It is the one-sided obsession that bugs me. The presumption seems to be that straightness is normal and therefore does not need explanation; whereas queerdom is a deviation from the norm and this requires investigation and answers. The latest theory of why gays are gay suggests that birth order influences male sexual orientation.
According to new research by Anthony Bogaert, a psychologist at Brock University in Canada, gay men tend to have older brothers. Indeed, the more biological older brothers a man has, the greater his likelihood of being gay. This leads Bogaert to conclude that a man's sexual orientation is influenced by the conditions in his mother's womb when he was a foetus; with successive male children triggering changes in the mother's body that increase the chances that subsequent male children will be gay.
This so-called fraternal gay birth effect creates a prenatal environment that fosters homosexuality in younger sons. Nice theory, shame about the exceptions. Oh well, never mind. There are bound to be exceptions. Just because I don't personally fit his theory doesn't automatically invalidate it. If Bogaert is saying that birth order may be a factor that influences sexual orientation, I have no problem with that. His research does, indeed, suggest that the order of male birth may impact on whether a man is gay or not. But impacting or influencing sexuality is not the same as causing or determining it.
Something as complex and pivotal as human emotional and sexual life is bound to evolve from a multiplicity of factors, rather than from any single, simple origin. Bogaert's research is the latest in a long line of theses that argue people are "born gay". They posit sexuality as being a biological given.
Other biological determinist models of gayness suggest that same-sex attraction is largely or entirely determined by our genes and hormonal influences in the womb. It is an innate desire, fixed at birth.
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Forget Freudian theory and all the other psycho-babble. Biology is destiny. Their book is easily the best summary of evidence from dozens of biological studies into the causes and correlates of homosexuality. They conclude that sexual orientation is overwhelmingly innate. Social or family influences have little or no impact.
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Blaming parents and childhood upbringing for a child's gayness is mistaken and unfair. The idea that people become gay by seduction or choice is, they say, not supported by scientific research and empirical evidence. I agree. No one sits down one day and decides to be gay - or straight. Most lesbians and gays say they felt "different" from a very young age, long before they had any awareness of sexual desire.
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While this suggests that sexuality is formed unconsciously by early childhood at the latest, it does not necessarily mean we are born with a pre-fixed sexual orientation. The authors are right to say that biological factors play a role. It suggests a significant genetic component in the causality of homosexuality - and, presumably, in the origins of heterosexuality as well. Wilson and Rahman argue the other determinant of sexual orientation is hormonal exposure during pregnancy. They document studies showing differences between gay and straight people with respect to a number of physiological traits that are associated with hormonal influences.
These include physique, hearing, brain structure, finger lengths, penis size gay men tend to be better endowed than straight men , and the age of puberty on average lesbians mature later than straight women, and gay men earlier than heterosexual men. This is convincing stuff, but not entirely so. Unfortunately, this kind of maneuver isn't anything new. Just a few years ago, LGBT media was boasting a renaissance. But now, amid mass layoffs that have affected the media landscape at large, LGBT media finds itself in a state of flux.
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Meanwhile, digital sites with dedicated LGBT verticals are posting less and less content; as of , HuffPost, for example, no longer has any staffer focusing full-time on LGBT coverage. But is LGBT media really sustainable after all? Now, we can read about ourselves in the Sunday Times and find an online community anywhere from Gay Twitter to Instagram meme account pages.
And perhaps most importantly, are we getting too far away from the reason LGBT media was created in the first place? For one, the mainstream media spent decades either vilifying queer people or ignoring them entirely. For queer people in the postwar era, these secret pages — which included news and politics as well as fiction, poetry, and art — were vital to their selfhood. The Advocate was first published as an organization newsletter in , as a means to alert the Los Angeles—based LGBT community to events.
Advertising was difficult to find; bars were the primary LGBT businesses of the time, and they weren't always interested in identifying themselves as gay spaces. Even after Stonewall, police harassment was a huge concern. But despite the likelihood of pushback, a brave few early publishers, editors, and reporters started using their real names in their bylines, which wasn't generally the case for pre-Stonewall publications like the Ladder. An issue of the Ladder from January , and the Oct.
Slowly, other publications followed suit. Celebrities were inching out of the closet and landing salaciously sapphic Vanity Fair covers next to Cindy Crawford , or coming out on the cover of where else? Queer women wanted the space to explore their own subculture apart from mainstream straight and LGBT press alike.
Other brands also saw potential in the LGBT market. The LGBT community has always had a money issue. It feels a little gross to prove our buying power or spending value when a disproportionate number of LGBT community members, particularly in the trans community, lives in poverty. And yet for LGBT media, money is a necessary evil.
