The title of this post is an actual “match question” on OkCupid. For those who do not know, OkCupid is a dating website/app that uses answers to match questions to predict compatibility between users. Anyone else sees an issue with this question?
The featured image is a screenshot of an actual conversation I recently had on Grindr. Again—for those who do not know—Grindr is a hookup app geared mostly towards gay cis men. As a non-US citizen who’s lived in the US for a few years and a queer male, I am sad to say that I’m used to this kind of interaction. I’ve accepted the idea that this “something special” about my look and the way I speak English are things that some Americans get off on. I clearly remember an occasion a few days after I first moved to the US—and before I came out as queer!—when an American friend of my mother’s assured me that “girls are gonna dig that accent!” Heteronormativity aside, I find this kind of comment offensive. Perhaps more unacceptable is the frequency with which some Americans make it without realizing the implications.
It is difficult enough to be queer/trans in the US. Anti-queer/trans violence, being denied stable employment and housing, unsupportive family members, the stigma that goes with a queer/trans identity, and the greater risk of mental health issues that results from these are only some of the factors that make life hard for us. This is why a sense of belonging to a community has been important to me ever since I came out. I need to know that there are folks out there who “have my back” during hard times because they have been through similar struggles and understand. Knowing that makes me feel at home. And this is why it hurts to be othered (you’re different from us; we don’t have an accent) by fellow queers for having a *special* accent.
Many Americans don’t understand the intensity of language. Taking two years of Spanish in high school and going on a two-week trip to Peru isn’t the same as immigrating to a supremacist country like the US and spending your life in a country where close to nobody speaks your native language. The more time you spend using a certain language, the more power it has to transform the way you think, and ultimately, your identity. For example, if I had lived in Bulgaria my whole life, I would never have identified as queer. There just isn’t a word in Bulgarian that corresponds to this identity. I’m not even merely talking about the lack of a direct translation. It is difficult to describe the word “queer” with all of its intricate connotations even using full sentences. If I went back to Bulgaria, I would feel like there’s a part of me that nobody there could understand even if I tried to explain it. This takes away that important feeling of belonging. It should come as no surprise, then, that I no longer consider Bulgaria home.
Being fetishized for my accent feels similar to that. It feels like all the complexities related to having grown up in a country different from the one where I intend to spend the foreseeable future have been reduced to the product: my accent. It feels like nobody here in the US wants even to attempt to understand those first sixteen years of my life—even if I tried to explain! And that makes me feel less at home.
As fun as it sounds to be able to excite someone sexually just by talking to them about non-sexual things, there are deeper needs to be met first: the need to belong and the need to be seen in your complexity. So: no, thanks, OkCupid!