Is OUT Magazine Pathetic For Discussing Homophobia With Shirtless Straight Athletes?

This month’s issue fawns over five sports stars who all shirtlessly support gay rights, which is both a great way to sell magazines and to irresponsibly further the notion that without the help of straight “allies,” gay people will never be allowed to live the same kinds of lives that straight people do (assuming that’s what gay people want–to be like straight people). There are interviews with these men (who, to be honest, I had never heard of) and it turns out they do all kinds of nice things for the gays.

A group of gay magazine editors canonizing a straight athlete–for what is essentially the act of not being an asshole–by making him pose with his shirt off (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) is as disingenuous as it is pathetic. And while, again, this is also about a troubled media company trying to sell magazines, there’s something especially disgusting about that company taking an issue as important and emotionally significant as gay rights and tying it to a bunch of shirtless straight guys. Yes, it is very nice that these men like me! I would like them, too, probably. What they are doing is nice. And while the touchy-feely enamoring of hot straight guys is cute, it has in fact been and will continue to be actual Gay People who do the actual work to advance gay rights in this country.

It’s the nameless, faceless, ugly, fat, depressed, hopeless, unemployed, boring gay people who protest outside city halls and state capitals and who make annoying telemarketing phone calls and who start those stupid boycotts on Facebook and who film themselves crying on YouTube and who may have tried to kill themselves once or twice who are doing the actual work, who have the most to lose, and who have put up with more bullshit and more pain than some rich soccer player who once posed with a piece of duct tape over his mouth. Out could be an okay magazine if it reminded its audience of these people, but maybe it doesn’t matter, after all. Because who really is Out’s audience? And why should anyone care what this audience, if it even exists, thinks it knows?

– Zachary Sire, editor of TheSword.com, criticizing Out.com for its recent “Allies” issue featuring Michael Irvin, Ben Cohen, Hudson Taylor, Mike Chabala, and Nick Youngquest star in a “salute to the small band of straight sports stars who have stood up for fairness and tolerance, shoulder to shoulder with their LGBT peers.” (link NSFW)

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  • zach

    wat the fuck is with the hate if their straight and they want to help let them help and gay men like to look at shirtless men so y cant they b both eyecandy and allies we do need straight allies if u like it or not the straight people r the ones we r trying to get to accept us so we need them because they r the perfect example of wat we want their straight and they accept gay people thats wat the whole world needs to b like! so stop bashing them its stupid and counter productive

  • randy

    Any magazine needs to do a variety of stories. OUT is doing this one. Why shouldn’t it be reported on? Good lord, this Zach Sire sounds like an asshole just looking for a bit of fame. So should these athletes just be ignored because Zach doesn’t like the story? And what exactly is not to like? I guess in Sire-world, every magazine should tell only one story every single issue, because he determined that that’s the only real issue we should hear about. What a jerk!

  • randy

    Okay — just cruised Zach Sire’s website. It’s all about porn. I didn’t see a single story about the stories Zach claims to want. Nothing about any “nameless, faceless, ugly, fat, depressed, hopeless, unemployed, boring gay people.”

    You’ve just proven that you are indeed an asshole. Good job, Zach!

    The internet and the news media is a big BIG world. There is room for all kinds of stories: stories about homeless gays, ugly gays, unemployed gays, gay activists. There is room for stories about our straight allies, without whom we would have no rights at all. And there is also room, Zach, for photos of porn stars and gay sex, all of which feed into the religious right’s view that homosexuality is all about sex.

    If you don’t like what you see on the internet, there is a button that allows you to move on. I suggest you do that.

  • Erich

    It’s no different than a straight magazine writing a story on any issue with a half-naked woman in the photos. Happens all the time. Sex sells.

  • Tommy Shepherd

    There’s (still) a lot of homophobia in sports (see plenty of other queerty articles about athletes calling each other fags)- so I’m glad that these guys are making a stand. I’m glad that they don’t mind other guys looking at them and desiring their bodies. When I was young, I heard a lot of straight guys saying “If some fag looked at me, I’d f**king kick his a**” etc. So these guys are a breath of fresh air.

    Finding the cynical angle in everything might make you look clever, but it must also be very dreary for the people around you.

