I’m really glad Mykki Blanco (gay rapper and HIV stigma activist) decided to bring up the discussion of lack of diversity in gay media. And it’s something that many people have been discussing all over social media. Online publications like Medium’s The Voidist have done a great job of giving the issue the detailed and productive attention this topic needs. But I’m not glad about the hashtag #GayMediaSoWhite or some of the less than productive tweets it has inspired.
Yes, I fully acknowledge a HUGE need for diversity in LGBT media. It seems that the only way for a publisher to get a gay man’s attention is to flash an image of a white man’s chiseled torso. This is seen on everything from club promo flyers to magazine covers to blog posts. All of the people behind these publications are assuming that their audiences are predominantly white and the only way to engage gay men in productive conversation is to first appeal to their sexual interest. It’s all very frustrating, difficult to understand, and befuddling considering our entire community’s need for mainstream acceptance. How can we demand it elsewhere when we can’t even push diversity forward within our own community?
But that being said, where are the suggestions for next steps?
My biggest frustration with #OscarsSoWhite was that it worked quickly to land on a solution without first identifying root cause. Simply boycotting the Oscars wasn’t a smart or impactful move. Yes, it did lead to a change in the selection and maintenance of the Academy’s membership process. But the effect of this change won’t be felt for quite some time. And quite frankly, no one spent time lamenting over the actors who weren’t there. What may have seemed like a bold move in theory was really empty activism. A strong bark with no bite. A failure to realize that the lack of nominations was from a lack of opportunity. And instead of plotting ways to create those opportunities ourselves, we decided to pout and sit on the bench with our arms crossed during the big night. An act of indignant attitude that was largely ignored once the night actually happened.
"How can we demand inclusion elsewhere when we can’t even push diversity forward within our own community?"
Many of the tweets associated with the #GayMediaSoWhite hashtag point to publications or web series that target gay men of color. Or share examples of instances were a lack of diversity reared its ugly head. And that’s great because people need to know these things to push the conversation forward. But what seems to be missing from this conversation is how to fix it. Until yesterday’s article and video about the subject at advocate.com, solution-based responses simply weren’t present.
So how do we fix this? Or at least make some signs of notable progress? Well, there’s a few ways.
First, just as mainstream media has BET and Essence and Ebony, we need diversification in our media offerings. In order to have more opportunities to be seen, we have to create them. We need to create more sites, scripts, and publications that give a strong voice to the diverse members of the LGBT community. It’s a way to elegantly fight back against what we feel is missing. It’s a solution-based approach that can have real impact. Magazines like The Tenth are beautifully crafted periodicals that emphasize the beauty in gay people of color. We need more of these.
"We need to create more sites, scripts, and publications that give a strong voice to the diverse members of the LGBT community."
We also need to push for inclusion in what exists. It’s not that a white person shouldn’t ever be on the cover of a magazine. It’s that this shouldn’t happen every single week or month. There are so many diverse stories to tell. And we have to do our best to make sure they’re heard. Write to Out magazine with your ideas. Write for Out magazine so you can ensure the stories are told the right way. It’s always fun to dedicate 140 characters to the cause on Twitter, but the real work comes from going to the source of the problem.
Keep the conversation productive. Complaints can only push an effort so far. Mykki Blanco’s initial grievance opened up the discussion, and because of his visibility, people have taken note. But now it’s up to the rest of us to start brainstorming and working together to define what progress looks like. To take the next definitive step toward inclusion. Simply continuing to point it out without any sort of noticeable action won’t help. Like #BlackLivesMatter, we have to move forward with action, strategy, increased visibility, and forward-thinking dialogue.
Gay media is a product of its mainstream big brother. Diversity is an issue on both sides of the coin. But from here, the only way is up. If we continue to speak up, and do so in a way that has impact, we can change this narrative.