Thursday, August 4, 2011

Letter to "Xtra!," August 4, 2011

When we’re unhappy about something, we complain out loud; when we’re satisfied, we often say nothing at all.  In the past, I’ve written to Xtra! twice to complain about its one-sided depiction of the gay and lesbian community, most recently requesting more positive images of non-freaks (Marcus McCann’s word).  Today, I thank Xtra! for a job well done.  
In 2010, the cover of the Xtra! Pride issue depicted--what else?--go-go boys dancing in their underwear.  This year, the Pride issue featured an older gentleman, thin, grey hair on his head, wearing a “Loving Spoonful” T-shirt.  What a positive image for the community:  a senior supporting a worthwhile organization.
Reviewing my collection of Xtra! issues from the past two years (45 in total), I found seven with covers featuring people with grey hair (16% of the total).  Of those, only two depicted people with grey hair in a positive way (a PWA survivor and seniors still having sex).  That’s less than 4%.  From this, you’d think the gay and lesbian community belonged to only those under 35.    
That’s me on the most recent cover of your newspaper, albeit in about twenty years.  That’s all of us, sooner or later, if we’re lucky.  And it’s critical our media, like Xtra!, show us ourselves in a positive and uplifting manner, during all phases of our lives--not ignore us, hide us, or make us invisible.  Those with grey hair especially deserve to be proud.

Postscript #1:

The following email was received from Robin Perelle, editor of Xtra! Vancouver, in response to my letter:

Thank you! I appreciate all your feedback. I am especially glad that this year’s Pride cover resonated with you. That’s exactly what I was aiming to convey.

Postscript #2:  

Much to my surprise, this letter appears in the recent issue of Xtra!, #470, dated August 25, 2011.


  1. So everyone needs to be portrayed in queer media, except "freaks"?

  2. No, that's not what I mean at all, Trent.

    First, for those not familiar with the term "freaks" in this context, according to Marcus McCann, editor of "Xtra!" editions in Ontario, it refers to drag queens and hyper-sexualized men, including leather daddies and go-go boys.

    My point in this letter is that so-called freaks have traditionally gotten the majority of publicity in gay publications, including "Xtra!". As a result, many people, gay and straight, have the misconception all gay and lesbian people are freaks. And, of course, we're not.

    There are many segments of our community who are little represented in our media. These include, for example, gay and lesbian couples, older people, and those of us who are just regular, everyday people. In other words, the majority of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender.

    So, gay media can continue to portray the freaks, as it always has, but all of us, in all of our diversity, need to see ourselves within the pages of our papers and magazines. Fair is fair, right?

    Thanks for your enquiry. I hope I was able to clarify.

  3. Fair, but I don't like the language of "freaks", "regular", and "everyday". I'm also uncomfortable with the idea that a sexualized woman is normal but a sexualized man is a freak; that's masculinist and heterosexist.

  4. As I said in my previous comment, Trent, Marcus McCann initially used the word "freaks." I can't say I necessarily like it either, and I would have used a different term, but you need to know the context. To keep the terminology consistent, I continued to use it so everyone would have the same point of reference.

    The words "regular" and "everyday" are mine, and, for lack of better terms, are meant to describe people who don't dress in drag, leather gear, or G-strings, archetypes which show up on a regular basis in "Xtra!" and related publications.

    I fear we're losing the point of what I'm trying to say by picking on words. All I want gay and lesbian media, like "Xtra!", to do is show ALL segments of our diverse community in its pages. Everyone should be represented so all of us have the chance to see ourselves and just how diverse a community we really are.

    When we don't see ourselves, we begin to think we're freaks (negative connotation of the word intended here), and, ironically, most of us are not represented when the majority of what we see are drag queens, leather daddies, and go-go boys, and that's not what we are.

    I want to see myself in "Xtra" (symbolically speaking, of course). That means, among other things, coupled people in long-term, committed, monogamous relationships, over forty, fifty, sixty, and beyond. We are part of the community, too, but you'd almost never know that in "Xtra!".

    Hope this clarifies. Thanks for your interest.

  5. On the issue of sexualized men and women, I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is anyone who is hyper-sexualized. If that term applies to a man or a woman, then I think sex plays too much of a role in their lives, at the detriment of what I believe are more important things, which I write about extensively in my blog.

    Thanks for your comment.