  • pedro

    I adore Ben Cohen and i dont care if he is straight

  • NickadooLA

    Okay, I like Zach, but is he way off the mark on this one. Out magazine is a style magazine first and foremost, and sexy imagery is and always has been what it’s used to sell itself – regardless of the subject matter and regardless of who the cover model(s) is/are. There’s been a non-stop parade of actors and singers, both straight and gay (mostly straight), appearing on the cover using their physical attractiveness to promote themselves and their latest projects. Why on earth should we expect the magazine to enroll a completely different standard when focusing its attention on straight athletes than it does for people in the entertainment industry?

    Second, is it necessary to point out the irony that Sire writes about pornography? I have nothing against porn, I actually enjoy it a great deal. But this is an industry that not only regularly canonizes gay-for-pay actors who f**k gay guys for a living – and who often behave boorishly off-set toward their gay fans and costars – it also all-too-often eroticizes homophobia.

    Criticizing a style magazine for sexing up its cover story is pretty damned silly. These athletes should be commended for participating. Find something worth whining about.

  • Adam

    Is OUT magazine pathetic? No.
    Is Zach Sire a hypocrite? He complains about OUT not telling the “true” story while he manages a website focused solely on the visual (and supporting gay-for-pay actors). So, yeah, I think he’s earned that merit badge.

    It’s a shame Mr. Sire doesn’t have any straight friends who support him and believe he should have equal rights. I’m also assuming all the nice-looking people he knows are shallow assholes, since only the “ugly, fat, depressed, hopeless, unemployed, boring gay people” seem to add value to society. It’s also a shame that Mr. Sire doesn’t understand the difference between true assholery (eg, calling someone a faggot) and simply standing by and doing nothing; a good many straight athletes do the latter, but it’s only a small group that actually take action supporting LGBT equality.

  • TheRealMannequinAdam

    Didn’t I already basically say all of this? Yes, I did.

  • Oh Dear (John From England)


    Name me the gay people who have appeared on OUT. Go on. More then 5 please.

    And I think you are all missing the point. Zach is honest about running a porn site. He is also honest about ogling gay for pay actors in gay porn.

    Now HIS beef is that a magazine like OUT which is NOT a porn site but an influential magazine-as they LOVE to tell us-are doing a big cover story on a bunch of straight sport stars who don’t think gays are scary. Also look at the hyperbole that OUT is using…as if they are revolutionary. Has OUT ever had Dan Savage on their cover? Has he not done something more revolutionary?

    Am I bothered about this? Nope because OUT is the most vacuous,right wing, soulless, straight obsessed publication out there, so quel suprise.

  • dbillings

    I think we should welcome Ben Cohen’s support even if he is straight. But what if he turns out to be a Jew?

  • merle

    Sire is bad news. Luckily his items are so lame, they carry little impact. I highly commend these athletes for being out there and supporting their gay brothers (and sisters). Part of their fame and appeal is obviously their physical presence, so putting them on the covers in stages of undress not only attracts attention, it says something more about sexuality and being confident in who you are.

  • jeff4justice

    Is OUT Magazine Pathetic For Discussing Homophobia With Shirtless Straight Athletes?

    Isn’t that what Queerty does all the time too?

  • NickadooLA

    @Oh Dear (John From England): I did say mostly-straight. Out’s track record with putting gays on the cover is dismal. But you’re emphasizing my point: Why should the magazine portray straight athletes any differently than the straight actors and/or singers they usually pimp out?

    If you want to make the case that gay media should feature gay-positive stories about actual gay people, that’s an entirely different argument, and one that I’m not going to disagree with you over.

    (as for gays on the cover, off the top of my head: Ian Cumming, Jessie Tyler Ferguson, Ellen Degeneres, Melissa Etheridge, Beth Ditto, Anthony Rapp, Neil Patrick Harris and Tom Ford).

  • Kev C

    I think this is more of a straight guy fantasy. Straight guys think gays stare at them sexually and this reinforces this stereotype.

  • Chico

    First of all, having straight athletes reinforce anti-homophobia is a good thing! It reaches those people that wouldn’t normally be reached through other means. Many idolize sports stars so if one of thier idols challenges their own ideals of normative sexuality then they are having a solid impact. Further, these straight athletes know that OUT is a gay magazine and that gay people will be reading it. For them to be comfortable enough to put their bodies on display sends the message further: SO WHAT!!!! Who cares who admires their beauty? They sure don’t seem to. These men are good role models. This jackass is reaching for anything to make him seem relevant.

