Today, trusted LGBT magazine Out published a feature story on the “internet’s greatest super villain” conservative blogger and “tech journalist” Milo Yiannopoulos, who is gay. In doing so, Out Magazine shirked its main mission of LGBT advocacy for clicks, and seriously damaged its relationship with its readership.
Yiannopoulos was recently banned from Twitter for spearheading an onslaught of racist harassment toward black comedian and actress Leslie Jones for her performance in the new Ghostbusters film. The British journalist’s official position is tech editor for Breitbart News, a controversial conservative news and opinion website partially responsible for the misogynistic #GamerGate scandal and whose former chairman Stephen Bannon is now campaign manager for Donald Trump. Yiannopoulos is also a vocal leader of the “Twinks for Trump” movement, a proud white supremacist, and a woman-hating, alt-right, professional bully. And now, he can add “cover subject for an LGBT advocacy magazine” to his resume, which isn’t a good thing.
The worst part is, Out predicted the backlash against its story, and still decided to run it. The magazine published a preceding editor’s note, which implores readers to “assess Milos Yiannopoulos, the focus of this profile, on his own words without mistaking them for ours on the story.” The editor’s note justifies its coverage of Yiannopoulos by arguing that writers who cover LGBT topics would be remiss if they didn’t spotlight “queer people at the center of this highly polarized election.” While queer people should be educated on the most problematic members of their community, lampooning the hateful wrath of Yiannopoulos by dressing him up as a clown and then dedicating an entire feature story to him is pure betrayal to Out’s audience. Yiannopoulos is not funny like a clown, but legitimately terrifying like one.
Profiles often serve to humanize untouchable celebrity personalities, which is exactly why a profile on Yiannopoulos is completely gratuitous, because no one, especially in the queer community, craves a reason to think that this abhorrent human somehow deserves to be more clearly understood. That is not to say that a profile on him shouldn’t exist in the world. Just like more journalists have been reporting on the alt-right — the right-wing extremists Yiannopoulos associates with — more information and context on Yiannopoulos is bound to surface as he continues to rear his annoying bleached head in matters that don’t concern him. That profile, however, should not provide an opportunity to endorse Trump or spew transphobia. Furthermore, it should not be by a magazine promoting LGBT advocacy for an audience that is fervently opposed to everything Yiannopoulos stands for, besides what he prefers to do in bed.
Perhaps the only respectable thing about Yiannopoulos is that he is openly gay. Still, given the current climate of LGBT issues in the United States and abroad, his openness about his sexuality is not that impressive or inspiring. As most LGBT activists are aware, gay white men are the most privileged members of the queer community and therefore should siphon their activism toward holding space for those who are more oppressed, like transgender women of color for example. Out clearly has its political priorities skewed: The magazine can hold space for a cisgender, white, gay bigot, but can barely feature one person of color per year on its covers.
Racial and gender representation aside, Yiannopoulos’s feature story in Out suggests that his being gay, in some way, apologizes for his otherwise deplorable behavior and earns him this honor. It assumes that gay readers are willing to momentarily excuse someone’s bigotry because the bigot just so happens to be a man who likes other men. Welcome to 2016, where gay men can suck just as badly as straight ones. No pun intended.