Sunday, 22 November 2009

The sliding scale of gay

Some people are never happy. After years spent bemoaning the lack of out gay pop stars, we finally get one and all anyone can do is bitch about it. 

Tomorrow sees the release of 'For Your Entertainment', the long-awaited debut CD by American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert. In the build up to the album's proud unveiling, Adam's guy-lined face has been everywhere in the US, including the cover of Out Magazine as part of their 'Class of 2009'. 

But although they were happy to help maintain Adam's profile with a front-cover portrait, the editor of Out had a bone to pick with the fledgling star's management. Writing an open letter to Adam, Editor in Chief Aaron Hicklin expresses dismay that Adam's record label and management are limiting his self-expression.

Writing about Adam's appearance on the cover alongside Cyndi Lauper (amongst others), Hicklin comments "It’s only because this cover is a group shot that includes a straight woman that your team would allow you to be photographed at all—albeit with the caveat that we must avoid making you look 'too gay'."

To show that there's no ill-will towards Adam himself, Hicklin congratulates him on being "a pioneer, an out gay pop idol at the start of his career", but cautions that "we just hope it’s a path that’s honest and true and that you choose to surround yourself with people who celebrate your individuality." It's all so well-meaning that it gives you a case of the warm fuzzies. 

Except that there's a fundamental flaw in Hicklin's logic. After all, Adam's first big post-Idol interview was a cover story with Rolling Stone where he publicly declared his sexuality. Given that 19 Management will have been the ones who lined up that exclusive, they can hardly be accused of downplaying their new star's sexuality.

And then there's the album cover itself. 

When it was first revealed a couple of months ago, the internet practically imploded as commentators rushed to condemn the airbrushed abomination as the gayest thing in the entire world. Not only does it seem to have been painted directly onto crushed velvet, Adam looks as though he'd be right at home hosting bingo night in the Black Cap. There's so much early eighties androgyny on show here, even Pete Burns would think twice before putting his name to it. 

If Adam's management are concerned that he not look "too gay" in Out Magazine, they must have been asleep on the job when this beauty got the all-clear. But then again, what does "too gay" even mean? Similarly, would Hicklin and his team have preferred Adam to look more gay on the cover of their magazine? Perhaps they were hoping that he'd recreate a classic Mapplethorpe (NSFW!).

When it comes to sexuality, there's no such thing as too much or not enough. It simply is what it is. Adam's openness and unapologetic attitude is exactly what the music world needs. It shouldn't matter whether he's wearing a three-piece suit or Cher's hand-me-downs. 

Hicklin complains of an 'apartheid' that separates gay magazines from more mainstream media, but what about the prejudice that a gay artist should constantly have to wear their sexuality on their immaculately-tailored unisex sleeve?

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