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Advocate's "Future Leader" says Gay Sex is a Sin

AdvocatecoverI was happy to see the the Advocate was featuring six "future leaders" as their cover story for gay pride month but I was a bit surprised, given their worship of openly gay cover boy Sigma Chi brother Travis Shumake, to read that some of his very basic beliefs about homosexuality spit in the face of my own:

"One topic Travis has not quite broached at Giuliano and May's Sunday dinners is his belief that homosexual acts are a sin. In fact, he tosses out this conclusion so casually that it requires a few minutes of back-and-forth to clarify. Does he mean hooking up with any person before marriage? No, he replies, it is that he's hooking up with a guy. Not that this presents a crippling moral dilemma for him.

'You sin as much as I do,' he tells his straight Christian friends who bring this issue up, 'and this is just one of my sins. It has no heavier weight than your sin, and I ask for forgiveness, and you ask [for] forgiveness, and we're good to go.'"

I have no objection to beauty worship or pretty boys on the covers of magazines — I know from experience that it sells them. But I do feel slightly betrayed when I read an article and admire five out of six of its subjects, yet the one with the most questionable (dare I say self-loathing) philosophies is worshipped with a cover and four-page photo spread straight out of the pages of Abercrombie and Fitch.

Could the Advocate have featured any one of the other kids on the cover? Could they have done without the four page "boy with horse"/"boy rolling in grass with tummy showing" fashion spread in the context of a "gay future leader" article when the five other minority and female kids are given thumbnail photos in comparison?

Is it a sign of the times that the Advocate is elevating Christian youth who share values with religious leaders who would send us to hell? Is it a hip story, then? I don't disdain Christians, just the hating homophobic ones. The magazine might have presented Travis in a way equal to the other kids—just one of six kids, each with his or her unique story. Instead, they pictorially masturbated over a kid who thinks homosexual acts are a sin, and in their own way showed a certain tolerance (fueled by a calculated grasp at newsstand sales) for the filthy rhetoric the religious right uses to try and deny rights to most of their readers.

Still, compared to most of the work they do, this infraction is a minor (if greedy) sin. I suppose if they ask for forgiveness from the magazine gods they'll be good to go. That's all it takes, right?

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  1. Under these circumstances, I also have to ask: in what forum is this young man supposed to be a gay leader of the future? A fashion leader? A leader in rationalization? When I think gay leader, I think Harry Hay, Barney Frank, Mary Buonato, Larry Kramer. These people have a value system--they dug in and held fast. I don't think someone who seems eager to sell me out quite so easily is someone I want to see leading any aspect of gay life except perhaps the eye candy business.

    Posted by: Will | Jun 13, 2005 2:42:27 PM

  2. I have to agree with Andy. I thought the same thing. When I was done reading I shook my head and thought why focus on him if he thinks he is a sinner. How can he be a leader? I also thought he may not be very bright but has charm, great looks and a winning personality. He should do well in politics. Who knows he may be smart but he came off a little vapid. But he 6'4 of cuteness

    Posted by: Donald | Jun 13, 2005 2:58:24 PM

  3. Call it comprising your integrity among other things. The fact that THE news magazine for the gay community is pandering to Christian groups in a bid to reach a wider audience means that the editors are either scared or worse exploiting a theory in order to gain just a bit more acceptance. It really does sound pathetic though. You are right there are others who could be featured on the cover, who wouldn’t reinforce negative rhetoric or self-loathing to the readers that look to the magazine for leadership and inspiration.

    Posted by: matt-chicago | Jun 13, 2005 3:04:30 PM

  4. Real faith -- any faith -- is a journey. You don't, or shouldn't, just say "I'm a Christian" and stop there. Faith means spending the rest of your life struggling to resolve these kinds of issues, asking questions, seeking answers. Sometimes life provides you with an experience that changes your entire perspective on a particular issue. As Travis matures, he might come to a deeper understanding of the nature of sin, or even change his mind entirely. Frankly, given how many people (not just the LGBT community) have been damaged by well-meaning but misguided (and occasionally just plain sadistic) religion, I think it's great the Advocate chose to highlight a gay person for whom faith is a source of strength and a moral foundation. That said, you make an extremely valid point about the beauty bias.

