LGBT media condemns Out Magazine for Milo Yiannopoulos puff piece

A coalition of LGBT journalists calls for a higher standard when reporting on the lives of LGBT people.

CREDIT: OUT MAGAZINE/JILL GREENBERG
CREDIT: OUT MAGAZINE/JILL GREENBERG

On Wednesday, September 21, Out Magazine published a profile of Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart Tech editor who is a prominent figure in the alt-right movement and a well-known internet bully. The glamorizing piece, which was originally published with an editorial note defending it, included an exclusive interview with Yiannopoulos, as well as a photo shoot playing on the theme that he’s simply a clown. The following is a response from journalists, columnists, and organizers across LGBT media.

An open letter from members of the LGBT media:

The Out Magazine profile of Milo Yiannopoulos is a serious problem. It’s not because Yiannopoulos was mentioned, nor even because he was profiled. It’s because the profile negligently perpetuates harm against the LGBT community. We expect more from our colleagues.

We are all painfully aware that gay, white, cisgender male narratives have too-long dominated queer media, including those of us who are ourselves gay, white, cisgender men. Just this week, we saw our sisters at AfterEllen.com have to cease editorial operations because a company decided that lesbians were not profitable enough — oblivious to how many bi and lesbian women found important community there. The excess of this narrow branding of the queer community results in erasure of all those who are not highlighted, an erasure that allows stereotypes, discrimination, and abuse to continue unabated against those invisible intersections.

The Out profile of Yiannopoulos represents the peak of this harm. Here is a white supremacist whose entire career has been built on the attention he can get for himself through provocation. His attacks against women, people of color, Muslims, transgender people, and basically anybody who doesn’t like him are as malicious as they come, and he catalyzes his many “alt-right” followers to turn on any target he deems worthy of abuse. This puff piece — complete with a cutesy clown photoshoot — makes light of Yiannopoulos’s trolling while simultaneously providing him a pedestal to further extend his brand of hatred. Indeed, he does so in the profile itself, openly slurring the transgender community, which Out published without any apparent concern.

As members of the LGBT media, we believe we all must hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard. Many of us are members of the LGBT community ourselves, and we all develop content that serves the LGBT community either directly as an audience, or on its behalf by educating broader audiences about our politics and our cultures. We thus have an obligation, at a minimum, to ensure that what we publish — no matter how crass or sensationalized it may be — avoids fostering harm to queer people. Out failed in this regard.

Out claims in its editorial note that this is an “era of social media tribalism” and that “we can’t shy away from covering queer people who are at the center of this highly polarized election year.” The idea that Yiannopoulos is anywhere close to the center of anything is in doubt, but the more important point is that it would be very easy to cover his political impact without glamorizing him and downplaying the bigotry that he helps stir up. Instead, the profile panders to exactly the kind of attention that empowers his vile rhetoric, hiding behind the veneer of false equivalency that has plagued 2016 election coverage.

The political climate right now is particularly toxic, and those of us who report on the LGBT community know firsthand what it’s like to be targeted by those who would oppress us, particularly those of us who have been attacked because of our race or gender identity. We stand apart from those who would sell out the community to promote this toxicity for clicks and profits.

In turn, we recommit to writing about the queer community in a fashion that recognizes and honors its diversity, highlights its struggles, and celebrates the richness of its intersectional cultures. We know we can all do better, and Out Magazine has now provided a perfect example of what not to do.

Signed,

R.J. AguiarBi YouTuber and Social Media Activist

David BadashPublisher, The New Civil Rights Movement

John M. BeckerIndependent LGBT blogger

Trish Bendixformerly AfterEllen

Alex BergVideo Producer, The Huffington Post

Gabe BergadoStaff Writer, Daily Dot

Manuel Betancourt

Dana Beyer, M.D.Board chair, Freedom to Work

Marcie BiancoWriter & Curve Magazine contributing editor

Chris Billigwriter, gay4soccer

John Paul Brammer

Les Fabian BrathwaiteOut Magazine

Kristen Prata BrowdeCBS News (retired)

