A recent issue of gay monthly Out pondered whether or not we live in a post-gay world. In that issue, which featured sexually ambiguous Mika on the cover, editor Aaron Hicklin lamented the gentrification of formerly gay ghettos like Fire Island‘s pines:
It would be a horrible irony if the communities and beach resorts that once subverted society’s mores and pieties ended up feeling as privileged and alienating as the culture they were reacting against.
From there, the issue as a whole examined the relevance of sexuality in a fairly gay friendly popular culture. Do we need to be here and queer? The answered seemed to be no. In our discussion of that issue, we wrote, “Gay may not be the war cry it once was; in fact, there may be no war cry.” Sexuality in America seems to be more malleable, hence a post-gay world.
New Genre EIC Neal Boulton unabashedly borrows Hicklin’s idea in his editorial for the revamped glossy.
Labels aside, like any American, I like what Americans like. I like a hot car…I want to have a hot body… and I want a walk-in closet full of hot clothes… And sex. Can anyone really ever get enough? Sorta sounds like everyone else on the planet, doesn’t it?
Boulton goes on to chide unnamed men’s magazines that cater to gays, but refuse to acknowledge their queer readers. He concludes:
…A lot of these magazines just need to come out. Until then there is Genre, the new magazines for every man – proud of being gay. The magazine for the American – who isn’t ashamed of anything – G, L, B, or T.
Gentlemen mark your calendars and join me in ringing in a post gay America.
Boulton’s proclamation may come three months after Hicklin’s, but the idea remains the same: American gays have entered a new era. The men and their magazines, however, have very different opinions on that era’s landscape.
As part of this, The New Issue, we thought we’d have a sit down with Boulton to discuss his plans for Genre. And he certainly didn’t shy away from sharing them. Enthusiastic and confident to the point of arrogance, Boulton explained that he wants to make Genre more of a “men’s” magazine:
I want to take it in a broader direction. It’ll be more of a men’s magazine for every gay guy, rather than just the racier version or just the highbrow version.
Boulton went on to explain that under his direction, Genre will focus on some essentials: clothes, health, sex, booze and cars. Cars? Sure, we think cars are great and we’re glad they exist, but it’s not necessarily something we associate with a gay mentality. (But you do need car editorial for car advertisers.)
Boulton, however, says otherwise. He and his staff conducted an “independent” survey to gauge the state of the gay nation. And, according to their findings, gay men and straight men have virtually the same interests. The only difference can be seen in expenditure:
We did a really great study before relaunching this, a really in-depth independent study of the interest of gay men and it’s virtually parallelâ€¦ Gay men will absolutely spend, for instance, they may not work on their cars and be obsessed with their engines, but they’re absolutely spend more money on cars, the price of their car will be much more than, say, a straight man.
Gays aren’t subjective individuals, we’re a massive marketing demographic! And a rich one!
Hicklin takes a different approach to his title, for whom our editor has written. When he just started “out” last year, British born Hicklin told Women’s Wear Daily that he’s more interested in content than clothing. He wanted gay readers to have quality, “sophisticated” editorial. We recently asked Hicklin to whom he writes, that his, to whom he gears the gay glossy. His reply:
I’m generally allergic to reader profiling which is more useful for advertisers than editors. I firmly believe a good editor trusts his or her instincts, and my instincts are not to shy away from density, articles of length and depth that challenge the common perception that gay magazines are style over substance. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care about presentation – we care about it deeply – but I want to give my readers compelling, ideas-driven stories that take a certain investment on their part.
Hicklin points out that two of those stories, both by Michael Joseph Gross, won first and second place for feature writing at the NLGJA Excellence in Journalism awards. Hicklin goes on to say, “Part of the mission of a gay magazine is to give readers a sense of their social and cultural history.”
Boulton’s less interested in looking at the bigger critical picture. He prefers to what he refers to as the “pay-off”. Emphasizing his high content/page ratio – “Five items at the max, three at the low” – Boulton claims magazines should lead to a certain, consumptive end.
Magazines need to have pay off, more than intellectual pay off… This magazine benefits to the reader in some very clear, physical way. You learned about that watch, you bought it. You bought this there. You matched those two things, your abs are better now, you’re drinking better things. Whatever it is, there’s this physical payoff.
It’s clear to us that to Boulton, who’s made a career of relaunching magazines, magazines are a business. Such a perspective may not please certain editors, but it makes him a perfect asset for Genre‘s financially strained publisher, Window Media. No wonder Windows’ head honcho David Unger accepted Boulton’s uninvited bid to boot Chris Ciompi. What, however, motivated Boulton’s move? “I felt like, “you know, the gay community just doesn’t have a magazine”. Naturally, we highlighted the pink, Out elephant.
Boulton quickly corrected himself and lauded Out, but also threw in a dash of competitive criticism:
To me, Out is not broad enough or it doesn’t seem like it’s a gay enough magazine. I know that it’s contradictory, but it doesn’t seem like a gay magazine to me. There’s a difference between a gay magazine with a broad interest versus a broad magazine that’s slightly gay. This is a very gay magazine with a very broad interest.
Boulton’s editorial “vision” seems to see gays as a commodity, not communities. The 40-year old’s more interested in selling items than ideas. He admits:
This magazine doesn’t have too much “inside gay” editorial, because there is nothing inside about being gay anymore. Everything is acceptable now, but there is a time and place for a magazine that steps up and starts to compete with the Esquires and GQ and the Details. I’m not competing with Out. Out is Out. …We’re not competing with Out.
Though some may not appreciate extensive looks at gay cultures, Hicklin’s notably proud of his magazine’s heftier pieces. He tells us:
These are pieces that can only belong in a gay magazine like ours, one that nurtures an esoteric, quirky, and thoughtful voice. The other word for that, of course, is soul, and I feel strongly that magazines without soul get found out sooner or later.
Speaking with Boulton, we got the distinct impression that he doesn’t find anything unique about being gay today. We’re just like everyone else. Consider his description of gay writer David Levitt: “I was really inspired by how much he just stood at the big table of short story writers at the time and just wrote short stories that were very normal.” We don’t know about you guys, but we’ve never wanted to be “normal”. Sure, gays should emphasize that there’s nothing abnormal about gays, but we’re personally not comfortable saying there’s nothing particular about the gay experience. We don’t want to be culturally “normal” – or average.
There’s nothing more boring to us than gay guys who play down the their gay identities and spend their time shopping, eating and fucking: a population Genre seems content to perpetuate. We won’t say we don’t like shopping, eating and fucking, because that would be an obvious lie, but we’re also pretty keen on thinking. It seems to us that Boulton’s coming at Genre from a mainstream perspective. Here’s a man who’s definitely queer experienced, but not necessarily queer.
Yes, Boulton claims Genre‘s totally inclusive, but his aforementioned editorial suggests he’s not thinking straight:
The magazine for the American – who isn’t ashamed of anything – G, L, B, or T. Gentlemen mark your calendars and join me in ringing in a post gay America.
When flipping through the new genre, we definitely see the G and the B, but what about the T? The content’s aggressively geared to a certain gay: affluent and materialistic, like a lot of mainstream magazines. If cars, cock and clothes alone make the gay man, we’d rather be straight.