Earlier this week, I was stood talking to my colleagues about my frustration with the latest issue of Attitude. I was complaining, quite vocally shall we say, about how the cover story was Mark Wright from TOWIE a straight man with, as the article was keen to point out in the first paragraph, very tiny nipples. And it was that last fact I was loudly proclaiming when a member of the university's training team walked past.
Cue shame and embarrassment.
I subscribe to three gay mags, Out and the two big UK ones, GT and Attitude. GT and Attitude though tend to annoy me. It feels like twice a month I open up the packaging (opaque, hiding what's inside - I appreciate this may be appropriate for some, but Out gives the option of clear packaging which I think is really good) and go "ARGHHHH".
Why "ARGHHHH"? Well, as with the Mark Wright example above, it's the cover story. It's always seems to be a picture of some hot guy who "loves his gay fans" but isn't gay or bisexual himself. So I've just gathered up a years worth of covers from GT and Attitude (ending with the May 2012 issue) to see what the situation actually is. I looked at 16 GT Covers (13 issues, but issue 400 had 4 different covers) and 13 issues of Attitude. I looked at whether the cover star was openly gay, a 'strong supporter' (by which I mean I set the bar at "anything more than willing to appear on the front cover of a gay mag"), whether they had played a gay or bisexual character (major roles) or whether they just had gay fans.
Oddly enough, there were three covers who I decided were not people with gay fans - an anonymous model, Freddie Hogan (an actor... he was in Two Pints of Lager.. you know...) and the gay couple on Attitude's Marriage issue.
Of these 29 covers though, the biggest thing I wanted to look at was the number of openly gay people on them.
That's it. Five from GT (three from the 400 multi-cover issue, so only actually three issues) and three from Attitude. (If I had included the latest attitude with Mark Wright and knocked off the earliest from my sample this would have been even worse).
When you take a look at "Strong Supporters" you get to the dizzying heights of eleven as Daniel Radcliffe, Ben Cohen and Lady Gaga join the fray. That's 38% - still well under half of the gay press cover stars are gay/bisexual or strong supporters.
That's... pathetic. Right?
So, how does Out fare?
Well, There is no May 2012 issue to end on, so I'll have to start on May 2011 instead. This gives 11 covers (Out only does 10 issues a year, but August 2011 saw a duel cover).
Well, five out of eleven openly queer (ooh... we have Women and Genderqueer folk on Out covers), that's less than half, but much much better than the UK lot - even if you include the "strong supporters"... but wait, what about "strong supporters" on Out covers? Ah, well, that takes us up to seven out of eleven. And when you read the interviews for Joe Manganiello, Adele and Adam Levine, you get a much better sense of their supportiveness than you do for any of those who I didn't count for GT and Attitude but I don't have that general feeling of them being supportive publicly outside of the gay press.
Edit to add: Oooh... it's better than I thought. One of the issues of Out actually had 4 covers and I only included one of them. When you take those other covers into account, seven out of 14 (50%) are open queer, and ten out of 14 are "strong supporters".
Of course, the cover star isn't the only thing in any of these magazines, but it is an interesting metric to look at - it's the first thing that you see when you open the package. It's what you see on the shelf. And this is what the gay press thinks being gay is about? I'm not saying that every person on the cover of gay magazines should be queer, but maybe we should be willing to raise the bar higher than "loving their gay fans".
This is your grouchy, non pop music and "reality" TV obsessed correspondent signing off