‘Queerbaiting’ Artists Do Not Deserve Our Attention

Charlie Puth via Instagram.

As I get older, I’m actively trying to set healthy boundaries. Those Instagram self-help accounts finally got to me. I recently saw a reel on Instagram that perfectly illustrated how boundaries can improve your life. Think of yourself as a nightclub that charges a cover. If your cover price isn’t paid, you don’t grant admission. Your cover charge can be a number of things: attention, respect, common courtesy, whatever you may need someone or something to contribute to your life to be a part of it. In return, you will provide something beneficial to that someone or something. It’s rather simple when you think about it.

or queer-baiting [ kweerbeyt-ing ]
Refers to the practice of implying non-heterosexual relationships, attraction, themes, or imagery to engage or attract an LGBTQ audience or otherwise generate interest without ever actually depicting such relationships.

Recently though, I saw something else on Instagram that seemed to infringe a bit on my boundaries. While casually looking at my friends’ stories, I noticed a few people had shared an image posted by recording artist Charlie Puth of him sensually eating a banana. Take a second. What image came to your head when you read those words? …Yeah, you’re not the only one who had that same thought. Thousands of others had a similar thought according to the comments under that photo, with many gay men volunteering to replace the banana. Even Grindr’s Instagram account commented, “i’m hungies.” A few days later, Puth posted a video with one of those Instagram filters. This filter alternated between the Top emoji and the letter B for a few seconds until it stopped on one and therefore assigned you as one or the other. This filter stopped on the Top emoji and Puth states, “I’m gonna go to the top. Cool. I like this filter.” Numerous people commented under that post, “Who’s gonna tell him?”

Oh, trust, he already knows.

Yeah, I let these posts trigger me. To be quite honest, they pissed me off. Obviously. I mean, I wrote a think piece about them. But why did I get so angry? Here’s why: Without paying the cover charge, here is Charlie Puth enjoying the privileges of being in the queer club.

Charlie Puth is a conventionally attractive singer who makes conventionally safe-for-radio music. He has endorsement deals. He’s been nominated for Grammys. Basically, he’s doing ok. He does not need to pander to queers for his success, but here he is doing so and seemingly enjoying it. He’s never even tried to appear as an ally. A cursory Google search for Charlie Puth and gay advocacy revealed that he once tweeted “Gay Rights!!!” Yeah, that’s it. That was the tweet. Well, Charlie, I see you. To quote one of your past hits, “you just want attention, you don’t want my heart.” And with the way my new boundaries are set up, you just don’t make the cut.

“But Jason, didn’t you just say that Charlie Puth doesn’t need to publicly declare his sexuality?” 

Yes, I did say that. He doesn’t have to, even if he is actually queer. But the next generation of queer people do deserve better. We are not where we need to be in this world just yet. The queer youth of today still need to see out and proud queer people succeed. And there are plenty of queer music artists out there who still have not reached Charlie Puth’s level of success simply because they are queer. They’re just as talented if not more so. Greyson Chance, Kehlani, Hayley Kiyoko, and Vincint are just a few queer artists who are out there living their truth and positively representing our community. They’re the ones who deserve our attention, likes, streams and money. Not some heterosexual (as far as we know) who’s teasing us and toying with our emotions for hits on Tik Tok.

Even though more and more queer music artists are achieving mainstream success now, our representation in the recording industry is still low and, personally, I believe that is a shame. I think it’s more of a shame when much of our attention is being thrown at artists who are doing the bare minimum to capture our dollars. Let’s take care of those of our own who are out there fighting the good fight! After all, they’re paying the cover charge, so let’s play their music in our personal nightclubs!

Jason Shavers is a born and raised Pittsburgh native. He is an actor that has worked extensively on stage and not so extensively on screen. Jason is also a self proclaimed expert on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Musical Theater and sitcoms that feature 4 women leads. Yeah, he’s gay AF. Follow him on Instagram. (He / Him / His)