigger.
You’re a man awash in entitlement; your whiteness, your maleness, your wealth. You reassured me you didn’t “mind being generous,” as a way to break through my initial reticence. I hate when men offer me money—hooking-up already feels transactional without the need to further commodify the experience—and it’s always men like you, men who believe everything and everyone has a price. You thought you could somehow control me, own me, with your money, as if I didn’t have my own. But neither my affection nor my attention are for sale.
I soon realized that it wasn’t just men like you who have treated me like a commodity—it was you. We had spoken before, when I lived in New York. I had turned you down then, too. And you probably called me a “nigger” in response, and I blocked it out because, well, how else am I supposed to go on with life? If I held onto every time some white man calls me a nigger, or perpetrates some more subtle act of aggression towards me within the gay community, I’d be consumed by own anger and hatred. And that’s what men like you want—so why would I give you the satisfaction?
It was something you said that first made me question meeting up with you, then jogged my memory. You said you like sucking off “dark guys.” I’ve been fetishized enough to know when someone is after me or after the idea of me. I could be the funniest, most charismatic, most erudite man you could’ve spoken to but how would you know it if I’m just another potential black dick for you to gum into completion.
You saying how much you love black guys isn’t a compliment—it’s just racist. It reduces me to a type, disregarding other facets of my humanity. Your humanity, however, is unquestioned. Your importance is unquestioned. Your value is unquestioned. You’re into what I represent, not who I am, not what I feel, not if I feel at all. It’s how in one moment you can enthusiastically pursue me and the next dismiss me as a nigger.
I could have said all of this to you on Grindr, or to your face. Or I could have ruined your life for the fun of it because not only can I read a house down, I’ll rebuild it, burn it to the goddamn ground, and salt the earth so that nothing will ever grow there again. But this is so much better. This can live outside your Grindr inbox as a reminder that you really did fuck with the wrong nigger.
My blackness is not an insult. It’s not something I can be made to feel ashamed of or conflicted about. My blackness is my providence. Just as my queerness is my providence. Regardless of the weight of their implications to the world, my blackness and my queerness are not my weakness, but my source of power.
So, in closing, in sincerity, and in perpetuity—fuck you.
The Wrong Nigger
The question I ask when Grindr turns toxic, which is often, is whether the app, and others like it, are the cause or the continuation of such behavior. The occasion of Grindr’s tenth anniversary made the question even more naggingly relevant.People were racist before 2009, before the advent of the apps, before dating became as mind-numbingly simple as a swipe to the left or right.
But Grindr has always facilitated the worst behavior in gay men. Coupled with an event that attracts horny gays from around the globe like Miami Beach Pride, and Grindr quickly devolves into a hellscape. All weekend my inbox was littered with splayed dicks and assholes, nary a face or a greeting among them. One man even sent me a picture of his shit floating in a toilet bowl.
But even that wasn’t as bad—and it was fucking terrible—as being called a “nigger” simply for saying “no.” The implication being that I should be grateful for his great, white attention, and my refusal of it is a rebuke of his self-worth, which is wrapped up entirely in a world of facades enforced and fortified by social media and apps like Grindr. Apps that don’t breed but rather expose racism among its users, inoculating us to its harms by placing it in the guise of preferences and the safety of anonymity.
By exposing private prejudices to a public forum, Grindr has made us all, as gay men, worse people.
Like I said, this isn’t the first time I’ve been called a nigger on one of these apps, and if we’re being honest, it probably won’t be the last. But it’s more than just the apps—it’s the men using the apps. It’s the world in which they live that allows them to think that race doesn’t affect them or blinds them to their own biases.
And it’s the often misguided notion that racism begins and ends with the N-word.
There was this guy in Boston who asked “Is it okay if I call you the N-word?” while we fucked. This was to my face, by the way. We had met on Grindr but he didn’t pose the question until we were in all kinds of flagrante delicto.
It was a hard pass for me, but I mean, points for asking, I guess. And he actually said “the N-word” as opposed to “nigger,” as I hadn’t given him the permission. Now, did I think he was racist? Not really. He was actually a really nice guy—a trashbox of the circuit party-GHB-HGH variety, certainly, but not a racist. And that’s not even because he sought refuge in the equivocal cliché of the problematic bae: “I’m like the least racist person.…”
If you have to qualify your lack of racism, we’re already off to a rough start. I may not have thought he was racist but he didn’t think anything was wrong with his use of the N-word—it just turned him on, he didn’t “know why.”
Because I’ve had no other recourse, I have deeply and consistently interrogated my own gaze to understand my relationship to whiteness and how it has colored, pun intended, my perception of love and sexual attraction. I personally don’t think white gay men have to interrogate their own desires because, well, why would they?
Sitting at the proverbial top of the homosexual food chain, white men, I’ve found, don’t have to put in a lot of effort. Some—regardless of looks or charm or any sort of saving grace—assume I am theirs for the taking, perhaps having met other black boys far more pliable than I: black boys who took their money; black boys who allowed themselves to be called a nigger; black boys who didn’t know that they deserved infinitely better.
The thing is, given the opportunity, I would probably hook up with that Beantown himbo again because, even though he might want to call me a nigger—I know he won’t. And that, unfortunately, is enough. When you just want to get naked and have some fun and not worry about what it means to the fabric of society, you take what you can get when it’s not the absolute worst.
And then there’s the absolute worst.
I wrote an article recently about the role of gay white men in the rise of white nationalism—among them, former Breitbart token faggot Milo Yiannaopoulos. The article, of course, inspired the racist dregs of the internet to whip out their micro-dicks to jizz their pathetic attempts at wit all over it. One such troll pointed out what has always been Yiannopoulos’ defense against completely valid claims of racism: his love of black dick.
Meanwhile, this MAGA monster has no idea how many black cocks we “faggy baggies” have had in our mouths or our aspirations to that effect. But, yes, by all means alert the BET, the Soul Train, and the NAACP Image Awards: Milo Yiannopoulos loves choking down black cock. He even married one. But as proven by Yiannopoulos, and any number of white men who couch their racism in rosy declarations of purported love, attraction to black men does not preclude discrimination towards black people.
While no self-respecting black man would deign to exchange vows with a faggy baggy white supremacist, I can’t really judge whomever married Milo Yiannopoulos too harshly. Black men are so often desperate for love that they mistake attention for affection, desire for respect, and fetishization for romance. The white gaze can be intoxicating because we’ve given white men so much power (or rather, they’ve taken it) over what is deemed attractive and worthy.
In this post-Trump, post-#MeToo, post-BLM era we find ourselves in, the power is shifting hands, and rightfully so. While I can’t stop a man from calling me a nigger on Grindr, it won’t strip me of my power. If anything, it reveals how truly powerless and pathetic that man is and that he’s realized that his whiteness no longer guarantees him all the spoils of his misbegotten privilege.