Why I’m ignoring my Instinct from now on.

And ... done.

I’ve decided to let my subscription to Instinct magazine lapse.

I’m normally pretty tenacious about my magazines: Our postal carrier no doubt dreads the time of the month when publishers drop their trove of titles, because our house is Mailbox Zero. Even if the pages are filled with destinations and objects that I’ll likely never be able to enjoy — I’m looking at you, Condé Nast Traveler — I still can enjoy the “what if?” fantasy. And on a more basic level, as an editor and page designer I can appreciate the photography, the design, the conceptualization and the writing.

I had been on the fence about Instinct for a while. It’s one of the few gay print magazines left in the U.S., and in such a hostile environment for all print publications, I feel like they need support more than ever.

But Instinct has become the publishing equivalent of that gay restaurant you go to because you want to “support the community” but every time you end up leaving a little nauseated. In this issue’s letter, the editor traffics in stereotypes (gays are “sassy,” their clothes “have to be perfect”) and is astounded — his word, not mine — when he realizes that there’s a whole segment of gays who don’t live the WeHo lifestyle, which he refers to as “all that is gay.” (This revelation occurs while he is on a gay cruise.) There’s fashion that involves sweaters, scarves, cuffed shorts and chukka boots — all in one outfit. (It is nice to see that guy from the Undergear catalog is just as pretty fully dressed, though.)

The cover story profiles a former Rufskin model who is HIV-positive, has a boyfriend who is not, and has started a site that sells swimwear, underwear and jewelry for men (and online subscriptions for “more content”). Here, as far as I can tell, is the premise: Sure, you might already know someone with HIV, but they’re probably not, you know, HOT.

The boyfriend “effortlessly crosses arms so bulky that one wonders how he does it without discomfort,” and has “a big ol’ bodybuilder frame.” The article discusses the Polaroids on the table — no, not a table, but “the lacquered wood surface between us” — that show both men’s physiques that are “a prize that’s impossible to ignore whether seeing them in person or picture.” We get it. They’re buff.

The article is awful.

“I have a dream to show people that I’m positive, strong, healthy and in a great relationship,” he announces for the first time to the world.

I have a dream: a thread of words forever woven into the cultural fabric of equality and social evolution. They slip with humility from Matt’s lips on a balmy day in New York’s West Village, carrying the same hope they held nearly half a century ago. His contribution to the vibrant tapestry—publicly coming out as HIV positive—materializes in periods of deep thought, punctuated with the clenching of his chiseled jaw. He delivers his story mindfully.

Really? Clenched chiseled jaws? Mindfully? Vibrant tapestry? That’s only four paragraphs into a five-page story. I can understand that the scale of a national spotlight will be daunting to this couple — but it’s been 15 years since Greg Louganis announced he was HIV-positive. Nearly 20 since Magic Johnson did. Rudy Galindo, Tom Bianchi are all alive — and well. In fact, people with HIV are hanging around so long and looking so healthy there’s been a resurgence of younger people engaging in unsafe sex because they think, “Hey, HIV isn’t so bad after all! Look at that buff guy in that magazine!” There is no news in this news, except for the name — OK, the body — attached.

When I was working at the Tribune, my editrix once kicked back a story with a note at the top: So what? (Why write this article? Why should it be published now? Why would readers care?) “So what?” is missing from this article — or maybe it’s just been buried under the mountain of muscle metaphors and gratuitous gushing. This article could have, as the couple suggested, sparked “a fresh conversation about what it means to be HIV positive in an era when the disease doesn’t carry a death sentence.” But all we get is breathless idolatry.

WHAT SAM WORE: 07-11-10
The shirt: V-neck tee by BDg, from Urban Outfitters.
The shorts: Mesh rugby shorts by Champion, from Sports Authority.
The shoes: Customized Converse All-Star slip-ons, from converse.com.

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