Our Sunday night begins like any other – scrolling through the same Facebook feed six times while making snarky comments about an acquaintance’s travel photos – until a new post catches our attention.
“BAE: WHERE PEOPLE OF COLOUR CHAT, MEET, AND DATE.”
Our reaction teeters between scoffing and genuine interest; both of us are all too familiar with the inner machinations of dating apps. Yet if our love lives were a Bushfire Risk Scale on the side of a highway, both of us would fit in the ‘catastrophic’ zone, so we decide to try it out. In terms of functionality, BAE is a lot like Tinder: we log in with Facebook, select our least terrible photos, and type out bios that make us seem funny but dateable. “My 2 favourite things are corgis and wikihow,” reads Michael’s. “Western Sydney socialite,” reads Lamya’s.
An unexpected part of BAE is that it’s more stringent about location than Tinder. The app insists on finding matches nearby; a source of great anxiety for Lamya since there’s at most two degrees of separation between all the ethnics in her neighbourhood. Her recurring nightmare of meeting a Nice Brown Boy only to later discover home videos of the two of them bathing together when they were three is now a serious possibility.
The first guy Lamya sees says 19 on his profile but looks like the recently divorced 40-yearold down the road. She means to swipe left but accidentally swipes right, and is searching for an ‘undo’ button when the profile of the next candidate appears on her screen – a white snapback-wearing Westie.
A perpetual optimist, she ignores it and swipes left, but it becomes apparent that White dudes with a fetish have gravitated to this app. It’s not until swipe 12 that she actually sees another man of colour.
Lamya swipes right on him. She waits but he doesn’t message her. Already disheartened, new messages from Divorced Man suddenly pop up, reminding Lamya her only match so far is an elderly neighbourhood man, whose kids she’s probably helped walk to school. “I look older than I actually am,” he insists. She blocks him.
Meanwhile, Michael tries to find a boy who is also adventurous enough to use such a medium. But, after one first right swipe, there’s… nothing. Not a single other QPOC (Queer Person of Colour) using this app, not even a white dude with an ethnic fetish! If he was more forgiving Michael might have blamed it on BAE’s location settings, but he changes them to show users within 400 miles and is met with the same radio silence. Not a single queer, ethnic man from Sydney to Byron Bay was ready to mingle on this app.
Defeated, Michael is about to close out of the app when it auto-refreshes and shows him a glittering beacon of hope—a single candidate in the form of fifty-year-old, white-haired “John”. John is white and immediately informs Michael of his wealth and willingness to expend this wealth. Michael has never used Grindr, but imagines that this is what it must be like. For a split second, he considers his tragic bank account balance, but is knocked back to reason by Lamya. If BAE has taught us anything, it’s that, although People of Colour are often left with the responsibility of creating safe spaces in areas where there are none, it’s up to White people to have the courtesy to respect that space.
Oh, and that writing about yourself in third person sucks.