Two from Out

Yesterday, it was The Advocate; today, it’s another LPI publication, Out (or OUT) magazine, again with two pieces of interest for this blog in the latest (October 2014) issue: one on straightsplaining, one on gay bookstores.

Background. From Wikipedia:

LPI Media (formerly Liberation Publications Inc.) was the largest gay and lesbian publisher in the United States. The company targeted LGBT communities and published such magazines, books, and web sites, with its magazines alone having more than 8.2 million copies distributed each year. The Advocate and Out magazines were the two largest circulation LGBT magazines in the United States, each with corresponding websites; and, respectively. [The magazines continue, as do the websites.]

Additional publications included Out Traveler, HIV Plus, and LGBT penned titles through Alyson Books making it the “largest publisher of gay and lesbian print publications” and thus the largest print voice of the LGBT communities

… They were also parent owners of Specialty Publications, which produces adult (pornography) publications MEN, formerly Advocate Men, FreshMen, Unzipped, and [2]. Specialty Publications was one of the largest gay adult erotica web and video production companies in the world.

… [an] agreement was completed in August 2008, with Here Media Inc. the new owner of LPI, Specialty Publications, and LPI’s book company, Alyson Publications

LPI was for a considerable time very much male-oriented. The newsmagazine The Advocate has with some success embraced a larger lgbt readership, but the style magazine (offering fashion, entertainment, and “lifestyle” features) Out is still notably male-focused; Wikipedia reports that it has

the highest circulation of any gay monthly publication in the United States. It presents itself in an editorial manner similar to Details, Esquire, and GQ [note: all with a male target audience].

Straightsplaining. On p.41 of the latest Out, a piece by R. Kurt Osenlund, “I’m so happy for you: When well-meaning sentiments are actually straightsplaining in disguise”, in which out gay man Osenlund bridles at “I’m so happy for you” from well-meaning straight people, who are apparently offering congratulations to him on having survived so far and managed some degree of success in life, despite the gross handicap of his being gay.

Osenlund sees these occasions as “straight people aiming to make sense of the gay experience through their straight lenses” — straightsplaining, in the terms of Gawker writer Rich Juzwiak in his 2/7/14 piece “A Field Guide to Straightsplaining”, who classified 12 levels of ascending toxicity in the phenomenon. (Osenlund saw “I’m so happy for you” as at the lowest level.)

Juzwiak’s intro:

If you want to know about gay people — their lives, their desires, their ideas, their cultures — listen to gay people. If you want to know about straight people, listen to straight people talking about gay people.

Straight people have a lot to say about gay people. Of course they do. Everybody talks about everybody. The growing acceptance of homosexuality/queerness means that gays have more of a voice than ever, but also that straight people have more to say about gay people than ever. That’s a recipe for a screaming match.

The term straightsplaining is modeled on mansplaining. From Wikipedia:

Mansplaining is a portmanteau of the words “man” and “explaining”, coined around 2008-09 to describe a well known social phenomenon commonly experienced by women, whereby a man who describes some topic to a woman, habitually does so in a patronizing and condescending manner, perhaps unwittingly, and often despite having limited knowledge himself, because of the gender assumption and stereotype that a woman needs matters explained much more simply or must have far less background or technical grasp and knowledge than a man would.

Mansplaining also covers a heterogeneous mix of mannerisms in which a speaker’s reduced respect for the stance of a listener, or a person being discussed, appears to have little reason behind it other than the speaker’s assumption that the listener or subject – being female – is not expected to have the same capacity to understand as a male would, or their views are not given the same respect a male’s would be given. It also covers situations where it appears a person is using their conversation primarily for the purpose of self-aggrandizement, by holding forth to a presumed less capable female listener in order to appear knowledgeable by comparison.

… The word is thought to have been first used in 2008 or 2009, shortly after San Francisco author Rebecca Solnit published an April 2008 blog post titled “Men Explain Things to Me; Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way”. In it, she did not use the word mansplaining, but defined the phenomenon as “something every woman knows”.

Gay bookstores. On p. 46 of Out, “Open Books” by Colin Crummy, beginning:

British author Philip Hensher first visited Gay’s the Word, now the U.K.’s only gay bookshop, when he was an Oxford student in the 1980s.

… He … thought someone ought to write a book inspired by the shop, which, since it opened in 1979, has withstood a customs raid, storefront vandalizations, and the bottom falling out of the book market. Gay’s the Word celebrates its 35th birthday this year, and Hensher has written the very book he’s longed to read [the novel The Emperor Waltz].

(Hensher then supplies a list of “10 must-read books” — all of them fiction about the gay male experience.)

I was bowled over to read that Gay’s the Word (with its direct, in-your-face name) is the last remaining gay bookstore in the U.K. Bookstores (of all types) are, of course, disappearing everywhere, but gay bookstores (or, more generally, bookstores with some lgbt focus) are vanishing especially quickly, as lgbt people are increasingly diffused geographically, while being absorbed, gradually but unevenly, into the larger society.

Some of the fallen: Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia, A Different Light (several stores in California, with the one in the Castro district of San Francisco the last to go under), Lambda Rising in D.C., the Oscar Wilde Bookshop in NYC.

A bonus. An Out piece on Scottish actor James McAvoy (who has taken several gay roles) entitled “James F*****g McAvoy”, for his inclination to use fucking as an intensifying modifier all over the place, starting with (on p. 78):

“If you’d have told me about my career as a wee boy, I’d have been really fucking surprised”

and going on from there, including “everybody fucking else” and “a guy standing still and fucking whispering to himself” on p. 81 and on p. 82 a series: “fucking pointless”, “their fucking independence”, and “a fucking mental case”, concluding with

“If a director doesn’t want me, that’s their fucking loss.”

A fucking bravura performance.




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