As the debate rages about diversity in LGBTQ+ media, Marcus Stow discusses how it’s just part of a wider problem that can make anyone who isn’t a cisgender white gay male feel excluded
There’s been something strange happening of late in gay media (I hesitate to call it LGBTQ+ or queer). There’s a perceived backlash against cisgender white gay men. In an interview with Attitude Magazine, singer Steve Grand uttered the words “Young, good-looking, white, gay men – we love to hate those people”. Meanwhile, the NUS passed a motion that “white cis gay men” should not have a specific gay men’s representative as “Gay men do not face oppression as gay men within the LGBT+ community.”
While it continues to be true that white cisgender gay men face oppressions from wider society, it is clear that they are considered the default when it comes to queerness. Steve Grand may feel that he is hated but this is not borne out by googling Attitude magazine covers or those of the Gay Times, as ripped, muscular white cis gay men – and heterosexual ones – dominate our leading magazines, and it’s a similar situation in the USA or even in nations such as Brazil where people of colour are in the majority.
Recently, black queer rapper Mykki Blanco set off a discussion about the dominance of shirtless white guys in gay media on Twitter. Queer people of colour joined the debate on the #GayMediaSoWhite hashtag created by Vicktor T. The general consensus was that men of colour are rarely featured on the covers of major magazines, and if we are featured at all inside, it was usually about homophobia in our communities or majority black countries, which is important but not our only stories.
While it continues to be true that white cisgender gay men face oppressions from wider society, it is clear that they are considered the default when it comes to queerness.
The power of gay media is that it can inform opinion, and also give explicit messages as who gets to be included in our culture. I’ve had a white gay guy hiss to my face that “black people all hate us! Shortly before telling this charming chap to foxtrot oscar, I pulled out my wedding photos with my Barbados-born black mother, and my relatives at my very gay wedding. I wonder how this man – who lived in an area with few black people – had formed such a opinion?
Gay media also reflects our spaces and discourse as a whole. Recently a queer club night was widely criticised for using Islamophobic imagery as part of its promotion. Only a few months ago, a drag act which was based on offensive racist and sexist stereotypes of black women was cancelled following a successful campaign led by Chardine Taylor-Stone, a black queer woman.
In 2015, as news broke that UKlP had been banned from marching at London Pride, there was much talk about free speech, and even the labelling of those who agreed with the ban as ‘ignorant’ by liberals. While there was much dissection of UKIP’s homophobia, there was little to no reference to how queer people of colour and migrant groups may feel about UKIP marching.
The power of gay media is that it can inform opinion, and also give explicit messages as who gets to be included in our culture
UKIP is after all an anti-immigration political party, the majority of whose supporters would prefer immigrants and their descendants to leave the UK. This inspired TheBuddhaSmiled, a South Asian gay man, to start #SolidarityIsForWhiteLGBTQ on Twitter as the concerns of people of colour were ignored. Even Peter Tatchell’s statement supporting the ban did not mention the well-known xenophobia and racism of UKIP’s policies and its supporters, fears that were justified when they attended Pride anyway and barged in front of an African LGBTQ+ group.
If you join the dots between gay media, clubs promoting racism and the debacle of the UKIP at Pride debate, you can come to a conclusion that the message appears to be: “LGBTQ+” spaces are by default for gay (not bisexual) white, cisgender, middle-class men with no disabilities. This view permeates our spaces and seeks, whether intentionally or not, to exclude queer people who do not fall into those categories. It’s no wonder that people who do not fit one or more of those categories are creating our own spaces – whether online or in real life – to feel accepted, such as the UK Black Pride event.
For white cis gay men reading this who currently feel uncomfortable, I should reassure you that some of my best husbands are white cis gay men (he felt excluded from gay clubs as, quote, “I felt fat”). But it’s time for everyone involved in LGBTQ+ media, clubs, events and on a personal level to consider how they can help improve the situation of representation and inclusion. Because the starting point should always be the well-being of EVERYONE in the LGBTQ+ community.
Follow Marcus On Twitter: (@marcusjdl)