  • McGullen

    I think the idea of having them pose is to show that they’re for real. Only an ally could put pictures of himself out there for a gay audience to fap to. Assholes would be grossed out by it.

  • Oh Dear (John From England)


    Ok well fair enough because I thought of some of those names but not all. So more then 5!

    And yes I agree with your point which is why I said this is nothing new but what I got from the rant was about the use of language on a bunch of gays who have done very minimal for gay rights…or minimal in the sense that it’s very publicity friendly, instead of from the heart like the YouTube stories or people voting on the streets.

    Either way, it’d have been good for Zach to say what HE does physically towards gay rights because the more we neutralize straight guys who care for gays, the less risky and steamy it is to see a gay for pay. This equals lost of money.

  • Mike in Asheville

    Fortunately, the five straight athletes are not so small-mindedly and are contributing to the cause. What is pathetic is criticism of their kind supporting efforts.

    NOM, AFA, GOP, Catholic Cult: THESE ARE ENEMIES. Aim all artillery at them; send thanks to our friends.

  • McGullen

    @Mike in Asheville: Catholics are already maligned by mainstream America, there’s been a long history of that. Evangelicals should be targeted before Catholics since it’s evangelicals that have political power.

  • Darsco76

    WOW! One thing for sure Gay or str8 i see there are a lotta whiney babies out there lol, I’m Black & gay,I grew up with family from the south PRE-civil rights era. I’m seeing gay men complain just like my racist relatives. “I’m gay and if you dont take my crap your a homophobe” is the same as “I’m Black if you dont take my crap you are racist”. It is getting pitiful! watching & criticizing every little move is sad & it seems like there is a “GAY AGENDA” to make blacks pay for gay marriage not passing in Ca, even thogh black ppl are not the best at getting out to vote. It reminds me of my effed up relatives who say i act white because i wont say ALL WHITES ARE Racist, and because i say the letter R not R-ruh, Its getting pathetic and gay blacks like myself are getting tired of it.
    SO WHAT out is putting shirtless sexy men on the cover, They are trying to sell magazines fool!! and those dudes look good lol. RELAX, take it down a notch, what michael irvin is doing is VERY brave. He is being called all type of names on some black gossip sites.
    and guys remember most athletes are only good at playing with balls & looking cute & fit. so see straight gay athletes and gay men men really do have a lot in common LOLOL

  • Forrest

    In what way at all does the linked piece criticize the straight athletes? It doesn’t. The issue he has seems to be that a gay magazine devotes 99.9% of its coverage to straight people.

  • Abirdwillingtobeitself

    I like Michael Irvin’s pose. He gets it.

  • X

    Hudson Taylor is not shirtless.

  • Pickles

    Did folks here actually READ the article Zach is complaining about?

    As I said on The Sword, the piece is not just about the guys and their supportive attitudes, it’s about what they are doing.

    There aren’t just random good looking guys, they ARE activists and doing advocacy work. That’s why they were featured, not just because they are nice to look at.

    But Ben Cohen (from the UK) has a foundation dedicated to anti-bully education in schools and eradicating homophobia and anti-gay bullying in sports.
    He’s very close with Gareth Thomas.
    He’s not just some random pretty straight dude.
    He quit playing and has devoted his time to the foundation full time and has been traveling around the world speaking to LGBT organizations and mainstream and LGBT media.

    Also, Hudson Taylor (US) is doing the same kind of work
    Hudson serves on the Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Sport’s Project’s Advisory Board.
    “Hudson created the Athlete Ally Pledge and Whydoyoufight.org blog to gather support from athletes and advocates around the country. To further encourage others to join him in building a fully respectful sports culture, Hudson is authoring, The Athlete Ally: Empowering a New Era of Leadership and Inclusion in Sports. The Athlete Ally will guide and inspire coaches, athletes, administrators, fans and parents who are eager to redefine what it means to be an athlete and a leader.”

    Yes they are pretty, but I don’t think that is the only reason they are being featured. Andy they aren’t just being interviewed for LGBT publications.

    I think young men (straight men) look up to sports figures and it’s actually VERY important that they speak out against bullying and homophobia.

    I don’t have a problem with LGBT media giving them a platform if they are doing good things for gay folks.

    The gay media makes a huge deal any time some random athlete (baseball, football, basketball) says something stupid and homophobic (and I think they should) but it’s wrong to focus on athletes who are consciously going out of their way to fight homophobia in sports?

    I’m not getting what’s wrong with it.

