It all started with a tweet from Sony Music songwriter Jesse Saint John on March 28, 2016. John, a Caucasian male, went to the Twitterverse to share his thoughts on the lack of diversity in media representation of the LGBT community, as seen in major publications like OUT and Attitude magazine. If you google the covers for Attitude, you'll see the chiseled bodies and handsome faces of white men. It's apparent that the gay community, especially, has been "whitewashed."
From John's tweet, American rapper and activist Mykki Blanco chimed in on the issue and went on a Twitter rant about how magazines like Attitude don't support inclusivity in the gay community. He even alludes to the fact that the white community expects African-American homosexual men to exude certain stereotypes, while also claiming certain features of gay culture that were first started by black queer men.
Blanco, a New York-based artist, is a gem in the hip-hop, or "homo-hop," industry, as some like to refer to it in respect to gay artists' involvement in the genre. His gender fluidity and activist approach to rap music has created new channels for other queer artists to flourish and speak on issues plaguing the heteronormative and often homophobic industry. Central themes of most rap songs include talk of the pursuit of beautiful women, acquiring wealth, urban violence and sometimes the disapproval of homosexual behavior. Blanco's genderfucking with feminine dress and his controversial lyrics have branded him as an advocate for the LGBT community and a firm believer in equality of all types of queer individuals. This brings about a refreshing change from the normal banter that most heterosexual rappers spew in their song lyrics.
The above magazine covers are not the only signs that white privilege exits in the gay community. Shows like "Queer as Folk" and HBO's "Looking" paint pictures of the gay community as only belonging to white men, their romantic and sexual escapades and their often unmoving struggles, while leaving out all other types of representation. In both shows, various ethnicities and the myriad of gender identities are cast into the shadows, as viewers who connect with those identities are left unaccounted for.
The #GayMediaSoWhite hashtag was birthed on Twitter not too long after John and Blanco raised awareness on the issue, and users have been responding avidly to their comments ever since.
How is this white privilege? Caucasian homosexual men are becoming "the face" of the gay community and the gay rights movement. Even the 2015 "Stonewall" film, which chronicled the famous riots of 1969, featured a mostly all-white cast of pretty white boys with dreamy eyes, failing to acknowledge and accurately depict the real demographic involved in the event. Black and Hispanic men were at the forefront of that movement, and yet director Roland Emmerich thought it best to cast white men as the leaders of this monumental period in gay history.
How are queer people of color supposed to view the gay community as an accepting place of solace and self-discovery when white faces are being shown all over the media? How are young, gay men of color supposed to feel when they open Grindr and find profiles that state, "No blacks?" We are left on the sidelines to watch as white men claim our unique and distinct cultural contributions, as well as get recognition for sometimes doing absolutely nothing other than being white.
The black gay man has almost become a sub-type in the greater community. It is almost as if we are a completely different species that is left to its own devices. We're expected to say terms like "slay" or "queen" and to be well-endowed in case white men, who otherwise aren't open to dating or having sex outside of their race, are willing to experiment with. It's bad enough that black people and other ethnic minorities have to endure greater leaps and bounds to become successful and be respected in their communities, but identifying as queer quadruples those obstacles.
Blanco retweeted user wondermann5's comment in the picture above, and he raises a good point. Gay blacks in the media are only accounted for when it has to do with HIV statistics, violence and murder or homophobia within the community. All of these issues are very salient and have certain implications that should be further evaluated to ensure the well being of black, gay or trans men. But it is not a defining characteristic and overall representation of who black, queer individuals are. We have stories that need to be told. Our faces, our beautiful hair and our lovely melanin should be showcased and celebrated just like white men's are.
Our culture cannot be stolen and reclaimed under the excuse of "cultural appropriation is beneficial and necessary" or "everyone appropriates culture." Our uniqueness is being attributed to men who have been allowed to get by on being mediocre and unexceptional. The gay media is so white, and its retrogressive nature will not only hurt the youth who are looking to be included and feel like a part of something bigger than themselves, but it will also widen the gap between individuals in the gay community — a community practically founded on equal representation of all the people within it.
We are not wholly accepted by most of the world, but we continue to purposely refrain from wholly accepting one another.