Dating as a Black Gay American Digital Nomad in Europe

Erick Taylor Woodby
5 min readApr 1, 2021
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

I am a Black gay American digital nomad who has spent the last four years outside of the United States. After twenty-six years as a graphic designer for a Los Angeles-based investment banking firm, I am a writer and the creator, host, and producer for Our Black Gay Diaspora Podcast, a global biweekly platform where Black LGBTQ citizens share about their countries and professions.

One question I get is, “How is it dating in Europe?” My experience so far, at least with dating apps, is I don’t notice a difference. As an introvert, someone most comfortable “spending time with just one or two people, rather than large groups or crowds (WebMD, 2020),” casual dating isn’t something I’m the most adept at doing.

Similar to the United States, assumptions about being Black in Europe may influence one’s perceptions and expectations.

When I left the U.S. in October 2019, my goal was to find work that could help me settle in Sweden. So my first few months abroad, I focused on making this a possibility. Despite friends in Stockholm suggesting I get on dating apps. There are attractive men in Sweden. But I wasn’t ready to devote energy to pursuing romantic or sexual exploits.

Regardless of race or sexual orientation, dating can be a minefield of miscommunication and absurd scenarios. I have my own stories of “truth is stranger than fiction” experiences. Some that would make you double over in laughter. Others that left me dazed and confused.

Several months passed before I began dating in Sweden. Similar to the United States, assumptions about being Black in Europe can influence one’s perceptions and expectations. Affecting how non-blacks interact with us. I don’t disapprove of interracial dating. But I’m cautious. There are Black citizens in most of the European countries I’ve visited. But the populations are smaller than most major U.S. cities. Thus, finding a Black gay man with whom I can form a healthy romantic connection with may be a challenge. Their numbers on dating apps in cities like Berlin,London, and Stockholm are negligible.

I’ve received interest from non-black men who’ve said things like, “I love Black men and your beautiful chocolate skin!”

Another concern I have with online dating is it can attract persons interested in the sexual fetishization of Black men. Jason Okundaye’s October 2020 GQ article states, “This is how white people objectify black men as more masculine and sexually potent than our white counterparts.” And “The size of our penises are obsessed over and apparently betray our monstrosity.”

Because we start with photos and well-crafted descriptions, my opinion is that fantasy greatly influences online dating. Fostering a story one can project on a person’s profile? For some, racial stereotypes are part of this fantasy. I’ve received interest from non-black men who’ve said things like, “I love Black men and your beautiful chocolate skin!” How does one respond to a declaration like this?

I would never think to say to a White man, “Oh, my God! I love your beautiful vanilla skin!” Plus, the statement overlooks the hours I spent curating my profile. Hoping my profession, favorite films, and daily life mantras sound interesting.

I see color and other physical characteristics. I’m an American who grew up in a Eurocentric society. Through my lived experiences as a Black man, I know how racism influences my perceptions of myself and those around me. This includes racial hierarchy, the “system of stratification that is based on the belief that some racial groups are superior to other racial groups (Wikipedia).” However, I don’t believe the color of their skin has ever led to my perception of attractive non-black men. Like with Black men, it’s his face, his build, his height, and that special something I see in his eyes.

In my time wading through the sea of men on dating apps in Europe, I’ve only met three in person. Only one moved beyond an initial meeting. Beginning with a swipe right on a popular dating app, I met him at a café in Stockholm’s Södermalm district in late May 2020. His friendly eyes were what first caught my attention as I scanned his face, complimented by a shaved head and reddish-brown mustache and beard.

Our conversation flowed smoothly as we sat outside at one of the café’s small tables. Soaking up the sun’s rays on the crisp spring afternoon, my Swedish acquaintance held my interest with his humor. But I was leaving for England in a couple of months. And he shared about his summer travel plans. I didn’t see things going past what we were enjoying at the moment. And I was okay with it. I enjoyed interacting with someone new.

Arriving in London, England in late July 2020, my Swedish friend remembered and reached out to see how I was settling in. We remained in contact while I was in the UK, video chatting 2–3 days per week. I enjoyed our conversations. How they progressed into us discovering our shared interests. I looked forward to seeing him again upon my return to Stockholm in early November 2020.

I believe my Swedish friend saw beneath the surface of my skin tone, to the person those close know me to be. I continued to open up about my origins in Phoenix, Arizona. I shared about my years in Los Angeles, California. First as a struggling actor and later as a graphic designer.

For the first time in some time, I was open to being vulnerable with another man, becoming more transparent. I experienced a new sexual awakening. Something I knew many tapped into years before, without the aid of a stamped passport. I embraced my sexuality in ways that went beyond the cerebral. I saw how my trust issues, formulated during my formative years, also influenced this part of my life.

So, to answer the question. How is it dating in Europe? Apart from cultural differences, it’s identical to dating in the United States. What’s changed is that I’m more honest about who I am, what I want, and where I would like to be. I no longer minimize the realities of racism and how it filters into my dating life. That being said, I no longer shy away from discussing race. That is as long as I’m in a safe space to do so.

White and Black labels categorize people. But they’re generic monikers. They don’t capture a person’s ethnic or socioeconomic background. I am a Black American. I’m a creative introvert who loves the sound of honest-to-goodness laughter. I am me.

--

--

Erick Taylor Woodby

Writer and creator of Our Black Gay Diaspora Podcast, a global biweekly platform where Black LGBTQ citizens share about their countries and professions.