Why I'm not surprised the editor of the Gay Times tweeted racist and misogynistic rants

Like many trans people, I learnt that the “community” wasn’t as inclusive as it claimed to be, and has always been largely run by white, straight, cis, male, non-disabled and conventionally attractive men

Kaan K
Wednesday 15 November 2017 19:33 GMT
Safe spaces don't really exist for a lot of members of the LGBTQI+ community
Safe spaces don't really exist for a lot of members of the LGBTQI+ community (Rainbow Egypt)

I’m not surprised that Josh Rivers, the newly appointed editor of Gay Times magazine, once tweeted: “Long day. How would I type that with Chinese accent? Wong way?”

It doesn’t surprise me that he also tweeted: “I’m thankful for TFL [Transport for London] & rising bus fares. Let’s keep homeless people on the streets & off our buses! #TT”

Does it surprise me that he also tweeted: "Was so close to casually asking this chav to keep her incested, down syndrome, retard children quiet. But I just switched carriages. #xmas”? Not really.

Rivers has today issued a statement apologising for racism, anti-semitism, ableism, sexism, transphobia, fat-shaming, body-shaming and insulting homeless people, after BuzzFeed dragged up a series of tweets from 2010 and 2015 in which he insulted basically every minority group there is. It is, sadly, a pretty extensive list.

A Tweet sent by newly-appointed Gay Times editor Josh Rivers in 2010
A Tweet sent by newly-appointed Gay Times editor Josh Rivers in 2010

And while he doesn’t seem to have aired those views in a few years (and maybe his opinions really have changed), it’s still worrying that he has been appointed editor of one of the biggest queer men’s magazines in the UK.

Mainstream queer media is known historically for being white-run and white owned, so the appointment of Rivers as the first BAME (black, asian and ethnic minority) editor of a gay men’s magazine felt like a huge step towards changing the narrative to include more minority groups in LGBTQ+ media.

After seeing these tweets I’m not sure anything will change. But I was doubtful from the start. LGBTQ+ media is known historically for centring white, cis, gay, non-disabled men’s stories. And it helps if they have a six pack. But it’s not just our media that discriminates against minority groups – it’s the LGBTQ+ community itself. For many trans people, women, disabled people, people of colour, and those of us with less well-known sexual orientations, LGBTQ+ media and LGBTQ+ spaces are rarely “safe”. Josh Rivers' words aren’t really a revelation – they just invoke a sigh as we despair “not him as well”.

“Look here, tranny. 1) you look like a crackhead 2) YOU’RE A TRANNY & 3) your wig doesn’t deserve a mention. Avert your eyes, honey.” Tweeted Rivers a few years back. Again, I wasn’t surprised reading this.

Like many trans people, I learnt that the “community” wasn’t as inclusive as it claimed to be the harsh way when I initially started visiting gay bars. The first – and last – time I rocked up at one of the big clubs in London I was pinched on the arse by a gay man. I glared at him with such frustration that he turned to me and said “It’s alright honey, I’m gay”.

The second time I was harassed was by an older gay man in an Edinburgh gay bar. He approached me and began to ask me things – inappropriate questions about my gender identity, sexual orientation and my genitals. At the time I was 18 and I think he assumed me to be a young, gay man that he could easily have sex with. I said I wasn’t interested, and tried to back off, but he followed me, asking “You’re not a boy?”, “You’re not even trans?”.

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The last time I ever went to a “regular” gay night was at a bar with six floors. Only one of them had queer women on it and I doubt that there were many trans people there at all. I spent the whole evening wondering why queer women and non-binary people were confined to the basement in a venue that was meant to be a safe space for all LGBTQ+ people, while cis, gay, predominantly white men danced on every other floor with their few token straight women friends.

After that, I very quickly learned to avoid these venues. I regularly attended a bar for “women and friends” that soon closed. Now, I only go to certain venues in London that have safer spaces policies and I know well – and I only go to these venues on very specific nights.

As any trans person who’s been to any queer venue ever will tell you – it’s not exactly unusual to be called names, misgendered or made to feel unwelcome – these are just unavoidable realities of being trans in a cis world.

I can only speak from my experience about what these venues are like for me as a trans person. But many of my friends avoid mainstream venues as well – because of racism, transphobia, biphobia, sexism, lack of accessibility and a number of other reasonTthe bottom line is, if you’re not white, straight, cis, male, non-disabled and conventionally attractive, it’s likely that at some point you will encounter discrimination in venues that were supposed to be keeping you “safe”.

And it’s not just gay bars – the thought of coming out as trans at an LGBTQ+ sports group I go to terrifies me so much that I would rather face the pain of letting everyone misgender me on a regular basis than tell them the truth.

I’m fed up of seeing “straight allies” on LGBTQ+ magazine covers, but rarely seeing stories by and about minority LGBTQ+ groups. I’m fed up that many of us still feel unsafe in spaces that should be ours. And I’m disappointed that the new editor of Gay Times – whether reformed or not – will likely make no difference to this exclusive LGBTQ+ culture whatsoever.

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