    Posted by: Andy | Jun 13, 2005 3:08:24 PM

  5. I felt the same way when I got done reading that article at a newstand.

    This guy isn't any more a leader than the other five, as Andy points out, but by god, he's the most photogenic, and he's a frat boy, too! So damn, he's going on a cover. But because he's an openly gay frat boy in a traditionally straight boy frat and outspoken, that makes him a leader? To whom? Not to other gays, as for reasons Andy pointed out: that he says his sex life is a sin, and not because it's before marriage. But he's a leader because he's an outspoken homo who's in a straight frat, so ... he must be a leader to straight guys? Because he's building bridges? Because he's comfortable with who he is in a setting that most of us haven't been in? (Admittedly, my frat was not the uber-straight boy frat that Sigma Chi was, but still, it's not like he's the first and only openly gay frat boy in any frat).

    But why is he a leader to straight boys? As Andy's already pointed out, he's not much of a leader for gays, as his message is contrary to what many of Advocate's readers want and hope to see in their leaders who are their contemporaries, and being a leader to straight boys ain't that big a deal...

    So yeah. It just boils down to the fact that he looks good on a cover, on a horse and has a nice little tummy. Terrible.

    Posted by: Schroeder | Jun 13, 2005 3:11:17 PM

  6. As with most media-touted "leaders", this choice disappoints more than most. If all he's got to say is homosex is a sin, that's no different than the Pope (John Paul II) saying that it's not sinful to be gay, only sinful to act on it. If that's the kind of leadership "The Advocate" thinks the gay community wants or needs, somebody over there has some explaining to do before I let the husband renew our subscription.

    Posted by: Alan W | Jun 13, 2005 3:17:50 PM

  7. Thanks for pointing this out. I'm disgusted at this. I can't believe the Advocate let us down ! I thought the excess of photos on this pretty boy (while I enjoyed them) was a bit much. But to know now that he's self-hating (sorry, no other way to say it) and is considered a future leader is a sad state of affairs. I respect gay Christians, and I salute them for exploring their religious beliefs and having a personal relationship with their spiritual side and their god to understand they are ok. But to just believe you are sinning and go on? I feel sorry for him. He really needs to move past this before he can ever hope to lead us.

    Posted by: Bobby | Jun 13, 2005 3:36:11 PM

  8. This is a guy who won freshman class president as an out gay man at Northern Arizona University. This is a man who is openly out as a cheerleader at NAU. He ran for student body president at NAU. He was out to his frat brothers. Out in high school and student body president there, too. He stood up at every single turn. If that's not a role model, I don't know what one is.

    He seems to have issues with the 'sexual' part of his sexual orientation. He doesn't say homosexual sex is worse than adultery or murder like the Religious Right does; far from it. He says it is equal in the eyes of his God. Did he say he is ashamed? Did he say he was embarrassed by his orientation? Guys that are embarrassed don't come out to frat brothers.

    You seem to have issues with his personal beliefs. I think we as gay people need to be able to embrace people who's beliefs are their own and who will stand up for them. It's very clear he's not ashamed to be gay; he is a great role model for young people who strive to achieve but are in the closet. If he is guilty of anything, it is fighting to come to terms with the entirety of his orientation.

    Posted by: ryan | Jun 13, 2005 3:39:56 PM

  9. It never ceases to amaze me how the religion in general (particularly the christian faith) can inspire such hatred on other groups, and onto one's self.

    (This boy is clearly about as deep as the children's section of the community pool)

    Another white, blonde, frat boy wearing A&F is all he is, only he seems to have a pesky streak of self loathing to go along with the aforementioned frat boy physical characteristics.

    My guess is that his christian upbringing has warped his mind as to what is logical and mentally sound.

    The prospect of "sinning" is purely religious and has no scientific or psycholigical support. Flaws are human, no one is perfect. However it seems that he feels the need to state his "sins" are no worse than his straight friends "sins."

