By the standards of previous generations, millennials are often dubbed as entitled, lethargic, apathetic, unimaginative and uncultured with an appetite for politically correctness. The same could not be said with the four young men behind the politically incorrect queer podcast Food 4 Thot, a roundtable of wits that doesn’t shy away from topics like religion, unrestrained group sex, civil resistance in the age of Trump, safe spaces in the time of trigger warnings and identity politics.
But this group seems more or less equipped to discuss these topics: Composed of Dennis Norris II (an ex-figure skater turned fiction writer and MacDowell fellow), Tommy “Teebs” Pico (a highly-profiled author, poet and Lambda Literary fellow from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation), Fran Tirado (Associate Editor at Hello Mr. and an AFAR ambassador homodocumentarian) and Joseph Osmundson (associate editor of The Feminist Wire and postdoctoral associate scientist at NYU), Food 4 Thot is like a poppers-induced wonderland created equally for the NPR-tweaked social justice warrior and the diva-obsessed rosé-swilling gay alike.
Speaking with this multiethnic, multiracial Molotov cocktail of queer writers, playwright and critic Marcus Scott conversed with the coterie of Thots about dating apps and contemporary relationships, racial discrimination in and out of the gay community, the present and future of the gay community and equal representation in LGBT culture.
Marcus Scott: What is so astonishing about the lineup of creatives that hosts the Food4Thot podcast is that the group is intentionally diverse, multicultural and multiethnic. Has there ever been an awkward moment where some perspectives have collided with others off-air?
Food4Thot: Oh, we collide plenty on-air too. Just ask Joe and Dennis about Beyoncé’s relationship to capitalism and within five minutes the table will be turned over and Rosé splashed on Joe’s face. In general though, we love and learn from one another. We had an early taping (that won’t be released) where Tommy, as an indigenous person, talked about how he hates the word “tribe” as in “she found her tribe.” And yet, we’ve still said that on- and off-air. When it happens, we realize, oh… OMG, I AM SO SORRY! That’s what being in a relationship is.
MS: In March 2017, Vice published an article that declared that, “LGBTQ Media Is Less White Than Ever, but It’s Still Not Enough.” In the article, the writer noted the cognitive dissonance of homonormative attitudes and how white muscular men are exalted in the press and in society. Do you feel there is a system of advantages and privileges that are gifted to gay white men that people of color aren’t?
Food4Thot: Hahahaha. Also, water is wet. It’s no surprise that mainstream gay “culture” colludes with white supremacy via body politics, so we’re here to take it down, take no prisoners, and take a selfie all the same.
MS: Do you feel gay white men have garnered a monopolization on certain issues or topics that is relevant to all LGBT people? If so, why is whiteness still being praised in gay culture, which has been celebrated as being inclusive?
Food4Thot: Well, gay marriage being the defacto issue of gayness/gay “culture”/gay “media,” and not the murder of trans women of color is evidence that white gay maleness monopolizes the issues of the gay “movement”—a movement, it should be noted, that would not exist without the time, effort, and sacrifices of trans women of color. Gay “culture” is just another site of gentrification in late stage capitalism, and as long as it remains monolithic it will continue to prioritize its most saleable facets, despite claims of inclusivity. So what you do is break up the monolith and expose what’s going on inside.
MS: In the aforementioned article, it also noted that “young, politically engaged [French] people demand LGBTQ media that showcases diversity and social justice more than their older peers do.” What do you think separates gay millennials from previous generations?
Food4Thot: Maybe part of it is that because the stigma around being LGBTQ has lessened somewhat, more people are embracing themselves and because the ranks have swelled so has the desire for a proliferate representation of queerness? Maybe it’s gladiator sandals? Maybe it’s Maybelline?
Dennis: It’s definitely Maybelline.
MS: Has Grindr, Scruff, Hornet, Adam4Adam, Tinder and other apps changed the way we view diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity hook-ups?
Tommy: Maybe? I think a potentially more interesting conversation is how convenience culture in dating makes people so entitled to every particularity of their desires.
