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Gender Non-Conformist Mykki Blanco Tackles Glaring Racial Bias in LGBT Media

On March 28, 2016, black genderqueer alternative hip-hop rapper and LGBT activist Mykki Blanco sparked a lengthy conversation via Twitter when he called out major gay publications for prioritizing straight, hyper-masculine beefcake white cisgender men over queer-identified people in their own community. These tweets particularly address LGBT and gender-nonconforming people of color, who are often omitted from the historical and pop culture narrative altogether. Almost immediately following Blanco’s outcry, Twitter uses reacted, birthing a relevant and semi-revolutionary hashtag: #GayMediaSoWhite. This is important for a number of reasons, namely because it unearthed a breach between how the queer community is portrayed in LGBT media and what it essentially reflects in real life.

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According to Fusion, 40% of the covers of prominent gay-marketed magazines—Out, Attitude and Advocate— actually went to masculine straight white cisgender men while LGBTQ people of color only got 9% of covers. Even more disturbing is that over the past five years cover models for Out magazine were white 85% of the time. Only one queer woman of color had been featured on the cover: Orange Is the New Black breakout star Samira Wiley, who was tapped to cover the 2014 Out 100 issue alongside three other models. This should sound alarms for not only LGBT communities of color, but all people of color, especially those claiming to be politically conscious or “woke,” as it were.

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When Out.com published its 2016 list of “100 Hottest Out & Proud Celebs,” which excludes women and trans-persons, it was a testament to its readership, which are typically upper middle class college-educated white men between the ages of 18 and 54. The message was printed in glossy digital ink: Representation and diversity matter, but multiethnic men are not and should not be equally desirable to their white peers. Much more diverse than their 2016 listing of available bachelors (many of whom are actually off-the-market), only 29 ethnic nonwhite men were tapped among the litany of white men who appeared alongside them as the “Hottest” gay celebrities. Not only is Out an American monthly men’s magazine presenting itself in the stylings of Details, Esquire and GQ, but as an LGBT arts & culture lifestyle media outlet, it also promotes the highest circulation of any LGBT monthly publication in the U.S. As a publication chronicling and cultivating the American gay rights movement, in underrepresenting these diverse men of color, it is simply pushing an agenda of that seeks to purge and appropriate the narrative of diverse people and their fight for equal human rights as well as their paramount influence on the LGBT movement.

 

Out of 100 men, there are 7 East Asian Men and Pacific Islander men:

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  • Broadway and TV actor Conrad Ricamora (Filipino American)
  • Japanese American director Gregg Araki (Japanese American)
  • Fashion designer Alexander Wang (Taiwanese American)
  • Broadway actor Telly Leung (Chinese American)
  • Modern-contemporary dancer Mark Kanemura (Hawaiian)
  • Luxury women’s ready-to-wear clothing designer Joseph Altuzarra (Chinese-French)
  • Singapore-born Nepali fashion designer Prabal Gurung

 

Four were of Latino and Hispanic Origins:

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  • Latin Pop idol Ricky Martin (Puerto Rican)
  • Argentinian model Nicolas Ripoll
  • Cuban film and TV actor Guillermo Díaz
  • Puerto Rican actor and gay activist Wilson Cruz

 

Three men were of South East Asian or Middle Eastern descent:

 

  • Gujarati actor Maulik Pancholy
  • Egyptian-Canadian actor Omar Sharif, Jr.
  • Ada + Nik designer and fashion critic Nik Thakkar

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Finally, the largest majority of people of color featured on the list consisted of 15 Black men:

 

  • Broadway and film star Colman Domingo (African-American)
  • TV star Darryl Stephens (African-American)
  • Rapper Le1f (Senegalese)
  • Fashion and music video model Shaun Ross (African-American)
  • Rapper Zebra Katz (African-American)
  • Grammy winning songwriter Frank Ocean (African-American)
  • Football player Michael Sam (African-American)
  • Former basketball player Jason Collins (African-American)
  • Basketball player Derrick Gordon (African-American)
  • Tony winning actor Billy Porter (African-American)
  • Former American football player Wade Davis (African-American),
  • Balmain creative director and CNN guest style editor Olivier Rousteing (Afro-French)
  • TV star and singer Jussie Smollett (African-American and Jewish)
  • TV star Wentworth Miller (of African-American, Jamaican, Jewish, Cherokee, Syrian, and Lebenese descent)
  • WWE athlete entertainer Darren Young (African-American)

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The other 77 men who made the list were all white. For list articles, this is not a new practice for LGBT publications and when it comes to representation, idealized heteronomative white men often graced the covers.

 

Perhaps it’s time to shine a light on racism and hypocrisy in white gay culture; which has a long and embittered history of co-opting black gay culture and Columbusing trends and lingo without giving proper credit to the source. After all, much of the vernacular and sophistication used in black gay culture has been attributed to black women (even when gay media is ill-informed). And there’s a plethora of things used everyday conversation and daily routines too: Yaasss!, throwin’ shade, gagging, voguing and voguing nightclubs, drag balls, the thriving careers of most noteworthy pop divas; and those aren’t even considered accomplishments, but mere entertainment. LGBT media follows a Grindr aesthetic—characteristic of white gay men with a myopic “no fats, no fems, no colors” worldview. As a result, its temperament is virtually Ubermensch in its promotion of queer life.

 

It’s times like these that make us grateful Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender women, threw that beer bottle at the Stonewall Inn so that openly gay white men virtually can ignore her contributions and so many other black LGBT people. ‪#‎progress


About

MARCUS SCOTT is a playwright, songwriter, dramaturge, sketch comic and journalist. His work has appeared in Elle, Out, Passport, Essence, Uptown, Trace, Backstage, Giant, Hello Beautiful, NewsOne, The Urban Daily, Madame Noire, Styleblazer, Clutch, Artvoice, Bleu and Krave, among others. He has interviewed Fefe Dobson, VV Brown, Elle Varner, SWV, Danity Kane, Ryan Leslie, Rose Byrne, James Earl Jones, Annaleigh Ashford, LaMarr Woodley, Mehcad Brooks, Lisa Raye, Shaun Ross, Columbus Short and Boris Kodjoe, among others.


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