    Pretty/Sexy is what gets folks to the page.

    We (LGBT folks) are a MINORITY, there is no way on God’s Green Earth that anti-gay bigotry, discrimination and homophobia can be curtailed without getting the message to young straight folks and THESE GUYS have a platform that young straight men (in particular) will pay attention to.

    Sometimes white folks have to talk to other white folks about their racist crap and sometimes straight folks need to speak out to straight folks about their homophobic B.S.

    The discussion of why gay magazines feature so many straight people (in general) is a separate issue.

    This was not a good issue to pick on to have that conversation.

  • rubereneniiDD

    did ronaldo come out yet?

  • Toby

    In response to, er, “Oh Dear (John from England),” if you can’t five gays that have been on the cover of Out, that’s your issue: Justin Bond, Tom Ford, Ricky Martin, Rachel Maddow, Cheyenne Jackson, Nate Berkus, Marc Jacobs, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, John Barrowman, Gus Van Sant…. that’s just the few I can remember. But then I actually read it. And what the hell is TheSword?

  • Toby

    The fact this bashing piece is hosted by a gay site shows how much gay media (Queerty does count as media, right?) loves to bash its own. Have you seen the response Out’s story is getting in mainstream venues, like ESPN (3,000+ comments), Deadspin, and Yahoo. When straight sports fans are talking about homophobia, that has to be a good thing.

  • slatefish

    This is an incredibly thoughtless, idiotic and shallow article. As someone who was part of the late 80s, early 90s reclamation of gay media, I still can’t believe such lack of understanding and inclusion.

    If my straight sister, with her shirt on, espouses pro-gay stances in smalltown America, it’s a damn fine thing. On the other hand, well-known athletes who have the bravery to do the same thing are reviled by you? Because they are attractive?

    Please quit writing. You don’t even know the history of Out. Which is not only a shame, but shameful.

  • GayistheWay

    This OUT article isn’t a one time thing. It’s in EVERY issue. OUT wants to hear what heterosexuals have to say about gay people but doesn’t want to hear what ACTUAL gay people have to say, their experiences or career. It’s all about heterosexuals. That’s what this Sword article was trying to get at. Unfortunately, the writer of this piece will have to realize there are tons and tons of gay people who are 100% fine with a supposed gay magazine being totally dedicated to heterosexuals. Like usual the commenters have focued on this one OUT article to discount what the writer has to say instead of looking at what OUT does in EVERY issue. They will say you are a radical or a hater for wanting a gay magazine to be dedicated to ACTUAL gay people. ACTUAL gay people have done the work that has gotten us this far.

  • Robbie K

    Ben Cohen can show his support anytime with me :-)

  • Mike in London UK

    Points out Justin Fashanu as a reason why sportsmen don’t tend to come out.

    Points out Gareth Thomas as a reason why they should.

  • Joe

    “irresponsibly further the notion that without the help of straight “allies,” gay people will never be allowed to live the same kinds of lives that straight people do”.
    Umm, we DO need straight people. This is a democracy and they outnumber us quite a bit, to elect gays, to get gay judges, to pass legislation, and to gain societal acceptance we actually do need straight people to participate. Rape against women doesn’t continue because women aren’t doing enough to prevent it, its a problem perpetuated by men. Homophobia is perpetuated by straights (and some gays). I in no way discourage further advocacy against sexual assault or for gay rights by gays and women, but its not the victims that need to change their behavior. Having males role-model for other men that rape is a real and serious issue, not something women make up the morning after is incredibly helpful to the cause. And straight athletes standing up for homosexuals sets up a great role model for other young straights.

  • Mark

    I support OUT doing this story. Why hate ppl for supporting us? I dont appreciate the negative angle that this post takes. I agree with the other comments about sex being a ubiquitous tool for promotion / sales. Also its very hypocritical to diss OUT mag for using shirtless men as promotion when all over this site and this very web page there are thumbnails of shirtless men linking to other posts. I just found out about Ben Cohen recently and he’s an amazing athlete and ally. He’s a past captain of england’s national rugby team and lead them to a 2003 rugby world cup title. He also quit playing pro rugby 2 yrs early to run an anti-discrimination / anti-bullying campaign and he’s been auctioned off a few times to raise money for gay related initiatives. Ben Cohen has a huge gay following which he fully embraces. Is there some rivalry between OUT mag and the author of this post? -IDK – but this post detracted from what I thought was a positive story by OUT.