    So let me get this straight (no pun intended) if one man's "sin" is beating his wife, is that just as bad as another man's "sin" of being gay?

    Clearly not, seeing how one "sin" is most likely the result of growing up in a violent home, and the other "sin" is simply a neurological/biological abnormality that isn't harmful to anyone.

    Come to think of it, no one had a problem with homosexuality until christianity came along and started murdering people for saying such outlandish things such as the earth revolves around the sun.

    Its a real shame this guy can't even have the common sense to be comfortable with himself.
    I read this blog frequently and I'm not even gay, I think its well written and funny, so I read it, just as I know many gay men who read my issues of PLAYBOY for the same reasons.

    Being gay is a "sin." Having premarital hetero sex is a "sin." No wonder these christians are so miserable!

    -- J

    Posted by: Jason | Jun 13, 2005 3:56:37 PM

  10. I think Andy is spot on and even use the word "filthy" in his peice, which I love. Then againI kissed a christian protestor on the mouth when he called me an "abomination" during Boston's gay marriage struggle, so who am I to say anything?

    I must thank Andy for his insights and also his obvious dedication to making the gay youth of tomorrow as free as possible from the problems we faced as youth. He does not suffer fools easily, nor should he.


    Posted by: Vincent-louis Apruzzese | Jun 13, 2005 4:35:10 PM

  11. OK, I'm landing more with Ryan's previous comments on this one. This discussion feels like another example of the gay community inflicting a one-answer fits all standard on each other when the collective norm doesn't like the answer provided.

    While one may interpret Travis' personal theology as self-loathing, I think the Advocate's coverage of Travis (pretty-boy argument aside) is fine in that is demonstrates some diversity in how gays integrate belief/values with their lifestyle. Especially when this issue deals with one's personal faith, there are bound to be subjective opinions. If anything, a critique of Travis' stance should be made on a theological basis, not a gay theory one.

    It appears that most posting on here are expressing that anyone labeled as a gay leader needs to say, do and believe the same thing. Does Travis speak for all gays? - No. Does Travis speak for all gay Christians? - No. I think the idea is that Travis is an individual who's been a role model in many ways, has clearly stated beliefs, and you may or may not agree with him.

    Posted by: Kurt S. | Jun 13, 2005 4:41:24 PM

  12. I'm not so sure being "out" is such an incredible virtue when the party line that you use to gain acceptance among straight people is the same party line that's used to keep so many other people "in."

    I don't think his "personal beliefs" are the issue here: The issue is that he made the cover of the biggest gay magazine in the country by saying that we are an aberration to God and was appointed a "future gay leader" for doing so.

    As far as his so-called good-looks go, self-loathing is never cute — no matter what your abs look like.

    Posted by: Norman | Jun 13, 2005 5:04:40 PM

  13. I could not agree with you more! He should not have been the "cover" model of this. It's ridiculous! Shame on the Advocate. I guess they feel that he's the prettiest, so he must be the cover! Why didn't they put them all in a shot together? All Six of them? That would be the most fair!

    Posted by: Roy | Jun 13, 2005 5:48:28 PM

  14. Right! Shame on the Advocate for not marching in lock step with your world view!

    I haven't read the article yet, but will when I get it in the mail so I'll reserve judgment on whether I think he's self loathing or not, but I love how you guys are so quick to label someone self loathing if their view of sexuality and gay marriage doesn't exactly match your own.

    Christianity teaches that sex out of wedlock is a sin and that marriage is between a man and a woman. I don't agree with that, but GET over it. There are plenty of gay Christians who feel the exact same way including, apparently, Travis.

    The Advocate is supposed to a news magazine, not a PC correct mouthpiece.

    Posted by: Mitch | Jun 13, 2005 6:18:50 PM

  15. The more I read The Advocate, the more I am appalled that it calls itself a news magazine. It's lazy, lightweight, politically knee-jerk and is as much a real news magazine as People magazine is. We deserve better.

