Faris Al-Shathir is a gay Iraqi ‘professional squatter’. I’ve no idea what that means but Faris warranted a full-page in the New York Times describing his honed introduction skills. I met Faris on Fire Island a couple of years ago. He was hosting an art event, raising cash for queer artists to live and work on Fire Island. Faris is witty, charming and bright. I follow him on Facebook. This week he posted this on his feed:
I connected with someone on a dating app recently. We were chatting for a few days, until he asked me where my name was from. I told him my parents were from Iraq. The next time I logged on he had blocked me. I would love to say this is the first time this has happened, but the sad truth is that it happens all the time. I don’t talk a lot about my race, but given the current political climate, I feel more and more challenged. I’m in a unique place, I have blue eyes and I am an Arab. My ethnicity is ambiguous. I understand what white privilege feels like, what it feels like to be treated like a normal human being and be given every opportunity for life and love. But my last name is Al-Shathir and to many people that is scary or disgusting. I also know what it is like to not be given a fair chance bc of my ethnicity. I know what it feels like to be on the other side, the side that isn’t fortunate enough to live in privilege every day just because of the color of their skin.
Lately, one of my biggest frustrations has been that so many people don’t seem to understand that that privilege exists. They lack empathy. They don’t comprehend that it’s a horrible reality and completely unfair. Nobody should be treated differently bc of their ethnic origin, race, or color (or gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, etc. for that matter). We should live in a society where we are all given equal opportunity. If you are one of the many people who feel complacent about this or feels like it’s not an issue, you are wrong. If you’ve learned to succeed even under these circumstances, that doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist. If you feel like it’s not going to get worse, you are wrong. The future president of our country was elected after making numerous public statements threatening, insulting and demoralizing minorities, muslims, women, people with disabilities, the list goes on and on. Over 60 million Americans voted for Trump, supporting his words and actions. He has normalized hate, empowering a scary and powerful population.
So yes, I am scared for the future. I ask all of my friends to not be complacent. We must stand for what is right.
Faris, gay men are not great examples of empathy toward each other or other groups. I met you on Fire Island in a largely affluent, young, white environment. Try being sober and gay. Try owning the natural body you have and being gay. Try having different opinions about Prep. If you do not fit in you are treated like a pariah. There’s no room for individuality unless prescribed by Ru Paul. The two gay men who live opposite me upstate voted for Trump. Our community is increasingly right-wing. As for racism. ‘No blacks, no Asians, no fems or fats’. Perhaps a gay dating app is not the best place to look for empathy.
Faris didn’t ‘like’ my comment.
Do I think he was blocked for being Arab. No, I don’t. The gays will fuck anything. I’m sure who ever blocked him didn’t want a conversation. Although there’s something a little whiney and naive about the post… not getting laid opened the flood gates for Faris. He had an epiphany. A moment of clarity. He understood (what so many of us already understood) that white people control the outcome. That white gay men are no different. That Middle Eastern people and particularly muslims are currently getting the blame for all the evils in the world. I make sure men I meet on apps know I’m Middle Eastern from the outset and my experience on the hook up apps as an out Iranian is very positive. If you consider being objectified and fetishized by white guys… very positive.
If Faris believes he was blocked for being Middle Eastern try being a young black man blocked ahead of any conversation simply for having a black face. My young black friend DP just returned from his first trip to London, I asked how it was visiting a city where racism in the gay community has been largely eradicated. He said, “My Grindr blew up!” Meaning of course… white men SAW him and contacted him and didn’t ignore him because he is black.
My friend Adam arrived upstate recently, addicted to Grindr he jumped on the app and immediately started blocking… it made me feel sick. Sick that Adam might be missing out on someone somewhere simply because were not photogenic or rather… Grindrgenic. I once blocked a severely disabled man on Grindr because I couldn’t bring myself to tell him his disability was going to be difficult for me to deal with. I’ve ignored chubby men, older men and trans. I’ve lectured men about their bad pics in the age of instagram filters. Sadly, our on-line community has evolved into a series of photographs that may or may not grab the attention of the next viewer. A few words then a parade of cock shots and gaping anus.
Many gay men are waking up to a new reality. Faris is not alone. Gay men have enjoyed a great deal of privilege these past few years. After Trump’s shock election the gays are suddenly aware they might become second-class citizens once again. Faris, like many gay men, are feeling vulnerable. They are beginning to understand how older men like me lived our lives before we fought and won equality… for people like Faris. He berates the community for their lack of empathy, their ignorance of ‘privilege’. He uses the most un american of terms: unfair. It’s unfair that white men don’t understand the concept of white privilege. We can assume from this clumsy post… Faris, like many gay men, is waking up. Faris is taking baby steps toward becoming… radicalized.
Many of us already feel like second class citizens… within the gay community. Those of us who are older, who don’t fanatically go to the gym or Soul Cycle or Barry’s Boot Camp. Try being gay and sober or simply expect more from our fellow gay travellers. Long ago I began to loathe those monstrous gays who took our tenuous rights and equality for granted. Long before Trump ever threw his hat into the ring. After Trump’s win… I am beset by Schadenfreude. I had written endlessly that our rights, our very existence should not be used by left or right to prove a point. Allowing ourselves to be co-opted by the left as evidence of a better society could turn out very badly for us. It has.
During the election I warned my gay male friends not to be complacent (it’s a little late to warn about complacency Faris) and expect President Trump. They ignored my warning, they insulted my judgement and accused me of ignoring the polls. They were wedded to their skewed logic that Hillary would win because Trump was unelectable. But mostly they were wedded to the idea that gay life was a bull market and could only get better.