The Spectrum: LGBT media is too white


Liam Aranda, Columnist

This essay is part of The Spectrum, a weekly forum in our Opinion section for marginalized voices to share their perspectives. To submit a piece for The Spectrum or discuss story ideas, please email [email protected].

If you have been on Twitter recently you might have seen the rise of  #gaymediasowhite. This hashtag is part of a movement to draw attention to the lack of representation of communities of color in mainstream queer media, and their overemphasis on the narratives of queer white males. While thinking about the issue, I came to the realization that I, a queer, mixed Latino, could think of only one mainstream queer Latinx (a gender-neutral term for Latin-Americans) celebrity, Ricky Martin.

Queer Latinxs are next to non-existent in our media, yet they and other queer people of color, or POC, have acted as the leaders and cornerstones of LGBT movements and activism. Mykki Blanco, a gay black rapper, notes that there is a lack of diversity of queer narratives in the black community, as media outlets such as Out or Attitude give little to no attention to artists such as Angel Haze or himself — instead opting to use shirtless gay white men and even straight men as their cover pieces.

This lack of coverage makes a diverse community overflowing with talent appear non-existent by erasing the black excellence in the queer community. Still, POC queers who are fortunate enough to get noticed tend to fill the stereotypical, one-dimensional role of the sassy, black gay man who exists for the sole purpose of making one-liners, acting melodramatic and crying “yasssss” for the cameras.

Gay white males continue to dominate queer media and spaces and receive the bulk of media exposure. The effects are detrimental to queer society because this small group represents, and misrepresents, a plethora of identities. Magazines such as Out and Attitude were designed to act as source of information and provide a voice to the oppressed; however, they have rarely featured those whose identities intersect with regard to race, gender and sexuality. This leads to the aforementioned artists achieving recognition only within their own groups and prevents their powerful messages and narratives from reaching the masses. Aside from failing to promote the works and careers of queer POC, these magazines create an exclusive space and set unrealistic expectations of beauty in the queer community.

This exclusion of certain groups in the LGBT community is emphasized by the fact that the majority of these magazine covers almost always feature males. This sends the message that queer women and non-binary people do not have a place in the media and that they should be silent or just simply cease to exist. In addition, these cover stars are almost always white men. Though this might seem harmless, these magazine covers and photo shoots are what queer society uses as a base for what is attractive and what is not, and they send the message that only whiteness is beautiful.

The focus on whiteness in the queer community builds a toxic culture of white-centric beauty standards in the queer community and translates to statements such as “no Asians, no Latinos and no blacks.” I’ve personally experienced this discrimination: It’s common for me to see “Whites Only” as a racial preference on biographies on queer dating sites such as Grindr.

These messages may breed self-hatred, depression, eating disorders and other body image issues among queer youths of color by telling them they will never attractive, they don’t deserve love and they are not enough because they don’t look like some shirtless white guy on a magazine cover. This is not something that should be in the least bit surprising; the queer community is not naturally exempt from racism, misogyny and transphobia. That is what #GayMediaSoWhite is pointing out: Even in a community that is hailed for being so accepting, there is still a long road ahead.

Liam Aranda is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.