The Editor Of An LGBTQ Magazine Was Fired After Old Anti-Semitic Tweets Were Discovered
Josh Rivers, the recently appointed editor of Gay Times, and the first Black editor of a gay men's magazine, was fired from his role after it was discovered that he reportedly tweeted comments offensive to different marginalized groups as recently as 2015. Rivers was suspended from the magazine after Buzzfeed News uncovered the old tweets while preparing for an interview with Rivers, and was fired as of Nov. 16, the Guardian reports. "Gay Times does not tolerate such views and will continue to strive to honour and promote inclusivity," the publication said in a statement posted to its Twitter on Nov. 16. Rivers tweeted an apology Nov. 15, calling his tweets — which have since been deleted — "horrible," "abhorrent," "ugly," and "so hateful." He also said the tweets show a "deep self-loathing I've worked hard to overcome." Gay Times has announced it will relaunch on Nov. 30.
Rivers' tweets, from between 2010 and 2015, reportedly contained language offensive toward women, Jewish people, homeless people, and other marginalized groups. The Guardian obtained copies of the deleted tweets. In one from 2011, Rivers reportedly referred to a Jewish character's nose, saying "it must be prosthetic." He also reportedly described Jewish people as "gross," and excluded films about the Holocaust from a call for movie recommendations.
The Guardian reported that Rivers also made disparaging comments toward gay men of Asian descent, transgender people, and plus-size people. He reportedly called one woman a "chav" in a now-deleted tweet, a British slang term that's disparaging toward low-income people. In that same tweet, he reportedly used "abusive language" that implied her children lived with disability, according to the Guardian. Another tweet reportedly thanked rising bus fares for keeping homeless people "off our buses."
In addition to being fired from Gay Times, Rivers was also removed from an online campaign for Chappy, a gay dating app that "pledges to provide a safe space in which 'discrimination by race, religion, disability, gender identity, age or anything else is strictly forbidden,'" reported the Independent. Rivers had previously described Chappy as "deeply encouraging, and a welcome first step towards making dating apps more welcoming places for our community, in all its wondrous diversity," the Independent reported.
Whereas historically, men who have been called out for problematic behavior have rarely, if ever, faced repercussions for their actions, the swiftness with which Gay Times responded to the reported discovery by firing Rivers speaks to a changing atmosphere — one that supports marginalized people as a matter of course. But even when these progressive spaces are quick to respond to allegations of abusive behavior, the fact that abusers were allowed in at all still speaks to the fact that not everyone feels safe in these spaces. Rivers' tweets, which are, in his own words, "horrible" and "ugly," don't come as a surprise to many folks who have to face daily the lack of true intersectionality in queer spaces.
Reports about queer activist spaces being primarily run by and geared toward cisgender white men are common. It's painful to celebrate a step forward (such as, say, the hiring of the first Black editor of a gay men's magazine) only to then have it revealed that that same step forward comes with a history of offensive remarks. Though Rivers stressed how much he has tried to "overcome" his past issues that "prevented [him] from treating people with [...] respect and kindness," the recency of his comments was disappointing to some in the queer community. This can't be said enough: Queer people simply cannot call themselves activists if they do not also fight for all other minorities.
Rivers is not the first queer leader to be called out, and he will not be the last. But with each person like him who is removed from a position of power, especially one where safe spaces are preached and prized, the industry moves closer to genuine safety and inclusivity for everyone.