The Advocate Declares (Sort of) That “Gay is the New Black”

We took one look at the cover of the new issue of The Advocate, with “Gay is the New Black: The Last Great Civil Rights Struggle” plastered across its face and said “Wait til they get a load of this!” Then we opened (read: clicked) the story and saw that it’s actual title is “Gay is the New Black? Note the added punctuation, which transforms a radical statement into a vacillating question. We thought it had to be a typo, but the introduction proved that once again, The Advocate was about to fall back to its default position of trying to please everybody by saying nothing offensive, controversial or of consequence:

“In the wake of California’s passage of Proposition 8, protests are popping up around the country — and so are comparisons between gays’ and African-Americans’ fights for equality. Is gay the new black? “

You just said it was! In big self-important capitalized letters!  Why are you promising the declarative when what’s on the menu is an interrogative? Our heart had the same sinking feeling it had the first time we opened a Cracker Jack box to find that the surprise was nothing more than a cheaply printed stamp.

We can’t really blame author Michael Joseph Gross for hedging on such a charged statement, but you want answers and that’s what Queerty is all about. So, we baked his story into an easy to digest pie chart by breaking up his various equivocating sentiments by word count to get a definitive answer. Also, because we knew you weren’t going to read it anyway.

As you can see, based on our rigorous pseudo-scientific analysis, by a wide margin, gay is indeed the new black. It’s disappointing that the article is not the cri de coeur the moment calls for–and that the cover implies we’ll get. We’re very cognizant that there’s a fine line between journalism and activism, but when your name is The Advocate, you’re given permission to make big, bold statements from time to time– and especially at this time.  This bit is especially ironic:

A marching band played show tunes — “If My Friends Could See Me Now” — and a drag queen screamed, “The problem with living in a bubble is that bubbles burst!” She was fierce, and I was moved, but I also wondered why she was the one on the news that night, why this movement still doesn’t have a Martin Luther King Jr., a telegenic, brilliant spokesperson to whom all of America can relate. The dedication of movement organizers has brought us a long way, but we are now in desperate need of a willing leader with solid media sense, a palpable inner core, an ability to navigate the game of hardball politics, and the balls to step forward and be our public face.

Speaking of balls, that’s a whiff if ever there was one. It’s ironic because the cover promises balls, but the story is without and it’s also ironic because Gross disparages a drag queen as not being the sort of leader he would like, when it was drag queens at Stonewall who first had the balls to lead the gay movement out of the closet in the first place. It’s an oversight that cheapens his call for leadership into a call for a palatable, mainstream face we can present to the straight world, which of course is what The Advocate tries to do each and every issue. Note to magazine: When did you lose your balls? You are the very leader you’re crying out for– or at least you used to be, half-a-dozen owners ago. It can’t help that your current owner, Paul Colichman said of his last attempt at gay publishing, the now defunct Here! Magazine:

“We did the magazine purely as a publicity piece for the network. We’re not in the magazine business. It’s a really saturated and very difficult market. I really have zero desire to be in the magazine business in any serious way. We simply use it as a marketing piece as we would a flier or a handout.”

But look, The Advocate is trying to make a statement and break out of its comfort zone– or at the very least the guy who designed the cover is trying — and that counts for something.  So, we’re giving the The Advocate a little nudge off the cliff through the clarifying power of clever pie charts. Gay is the new black, no question about it. The Advocate said so. You can start arguing now.

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  • Othniel

    Everyone save the Advocate issue (Rachel Maddow cover) which came in the mail (at least to me) today.

    No issue of any print media ever will show how the entire medium is becoming obsolete better then this magazine which arrived Nov 13, after the most important election ever faced by its constituency on Nov. 4, with nary a mention of the election.

    The fact the editors did one of the most tremendous jobs I have ever seen of keeping the on line Advocate up to date only intensifies the point.

    This is education for America, not gay, not straight, not even poultry. But sure to be discussed in journalism and political science classes for decades, and a magazine issue perhaps as valuable as the X-Men # 1 my mother threw away (along with my Bob Gibson cards) went I went off to college to become a man.

  • Tim in SF

    People still read magazines?

  • Bitch Republic

    Keep hating on the Mormons. I grew up one. They deserve it. ;)

  • Mark

    Anderson. Fucking. Cooper.

  • Othniel

    @Tim in SF Old habits die hard (:-

  • conrad

    this is identity politics at its worst and ugliest. im so tired of lots of white folx saying gay is the new black, as if there arent any queer black people (that bare the brunt of both white supremacy and homophobia)…

    Bayard Rustin anyone?

    Fuck the advocate.

  • chgo921

    Japhy: I’m a few days late, but welcome to Queerty. For better or worse, your posts have made me comment more in one week than I probably did in a year with the old editor.

    After reading your post, reading the article, and re-reading your post, I’m confused by a couple of things. First, why is the highlighted segment “ironic”? Because the author makes a “bold statement” by taking a position that drag queens aren’t the best spokespeople for a national audience? Because the people who show up on television — in drag or not — are actually dedicated movement organizers? Because The Advocate should be the gay community’s, um, advocate? It may be none or all of these things. I just couldn’t figure it out.

    Also, based on your pie chart (which I assume has numbers you pulled out of the air to illustrate a point), less than half of the article says “gay is the new Black.” Therefore, The Advocate is correct in NOT making a declarative statement about this. Though to be fair, I disagree with your segments. I would include “kindly old Black woman” as part of the gay is the new Black segment since she’s equating her civil rights struggles to those of gay people.

    Again, for better or worse, you’ve kept me intrigued by what you will post next. At some point I’m sure I’ll write in because I agree with your post. Here’s looking forward to that day.

