Out, the magazine that self-describes as “The world’s leading gay fashion & lifestyle magazine” just published a list titled “100 Hottest Out & Proud Celebs”.
It contains the usual suspects – Neil Patrick Harris, Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, and Ricky Martin along with a host of men you will vaguely recognize, mostly from being featured on similar galleries in Out.
“Did we miss anyone?” said Out as they shared the list on Facebook. That comment is what I believe is defined as an understatement.
As you might imagine the overwhelming percentage of the men on the list are under 50. It also veers heavily towards slender and trimly muscular men. Except when I say “veers heavily” I mean “is composed of nothing but”. This list is the equivalent of a dating profile that says “no fatties”.
The list also veers heavily towards cis men and the non-disabled. The one criteria where it doesn’t completely fail is ethnic diversity but #OscarsSoWhite is trending so I imagine one editorial decree was to ensure this list wasn’t equally Caucasian.
None of this is new or surprising – the biases here neatly fit the societal “ideal” in terms of physical attractiveness. All general media, including general gay media, promote those ideals and those of us who don’t fit them, or don’t find them attractive, are pretty much confined to putting up with it. Because media.
Out, of course, missed the irony in them putting out a list like this. To be truly “out and proud” you need to love yourself. But it’s very hard to love yourself when “The world’s leading gay fashion & lifestyle magazine” informs you that your type is in no way attractive.
That point goes to the deeper problem with what Out have done here. Let me requote this list’s raison d’être, with emphasis – 100 Hottest Out & Proud Celebs.
“Proud” and indeed “pride” has a special meaning to us LBGTQers. We’ve used it for decades to label all types of events designed to promote visibility and equality.
Linking “pride” with “attractiveness” is also neither new nor surprising. Pride events are typically sexualized to an extent and in any parade or festival there are always bodies on display.
But pride events are not branded as being ALL about attractiveness. And among the participants you’ll see diversity – including size, shape, age, disability, ethnicity and gender identity. Not everyone there fits the “ideal”.
Taking pride in our sexual orientation goes the to very heart of who we are. Without pride, which is rooted in acceptance, we cannot be happy, truly happy.
Happiness is hugely affected by how we see ourselves and perceive how others see us. Just by being human we’re subjected to a conversation that tells us our self-worth is linked to our appearance. Gay men get that doubly because we must contend with a community that can be exceptionally shallow, judging solely based on what they see – on an app, in a bar, at an event, in our media.
The problem here isn’t that Out made a list of hottest celebrities, or a list of hottest out celebrities based on a narrow band of criteria, but that they added that extra word. Here being “proud” is no longer linked with acceptance or happiness – it is about being physically attractive, again according to a narrow band, and ONLY about that. The magazine might have thought “out & proud” was just cute shorthand but it’s dangerous shorthand when made by such a powerful messenger. You can’t directly link “self worth” and “attractiveness” and not expect that to mean something.
We need to resist this type of shallow journalist – where we judge being gay only on the physical, where we link our worth and our appearance. We need to ensure that “pride” continues to include all of us because “out and proud” is meant to be about being open and honest, not being someone else’s idea of “hot”.
In ONE MILLION DOMS Dominic Sheehan comments about political stuff. Yes, the title is a parody of One Million Moms. Yes, if the word “proud” hadn’t appeared in the heading then he probably would have skipped over this list as just another piece of click bait – but then again, the word “proud” did appear.