The internet is quietly smouldering with its latest racial equality trend, #GayMediaSoWhite. Mic reports that an initial tweet by songwriter Jesse St. John springboarded a twitter rant by queer rap legend Mykki Blanco, who drew his claws over the white face that dominates the gay mainstream establishment and the marginalisation queers of colour. ‘I wonder everyday if “Gay Media” in 2016 are at all embarrassed when you go to their websites/content and it’s only shirtless white guys,’ he wrote.
‘Theirs a reason people like me don’t get invited on LOGO, or GLAAD or OUT or ATTITUDE.’ Blanco was in fact included on the 2012 Out 100 list. The magazine was quick to point this out, forgetting that they also slated him last year in a pithy article titled, ‘The Problem With Mykki Blanco,’ over an incident when Blanco threw a sandwich at someone. It’s worth a read, a grand example of QOCs (or queers in general, for that matter) only being valid voices if they conform to a specific establishment idea of what it is to be homosexual. ‘…even a rebel soul should be tamed to public decency, especially if said soul has as significant a message as this one.’
Like #OscarsSoWhite before it, diversity of representation in the LGBT mainstream is hardly a new argument. It’s not that cis white gay men are necessarily worse people, or even always better off. But with so many privilege boxes ticked, they don’t need to think about the intersectionality of identity politics which affects others. Through various routes of privilege, white dollars dominate the marketplace and publishing platforms, and a certain caucasian standard of beauty. White people need positive representations of themselves in the media like they needed those countries they stole 400 years ago.
But others do. Queer Asian men find themselves readily marginalised in race, sexuality and gender performativity in the West. The propagation of white=desirable in the gay press, alongside everyone’s favorite stereotype of emasculated Asian men, re-enforces a sense of otherness. ‘Even before [gay Asian men] set foot on the scene, they learn to situate themselves as marginal within the gay world.’ (Ridge et al, 2008)
How do we come to address this, in terms of race? Representations are getting more real, with the graduation of stars like John Cho (Selfie) Christopher Sean (Days Of Our Lives) and Steven Yuen (The Walking Dead) as rounded Asian-American characters on television (although, as John Oliver pointed out, if your an Asian character, you will be played by a white guy in the gay porn version of your show) There’s also been a rise over the past year of love for ‘HOT ASIAN MEN’ in web magazines (see Buzzfeed) Asian men can now be as desirable as white guys, the internet has decided…but only if they are ripped and chiseled. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with loving gym bunnies, it’s a weird new standard that smacks of the same assimilationist rhetoric which Blanco was raging against. By saying Asian men are attractive when they’re muscled is pretty close to saying Asian men are less desirable when they’re skinny or chubby, or femme, or anything but this singular standard. The same goes for the rest of us too. A survey by FS magazine found 41% of respondents felt ‘bad about themselves’ after seeing the men on the cover of gay magazines.
No visibility, no inclusion. Black POC voices are dominating this particular flame, but the discourse will continue. Some are pointing to the existence/creation of QOC media as an alternative, or well-rounded ‘fuck you’, to the white-dominated mainstream. Change starts at the fringes, and is more radical for it. We’re not asking for a world where the riot is the mainstream (but imagine a utopia where Black Girl Dangerous, Autostraddle or Fagburn were?) But maybe it would be nice to see the men we know, the men we love, the men we are on the cover. Just once in a while.