‘The Queer Advantage’ Proves the Power of Queerness
Andrew Gelwicks’ ‘The Queer Advantage’ hit shelves Tuesday.
Celebrity fashion stylist Andrew Gelwicks is no stranger to the struggle of accepting his queer identity. In fact, Gelwicks once believed his truth was a weakness that would work against him throughout his life. Not only does The Queer Advantage prove Gelwicks’ initial thought untrue, but it affirms the power of queerness.
The Queer Advantage — a book that brings together some of the most powerful voices of the LGBTQ+ community — hit shelves Tuesday. In it, Gelwicks shares intimate portraits and conversations with LGBTQ+ trailblazers such as Troye Sivan, Dan Levy, Margaret Cho, Billie Jean King and George Takei. The conversations focus on the power of queer identity and how leveraging that identity has led to success for various members of the community.
In an interview with Troye Sivan, Gelwicks asks the singer about his journey in embracing his queer identity. Back in 2013, Sivan publicly came out on Youtube before his music career took shape. Gelwicks chose to highlight that anecdote in his book because of how his career has “transcended boundaries” for young queer people all over the world.
“I have been personally inspired by his unapologetic authenticity, and it was important to me to highlight that in this book,” Gelwicks told V. “It is an incredible honor to be able to feature him and I hope readers will be as energized and moved as I was by hearing his story.”
Over 50 thought leaders were interviewed for Gelwicks’ project, and celebrities were not the only individuals included. Interviews range from policymakers to tech-entrepreneurs and even Olympic gold medalists.
Regardless of who answers the question, the consensus among each is clear: the embracement of their queer identity has led them to have better and more meaningful careers and personal lives.
Below, check out an exclusive excerpt from Gelwicks’ interview with Troye Sivan.
I had just finished interviewing Drew Elliott, MAC Cosmetics’ global creative director, and we were sitting on his couch chatting. He asked who else I was hoping to speak with. One of the names I rattled off was pop phenomenon Troye Sivan.
“Oh, you should definitely talk to Troye. He would be great. Want me to text him for you?” Drew asked casually.
“Um . . . YES!”
Drew whipped out his phone, shot off a few sentences, and within minutes received a response from Troye: I’m down!
A few days later, I was on the phone with the megawatt musician. He was as charming, sweet, and thoughtful as I had hoped.
One point he made in particular stood out, and has been on my mind often since. I had never given much thought to the significance of how when growing up queer, we often sought refuge in our own minds. With nobody else to talk to, we were left to figure out what was happening to us, and around us, by ourselves. Deep, maddening, and complex conversations with ourselves—at a very young age—about who we are, why we feel this way, and what this all means.
As a child, I hated those conversations. I found it exasperating. I felt trapped in my mind, often comparing my thoughts to a prison. Troye, though, brought me out of that. He offered up that those conversations were really a miraculous, highly beneficial experience. We were forced to dig deep into our psyches, giving us an attunement that extended far beyond others who never had to question who they were. For Troye, that very act of introspection manifested hit songs, chart-soaring albums, and fans around the world.
You came out on YouTube before you signed with a record label, and before you had established yourself as a musician. What was your thought process on coming out before your music career had taken off, versus going the usual route of establishing yourself and then coming out?
I had been out to my family and friends for a long enough time and I felt really secure in my personal life. I knew I had a great family and friends that supported and loved me. To me, that was the most important thing. Career, music, and opening myself up to the public was something that came secondary, once I felt I had a strong enough foundation. I had heard horror stories of people kept in the closet by executives, record labels, or management. I didn’t ever want anybody to have that power over me: to keep me in the closet or pull the rug out from under my feet.
For me, not coming out was not an option. I knew it was going to happen at some point, so I decided to take that moment and take back the power—so I could come out on my own terms in a way that felt comfortable and genuine.
You’ve talked openly about how when you were growing up, you were hyperconscious of gay “tells”—your mannerisms, the way you walked, talked, danced. As you learned to loosen your grip on those concerns, and started to embrace your identity, did you notice a difference in the music you were creating?
Definitely. Childhood and adolescence as a queer person is not talked about enough. Oftentimes, we end up getting sort of desensitized to the experience. But then I’ll be sitting with queer friends, or talking with my therapist, and something will come up that has lingered. Some sort of insecurity or weird internalized homophobia that I really thought I was beyond, or simply hadn’t thought about in years. It always takes me by surprise to remember how charged those emotions are. So for me, a lot of my adult life as a queer person has been deprogramming and unlearning a lot of things I taught myself or was taught as a little kid.
I’m constantly learning more about myself and experiencing the world as a queer person: your body, sexuality, femininity, style, the way you present yourself to the world. All of these things can be a really loaded part of a queer person’s life without them even necessarily realizing it. The ultimate goal for me is complete freedom to express myself—however I please and however I feel is natural. It’s a work in progress to get to that point and I hope to stay on that journey.
I’m constantly asking myself questions: Why do I feel that way? Why am I nervous to wear that? Why am I attracted to that person? I’m having those conversations with myself. I’ve found the more open and free I am, the better music I create and the happier I am in my personal life.
Do you think there is any connection between your ambition, drive, and work ethic, and being queer?
Definitely. I often think back to feeling like an outcast and not really understanding myself. For me, creative expression was where I turned to in those moments: writing songs, making things, consuming media from all around the world online. Those were the places I turned to when I didn’t know what the hell was going on with myself, and didn’t know where I was supposed to be and who I was supposed to hang out with. I think the normal devices people lean on when they are growing up were different for me as a queer person. For me it’s just about the actual creation as a form of therapy. It’s always been my therapy and I don’t think I would’ve needed that therapy had I been your average bloke going around the school. I don’t think I would have needed to recoil into my bedroom and start making stuff and expressing myself and thinking about the way I feel.
Have you felt the need to work harder because you’re queer?
Being queer and being creative are intensely linked for me. Maybe just the amount of work I do has been directly linked to being queer because, even if I wasn’t doing it professionally, I would need to do it just for my own sanity. When I’m maybe working harder than somebody else, it’s not because I’m trying to prove anything to anyone, it’s just because I feel I have to for myself.
How has being queer advantaged you in your career?
I’m a very privileged, rare case. I don’t take it lightly that it’s not common for somebody to come out and it helps their career. I think we are just starting to see that happening now, for the first time.
I definitely feel like being queer has, at the very least, creatively been a huge advantage for me, and made me much more introspective and thoughtful. I think queer people spend a lot of time in their own brains, talking to themselves, having very intense conversations with themselves, and figuring a lot of shit out. Especially at these young ages when our brains are forming and I think that is a really beautiful thing. Through it comes a lot of incredible art, drive, and sense of belonging amongst the LGBTQ+ community at large.
Add The Queer Advantage to your reading list today.