First founded in 2001, iconic gay mag BUTT is back. Its editor Andrew Pasquier tells us why.
– BUTT returned this spring after a ten year hiatus. Can you tell us what BUTT is, what happened to it and why it’s back.
Simply put, BUTT is a magazine that publishes photography and interviews about alternative LGBT culture and sexuality. Yet, since debuting in 2001, BUTT has also grown into a community of like-minded fags – from our home city Amsterdam to around the globe. After taking a few years hiatus, BUTT returned with its 30th issue earlier this year. Despite LGBT visibility being at an all-time high, BUTT’s style of candid intergenerational dialogues about life, sex, and culture seemed to be missing. We think it’s valuable to revive the platform for a new era, with a more diverse group of people in on the conversation.
– You have heavyweights such as Bruce LaBruce interviewing Jordan Firstman in this issue (#31). BUTT is clearly a calling card to the higher echelons. How did it establish itself as such?
While BUTT has featured many cult or famous contributors and subjects over the years, I wouldn’t say it chases celebrity or pop appeal. In fact, its eclectic mix – a horny interview with a big artist, followed by one with an unknown guy-next-door – is what makes the magazine special and feel more timeless. By portraying people as both sexy and intelligent, without a filter or commercial aim, BUTT gained a dedicated following and the respect from many well-known gay figures.
– Firstman says, “I don’t see the point in gay culture anymore.” Hilton Als mentions, “I don’t know what gay life is like now”. Meanwhile, your cover star Yoni, a gay Ethiopian who lived for two years in a refugee camp in Greece before moving to Newcastle, reminds us that being gay is still criminal in Ethopia and punishable by up to 16 years in jail. What do make of this contrast between a sense of western ‘ennui’ and the fight which remains to be fought?
It’s a key tension that emerges in the latest issue, and one that reinforces how much geography and personal circumstance determines how we relate to or even value queer community. I think it also speaks to the way that what we call ‘gay culture’ has moved from the margins to mainstream in the U.S. and Western Europe. What was once subversive is no longer considered so. When being gay alone is no longer a reason for discrimination, does the label lose significance? Certainly, any sense of a monolithic thing called ‘gay culture’ is silly – this criticism is nothing new. And as a magazine that embraced subcultures from the beginning, BUTT has always contended with generalizing or commercial depictions of homosexuality. I think it makes sense that the mainstreaming of gay culture in many domains produces a certain ennui among the members of the ‘community’ that makes them question what the labels really means. Yet, this perspective often comes from a position of privilege – politically, geographically. In the new issue, both Yoni’s narrative and Wolfgang’s Tillman’s interview with Matthew Blaise, a queer activist in Nigeria, are important reminders that in many places these broad labels do still matter a whole damn lot.
– The tone of interviews is unflinchingly honest and downright dirty at times. How important is the inter-generational pairing of people with a mutual respect in order to delve deeper than usual such as with the case of Sophia Lamar interviewing Arca?
So much media is obsessed with youth culture and sex appeal. But people in their 40s, 60s, or 80s know a whole lot more about life (and sex) than most 25-year-olds. In the case of Sophia and Arca, so much has changed in what it means to be trans and how to talk about it over the past 40 years. The interview feels especially valuable since they are able to sidestep a lot of the political correctness you’d expect in a magazine, with all the juicy details about rimming and one-night-stands that you only get in a magazine like BUTT.
– Can you tell us about design and print considerations? The pocket-sized pink minimalism is still intact.
Yes! The magazine itself is still pink and fits in your hand. While we’re continually evolving the design with each issue, we’ve focused more on remixing who appears in and contributes to the magazine since relaunching in order reflect where queer culture sits in 2022 and the future. With a focus still on sex, I’d still say be careful who you sit next to on the bus while flipping through it! Print copies of issue no. 31 are now available at shops across Europe and for order online – our last issue we sold out within a couple months.
BUTT magazine 31, Autumn 2022, out now.
Words: Michael McDermott