Mykki Blanco Is Right: Gay Media Has an Inclusivity Problem
"I'm not gonna do this right now, the whole 'Gay Media is actually ruining Gay Culture' rant...but it's depressing so so so depressing," artist and activist Mykki Blanco wrote on Twitter yesterday (March 28) after retweeting an observation by songwriter Jesse Saint John in what was the beginning of a stream of consciousness regarding representation in LGBTQ media — or the blatant lack thereof.
It is depressing (and embarrassing, as a fellow member of the community), and that's exactly why the discussion needs to happen.
A quick glance at the covers of recent Attitude issues that Blanco posted is telling enough as is: Barring a lone RuPaul cameo, it's a sea of white, ripped shirtless torsos. (Grindr aesthetic, if you will.)
"I think I will probably be dead before White Gay Media ever becomes inclusive, I think none of us living now will ever see it LMAO," Blanco wrote. "Theirs a reason people like me don't get invited on LOGO, or GLAAD or OUT or ATTITUDE."
A quick Google search of more Attitude covers throws in a few (white) straight shirtless pop stars...err, and Lady Gaga. Sensing a theme?
It's not just an Attitude problem, though.
Apart from the more moody, rugged styling of the shoots, the same array of almost exclusively white male cover stars, apart from President Obama, also applies to a Google search for Out.
Somewhat maddeningly, Out responded to Blanco's thoughts with a helpful 'reminder' about their profile in the past: "Surely you haven't forgotten that you've been profiled in the Out 100 (we wanted 2 again last but u could not make shoot)," they wrote.
The condescending tweet has since been deleted, but because this is the Internet, a screencap remains.
Good luck finding that diversity you speak of on this year's Out 100, by the way — unless Jussie Smollett coming in around No. 21, somewhere under those gay twin model/YouTubers, as one of the first people of color on the list should be considered a resounding victory for equality within the community.
"Vogue, even f--king Vanity Fair has made strides to be more ethnically, trans, non binary inclusive. The Gay White Establishment = NO," Blanco added.
It would be wrong, however, to wholly blame the editors of these magazines for their covers.
This is an ongoing symptom of the gay community's troubling relationship with race today. The "just a preference" culture on dating apps? Talk about deep-rooted racism: How is "no blacks," "no asians" or "whites only" even remotely acceptable to write in 2016? And go ahead and compare the Top 10 of that Out 100 poll to the Bottom 10 — you'll notice a striking difference there, too.
But that's just gay men, which only represent one part of the LGBTQ community.
"This also has to do with Lesbian voices, Trans as well as POC. These outlets claim to reflect the LGBTQ yet do not," Blanco added in another tweet posted today (March 29).
Side note: That's not even getting into some very questionable honoring of white celebrities at gay award ceremonies — like when the GLSEN honored Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel last year with the Inspiration Award for being "vocal supporters" (?!) of the LGBT community. (Did I miss a tweet from JT about equality somewhere, or...?)
It's a problem: The lack of variety of bodies, in terms of ethnicity, gender and even size, represented on the covers of our most prominent mainstream gay publications is a problem. It's not about a subtle imbalance; it's a damn near shut-out altogether of anything even remotely "other." (And RuPaul's Drag Race alone, although undeniably important, is not enough.)
Considering the LGBTQ community's history, and the very definition of the word queer, it's disheartening that the cover stars of gay media fit such an incredibly narrow, safe — dare I say "straight-acting" box. (The Out covers, in particular, almost always read as anti-femme.)
Blanco's thoughts come at the same time as out-and-proud "All American Boy" country singer Steve Grand, one of the more frequently covered artists in mainstream gay media, has come under fire for, annoyingly, complaining about being unfairly misunderstood as a (self-described) "good-looking" white man.
"Young, good-looking, white, gay men—we love to hate those people," the singer, who has previously posed for the cover of Next, Metrosource, Instinct and DNA, lamented to PrideSource. (Gee, for hating them so much, we sure give them a lot of real estate on the covers of our biggest magazines.)
Grand has since apologized for the statement, sort of, on Twitter: "I say a lot of things. Some of those things don't always come out quite right. I can do better, and I'm going to continue to try and do so," he wrote.
That's fine, but the promise to "do better" carries the same patronizing smack of a "thoughts and prayers" tweet by a politician after a mass shooting in this country. Rather than remaining hopeful for a better tomorrow, let's start to actually work to address this very real issue.
Because we actually can do better..beginning now. And perhaps Attitude's Michael Sam cover, revealed earlier today, is one small indication that queer media is working to reflect just how diverse the community truly is.