    Posted by: Doug | Jun 13, 2005 7:16:13 PM

  16. The Advocate is supposed to be a gay newsmagazine, sensitive to gay people's issues. And, boy, do gay people have issues around christianity, many for good reason. I say "great!" for bringing this kid's story to it's readers, but not in the context of a future gay leader. I don't think we are the point we we can "get over" the very ideas that are keeping us down. Not yet. Advocating gay christians feelings, no matter how deeply felt,(maybe because of that) that they are "sinful" helps anyone, which is what I hope a future gay leader would be trying to do.

    Posted by: Vincent-louis Apruzzese | Jun 13, 2005 7:17:17 PM

  17. Hey, he is fucking HOT! I hope some nuddie films or pictures surface.

    Say, whatever happened to that Christian boy who wanted to be America's next hot model... and then was exposed to have been a stripper?

    I think Christian guys are soooo fucking hot in bed.

    Posted by: Danny | Jun 13, 2005 7:22:23 PM

  18. I wrote a letter to The Advocate after reading the article - the first letter I've written to a publication in my life.

    I get that this kid is the student body president at his school. And I get that he came out to his frat brothers. I'm missing the "future gay leader" element to the story, though.

    I'm not attacking anyone's "moral" Christian values. And I wouldn't go as far as to say this is a calculated effort on the part of the magazine to propogate the right/Christian agenda. But, even if the quote was simply an oversight, damn them for allowing such an oversight to occur when there are thousands of jaded youth who turn to accessible publications like The Advocate for advice, support and inspiration.

    Posted by: AJAX | Jun 13, 2005 7:28:24 PM

  19. Ryan nailed it. It's guys like Travis who will help gays win acceptance in red states and the GOP, which is where it counts. Travis talks their talk. We don't. Which is why we're shouting against the wind and not winning. Travis isn't. Kudos to the Advocate for having the balls to be forward-thinking and not resorting to the same tired 'accept us because we say so' rhetoric that hasn't, and won't, go far in turning people around.

    Understand this: the arguments in favor of gay rights, acceptance and gay marriage that work for you and me do not work for red-state type Christians. They're not convincing. That's why we need people like Travis.

    The argument for acceptance based on faith and sin is one that sounds like self-hatred to us, but is exactly what anti-gay Christians need to hear. He takes their arguments against accepting gays and turns it around in a way they can understand: that, sure, gay sex is a sin, but it's no worse a sin than all the other sins these same straight Christians commit every day (e.g. sex that isn't in furtherance of procreation, masturbation), and they should treat gay sex with the same grace they treat other sins.

    So stop freaking out. He's not saying gay sex is a sin on par with sex with children or animals or murder. He's saying it's a sin on par with sex outside of procreation or masturbation. How bad is that? Not at all.

    His argument is: sure, it's a sin, but you have sex that isn't in furtherance of procreation, you masturbate, and if it's okay for you to sin and ask for forgiveness, then it's okay for me to do the same. It's an awesome argument because, frankly, it works—it takes the very terms they use and turns it around as a pro-gay argument.

    Now, we can work ourselves into a lather that the premise is flawed--that gay sex isn't a sin--but to do so is to fail. The very people who are anti-gay, who Travis knows, understands and will charm into accepting gays will NEVER change their mind about that premise. Ever. So the only thing to do is take that premise and turn it around: as he put it to them: "You sin as much as I do, and this is just one of my sins. It has no heavier weight than your sin, and I ask for forgiveness, and you ask [for] forgiveness, and we're good to go.'"

    There's a reason why you guys are behind the curve on this. You're working within a certain paradigm, and when you hear arguments that don't support your thesis, you get lost and assume they’re flawed because you've spent a lifetime experimenting within that paradigm. But, as in scientific revolutions, real change only comes when a visionary thinks outside the existing paradigm to come up with an entirely new paradigm.

    This is a new argument in favor of gay rights, and instead of slagging it off as self-loathing, you may need to stop for a bit, think of what it means, think of how successful it is considering the audience it's meant for, and reconsider your opinion of Travis.

    And the comments about frat boy, blond, fashion blahblah--please. While I like what he has to say, come on guys, he's not all that!

    Posted by: Sherm | Jun 13, 2005 7:49:41 PM

  20. Well said Sherm. I've been arguing for years that we must frame our argument in a way that those who are in control and will be in control for the foreseeable future, the GOP, can understand.

