In an attempt to rectify the lack of diversity in LGBTQ publishing, Gay Times hired a new editor, Josh Rivers, a British-American person of color, an action that would seem to be a big shift for Britain’s oldest gay magazine and the white-dominated gay media establishment in general.
Of course, this was a celebratory step for the 31-year-old Rivers—who is, in the eye of this beholder, a collegiate golden Adonis. The situation also promised to the community a step beyond narrow representations of perfect white male bodies toward an embrace of inclusivity.
The hope that Rivers would helm, as he put it, “a monthly journal that speaks to the vast and varied lived experiences of our community—in its entirety” was dashed to the ground when BuzzFeed News uncovered an undeniably terrible series of tweets, ranging from 2010 to 2015, issued by Rivers, filled with Mean Girls bigotry and malice. One tweet read:
There were other anti-Semitic statements on Rivers’ Twitter account.
Though Rivers’ introduction letter to Gay Times readers pandered to “the vast and varied lived experiences of our community,” Rivers had previously tweeted, “The creepiest gay men are short, old asian men with long nails. Fact.” He went lower on the bigot scale by tweeting, “Long day. How would I type that with Chinese accent? Wong way?”
Unfortunately, examples don’t end there. BuzzFeed News culled from Twitter dozens of public expressions of hate and intolerance to Africans, Egyptians, women, lesbians, transgender people, homeless people, imperfect body types of any kind—all peppered with despicable language.
In his recently assumed role of Gay Times editor, the present-day refined version of Rivers was confronted with his past tweets. Patrick Strudwick of Buzzfeed News described his initial reaction as stunned silence. As Strudwick continued reading the foul tweets, Rivers was in disbelief, asking for the links, repeatedly saying, “Wow,” before finally forming fuller sentences.
“I think it shows an immaturity, a certain amount of self-loathing. I think it shows that before recently I hadn’t been aware of the effects that social media and using platforms in such a nasty and pernicious way had…it shows I have grown.”
The comments sure do show a bitchy immaturity. Rivers is 31, and the tweets are as recent as 2015. He claims to have had a political awakening “in the past couple years.” Two years is a short time to have such a Pygmalion transformation from his crass public persona. Strudwick suggests the tweets reveal a racist. This writer hopes that it is possible for any individual to evolve out of the “self-loathing” that generates such belligerent prejudice, but Rivers’ questionable sincerity might be drowned out by opportunism.
Mere hours after his past tweets were brought to light by BuzzFeed News, Rivers was put on suspension “pending an investigation” by Gay Times. He has since been fired.
“Josh Rivers’ past tweets do not align with the values of Gay Times, or any of our employees, in any capacity.”
While it is puzzling that anyone with Rivers’ ambition would have amnesia about posting such offensive statements on social media, it is also curious that Gay Times did not conduct more careful vetting when hiring a new editor to exemplify their commitment to inclusivity. If Rivers did indeed have a politically correct epiphany at age 29, then why did he not say so in his mission statement? Why couldn’t he admit to being a shallow mean spirit before his conversion to a positive life? That would have been a strand of hope.
This notion that Gay Times was striving to break away from representation of the ideal perfect white male to better “serve the magazine’s diverse and culturally inquisitive audience,” rings hollow: though Rivers is a person of color, he is handsome, ripped with muscle, and could easily model for Tommy Hilfiger. Did Gay Times consider anyone less glamorous? How about a seasoned veteran of publishing? There has to be hundreds of qualified older queer POCs of all shapes and physical abilities who would be fantastic and creative as editor of Gay Times.
Now that Rivers is gone, Gay Times can perhaps expand their list of editorial candidates to choose a voice that truly reflects the “entirety” of the LGBTQ community.