A recent article for Variety highlighted a meeting of some of the biggest names in LGBTQ pop culture and music. Hosted by Lucas Keller of the Milk & Honey management company, Brett McLaughlin (better known by his stage name Leland) and James “JHart” Abrahart, attendees included pop-rock stars Troye Sivan and Adam Lambert, hitmaking writer/producer Justin Tranter and more.
The group discussed what it meant to be openly gay in the industry over brunch, highlighting the fact that many queer artists face homophobia on a regular basis. “Whether it’s passive or aggressive, there’s always something,” said Tranter. “I won’t get put in certain sessions because they’ll think: ‘Oh, he would never understand that.’ That sort of stuff happens all the time.”
For some, homophobia is less blatant; Sivan said that he understands why young artists would choose to remain in the closet at the outset of their careers. “We’re all pushing for change, but we’ve got a really long way to go,” he said. “So I don’t blame anyone for that [choice]. I would like to think that events like this are creating a safer space for everyone to be open about who they are, but I don’t know if we’re there yet.”
For others, homophobia is a rampant, destructive issue; pop singer Parson James said that when he came into the industry, not seeing the support of a label run by queer people was extremely hurtful. “That was soul-crushing, just because you’re in a position of power to empower people like me — and people like those who are coming up and wanting to express themselves,” he said. “It was a dark realization about the monetization and the product that you become when you’re in the industry.”
Lambert described his public coming out experience as “being thrown into a pot of boiling water,” and added that “There were moments after my first year or two on the scene where I started getting insecure. I started thinking: ‘Do I need to change who I am to fit in, or to achieve success?’ The thing I’ve learned the hard way is that you can’t please everybody.”
While the meeting was undoubtedly successful in addressing the problem of homophobia in the industry, many others called it out for having another problem entirely. Singer, Broadway star and YouTuber Todrick Hall tweeted in response to a photo of the event, “Love that this is happening. Sad that there appears to be no people of color in the photo.”
Love that this is happening. Sad that there appears to be no people of color in the photo. https://t.co/n1mtA3QGn1
— Todrick Hall (@todrick) May 23, 2018
Others jumped on board, saying that an event calling for acceptance of queer artists should be including non-white and non-male queer artists as well. One of those who criticized the meeting was Tranter himself, who tweeted after the story’s publishing, “To everyone upset about the lack of diversity here, you should be. I didn’t organize the event, I just attended. A lot of my quotes about the extreme lack of diversity in the room, and the importance of intersectionality, were not published.”
To everyone upset about the lack of diversity here you should be. I didn’t organize the event, I just attended. A lot of my quotes about the extreme lack of diversity in the room, and the importance of intersectionality were not published. Sent with love. https://t.co/Xmb8z4YboT
— Justin Tranter (@justtranter) May 23, 2018
Parson James chimed in as well, adding that while he was disappointed at the lack of diversity in the room, he was glad the conversation was happening. “While it was definitely surprising to be the only POC at this initial event, I am genuinely excited about the conversations this has started to open up,” he wrote on Twitter. “We as a community owe it to ourselves to push events like this further along & learn from each one.”
I was there! & while it was definitely surprising to be the only POC at this initial event i am genuinely excited about the conversations this has started to open up. we as a community owe it to ourselves to push events like this further along & learn from each one. https://t.co/LNvBfnsGWo
— Parson James (@ParsonJames) May 23, 2018
Read the full recap of the industry meeting here.