Mike Ciriaco LA Weekly

Derrick CliftonFreelance Writer; Identity and Culture Columnist, Chicago Reader

Marceline CookThe Mary Sue

E.A. CrundenThinkProgress

Eliel CruzExecutive Director, Faith In America

Michelle EhrhardtFormer Out Magazine intern/freelancer

Patrick Farabaugh Publisher, Our Lives magazine

Jordan FirstmanWriter/director

Erin FitzgeraldLGBT Program Director, Media Matters

Jay FranzoneDirector of Communication, National Gay Blood Drive

Asher FordUT-Austin

Zack FordLGBT Editor, ThinkProgress

Phoebe GavinSenior Audience Engagement Editor, ThinkProgress

Ashley GallagherEditor at POMEgranate Magazine, freelance writer

Melissa Gira GrantJournalist

Michael GoffCEO/Partner, Towleroad; Founder, Out magazine; Former Editor-in-chief and president, Out magazine

Kira HawkeNon-binary YA Author

Waymon HudsonPresident, Fight OUT Loud & Civil Rights Blogger

Evan HurstSenior editor, Wonkette

Josh IsraelSenior Investigative Reporter, ThinkProgress

Joe JervisJoeMyGod.com

Christina Kahrl MLB editor and writer, ESPN.com

Evan Ross KatzEditor, Mic

Viktor T KerneyBlogmaster of “Maybe It’s Just Me…” and “MEGASHEEN”

Sue Kerr Founder/Blogger, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

Mark S. KingMyFabulousDisease.com

Shana Naomi KrochmalContributing editor, Out Magazine

Michael E. Lambert

Brody LevesqueJournalist & Author

Bryan LowderAssociate Editor, Slate

Sean MandellEditor at Large, Towleroad

Chase MartinPublishing Editor, therepubliq

Nicolette MasonFreelance Writer (Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, Refinery29)

Charles Chan MasseyThe Personal Stories Project

Troy MastersThe Pride LA

Cody MelcherComedian, Writer, Podcaster, Gentleman Radicalist

Michael McCarronFounder and Executive Director, Punk Out

Kriston McConnellEditor-In-Chief of Punk Out

James McDonaldFormer Editor at Out Magazine & The Advocate

Alvin A. McEwenblogmaster, Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

Noah MichelsonEditorial Director, The Huffington Post Voices

JamesMichael NicholsDeputy Editor, Huffington Post Queer Voices

Karen OcambVeteran LGBT reporter/editor

Mary Emily O’HaraFormer LGBT Reporter at Daily Dot

Kevin Patrick O’NeilSTOP-Homophobia.com

Tim PeacockPeacock Panache

Adam PeckAssociate Editor, ThinkProgress

Zachary ReidLGBTQ writer

Matthew RettenmundBoyCulture.com

Roger Rosen

Autumn SandeenLGBT Weekly, Trans Progressive Collumist

Ken Schneckproducer/host — This Show is So Gay

Michelangelo SignorileHost, SiriusXM Progress; Editor-at-large, Huffington Post Queer Voices

Barbra “Babs” SipersteinBlogger, LGBT Political Activist, DNC Executive Committee Member

Gwendolyn Ann SmithTransmissions Columnist, Bay Area Reporter

Nigel M. SmithThe Guardian

Meghan StablerNational LGBTQ Leader

Jesse SteinbachOut Magazine

Mark Joseph SternSlate

Joe Sudbay

Bridget Toddpolitical outreach, Medium

Andy TowleTowleroad

Katherine UllmanSpikyclouds.com

Daniel VillarrealUnicornBooty.com

Brad WalshMusician

Derek WashingtonFormer Chairman Stonewall Democrats of Southern Nevada, State Lead Get EQUALNV, OUT 100 2015

Rob WatsonLGBT Columnist, Blogger, Editor and Radio Host , Evolequals & The Good Men Project

Andrew WheelerEditor-in-chief, ComicsAlliance

Erin WhitneySenior Editor, ScreenCrush.com

KC WildmoonStoryful