LES FABIAN BRATHWAITE
Senior Editor of OUT Magazine, Les Fabian Brathwaite, reflects on being the only black queen in queer publishing, bodybuilding contests and not fucking with basic dudes…
YOUTH and ROLEMODELS
How was your youth, did you have a role model growing up?
I was really quiet and shy as a kid but I always looked up to my divas: Diana Ross, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, etc.
Do you remember your first crush?
What was your relationship with queer culture growing up?
I really gained an early understanding and love of queer culture, especially camp – I was a voracious consumer of classic films and anything that involved powerful, fabulous women. And I did my research. I was the only kid in school with an encyclopedic knowledge of disco.
What advice would you give to your adolescent self?
Live your life, gurl; black is beautiful; and don’t fuck with basic dudes.
What traits do you look for in a potential boyfriend?
Intelligence, a sense of humor, a dedication to altruism and a love of fitness. Oh, and a great ass.
“I mean, for the longest time I felt like “the only one” – the only black queen out here in these streets – and that loneliness was a reflection of my experience as a queer man of color in America. Still, I’ve always felt the best way to effect change is to just change shit – get in a position of power – so I’ve steadily worked my way up the queer media chain.”
As the Senior Editor for OUT Magazine and as a bodybuilding enthusiast how do you approach the issue of negative body attitudes and anxiety?
I’ve written extensively about my own body issues just as a way of dealing with my anxiety and insecurities, and I’m always heartened by the positive response I get from those pieces because it just means that I’m not alone in my feelings. I’ve also stopped comparing myself to other men and their bodies, instead making sure that I’m doing what I need to feel healthy and happy and not simply working out to look a certain way or to attract dudes.
Do you think the body positive movement has reached the queer community and what needs to happen to overcome the stigma of a gay man’s relationship with health and fitness?
It’s definitely reached certain parts of the queer community, but not necessarily the gay cisgender male community, which is notoriously stubborn. In order to change the relationship gay men have with health and fitness, we all should be honest about our personal struggles with body dysmorphia and other issues that can affect the way we perceive and value ourselves. And also, social media is the devil and I think we would all be better off without it. Beware thirst traps!
How has the social landscapes of queer culture changed since your time at OUT Magazine?
Since I’ve been writing for queer publications everything has changed: we got marriage equality, we got super empowered, then we realized that it can all be taken away if we’re not fucking careful and vigilant.
With the launch of Grindr’s INTO and Condé Nast’s THEM, both publications championing people of color and traditionally marginalised minorities. Apart from THE TENTH (est. 2014) and CAKEBOY (est. 2015) why do you think it’s taken so long for the manifestation of more diverse queer voices in queer publishing?
I mean, for the longest time I felt like “the only one” – the only black queen out here in these streets – and that loneliness was a reflection of my experience as a queer man of color in America. Still, I’ve always felt the best way to effect change is to just change shit – get in a position of power – so I’ve steadily worked my way up the queer media chain. It all has to do with who’s in charge and making the decisions, and of course, those people are usually cis white men; and they have also been the main targeted audience for queer pubs, because they are whom advertisers target and they’ve been the public face of the community. But as that face has changed and queer people of color have created space for ourselves in the media – thus expanding what it means to be queer and what queer looks like – it only makes sense that publishing would eventually follow suit.
What’s your Go-To track for exercising?
Black Box feat. Martha Wash, “Everybody, Everybody”
Michael Jackson, “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”
Rick Ross, “I’m Not a Star”
And whatever new track the kids have turned me onto.
“Intelligence, a sense of humor, a dedication to altruism and a love of fitness. Oh, and a great ass.”
What have you learnt about yourself this year?
I think I began to realize the extent of my powers – as a writer, as a black man, as a queer man, as a human being. Once you realize your power, you don’t have to put up with anyone’s bullshit, and I’m very much in that headspace.
Are there any young writers or creatives that make you excited for the future?
Honestly, I’m excited for all these new queer mags and the stories they’re going to tell; I love me some Lena Waithe, I’m really excited for what she’s been doing and will continue to do; and I love Garth Greenwell, who wrote one of my favorite queer books in recent years, What Belongs to You.
Fitness goals for 2018?
Just get bigger, more defined, maybe compete in a bodybuilding contest. Oh, and it would be good to cut back on my drinking and indiscriminate drug use.
Do you have any future projects that you’re currently working on?
I’ve got a few things I’m working on but none that really merit discussion because they’re still in very nascent stages. But I’m trying to focus more on my own writing, in addition to my work.
What would you graffiti on the back of toilet door?
“CUNT (since, 1985)”