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Crabs in the Barrel: The Problem with the Gay Press

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As individuals in a marginalized group, we are often all placed together into a single pot by society. In this case, I am referring to the queer pot (but this happens around race, gender, age, religion, class -- you name it). All of us, as members of the LGBT community, with all our differences, have this one thing in common: we are the minority. There is something about all of us that is unlike much of the rest of the world, and much of the rest of the world's reaction to that difference can be painful, isolating, and dangerous.

Frequently, members of the greater community become fixated on our sexuality or gender expression, and they try to lump us together, assign us roles within our designated letter of the acronym, and dehumanize us in the process. One would hope this outer pressure would be enough to bring us together as LGBT people, that we would unite and become stronger in numbers and build a community so organized and powerful that our being a minority no longer mattered. Sadly, this has not been my experience as a man-loving man, nor in my work with gay organizations, nor as an out artist in the entertainment industry.

Being a public figure in the queer community is tough. You have to have pretty thick skin to tolerate the external homophobia that comes at you as a result of increased visibility, but I think I was raised to expect this, so it's never a big shock when it happens. I know the world wants to see me dead on some level, or at least see me stop being such a "goddamn fag," so it doesn't surprise me when that pressure arrives. I recognize it coming a mile away and have learned methods of processing the external hate in such a way that it no longer hurts me. I have not, however, found or been able to develop a way of moving through the crab mentality of my own community without injury.

For those of you who have not heard this saying before, "crab mentality" (also known as "crabs in the barrel," or "crabs in the bucket") refers to the metaphor of a pot of live crabs about to be killed. Individually, the crabs could escape from the pot without any trouble, but when they are all in the pot together, they grab at each other in a pointless domination game that prevents any of them from escaping, thus ensuring their collective demise. When related to human behavior in social movements, the term is most commonly used in association with a short-sighted, non-constructive approach instead of a unified, long-term, productive mentality. As an openly gay musician, I have experienced this problem mostly via the gay press. Certainly, I've received my fair share of nasty emails and messages from people online and in person over the 10-plus years I've been doing this, as well, but there's a distinctive sting that comes from someone in the queer media pulling me and my people back into the pot, and I believe that action trickles down into our culture and leaks out into our community consciousness from there.

In 2009, just as my record From Pillar to Post for The Dandy Warhols was about to be released, a major LGBT magazine in the U.K. (which shall remain nameless purely out of my not wanting to promote their shitty rag on The Huffington Post) ran a story on me that called me a fat, ugly, "ginger bear," stating at one point in the article that "Logan Lynn is proof that some music is best listened to with your eyes closed." I remember standing in the bookstore with my friend, reading it and remarking on how strange the feeling of being made fun of in print was.

I had gotten bad reviews before, but that's not what this was. This particular gay male writer had actually enjoyed the record; he just didn't like my fat, ugly, "ginger bear" body, and he proceeded to tell the rest of the queer community of Europe in glossy, major-magazine print that they shouldn't, either. What was the point of that? What about my face had made this writer be so cruel? I did my best not to internalize this new form of bullying, bought all the copies of the magazine wherever I went the rest of the month to minimize the local damage (something I had seen Carrie Bradshaw do on Sex and the City once), and counted the days until the next issue came out. This experience left me wounded, in spite of my attempts at not internalizing it, and the effects of this writer's "review" remained with me for years.

I started working with Portland's LGBT community center in 2010 and have noticed this all-too-familiar crab mentality playing out on the local level here, as well. I fear this may be the nature of queer culture and media these days. Sensationalized "news" pitting community members against the organizations working to help them, reporters all seeking out gossip for sound bites instead of facts for real stories, editors infusing the personal opinions of publishers into their political reporting, papers highlighting advertisers instead of readers to secure funding -- the list goes on and on, and more often than not, the keepers of our community voice have their own agendas they are pushing.

These hidden agendas get picked up by the people receiving the message and spread like a virus from there, disguised as the community's voice, but it's not actually the community's voice anymore; it's just some asshole who wants you to buy what they are selling, some king crab with more influence than you who doesn't want you to see the big world outside the crab pot. This is why it is so important for us to be the keepers of our own stories, and why LGBT organizations that help to facilitate a more unified community are vital to the ongoing progress of our movement.

If you don't like how your story is being told, disengage from the ones telling it and find ways to tell it yourself. They are everywhere! If you are an advertiser, get to know the content of the media outlets you support with your marketing dollars. Do you agree with how they are portraying your community? If not, find media outlets that are more in line with your values -- or get the word out about your business through partnerships with nonprofits and resource centers doing the work you actually want your dollars to support.

I challenge the local, national, and international queer press to step back and look at the bigger picture. I suggest that you work harder to be journalists instead of just lazily stirring the pot we have been placed in by those who would do us harm. Empowering the LGBT community and our allies rather than being the evil media crab claw that pulls us down to our collective demise will no doubt serve you better in the end. Some of us are actually still paying close attention to what you print, and we can tell the difference between the two.

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