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Gay Racism-We Need to Talk

Following a passionate online discussion about the lack of racial diversity in the gay media, including criticism of Attitude, we asked eight BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) people to discuss representation, racism and the gay and trans experience. For two and a half hours they did just that. Here, uninterrupted by us, are some of their thoughts


Josh: [Looking at the selection of BAME Attitude covers] It’s hard to feel positive about the covers where they’re cis or straight black cover stars because that’s another conversation about whether we’re being represented. It’s great to have examples of black representation, but if they are black and straight or cis then that’s something we’re also excluded from. With someone such as Reggie Yates, I wouldn’t necessarily count that cover as a success for the black gay, trans, bi or lesbian community because we’re not that person either.

Topher: There is also the issue that a generic, regular white guy is more preferable to an ordinary, generic black guy. And it’s always problematic [when a black person is featured]. It’s always around racism, it’s always around some kind of diversity issue. Just around the table here… my father’s American, my mother’s from Jamaica, I’m born in Blighty. I do represent a lot of different races and a lot of different nationalities. There’s no more than that, other than that perhaps our sexualities cross over, that makes us similar. So even the way this very conversation is framed is problematic, let alone what actually comes out of it.

Josh: I think a lot of the time you [the gay media] get BAME people in to talk about BAME issues, but we might love arts or fashion, or DJing, or whatever. I started writing a year ago and a lot of the stuff I’ve been asked to do has always been about the race issues or the diversity issues. Actually, you shouldn’t have to always be called upon for that. I think this is great because it’s needed, but you often [only] see a BAME face when the issue being discussed is racism. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Joseph: You’ll find a lot of the time, BAME people get talked at quite a lot. They’re not involved in the conversation even if it’s well meaning — “aren’t we so good for doing black this month”. And then it goes away. We live in a city that is actually majority BAME, the UK may be a white country but in this city if you took all the different minorities and the people together, white British is the minority in London. This is where the media in this country is centred and yet that is not really reflected. So now somebody else who is not BAME is speaking from our perspective in terms of story-telling, commissioning work and deciding what kind of acceptable BAME or trans content we can put out there.


Vernal: The journey that we’re making as BAME people is incremental. It’s ongoing. The gay media and the mainstream media is white. They think white. It’s like white equals money and black equals broke. That’s the perception. It’s not the reality. Beyond the colour there are talented people. One of my goals is for all of us to break through and have the substance of who we are, and the talent that we offer, acknowledged. It’s much more than front covers. It’s about life. It’s not just this [the media], it’s much bigger, much more complex. But it is about racism. It’s about valuing people or not valuing people.

Marcus: If it wasn’t for the magazines making choices, to put black and Asian faces in, I don’t really feel we as a community would have much of a voice. The media’s not a great place anyway for equality. I think it’s difficult for the media to be diverse because it’s not paying the bills. Obviously, you can go through how covers sell if you have a white face as opposed to a black face. So it is business.

Topher: My thing is really about what we do for ourselves; how we make the world and intervene in the world, whether we make films or we write books or sing, whatever we do that makes a difference to who we are and where we are for ourselves. And that conversation between ourselves, my black brothers and sisters [and] from other ethnicities, is much more important than my conversation with white gay or straight mainstream, both as an artist and as a man. When I go out of London, when I’m in North America, South America, or Africa, the conversation is alive, it is vibrant, it is positive. We don’t sit around saying “we’re black, we’re gay, we’re trans”. We talk about what we’re going to do, how we’re going to make things work, what’s exciting to us. That’s the kind of place that I like to inhabit because it’s positive, meaningful and real. So when I look at something like Attitude or Gay Times, or QX or Boyz, or any of the British magazines, or OUT in the States, I don’t look to them for salvation. I ain’t looking for them to represent me. You’re not representing me. I’m a “magazineophile”. I have been for years and I collect magazines. I have many issues of Attitude but I don’t look for my representation in those magazines. I don’t even bother with it. My energy is taken up with things that will enhance my life in other ways.

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About Attitude

From EastEnders to X-Men! Ben Hardy returns to Attitude for his second cover feature, fresh off the set of hotly anticipated superhero film X-Men: Apocalypse. Inside, we present a special report on gay racism, looking at how Black, Asian and ethnic minorities are represented in the gay community, scene and media. We also interview Olivier award-winning Matt Henry from hit musical Kinky Boots, Alexander Vlahos who plays the gay prince in new BBC series Versailles, and feature a photo exclusive from hot new book Why Drag? Plus, in praise of the legendary Meryl Streep, and a look at the contentious issue of pinkwashing and Tel Aviv Pride.