Expert eye: Gay and lesbian magazines

Spare a thought for Gay Times. For years it was the only gay glossy on the shelf. First published in 1984, its aim was to inform, entertain and educate gay men of all ages and backgrounds, and for 10 years it dominated the monthly market.

Then in 1994 a flash young pretender called Attitude waltzed in and stole its thunder. Faced with such youthful competition, the older model suddenly discovered fashion and went in for a series of facelifts, none of which looked terribly convincing.

The good news is that things have improved enormously under current editor Joseph Galliano, who has reinvigorated the brand with new writers and a fresher outlook. The design has changed (again) and the title shortened to GT. There is some good writing in it, even if the busy layout means that some of it is hard to find.

American comic Scott Capurro writes a monthly column, as does Canadian film-maker Bruce La Bruce. And there’s quite a lot of travel, so the international gay playboys are well catered for.

Highlights this month include a feature on the ‘pink glass ceiling’in the world of big business, an interview with playwright Tony Kushner and an appraisal ofTony Blair’s gay legacy.

I’m not sure why it’s been called ‘The Luxury Issue”, unless it’s an attempt to lure in big-name advertisers. But the cover image of two men sipping champagne on a plane looks a little tired. They had a similar cover a few months ago (1).

From the same stable as GT is AXM. Another magazine with an abbreviated title, this one used to be known as Axiom and was largely dedicated to gay men’s health issues. Now it’s dedicated to the advertising elixir known as gay youth.

A typical issue will feature a half-naked pup on the cover, and some ‘youth’oriented article inside about the problems faced by gay teenagers (the sexual objectification of young gay men is a subject rarely addressed). This month’s coverline asks ‘Are you a man or a boy?’and shows a strapping lad gripping a baseball bat in what can only be described as a suggestive fashion.

Speaking of fashion, there’s also a ‘hot, hot, hot’underwear shoot and a guide to the best white jeans. In fact, remove the word ‘gay’and the pages of pornographic advertising and this could just as easily be a magazine for young girls. I suppose some might call that progress (2).

Barely in its teens, Attitude is still very much the cock of the walk. Of these three monthly gay mags, it has the widest circulation and the biggest cover stars. Recently it’s had Madonna, Elton John and George Michael. This month it’s Rufus Wainwright, who poses with two men in see-through pants and talks about his boyfriend, his new album and why Madonna is responsible for the decline of Western civilisation (no mention of her impact on sales of Attitude).

Elsewhere there are interviews with Marc Almond, Armistead Maupin and Ivan Massow, and an appraisal of Ellen Degeneres. There’s also a dayglo fashion spread reminiscent of The Face in its Eighties’ heyday, and a bizarre Q&A with Sinitta, in which she reminds us that gay serial killer Colin Ireland was a big fan of her music.

The design is clean and easy to read, and there’s an irreverence to the writing which leads some to suggest that Attitude might be too frivolous. But with a provocative piece about outing by Tim Teeman of The Times, and Independent columnist Johann Hari weighing up the chances of us ever having a gay prime minister, there’s a healthy balance of pop culture and gay politics (3).

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