Two articles have come to my attention about teen heartthrob/pop sensation Justin Bieber. Dean Blundell, a radio host for The Edge radio station in Toronto, recently insinuated that Bieber was gay and referred to one of his male fans, a 12 year old boy, as a future “chugger.” That’s slang, one I have personally never heard of, used to refer to male prostitutes.
Then there’s Queerty.com, a website who’s tagline is “free on an agenda, except that gay one,” which today published a picture of Bieber on the cover of this month’s Toda Teen Star, a Brazilian teen magazine. The title that went along with the post was “Justin Bieber, Trans Teen Star.” One would think that a website that was free of an agenda would not go out of its way to insult the very people that keep it alive. Justin has been clearly photo-shopped to a level that I am sure he finds unacceptable.
Oh, that post. About the Brazilian magazine Toda Teen Star transforming Justin into an uber-feminine version of himself. The complete text of which read:
Justin Bieber, or some version of him, appears on the cover of Brazil’s Toda Teen Star magazine. First comes the nail polish, then comes the complete makeover.
Calling Mr. Bieber a “trans teen star” is not, friends, an insult; only people who think being labeled transexual or transgender is cruel would think that (and I’m including Dan Savage in that group, for he actually does call people queer to insult them, but also uses the word “tranny” as an LOL) The headline I went with was a concise way of saying, “Hey, look how this magazine is marketing Bieber to readers.”
Unarguably, Toda Teen Star went out of its way to make Justin more feminine, with eye liner and softening his already baby-boy face. (There’s also an argument to be made the photo editors gave him a nose job, but that’s for another post.) Yes, the magazine put him through the gender-bending machine. That’s not bad, per se, because screwing with gender norms can be pretty cool; it’s only bad if you care about accurate representations of people on magazines. Moreover, pointing out how Justin was portrayed is not bullying.
Had the magazine gone another direction and played into the notion that Justin looks like a lot of lesbians, our headline “Justin Bieber, Lesbian Teen Star” would not have been a slam, but a mention about how a magazine chose to style and Photoshop him. Is “lesbian” now a slur?
While I do not care much for Justin’s music, his celebrity does fascinate me — particularly the way it involves gender, which is why the magazine cover caught my eye. He launched his career with a high-pitched pre-pubescent (“girly”) voice and attracted straight female fans young and old; young boys are “allowed” to be Bieber fans without being shamed; and the kid releases his own line of nail polish and nobody bats an eye. This is good.
On Wednesday Skjellerup tweeted, “I dont quite understand @Queerty First U stick up for Bieber, then U add fuel 2 the fire by commenting on his appearance. Whos bullying now?”
Pointing out a celebrity’s appearance (“He’s wearing blue”) is not the same as calling a celebrity fat or ugly or fugly or a hag. And commenting on Justin’s femininization by a major magazine was a (very brief) comment on how the media markets celebrity. That the original post or this one even mentions Justin’s actual physical characteristics is a secondary point. And so calling Justin a “trans teen star” is not an attempt at making fun of the kid, or knocking him a peg, or even making any comment about his sexuality or gender identity. Because calling him or his representation in the media “trans” — or calling any kid or person gay, or straight, or bi — is not an insult, nor is it a compliment. It’s an observation. And of all people, The Gays should understand that.
Around here there’s much love for our trans and cross-dressing brothers and sisters, whether celebrating the gauche, the victimized, and the pretend. In fact, Queerty has a big fucking problem with people hating on The Ts.