Let me preface this by saying: this article is about white twinks, two words that do not describe me, (I am Hispanic and not a twink (double parenthesis: I think I’m an otter but I also hate being associated with those furry swimming things so let’s move on)) so there’s probably some bias here, but it’s my opinion so just let me have this one.
Now pause Ariana’s new single (a certified bop) and hear me out: Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy. Both phenomenal athletes who went to the Olympics together as some of the first openly gay athletes to ever compete on the US team. Both exceptionally talented in their fields and attractive according to Eurocentric standards of beauty. But why did Adam Rippon become so much more popular than Gus Kenworthy? The popular news media immediately took to Adam; they wrote headlines about him across all platforms and he even appeared on The Ellen Show a few weeks ago. He’s literally on Dancing With The Stars this season, like come on guys, this guy went to the top, but where is Gus?
Yes, Gus got coverage and respect for his craft, but he has not reached the level of attention that Adam Rippon has. Perhaps it may be because of his body type. Let’s face it, Gus Kenworthy is a jock; he’s 5’10”, muscular, and burly. While you could argue that neither is more successful and point at statistics such as Gus Kenworthy’s higher number of Instagram followers, the problem is not about success but the commodification of queer people for straight audiences.
Perhaps Adam Rippon became more famous because of his personality. Adam Rippon’s Tweets possess what could be deemed as a stereotypical/generic form of gay persona: sassy, loves pop culture, yells “yas,” whereas Gus’s do not. Take this tweet for instance:
“To all those who tweet at me saying that they “hope I fail”, I have failed many times many times in my life. But more importantly, I’ve learned from every setback, proudly own up to my mistakes, grown from disappointments, and now I’m a glamazon bitch ready for the runway.”
While we were all yelling “yas” and snapping along to some self-confidence, the term “glamazon bitch” took off with a certain demographic: straight women. By the next day there were women joking about getting the phrase put on shirts. So could this mean that the rise of Adam Rippon is attributed to the commodification of gay men? Adam Rippon is trendy because he’s the sassy, pretty, white gay we’ve grown accustomed to AND who can provide us with fun catchy phrases for our tank tops!! SO convenient.
I’m going to list some names. You tell me to stop when you start seeing a common thread: Anderson Cooper (got it already? Let me keep going for those that need more hints), Neil Patrick Harris, Matt Bomer, Zachary Quinto, Jim Parsons, Colton Haynes, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Tom Daley, Dustin Lance Black, Ian McKellen, Adam Lambert, Lance Bass, Sean Hayes, Tyler Oakley, Xavier Dolan… are we getting the skinny white point now? I literally just googled a list of famous gays and it looks like I’m staring at a glass of milk. It’s nearly undeniable: the majority of famous gay men in the media are under the category of white twinks. Now let’s sit together and try to understand why.
My hypothesis is that we have created what can be aptly called “The Palatable Gay™” in our society- a type of gay man that is for the general audience, that can enter every American home and still be acceptable. Let’s go a bit back in time, for instance. Glee presented a prominent gay couple that was, for the most part, accepted on the air, but Chris Colfer and Darren Criss fit under this same category- white twinks. Neil Patrick Harris has been a household name for years (thanks to his playing a heterosexual player, but that’s a whole other article) and he’s in the category, too.
Let’s look at a visual just to get the point across: the reason I’m writing this article is because of this Ryan Murphy Instagram post. Click the hyperlink. Got it? IT’S LIKE EVERY FAMOUS GAY IS IN THAT PHOTO RIGHT? And they’re all WHITE and TWINKS. (Well except for Michael Benjamin Washington, who I want to tell to leave before it becomes a Get Out situation.) We as a society have accepted these gay men as icons and legends and cast them in everything. But what about people that aren’t white twinks, like Titus Burgess, the charismatic black co-lead from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? Beloved by the community, surely, but his IMDb page lists his most famous roles as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and The Angry Birds Movie – will he ever be able to outgrow the scarcity of his roles? There are definitely examples of non-white and non-twink celebrities who have yet to reach the popularity of other stars.
So it’s time to wrap up this article and provide absolutely no satisfying conclusion. I have no idea why this is happening. Maybe it’s personality. Maybe it’s body type (not to drag Ellen but even Ellen double parenthesis: America’s favorite lesbian) looks a little twink-y). There’s a lot of stuff it could be, but in the end my point is this: we should fix this by being more open. There’s more than one type of person in the gay community, and we need them to be seen in the media because everyone should have visibility and inclusion. It’s time to open the gates to more than one type of person and expand the range of LGBTQ+ members representing us. We must be more open, be more accepting, be aware of who we follow, and not stop until people like Titus Burgess are the leads of their own narratives.