Columnist David Kaufman has written a must-read article on the absence of black gay men on LOGO's hit reality show The A-List New York and in the overall media. Personally I view the absence of men of color from the show as a mixed blessing seeing how it perpetuates every negative stereotype about gay men possible, but in 2010 it speaks to a larger problem pertaining to the lack of diversity on television.
From Logo's 'The A-List': A Symbol of Gay Apartheid?
At a time when LGBT people are fighting to end "Don't ask, don't tell" and quell a quasi epidemic of teen suicides, many might ask why whitewashing on trash TV should even matter. The problem is that it's not only D-list programs like The A-List that render invisible black members of the LGBT community.
Of the 23 regular LGBT characters on shows in the 2010-2011 prime-time season, not one is African American, according to GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), the leading LGBT media-watchdog group. As GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios puts it, "Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender African-American people remain largely invisible in the media today."
Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition -- the nation's largest African-American LGBT advocacy group -- attributes black media invisibility to the "gaystream's" traditional "one issue at a time" mentality. "We are all working with limited resources," she says. "But because it already feels marginalized, there's this notion that the [larger] LGBT advocacy agenda can't handle other issues of oppression."
A quick look at the Sundance Channel confirms that this is clearly not the case. Indeed, just days after The A-List ends, Sundance's new show Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys begins. Here, too, the producers exploit a classic LGBT stereotype: gay men and their straight female best friends. But unlike The A-List, this show has actual black folks on it -- Crystal McCrary and Nathan Williams, one of the program's four "couples." The suits at Sundance seem to think that gay black characters are worthy of airtime. So why not Logo?
Perhaps it all comes down to sex -- which the Sundance couples will not be having. In defending The A-List, Logo's PR machine cited its black gay drama Noah's Arc as proof of the network's commitment to multicultural programming. Yet with its all-black cast, Noah's Arc is as mono-racial as The A-List. Logo apparently has no qualms about developing black characters who are mating and relating solely with other black characters. But interracial dating -- not so much.
Did LOGO really cite the cancelled Noah's Arc as their commitment to diversity? Uhmm...ok. It's also important to mention the one black gay person on the show, Desmond P. Smith, is as successful Wall Street executive who owns a $4.1 million dollar mansion but is relegated to background shots. Seems like Smith is the real A-lister.
In any regard, The A-List New York reunion airs tonight at 10PM EST hosted by Wendy Williams if you can stomach it. I guess Williams is LOGO's ode to "diversity".