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What Barbie Means to Gay Boys

What Barbie Means to Gay Boys

What Barbie Means to Gay Boys

Barbie was a friend, a possibility, a glamorous vessel of pure fabulosity, writes Out's editor in chief.

When I was a kid, the best part of visiting my grandmother’s house — apart from seeing her, of course — was the toys in her attic. I remember the glee I felt when the adults began engaging in their adult conversations, and I rushed upstairs to open what was ostensibly a chest full of G.I. Joe action figures.

However, I had a female cousin. And my grandmother, to keep all her visiting progeny entertained, also kept a box full of Barbies next to Joe. What a revelation she was. I was fascinated by Barbie and her accessories: outfits for any occasion, colorful heels that slipped onto her highly arched feet, the smooth chiseled torso of her boyfriend, Ken. I didn’t know I was gay yet, but I also knew that what I was doing would be frowned upon by my family and society. Whenever I heard footfalls coming up the stairs, I’d push Barbie back into the closet and grab the nearest toy in military fatigues with a gun that I could find.

This week, the Barbie film — directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as the original plastic power couple — is coming to theaters. It’s poised to become the season’s biggest blockbuster. As the world’s most popular doll, Barbie has impacted the lives of nearly everyone on the planet. But LGBTQ+ folks seem to have a special relationship with her. As I write in Out's new Barbie cover story, for us, Barbie was a friend, a possibility, a glamorous vessel of pure fabulosity. And as Gerwig told me, “There’s no way we could have told this story without bringing in the LGBTQ+ community.”

LGBTQ+ actors Alexandra Shipp, Hari Nef, and Scott Evans — the two Barbies and a Ken on Out's cover — give testament to the out-and-proud queer representation in Barbieland. The message is clear: You no longer have to hide in the closet. You’re invited to the party. You are a Barbie.

This message is particularly powerful in 2023, as right-wing forces seek to impose a rigid gender binary on a society that, we thought, had finally begun to embrace coloring outside of the lines. As the rights of trans kids, drag performers, and the greater LGBTQ+ community come under attack, Barbie emerges as an unlikely heroine for us in the culture wars. How happy we are to have her on our side.

Barbie is not the only fictional heroine inspiring trans kids in this. A new Netflix film,Nimona, shows how a shape-shifting girl is standing up for her identity in the face of being demonized by society. This is also the Dating issue, and we’re thrilled to bring back our list of Most Eligible Bachelors, the queer men of Hollywood who make us swoon while helping to make the world better for LGBTQ+ people in the process. Speaking of Ken, our Last Call columnist muses on the qualities that make a man desirable and a bachelor eligible, while our grooming and beauty expert helps bring out that eligibility with pro products for your hair and skin. In our fashion spread, models show off Dior Tears while expounding on the power of clothes to communicate attraction. And in the finance feature, queer couples must choose between love and money as gayborhoods threaten to price them out.

On the topic of romance, we chatted with Cynthia Nixon about season 2 developments in And Just Like That…about season 2 developments in And Just Like That…, where her character, Miranda, pursues a relationship with Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez). Fresh from his Broadway run on Chicago, James T. Lane reveals how self-love saved his life as he prepares to launch his one-man show, Triple Threat.

Moreover, Ballroom legend Kevin Aviance expounds on his love for Beyoncé after her inclusion of his classic track “Cunty” in Renaissance helped launch him back into music stardom. And we give much love to our Out Traveler section as it celebrates its 20th anniversary of inspiring LGBTQ+ folks to explore the world. Past editors discuss this legacy, and we also revisit the queer history of the magazine’s very first cover subject, Charleston, S.C.

Pride season is coming to a close, dear readers, but every day is a new opportunity to look back at our history, celebrate our present, and fight for our future. Take inspiration from one gay icon in Addams Family Values, Debbie (Joan Cusack), who refused to accept society’s designation of her as a Malibu Barbie when gifted one as a girl. “That’s not what I wanted! That’s not who I was. I was a ballerina: graceful, delicate!” she declared. Be your own Ballerina Barbie (or Ken!). Don’t ever let the haters trap you in a box.


Daniel Reynolds
Editor in Chief, Out magazine
IG: @dnlreynolds

This cover story is part of the Out July/August issue, now out on newsstands. Support queer media and subscribe — or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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