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Despite the frequent attempts made by these publications to diversify their staff, their coverage, and their readership, they have been criticized for putting a lot of straight white guys on their covers and a lot of gay white guys on their mastheads. But barely a year after launching their new publications, the young cis gay men in charge of those digital properties left their positions to head up the grandfathers of LGBT media.
In , Out and the Advocate came under new ownership. Still, post-Picardi, Them is forging ahead. From both an audience and a business standpoint, we've seen consistent growth since launch. Those who have a subscription-based model, such as the Advocate and Out, have never reached more than 1 million subscriptions in their lifetimes. But just like with the presence of brands, politicians, and other adopters at Pride marches , the relationship between companies and the community can be complicated.
LGBT media was born out of a necessity for information sharing and accountability; now, placing an ad for just any corporation who suddenly finds value in our specific spaces should come with a lot of other considerations. Nathan Coyle says he believes advertising is more of a concern for the Advocate, which is more news and politically focused, than Out, which has a history of being more lifestyle, fashion, and entertainment-driven. And that's a good thing, Baim argues.
We are at a sharp, sharp tipping point in LGBT media. Baim finds that one of the biggest problems facing publishers today is the shift to programmatic marketing. Whereas brands used to work more closely with LGBT people at their respective publications to create highly specific artwork to go inside magazines, on back covers, or online, now advertisers and some media companies themselves look for an easier alternative.
Programmatic ads involve being targeted for specific ads because of sites you visit, searches you make, and people you follow. But media outlets, LGBT and otherwise, are still trying to make it work. A rise of online-only outlets like Towleroad and Queerty launched in the mids with a lower amount of overhead than their predecessors.
Meanwhile, more progressive mainstream publications saw an opportunity for audience growth and pitched themselves as more inclusive — as soon as there was more public support for LGBT rights, of course. These publications dazzled advertisers with LGBT-focused verticals and Pride-themed, rainbowfied editorials in search of suddenly desirable pink dollars. Independently owned and operated outlets, which had long fought to convince advertisers that queer people — including, yes, lesbians — spend money, too, found themselves competing for ad dollars with mightier publishers, leading some outlets particularly strapped for cash to close their doors.
The network is a way of ensuring the success of all local and national LGBT media, because local publications like the Windy City Times also rely on national campaigns as much as they do local advertisements.
I think it's TV and programmatic, absolutely. But not everyone thinks the prospects are quite so dire. Yes, advertising revenue is down, but it's not down that much. Both the black and Latinx markets have been successful with television networks too, like BET in more than 91 million homes and Telemundo in ,, American homes. Some have tried, yep, pivoting to video. Last October, Facebook was sued by aggrieved advertisers for inflating the viewership numbers of their videos for years after hundreds of journalists had lost their jobs.
A breathtaking amount of internet traffic is faked. But still, the lure of video remains — it does for Grindr, who cited a video pivot when they laid me off along with my Into colleagues. And it does for Pride Media. Yet depending on consistent cash flow from a gigantic company can create dire and desperate circumstances when they suddenly pull out of LGBT publications — as was the case recently with Gilead, the biopharmaceutical company that not only owns Truvada, but the exclusive patent on emtricitabine, an integral part of Truvada which would be required for any more generic or less expensive replication of the HIV-preventative drug.
While Gilead had major buys with Into, Them, and almost every national and local LGBT publication, it suddenly halted its support last year. LGBT media are suffering — I know it. Pharmaceutical has always been one of the stronger categories, and I've always really pressured for diversification of relying on that category for decades. Coyle isn't concerned about losing Gilead specifically. Just like most national LGBT nonprofits, most of the publishers and editors of LGBT publications past and present have been helmed by white cisgender people — most of them gay men. Tre'vell Anderson recently left the Los Angeles Times for a director of culture and entertainment position at Out.
A black, genderqueer journalist who serves as the president of the LA chapter for the National Association of Black Journalists, Anderson said they generally fail to see "as robust coverage of the community as I wanted" in LGBT media. Anderson's new coworkers include managing editor Michelle Garcia, executive editor Raquel Willis, and former Into staff writer Mathew Rodriguez, a team Nathan Coyle is proud to employ, because he says they do not mirror Out's largely white cis male past.
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Meredith Talusan was initially the executive editor at Them under Picardi, but has since moved to contributing editor, largely consulting on "longform pieces and topline work that would benefit from my areas of expertise. Though appealing to mostly an older demographic is exactly the problem legacy publications continue to have. And for me, I often say we are having to train our audience to being open to other types of coverage. Anderson said there was some backlash when Out unveiled their first new cover under Picardi's tutelage, featuring actors Hari Nef and Tommy Dorfman.
Some people were like, 'The face is still white!