You know, Rick, when I was trying to do a little "background" learning before I started as a facilitator at that youth group, I bought a few LGBT magazines, as well as that collection of coming out stories you knew about. I think you've mentioned this before, but I was really struck by how much of the magazine (one more so than others, of course the name escapes me, but it was a Canadian publication) dedicated space to fairly trivial and sex-related stuff, as opposed to articles about issues facing gays and lesbians, or just current events/political issues, and how they affect the LGBT community. Given the volunteer work I do (at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre) I'd certainly describe myself as "sex positive," so I don't mean I have anything against sex, but there was just a very casual, "how to hook-up" feeling to the articles, it didn't represent the gay men who I know very well (you included, if I may presume to say I know you!) Anyway, I think what you're doing really fills a void. As you write these posts, perhaps some day you'll consider putting them together into book form? It could be a really wonderful thing for young people who are just coming out/beginning to navigate within the LGBT community to have. I would, of course, be honoured to proof-read for free!!
Here's my response:
Thank you, Sarah, for this comment. What you wrote not only validates the content of some of my posts here, but also gives me, and my readers, the point-of-view of a straight mother, someone with a fresh perspective, and a positive and supportive attitude toward LGBT people.
With regard to your discovery about the content of the magazines you bought, you are right, I have written about this before, and many publications intended for gay men are filled with inconsequential articles and overly-sexual advertising. Every time Chris and I go into Little Sisters, the gay and lesbian emporium in Vancouver, we see stacks of free magazines at the entrance to the store. In most cases, they aren't worth the paper they're printed on, and the ones on the newsstand often aren't worth much more.
That said, two of my favorites are The Advocate and Out, both of which are difficult to find on newsstands (which is why I subscribe to them online). I believe they strike a better balance between interesting and useful articles, and those that are merely titillating.
Still, here's what I found: In the March issues, Out contained a total of twenty-eight advertisements, eighteen percent of which featured some form of male nudity, and The Advocate contained a total of thirty-four ads, twenty-six percent of which featured some form of male nudity. And, by the way, several articles in both showed semi-dressed or virtually naked men, from Darren Criss (Blaine in "Glee"), to male models, to Francois Sagat, a French gay male porn star. The content of the March issues is typical for these magazines.
In general, my issues with gay publications are the following:
- As you write, the emphasis often appears to be on sex and "how to hook up," as opposed to something gay men can really use. There's a big difference between wanting to meet someone for sex (which I find meaningless) and wanting to meet a life partner (which I find meaningful). I'd like to see articles on how to be the best person you can to prepare yourself to meet a life partner, which, in my opinion, is more constructive. But, of course, sex sells, sex ads generate a lot of revenue for publications, and gay men seem to like sex. So...
- As if it isn't bad enough that the self-esteem of many gay men is battered by those who discriminate against us. In our own publications, we see picture after picture of handsome, hunky men, displaying ripped bodies, and selling a fantasy image and lifestyle. Sooner or later, we all start to ask ourselves, do I look like that? Do I measure up to this ideal? Am I obsessed with trying to live up to an unrealistic example of what I'm told gay men are, at the detriment of more important things, which is just about everything else?
- Youth, youth, and more youth. I don't know who these magazines cater to, but the population demographic is changing along with the aging of baby boomers. In the next decade or so, older gay men will outnumber younger. Their spending capacity will be significant, and they will look for representation of themselves in terms of positive images in the media. Those who provide the images, as well as thought-provoking pieces specifically for older gay men, will realize the windfall. We can no longer afford to ignore grey gay power. Being gay is no longer about just being young and beautiful.
I can't realistically assess to what extent I've been successful doing that through this blog, because I never know if what I write makes sense to anyone else. All I can do is be true to myself, continue to write as honestly as I know how, and hope my words resonate with someone. I believe what I do here is important work. I'll be fifty-two this year, I've been out of the closet for twenty-five years, and I'm hopeful living this long in my skin will have the benefit of helping someone understand himself better and accept himself more.
Certainly, I realize I've accumulated an abundance of written material in this blog over the past two years, probably enough for a book of some sort. I won't pretend I haven't thought about putting it together and seeking publication--because I'm a writer and, ultimately, that's what I want to do--but I feel I still have more work to do, more posts to write, more areas of myself to explore in the process (after all, part of this is about helping me to better understand myself, too).
I'm thrilled that what I have to offer is available right now to anyone who is open to reading and thinking about it. If I succeed in helping one gay person to look at himself and his life in a more positive and enlightened way, then I believe the effort I put into this will be worth it.
As always, thank you so much for your ongoing support, your kind words, and your friendship. I appreciate the difference you've made to my blog and your contribution to the ongoing conversation.
I invite any and all of my readers to be a part of that conversation, too.