Disney star Gregg Sulkin is ready to lend a hand to the LGBTQ community — and six perfectly sculpted abs.
In the cover story for the August issue of U.K. magazine Gay Times, Sulkin bares his stomach and his soul for readers. But mostly, Sulkin hopes that seeing a straight man on a magazine will make young gay people realize that it's OK to be gay.
"Seeing straight men on gay magazines helps people realize that it's completely acceptable to be gay," Sulkin said to Gay Times. "I didn't want this to be just another photo shoot; it's a lot more meaningful for me than anything else."
While Sulkin may have good intentions, his comments are a few missed notes beyond tone deaf. As conversations regarding #OscarsSoWhite have taught us, representation matters. Having a straight man flaunt his perfectly sculpted self does nothing but reinforce all of the gay community's worst tendencies, like privileging whiteness, masculinity and perfect bodies.
Putting aside the magazine's decision to feature a straight, white man on its cover after people criticized similar mags like Attitude, Out and the Advocate for featuring far too few people of color and far too many straight, white people — what does Sulkin think his image can accomplish?
Gay magazines have been under particularly intense scrutiny for their choice in cover models ever since queer black rapper Mykki Blanco birthed the hashtag #GayMediaSoWhite. Later, Fusion crunched the numbers and found that some publications — especially fellow U.K. magazine Attitude — featured way too many cisgender, straight, white men on their covers. Only a few months later, they featured straight, white actor Ben Hardy on an issue that discussed race and the media.
When Attitude heard reader concerns and featured Dominican transgender model Ashley Laith on their cover, Laith spoke about the struggles of growing up transgender — and probably offered people going through similar struggles some solace.
It may be a little unfair to judge Sulkin before hearing what he has to say — but just take a look at one of his quotes.
"I've seen how gay men react to [Britney Spears] — it's out of control!" Sulkin says, according to Vulture. "They love her."
Here's hoping Gay Times' September issue goes for a cover model with a little bit more substance — and, just a thought, even a little bit more melanin.