  • bobby

    I can kind of understand being somewhat upset that OUT basically blanketed a serious issue with pictures of half naked straight men, but i think this “outrage” is a little misguided and counter intuitive to our goals as a community.
    The more important aspect in this this discussion, and what seems to be the general consensus, is that any ally is a good ally, whether they be LGBT or not. I think it’s important that magazines such as OUT acknowledge the work that other people outside our community do in the fight for our rights, because having and recognizing this bridge between the LGBT community and other communities, in this case the sports world, allows our voice to be heard by that many more people. We would get no where if we were just a group of cynical, close minded people who stuck our noses up to anyone not LGBT fighting for our rights(gough, cough, SIRE).
    Who cares if they’re half naked? Focus more on what they’re doing for us, rather than how they’re posing for a magazine.

    And like other commenters have said, if this was such an issue, than the Sire should be posting articles about people in our community, instead of bashing on people who are actually doing something.

  • jason

    Perhaps the shirtless poses are gratuitous but I think it’s absolutely essential that homophobia is discussed by anybody and everybody. There should be no confining boundaries when it comes to who can discuss what. Sure, it can be argued that straight-identifying men can’t possibly empathize with the prejudice felt by gay men but this is not grounds for dismissing them out of hand.

    If you create confining boundaries regarding who can discuss what, you’re not really furthering the gay cause but contributing to its seclusion and isolation.

  • Mike in Asheville

    @McGullen: Yes you are right, I was simply listing the enemies off the top of my head: certainly there are plenty of Demoncrats who work as hard as Rupugnantan at fucking us over; Liberty Counsel who supports the kidnapping of children of gay parents, any and all so-called “pray the gay away” frauds, Southern Baptist Convention, certain children of MLK, all the Catholics of the SCOTUS (6 of them, though Sotomayor on our side), Tony Perkins, ALL GOP presidential contenders, yada yada yada.

    Alas, just too many to list; my point remains: celebrate our friends and supporters and thank them for their efforts; level criticism at our real enemies.

    Now that OUT is featuring the story, let us hope our straight athlete friends will also make news in Sports Illustrated, ESPN Sports, Sporting Green, and sports news shows.

  • Graydon

    Just posted this on The Sword — thought I would do the same here:

    While I understand the points made in Zach’s post, I think it should be mentioned that publishing a gay magazine, in a field that is already struggling, is a formidable task. It’s a niche glossy with a limited audience and content that some advertisers (including ones who identify as gay like Dolce & Gabbana) steer away from. Add to that the fact that there aren’t a ton of big name gay celebrities, and those who are gay oftentimes don’t want their sexuality to be a prominent feature of their public persona — so who to feature? Neil Patrick Harris, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Chris Colfer over and over again? On top of that, like at every magazine, there are echelons of publicists, managers, agents and lawyers who all want to weigh in on the pros and cons of so strongly buoying their client to a queer magazine, its audience and the public perception of that. Putting all this in perspective should serve as a little context as to what it takes to produce a monthly magazine focused on what is still perceived by many as a controversial subculture. (Full disclosure: I work in gay media, though not at Out, so I know about the constant rejections that even gay and lesbian celebrities give — Ellen and Jane Lynch, I’m looking at you.)

    Then we get to the concept of objectifying sexy men in exchange for sales. Um, look at basically every issue of GQ or Vanity Fair — anyone remember the Glee scandal? Or July’s shirtless fashion story with Joe M (the werewolf from True Blood) or this month’s cover of a hyper-sexualized Mila Kunis? Or the Miley Cyrus photo shoot melee for Vanity Fair? Controversy and scantily clad, attractive people sell magazines — magazines cater to their audiences and have to turn a profit and answer to a financial bottom line. Period. Perhaps the audience should change its thinking and these magazines could provide more substantial, meatier stories.

  • biggdaddy617

    Can anyone help me. I been looking for magazines. i need a magazine sent to me. if anyone knows can you send me an aim Thank you. [email protected]

  • John Davison

    Robbie Williams once commented that he generally got good press until he started doing charity work – then he REALLY got a bucket of merde tipped over him. So a bunch of famous straight guys who have a lot of influence over their fan base decide to stand up for gay rights, and hey! this is a reason for Zach to reach for his own bucket of crap.

    Get your act together, Zach, and stop beating people up for doing their best.

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