Sexual Gentrification

By Garrick Wilhelm

Gentrification is the reshaping of communities through economic forces generally based in racism. How can gentrification be sexual?

Have you ever thought that you weren’t attracted to a group of people based on their race (ex. “I’m not into Asian men”)? Have you ever deselected someone as a partner because they weren’t of a particular race (ex. “I only date white women”).

Race is an unreal reality. It has no biological basis and you can not point to one common characteristic that defines a race of people. Racial classifications are something that we, as a society made up to justify treating people differently. Those in power benefit from us believing in this unreal reality. Therefore, you can’t say you aren’t attracted to someone because of their race, because race doesn’t really exist.

I used to tell myself that I wasn’t attracted to Asians, then I moved to San Francisco and found so many very attractive Asian men that I knew it was just a story I was telling myself. We create race and the effect race has based on these stories. Media tells us all the time the black people are poor and commit crime. They tell us that Asians are good at math and are hardworking. If race doesn’t really exist then our reality IS these stories that we tell or that we believe when we are told. Shared beliefs create all the meaning that reality has for us.

When I visited San Francisco for a straight rave in 2005, I was amazed at how attractive the straight men were in San Francisco. When I moved here to go to SFSU in 2017, I was walking through the Financial District and realized that all these pretty boys were there because there are so many gay men in positions of hiring. They do the same thing that straight men have been doing for centuries, hiring based upon some intangible good feeling they had about that person (i.e. their attraction to that person).

Now what about all the decisions you make on a daily basis about who to include in your social circles, who you reach out to in community, who you pay attention to and how often that is influenced by your social, physical and sexual attractions to them. How do you think those are influenced if you are deselecting an entire race of people from those you include in those decisions because of a story in your own head?

Now is when you say, “I can’t control who I’m attracted to!” This is true. But if race isn’t real then you can’t tell me that every single person within a perceived racial category would fall outside of your attractions. You also can’t tell me that if you opened up the possibility of being attracted to someone regardless of race you wouldn’t find those people.

I’m not telling you who to have sex with, you have every right to that decision. Attraction can be social or physical or sexual but all are influenced by your attitudes about race. The call to action here is to recognize the stories you are telling yourself, recognize the privilege you have to make that choice and to counter that privilege by reaching out to people you normally wouldn’t and include them in your community, your social circles and even in your business decisions.

We change our world by changing our stories. “Change your thinking, change your life.”