Uptown Bourgeois is an arts, news, and culture blog created by New York-based freelance writer Jefferey Spivey. UB explores universal themes through a black, queer lens. 

Why Do Mainstream Men's Magazines Ignore Their Gay Readers?

Have you ever found yourself reading Men’s Health or GQ (or any other mainstream men’s magazine) and thought you might gouge your eyes out if you passed by another article about how to have better sex with your girlfriend?

Sure, there are LGBT subject matters covered from time to time in these magazines but the overall voice is definitively heterosexual.  And quite often, many of the gay-centered stories suffer the fate of blurbs for these publications’ online components.  Which isn’t great because, despite the popularity of digital news, many traditional publications still haven’t figured out how to navigate the rough online seas.  Therefore, their online content often has far less impact than articles that make the print version.

Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo was on a recent GQ cover in his underwear. But that wasn’t to titillate.  (Well, I’m sure someone thought they might reel in a few gays with that one.) However, the stated intent was to generate envy amongst out of shape men and stimulate a conversation about health and fitness.  It might have caught our attention, but it wasn’t for us.

Everything related to sex and romance in magazines like GQ assumes a straight reader is the target. 10 ways to love her better.  How to surprise her on a weekend getaway.  How to make her happy. Her, her, her.  What if you love Givenchy and basketball, but you sleep with men? Where do you turn?

"Everything related to sex and romance in magazines like GQ assumes a straight reader is the target."

All of these magazines assume that straight men who are into fashion need to have this frivolous, feminine interest evened out with in-depth sports coverage and manly man tips about shaving and courting women.  Perhaps sprinkling a little more glitter amongst their pages wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

The now-defunct Details seemed to have a uniquely vague stance on its sexuality.  Many of its articles and editorials skewed heavily homosexual.  But the mag never outright declared that it was a gay magazine.  Most likely in an attempt to maintain its heterosexual audience without alienating the gays.

At the heart of the matter are two issues.  One is tradition. The first issue of GQ was published in 1957. Clearly, embracing its LGBT followers just wasn’t possible in the beginning.  But as the country has changed, why hasn’t the voice of the magazine?

The second is profit. GQ is owned by Condé Nast. The primary objective in the creation of its magazine issues is to make money from advertisers and subscribers.  Details folded in late 2015 and served as proof that a gay-leaning magazine couldn’t survive under the helm of the mega publisher.

"The first issue of GQ was published in 1957. But as the country has changed, why hasn’t the voice of the magazine?"

Perhaps ignorance is a factor here.  Maybe GQ, Esquire, and whatever men’s magazines that are left (as the industry is definitely in trouble) are simply refusing to acknowledge the financial power of the gay community.  The LGBT community’s buying power was estimated at $884 billion in 2014.  By denying us inclusion in major consumer men’s magazines, they’re not only closing themselves off to direct subscription revenue.  They’re also denying exposure for their advertisers and undoubtedly limiting their reach and ability to hawk products (which is a clear objective judging by the abundance of sponsored content).  

Many may argue that we should abandon these men’s magazines with a narrow, heterosexual view.  That we should embrace our own publications more fully and proudly.  And to some extent, they’re right.  But our magazines don’t serve as alternatives to mainstream men’s magazines.  They are supplemental at best.  They are focused on entirely different aspects of subject mastery.

Out, the most visible and polished gay men's mag, is great but GQ it is not.  GQ is the authority on men’s fashion, dishing on all things sartorial from the permissible amount of break in your suit pants to how to dress appropriately for your age.  Out wants to be the ultimate information source for us but it doesn’t take a unique fashion stance.  Yes, it can be argued that GQ covers a lot of other issues beyond fashion, but its’ primary focus and expertise is that of fashion.  Out’s expertise centers around gay issues.  Yes, we have our own publications.  But we don’t have our own GQ. Not yet.

High fashion men’s mags seem to embrace us more.  But they’re nowhere near as visible.  Many of them are printed overseas and can cost up to $50 for a single issue.  And many are biannual or quarterly which reduces their influence and presence in the market.

So am I saying we should stop reading GQ or Esquire or Men’s Health? Absolutely not.  They all offer some fantastic journalistic pieces and very useful tips.  But what I am asking for is more inclusion.  Less assumption that the reader is a straight man.  I want the magazine editors and writers to speak to every type of man that reads the magazine.  Don’t just acknowledge our existence with a nod and a wink on your website.  Say hello to us in the print version too. Is that so much to ask?

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