Time was, gay and LGBTI pop stars hid in the closet – or in more recent years, watered their sexualities down.
Not so rising star Aaron Porter: a handsome, soulful Rn’B singer from Sussex, England, who serves as a prime example of where queerness and pop culture intersect in 2018.
‘I love being a man, and I love being gay,’ he tells us. ‘But I’m really open to everyone doing their own thing.’
In debut song BOY (and its accompanying video), Aaron not only proudly asserts his gay male identity, but effortlessly deconstructs issues of femme-shaming, toxic masculinity and what it means to be straight acting through snappy lyrics and thirsty visuals.
‘Gay guys are like “Oh no, I wouldn’t go with him because he’s too femme”
‘It’s about being your “own boy”,’ Aaron tells GSN of the song. ‘But it’s not aimed at just boys, as in, the gender. It means have strength in yourself to go your own way.’
The 26-year-old – whose penchant for styling his muscular physique in gender-fluid clothing is plain to see in the video – reveals he wrote the song after refusing to be straight-acting to appeal to another guy.
‘I wasn’t going to compromise myself to be attractive to them,’ the former Brits School student explains. ‘I broke down that toxic masculinity. I know people are going to judge the way I dress, and I don’t care about that.’
Aaron, who is single and came out aged 20 (‘I sent a message out to everybody in my phone book’), adds that femme-shaming’s a huge issue among gay men.
‘Gay guys are like “Oh no, I wouldn’t go with him because he’s too femme.” Or “his voice is too high.” It’s like “What?” How are we a part of this?’
‘And it’s in all of us. That’s the saddest part. I find myself regularly pushing myself to not be that guy. But it’s engrained. But you’ve got straight-acting guys that are doing just that, acting straight. Then you’ve got people who are really femme, and people are calling them fake. They’re not the fake ones. They’re the courageous, beautiful ones who aren’t afraid to be themselves.
‘A couple of years ago I thought: “That’s what I want to be. I want to be the confident one.”‘
And one of the most ironic consequences of Aaron embracing his feminine side? He gets hit on by straight women all the time.
‘I can appeal to straight men and women too,’ he insists. ‘I’ve had opportunities and situations before… I’m terrible for it. If there’s a group of girls and they’re interested, I’ll totally play up to it. Then at the end I’ll be like “girls…I’m definitely a gay. But we can still got for drinks!”’
‘I can only thank MNEK, Troye Sivan and Years & Years’
While Aaron’s aware of how far the music industry has come (‘no one’s ever tried to make me be anyone but myself’), he’s still wary of the lack of role models for young gay black men in the public eye.
‘We’ve obviously got MNEK – I’ve written with him, he’s so crazy talented,’ he says. ‘Other than that I wouldn’t say there’s many. Thats’s why it’s so amazing that this is happening in music right now – there’s a few gay pop stars on the rise. It’s never been that way before. I’m so excited I can join in and open with this song. So I can only thank artists like MNEK, Troye Sivan, Years & Years, for doing their thing amazingly.’
BOY is out now