British Broadcasting Company by Nicholas Hayden
One of the most resonant experiences that one can hope to have as a homosexual man is to be just that, while simultaneously being aware that your body adheres to no one's ‘type’. It’s remarkable, how you unwittingly become a sort of docent that would walk around a gallery of gay mores and norms knowing that you are somewhat adjacent to them.
We set ourselves impossible standards.
While my elder brother inherited his more substantial frame from the men in my mother’s family, I grew into an almost exact replica of my father – very tall and slim. I do realise that to an average onlooker there is nothing wrong with that and, indeed, ostensibly there isn’t. I’m healthy and remain in control of my motor faculties, while not being offensive to look at. The issue occurs when you try to marry that physicality with modern ideals of what the thriving gay man looks like. As a black, gay man there is a reality that in order to live your best gay life™ you will ideally be white (or tan!) with an obvious gym regimen. You must then acquire a ‘tan to Brazilian-looking’ lover and adopt a French bulldog that you might name after your favourite Drag Race contestant.
That’s cool, but what happens if you don’t fit into that exclusive enclave?
Adolescence becomes a continuous exercise in accepting that you aren’t aspirational. Once you reach the age where you can go out at night with your friends you will see that like with most sports in school, you will be picked last. That’s not to say things couldn’t be different if I were hulking and muscular in presence – that changes things.
Let this docent tour you over to the next enthralling section: Stereotypes. As a black man and a homosexual, no less, you can get ahead by fulfilling the role of the sexually charged overpowering brute with the BBC. No, I’m not saying that when you are out dancing people will see your credentials to work for the British Broadcasting Company. Oh no, in this instance BBC stands for...
And now that we’ve lowered the tone to the depths of the channel tunnel we can veer back and address the pitfalls of this moniker. More than once I’ve been in a situation where a man has triple jumped past asking me about any other details in favour of finding out whether I fit this stereotype. Yet I’ve never witnessed this happening in any equivalent way with my white friends. The experience resonates deeper and you’re left with the unfortunate notion that without any of the other classic trappings such as a built physique or fairer skin that you are only useful to fulfil the odd fantasy.
The next time you’re bored and nursing some wine, take a look at the representation within gay pornography. You’ll only see diversity (in any form) if you look for it specifically. That gaze is then mapped onto the community so that even those with diverse bodies and even those of different ethnicities seek the ideal that is white and muscular rather than cultivating their own subjective view. You can be white and have a face and personality like a landfill site and you’ll clean up on a night out if you are ‘gym ready’. Conversely people usually choose to touch my hair on their way to or from the lavatories.
At times it seems like the best bet lies with the other men who want ‘somethin’ different’. Once, one man rubbed himself against me on a train near Blackheath, just to add a splash of colour to this image being illustrated to you. He looked like Rupert Murdoch but embalmed.
In spite of these social misfires I don’t dislike myself. I see the merit in what I have been given and wouldn’t change it. On the horizon there seems to be a slow change in what the community deems worthy of aspiring to. It seems to be an ever-evolving oxymoron that the gay community, a group heralded to have been shunned by conventional society, is taking so long to legitimatise differences in its own people. But we’re getting there, one British Broadcast at a time.