  • fredo777


  • fredo777

    I do have that Beatles tune stuck in my head now, though.

    Thanks for that.

    – warbles –

  • seitan-on-a-stick

    What’s a magazine?
    Is that those little glass
    huts my cab whizzes by?

    So, does black make me look thinner?

  • GG

    They have been watching to much Ugly Betty. Wonder how much longer before The Advocate shuts down the magazine. Ad sells for magazine are getting lower and lower.

  • ousslander

    I thought mustard was the new black for fall!

  • Rock

    The Advocate is irrelevant.

    I cancelled my subscription a long time ago.

  • Ed

    The article is actually worth the read and it brings up some legitimate points which complicate the statement many are projecting (“Gay is the New Black). I had already read it online and now seeing the print cover I think it would’ve been more truthful and relevant to have left the question mark intact. At the very least it might have been more confrontational and reflective of its author.

    Take a read, digest and then take from it what you will because someone does need to clarify our position and how it fits into the long standing traditions of civil rights struggles. It will also help us to be able to articulate more clearly to the general public because our struggle isn’t the same as the one for black advancement- but neither is it less valid or important.

  • Woof

    Silly it is a typo….GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK…duh

  • Insulting

    …to blacks and gays.

  • Tara - Praenomenal

    “Gay is the New Black: The Last Great Civil Rights Struggle”

    Really? Of course transpeople are not even human yet, some day we can be the new gay!

  • PJ

    @Tara – Praenomenal: Tara, most transgendered people certainly are gay (but not all). Gay is still a blanket term and I believe that when magazines use the term “Gay” in their headlines it is to simplify something that is getting way too complicated.
    Political correctness has become a dangerous thing. Please, do not be sensitive to the word because it does not sectionalize a small part of the larger community. Keep in mind, one of the things we are fighting for right now is that LGBTQ Americans are Americans first.

  • Angela

    If you actually read the article, you’ll see that the author is not being insulting to either gays or blacks (or any other group who has had to fight for their civil rights).

    It’s a thoughtful article on the urge to compare…and in the end, it’ll do us all more good if we think deeply about these issues and act deliberately rather than simply be reactionary and try to scapegoat any one group.



  • Charles J. Mueller

    I stopped reading the Advocate four decades ago.

    They didn’t have anything interesting to day then. Why should they now? ;-)

  • Charles J. Mueller

    Correction: day s/b say

  • Falc

    Some people still find it acceptable to waste trees instead of temporary electrons on screens. I’ve long held that paper periodicals are obsolete. No, I don’t find that I can read a BOOK that way, even one on a handy portable book screen (though I’m open to the possibility if one ever comes along that I don’t have to worry about breaking by dropping it.) But periodicals are inherently timely and, as another wrote, they’ve lately proven grossly out of time and touch by missing the election. It’s not just the Advocate. It’s ALL periodical publications. Once a day is about as far apart as we can tolerate. Past that, I’d do better going online for current information… and yes, I do prefer to read the NY Times online. Saves trees, ink, fuel, faster, easier. I’m not going back to writing on stone tablets anytime soon either.

    Are we the new Blacks? Not by a long shot. We’re the last of the religious repressions.

  • Legin

    I have just read the Advocate article and without necessarily agreeing with all the viewpoints expressed, I find it very thoughtful and thought-provoking. The part that struck me most was the author’s conversation with a taxi driver. I’ll quote it:

    “The driver, whose name was Ali, told me he was from Yemen and he’s straight. When a friend recently came to visit him, the two went sightseeing. “I took him to City Hall and we saw all these people getting married. We saw men marrying men and women marrying women,” Ali said. “I was really surprised. They were so happy.” [ ]

    “I have seen bisexuality, gay, lesbian. The sexy parts. I had never seen the love before. But I saw these two guys get married and I realized, This is their happiness.” ”

    Now, the reason I find this interesting is that, as far as I can gather, the no on 8 ads were almost devoid of images of gay married couples and their children. This very conservative (some would say cowardly) approach by the campaign may have cost it many converts — people like that taxi driver for whom such images and testimonies would have been a revalation. Hiding behind legalistic arguments was never going to make an impresion on the vast majority of voters. For them, the whole prop 8 thing was about whether you were pro or con homosexuality, plain and simple. Without the positive images of same-sex couples and families, those who would have been persuadable had nothing to hold on to.

    Invisibility is not going to win the day. In every campaign, there are those who would be willing to support to underdog. If that dog is hiding under the bed and out of sight, he cannot expect support from anyone. Worse, if gays are perceived to be ashamed of themselves, so much so that they are unwilling to to be upfront about their sexuality in a public campaign, they cannot expect others to step into their shoes and fight their battles for them.

    Fortunately, the public protests and many of the post-prop 8 analyses that I have seen have at least recognized that public visibility is essential to winning this fight. Obama (of god herself) can’t save us if we hide in the shadows.

    But most of all, let’s forget this talk of race and which ethic group voted which way. This is not only nonsensical but dangerously counterproductive. Much like the Republican party, the gay movement is losing groung because its coalition is insufficiently inclusive (did someone say rainbow-like?). You can take your cue from Palin and “energize the base” while driving away everyone else, or you can learn from Obama and run a 50 state (county/district/neighborhood)strategy.

    From now on, let’s promote the slogan “We are Family” in every corner of the media and on the streets. Let’s promote images of couples tying the knot and celebrating their marriages/civil unions. Let’s not be afraid to show gay couples raising their children, sending them to school, teaching them to ride their bikes and posing in their graduation pictures. And finally, let’s not be intimidated by the religious right into denying who we really are — whole human beings!

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