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A statement on Pride and diversity: ‘We must continue to embrace and understand each other – and strive to do better’

Editor-in-Chief Cliff Joannou addresses the controversy surrounding the inclusion of XXL owner Mark Ames in Attitude's 'Pride In Love' cover line-up.

By Will Stroude

“Diversity is not a trend,” Naomi Campbell told Newsnight in June. Indeed, being inclusive and diverse is not something we can practise for a couple years, fashionable buzz words to be bandied around until the mainstream media moves its fickle spotlight on to a new “hobby.”

At a time when a once-United Kingdom has never been more divided in its identity, representation in gender identity, race and sexuality that reflects society is more important than ever.

LGBTQ rights must never be taken for granted, equality is hard fought for. Our rights and values can all too easily be taken away. “The price of LGBT freedom is eternal vigilance,” Peter Tatchell reminds us.

I’m proud of the achievements and strides that Attitude has made in recent times. During my time as editor in chief, we have enjoyed some remarkably diverse cover stars: Yvie Oddly on the cover of the latest issue, Vogue editor Edward Enninful, designers Olivier Rousteing and Nicola Formichetti, Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown and Tan France, actors Rami Malek, George Takei and Alex Landi, Mashrou’ Leila front man Hamed Sinno, and BBC News’ LGBT Correspondent Ben Hunte.

All these inspiring and talented people have featured on Attitude covers in the past year alone, of which I am incredibly proud. Last month’s summer “Pride” issue featured more than 50 people from the LGBTQ community and our allies embraced in kisses of all kinds, to show love and pride, to commemorate 50 years since Stonewall, photographed across 25 covers for 25 years of Attitude.

We called on people from across the UK’s gay scene and community to participate. We gave it the theme Pride in Love.

I was overwhelmed with joy when the issue was released to much praise. But a good editor is not just about celebrating the achievements of the magazine you helm, it’s also about listening to your audience and understanding when a choice you have made has caused upset in the community you serve.

It was with a heavy heart that I realised that the cover featuring XXL club owner Mark Ames and his partner had caused distress among some of our readers.

The upset pointed to a historic Facebook post made in 2010 (which pre-dated Attitude’s current owner and also my tenure as Editor-in-Chief) that attacked the Muslim community, plus an incident last autumn regarding an “anti-femme” policy at XXL when a customer arrived at the venue in an outfit that went against the club’s dress code.

Both of these incidents stand in opposition to the message of ‘Pride’ and ‘love’ that Attitude – and in particular that issue — stands for.

Attitude wants to reiterate that while we welcome the community’s sometimes-differing opinions, there is no place for racist or aggressive femme-shaming language anywhere in our community.

As it was Attitude that approached XXL to be featured on the cover, I feel it’s appropriate to take responsibility for the situation and share an apology with any readers who have been offended by that specific cover.

I hope that the message we worked so hard to create across all those many beautifully shot covers will be what is remembered, and the work of everybody who participated in the series is celebrated moving forward. We need to continue embracing and understanding (and even forgiving) each other before we can expect the world to do the same.

It seems the concept that “Pride in Love” is something our community needs as much today as it ever did.

Cliff Jouannou, Editor in Chief