Dennis: I think the convenience culture that Tommy refers to here is a big part of the answer to your question, Marcus. Being a gay man of color, I never really understood the extent to which I might be undesirable, or on the other hand, fetishized, until I got my first smartphone in 2012 and joined Grindr. I’m not sure if these apps have really changed the way we think about equal-opportunity hook-ups, but I do think we’re simultaneously both more cognizant of it, when we want to be, and less cognizant, when it suits our needs desires.
Fran: And on top of all this, it is so limiting to try and define an entire population—how we experience relationships, how we include or disclude—with an app. It’s just not what the conversation is actually about, and these recurring conversations about Grindr and Tinder exclude the majority of queer people. Queer people who use apps are only a fraction of us. Can we move on from it already?
MS: I was talking with a friend who felt alienated from the LGBT community, particularly other gay men, because he felt they valued vanity and fabulation over more political and intellectual concerns. He is not alone in this belief. As you know, gay men in particular have a history of valuing wit and advocacy. To some, it feels like we have moved have moved away from that. Do you feel there is some truth to that?
Food4Thot: Our philosophy is, “Get you a show/man that can do both.” It’s also reductive and dehumanizing to argue that you can’t like Beyoncé because then you become a gay cliché. None of us are theater queens, but like who cares if you are? We all love limp wrists and millennial pink, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t political (we’re political AF) and aren’t smart, engaged, concerned. Both the stereotype and the rejection of the stereotype are limiting, and we try to break those things wide open on the show.
MS: What can we do as a community to change the optics of gay culture?
Food4Thot: Listen To Food 4 Thot — it’s our mission, it’s our brand, it’s our currency.
Dennis: Call me crazy but I think the best way to change the optics of gay culture is to be less concerned with the optics of gay culture. Over-awareness of the optics means to some extent, catering to an exterior gaze, and like, who has time for that? Can I just live?
Fran: Amen to Dennis. The only thing that’s wrong with the gay community is people who talk about what’s wrong with the gay community.
MS: What do you feel is the biggest representation issue facing the LGBT community today, especially in terms of the media?
Food4Thot: That we don’t have our own brand of Rosé.
MS: With the amount of ears tuned into your broadcast series, do you feel there is a responsibility that LGBT media experts have to present both positive and negative representations of LGBT culture?
Food4Thot: Positive and negative representations still feel reductive. We just are. And we’re doing it publicly. We’re humans, we fuck, we can be slutty, we can be sweet, we read books, we read each other. These are things that straight people do too, without having to represent their sexuality.
MS: For the most part, you are all social media savvy millenials. What do you feel is the greatest hurdle gay millennials are best tasked with?
Food4Thot: Except Dennis.
Joe: I don’t think gay millennials are tasked with hurdles that other folks aren’t. We have collective trauma, perhaps, in the way that queer people always have. I don’t think Grindr makes it harder to find or keep a man; in fact many relationships start on Grindr. There has always been temptation outside of a relationship. There’s nothing new under the sun; what’s happening now just feels new because it’s happening to us.
MS: Any thoughts on how we can better diversify narratives in LGBT media and arts?
Food4Thot: Listen to Food 4 Thot, also other queer, brown things! Give them money!
MS: For readers who may not have tuned into your podcast, #Food4Thot is very brazen with the sexuality and sensuality presented so candidly. It’s so fresh and innovative. But certain groups of people demonize sexuality. How do you think we can express sexuality to be presented even more as natural, healthy and liberating in pop culture?
Tommy: Ask less what people think and ask more what do you really want?
Dennis: I think we can do that by simply being honest and putting it out there. Forcing people to see you, to hear you, to recognize your existence and humanity.
MS: Any sex-related horror stories you care to share?
Food4Thot: Listen to the podcast, and you’ll find plenty there.
MS: Finally, just for kicks: Favorite pop icon/diva?
Tommy: Sara Lee, Lil Debbie, and Debbie Downer.
Dennis: Michelle Kwan. One day she WILL have that gold medal.
Fran: Michelle Branch.