    In case you people haven't noticed, we're moving backwards these days, not forwards. We might be right, but we're losing the battle.

    Posted by: Mitch | Jun 13, 2005 8:17:11 PM

  21. Many of the notions for what consitutes a "sin" come from reading the bible in a certain context. I'm not sure masturbation is a sin, unless you ask the Pope about it - and plenty of Christians could care less what he thinks.
    The fact that this guy equates his supposed sin with a straight person lying or cheating, well, most of us can avoid lying or cheating. You certainly could avoid sex, too.
    Does that make a person not gay?

    Posted by: Rich | Jun 13, 2005 8:23:13 PM

  22. You Americans are so caught up with right and wrong that you forget that even gay people are human too. I am gay and Christian. I'll leave it up to God to say what does and doesn't constitute a sin. But he is right, and honest. AND cute. Just because he says that he believes that being gay is a sin, doesn't mean that he's not a future leader. A leader is just a person who shows the way. A leader may have struggles of his own. A leader is NOT a perfect human being!

    Posted by: Nigel | Jun 13, 2005 8:32:29 PM

  23. What else can you say about a magazine that also features non-journalist Jeff Gucker/Gannon on its cover. The puff piece that accompanied it was an even worse piece of tabliod trash.

    Posted by: fstclss | Jun 13, 2005 8:35:12 PM

  24. Consider that Advocate and its companion rag Out have a tendency to write major articles about or feature cover photos of men who are straight and play gay on screen or who are fucked-up like this guy. This happens issue after issue. I don't know why we even bother to subscribe. Surely someone or some company should be able to produce a magazine which features US prominently.

    Posted by: Emery | Jun 13, 2005 8:39:59 PM

  25. Hey everyone -- I am the writer of the Advocate cover story in question, and before I get into a few things, I want to be clear that I'm a freelancer in Los Angeles and I am speaking only for myself and not for the Advocate, its editors or publisher.

    OK. It almost goes without saying that we should expect any honest article about our leaders to examine the full measure of who they are and what they believe, for good or ill, so that we can decide for ourselves whether we want to follow where they are taking us.

    That said, I am always wary of any "future leader" or "youth leader" stories because of exactly what is happening here. With "future" leaders, a great deal of who they are and what they believe are still developing as they age and garner life experience, and, to a degree, I feel it is unfair to force these kids into the same harsh spotlight we reserve for our "current" leaders -- we're really not getting the full picture of who they are going to be as leaders, since, well, they still have a lot of growing up to do. I don't know about you, but who I am and what I believe today, especially with regard to being gay, have changed significantly from who I was and what I believed at 20.

    In Travis's case, our interview was not until *after* his photo shoot for the cover -- at the time, all I or anyone else at the magazine knew was that he'd been twice elected student body president while openly gay (once in high school, once in college) in the predominantly conservative state of Arizona, and that he had strong ambitions to Arizona elected office for his future. Our discussion of religion came, in fact, towards the end of our two-hour-plus interview.

    I have to admit, Travis's beliefs threw me for a loop, but I only thought they made him *more* interesting and complex, and certainly more worthy of coverage in the Advocate. As Travis himself said in the story, he is very proud to be gay, and yet he holds what appears to many as a highly contradictory belief -- what better a demonstration of the profound shifts within his generation of LGBT youth could there be? When I was 20, if I believed what Travis believed, I *certainly* would not be openly gay, let alone appearing on the cover of a national gay and lesbian newsmagazine's Pride issue.

    For those of you who are only learning about Travis's beliefs concerning sin and homosexuality on this blog, I ask that you reserve judgment until after you have read the full story. There you will learn, among other things, that his father was a Southern Baptist minister who never preached against homosexuality, and that he died in a car accident when Travis was 16 -- in other words, there is a context to Travis's beliefs, and before you pass judgment on him, it's worth at least getting to know him at little bit further. Isn’t that what we ask of others before they pass judgment on us?

    Posted by: Adam B. Vary | Jun 13, 2005 9:27:43 PM

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