Dear Gay Guys: What “Preferences” Really Are

22 11 2013

There’s something about the “It’s just a preference” defence that really gets under my skin. So many gay men use this as an excuse for their racist and homophobic/femmephobic remarks, as though it exonerates them from all wrongdoing.

It doesn’t.

I’ve been thinking about what this word “preference” actually means.

preference | ˈprɛf(ə)r(ə)ns | noun

a greater liking for one alternative over another or others: her preference for white wine | he chose a clock in preference to a watch.

a thing preferred: nearly 40 per cent named acid house as their musical preference.

from Latin praeferre ‘carry in front’

See, my problem with gays who are using this word to defend their shitty attitudes is that THEY ARE USING IT WRONG! As usual, THEY DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THE WORD MEANS.

Not surprising, is it?

Preference is the word to use when you like more than one thing, but like one or more of those things more than others on the list. It’s like ice cream. You like chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cookies & cream. If you didn’t have a choice you’d be happy with any of those flavours. But if there was a choice, you’d prefer chocolate.

A sexual preference is no different. You might find Asian, Black and Latino guys attractive, but your preference, if given the choice, is Asian. Or you may have a preference for really butch masculine men, but also some that are not so masculine do it for you on occasion.

So to say you have a preference, in the spirit of the word, is to say you pretty much have an open mind to a variety of things. Or at least to more than one thing.

Yet, as we all know, there’s a lot of gay men out there who have absolutely no attraction to anything other than WHITE, HYPER-MASCULINISED MEN. And when these guys try to defend themselves using the word “preference”, they are not genuine in the slightest. There’s no preference there at all, and they are hiding behind words they don’t even understand.

The word they are looking for, but refuse to use, is REQUIREMENT.

requirement | rɪˈkwʌɪəm(ə)nt | noun

a thing that is needed or wanted: only one type of window fits the requirements of this building.

a thing that is compulsory; a necessary condition: applicants must satisfy the normal entry requirements.

A thing that is compulsory. A thing that is wanted. COMPULSORY. WANTED.


Why do you think we don’t hear, “It’s just a requirement?” I can tell you why. Because for the everyday gay, that word doesn’t feel so easy to hide behind as preference. Preference sounds so benign, so unobtrusive, so open-minded, so nice.

“Oh no, we’re not trying to tell anyone how they should be, we really believe all the diverse people of the rainbow community are equal, we’re just expressing our personal preferences.”

No, you’re not. You’re demanding whiteness and straight-actingness, to hell with anyone that doesn’t fit your neat little manufactured ideal of hotness. And you’re hiding behind a word that doesn’t apply to you, in order to make yourself feel less like the total arsehole you truly are.

If there was a more balanced representation of requirements in our community, if there were more races and gender-expressions promoted as “hot” over a sustained period of time, rather than just the one version, things wouldn’t be so bad. This really wouldn’t be such an issue. But with the white masculine male promoted as the overwhelming frontrunner in the attraction stakes, these requirements have the stench of “master race” written all over them.

So I say STOP listing your requirements altogether. STOP calling those requirements “preferences”. START removing language you KNOW offends others. If you’ve been conditioned to find only one “type” of man attractive, so be it. But STOP promoting that conditioned attraction as a personal “preference” because it isn’t. Not even slightly. In fact, you have no “preferences” at all, since you have been brainwashed into thinking only one thing is “hot”. And every time you put that one thing on a pedestal, anyone not fitting into your narrow definition of hotness feels like rubbish.