WARNING: This article contains offensive language and racial slurs that may upset some readers.
Dustin Mangatjay McGregor is shining a light on what he views as the prevalence of racism in Australia's gay community, particularly online. With the popularity of dating apps like Grindr, Tinder and Hornet, where romance is just a swipe and a sext away, many users make it clear who they want to bed and who they don’t, often making distinctions along racial lines.
Mangatjay, a Yolngu man, has regularly received racial abuse on Grindr and after one too many messages, he started to document just how frequent and harsh the content is. From users disclosing their racial preference from the get go, to using racism as a way of expressing that they’re ‘not interested’, Mangatjay loaded these anti-social conversations onto his Facebook to show non-Grindr users how common racist dialogue is on gay online platforms.
“From my experience people that are looking from the outside see the gay community as one ‘big happy family’,” he says.
“When in reality that's not necessarily the case. It's disappointing, as you might think that an oppressed group would help lift other marginalised people, yet here we are beating each other down."
Mangatjay grew up on Milingimbi, situated in North East Arnhem Land. He moved to Darwin when he was a teenager and currently lives in Adelaide.
Like many young gay men, he has been using dating apps like Grindr since its inception. His experience using the system however, has left him with a few successful dates, but also a realisation that there is a hierarchy in the gay community, just as in wider society.
“The white, attractive male is at the top of this pyramid and they command the attention, the power, Asian and Aboriginal men are usually at, or come close to, the bottom."
“The line ‘no rice or spice’ is a common quote on people’s profile description and I'm regularly calling people out on Grindr for promoting these comments. I've also noticed that the people who say these things are usually white men, and while I think it's perfectly acceptable to be more attracted to people of a certain racial background, voicing your preferences using offensive language is not.”
Mangatjay says that he gets called anything online from a ‘petrol s******’, to ‘filthy’ or a “wog a** c***’, as he is also part Greek.
“I’d like to say surprises me in this day and age that so many negative stereotypes exist regarding Aboriginal people, but it's something I've grown up with. I remember when I moved to Darwin and students in my class, who were barely 13 years old, were making offensive racial remarks about Aboriginal people. In my experience, people need to be taught from a young age that racism isn't acceptable.”
When Mangatjay started public-shaming people on his Facebook page, he started to receive the kind of traction he’d hoped for.
“People were shocked. Some of them couldn't believe that I, who am light-skinned and consequently privileged in that regard, receive racial abuse at all,” he says.
“Some of my gay friends were particularly astounded and told me that they've not received any form of abuse like that in their entire lives. I think overall these posts have raised awareness to the fact that the struggle to combat racism is still well and truly alive.”
While the First Nation’s Float continues to lead the way at the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, promoting diversity within the LGBTIQ community, acceptance is still an everyday challenge for many gay Indigenous men, women and transpeople.