It seems mainstream gay magazines are more likely to put a straight celebrity on their cover than a queer black guy. And this week, artist Mykki Blanco has just about had it.
How can you see this shit and feel “apart of the community” or even Progressive???? pic.twitter.com/024gitCZYZ
— MYKKI BLANCO (@MykkiBlanco) March 28, 2016
Mykki, whom we love dearly and got to interview back in the day, called out gay magazines like Attitude and Out for not being inclusive enough of the entire LGBT spectrum, and for doing a shitty job at covering issues affecting people of color. Mykki’s posts sparked the #GayMediaSoWhite trend on Twitter. Whichever twenty-year-old intern who runs Out‘s Twitter account actually had the audacity to respond to Mykki in a now-deleted post reminding him of his inclusion in the Out 100 once upon a time. As if to say, “you had your shot, now we need to fill the list again with 100 mediocre white guys before someone like you can come back up again.”
On PopCrush, Bradley Stern made a good point that magazine editors alone are not entirely to blame, regardless of whether they manage the magazine’s Twitter account or decide on who should be their next cover boy. Certain segments of the LGBT community (the white privileged segments) have always had a “troubling relationship” with race.So where does that leave us? Let’s remember that magazines are a business, not a 501(c). We can criticize them on Twitter all day, but they’re not going to lose advertisers over it. Their survival depends on being able to nab big ad buys from companies that think that marketing to gay people is already progressive enough. To lure in the ads, the content becomes just as safe and, shall we say, “white-washed.” With a few token people to create the semblance of inclusivity. Lesbians? Sure, if they are coupled and successful. Trans people? Only if they’re friendly. The white guy is dating a Latino man, so that counts for something. And next month we’ll do it over again. These gay magazines and their advertisers want to reach the LGBT community, but by not having to push very far. It’s up to us to keep pushing.
Mykki spent the rest of the time retweeting insightful messages on how to deal with #GayMediaSoWhite. Tweets like this one:
This is why I fight to write the black gay and queer narrative. No one can tell our story but us. So important we write.#Gaymediasowhite
— George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) March 29, 2016
Which instantly reminded us of The Tenth, an independent magazine created by and for queer people of color. In a time when most gay magazines shine a light on POC issues only if they fit the narrative of tragedy, the stories we read in The Tenth are all about being strong and #unbothered. Created and edited by Kyle Banks, Andre Jones and Khary Septh, every 200-page issue of The Tenth is a bible, both bold and elegant. With an aesthetic that’s unique and considered, and nowhere near as obvious as other gay publications, currently in print or on Instagram. What we’re trying to say is that The Tenth is flawless.
“We get to go on the record and be heard with this Black Gay voice that really hasn’t gotten its due yet, at least not in the mainstream media,” the editors told Adult magazine. “And in this little publishing box we live in, we’d just like more of us in it. More non-white, LGBT media.”
The Tenth, currently in its third issue, has featured work by Zach Stafford, Saeed Jones, William Johnson, Brontez Purnell, Leon Baham and a ton more. We can’t think of anything more admirable than how these guys went ahead and started their own conversation after hearing what was out there was completely missing the point. Unfortunately, The Tenth creators have revealed that running an ad-driven enterprise has been tough, especially when even gay-friendly advertisers won’t return your calls.
“Brands like Topshop, who are really heavily supported (and staffed) by black queer kids, have refused to take our calls about potential sponsorship opportunities or even to simply loan clothes for shoots,” the editors said. “It’s like, ‘wait, we spend how much money up in here?'”
Remember how advertisers want to market to the LGBT community but only in a way that reaffirms the status quo? If running an ad in gay magazines is seen as being progressive enough (which is not), then why would advertisers feel the need to run a campaign in a black gay magazine? Thank god for truly progressive companies like the Ace Hotel, which has supported The Tenth from the get-go.
Even though big ad campaigns have escaped them, the editors are very clear about selling out. They won’t do it.
“We’re never going to change our conversation, we’re never going to humble ourselves, and we’re never going to misrepresent our radical subversive philosophy,” Septh told NPR earlier this year.
While some fashion magazines have published a special “all-black” issue, and black magazines sometimes run a story through an LGBT lens, and gay magazines will put the President on the cover and the President happens to be black, we shouldn’t be begging for these crumbs. These crumbs are not conversation-starters. They are not meant to fulfill, but to pacify. What we need is to build our own goddamn table, and you know it’s gotta be at least ten times better.
“The idea of black people having a tenth as much and needing to be ten times as good as their non-colored counterparts: it’s political, it’s real,” the editors added. Get your copy of The Tenth here.
Photos: The Tenth on Vimeo and Gayletter