Ryan Fitzgibbon is a man who is sick of the clichés, often perpetuated by major gay lifestyle publications, that surround the gay community.
‘Few of us fit into that mould of what you see on the cover [of gay magazines] and what you see on websites, and what you see in porn’, he says to me over the phone from his office in Sydney. ‘The state of the publishing and fashion media is all about being perfect.’
Fitzgibbon notes that there has been a lot of discussion and effort to change the perceptions of what it means for women to be ‘normal’ and accept and love their bodies, but he believes similar issues exist unchecked for gay men.
‘There hasn’t been the same sort of conversation about gay men. The statistics of gay men with eating disorders, it’s just perpetuated by the kind of things we put out.’
That’s one of the reasons Fitzgibbon decided to start his own publication, Hello Mr. He wants to change the conversation and present relevant material for a generation of men who date men who feel misrepresented.
‘My goal was to not print a rainbow in any of the pages, and I succeeded’, he laughs.
‘[Hello Mr.] is giving voice and giving face to a different type of gay man, who doesn’t really care to be objectified in that same way. Down to the realistic portrayal of how our bodies look, to even the choice of paper I used for the magazine, it’s real and it feels more authentic.’
He also differs from the mainstream in his opinion on the priorities of the gay community. ‘The main topic of discussion is marriage equality’, he explains. ‘It’s really taken the priority and puts a lot of emphasis on our values as an entire generation.’
‘While we all probably share many of those qualities and hopes for our own lives, it’s not really the thing that defines us.’
‘The only images that you ever see… [are] two mums holding a rainbow flag, or two men embracing because they love each other so much. It’s all good and well, but the rainbow flag isn’t all there is to us.’
One of the strongest themes in the first issue is that of vulnerability. ‘There’s such an image of perfection that we feel needs to be upheld’, Fitzgibbon explains. ‘We’ve always had to uphold this hand holding, kissing, perfect image of a family.’
‘[Once we] start to just be really honest about how we felt, what we thought, what we cared about, what really tears us apart, I think a lot of people just really pour their hearts out to share their story.’
Fitzgibbon has certainly tried to capture the stories of a broad cross section of gay men, with contributors of all ages and from all nationalities. This international flavour perhaps stems from the fact that he is quite the globetrotter himself.
After growing up and going to school in Michigan, Fitzgibbon moved to San Francisco to work for a design firm. ‘That job was a consultancy for a global design agency that took me everywhere’, he tells me. ‘I was flying to do market research in India and Brazil and all over the world, and eventually Melbourne as well.’
After meeting a designer in Melbourne and getting a taste of Australia, he decided that Australia was the best place from which to produce and launch Hello Mr.
But now that his Australian visa has expired, he has decided to move to a new city – this time, New York. He tells me that ‘New York is such a hub for media.’
‘Now that I’ve got a physical artifact out there I can really shop it around and get attention by having something to have the conversation around.’
The first issue of Hello Mr. is available now in print or for iPad at hellomrmag.com.
Photography by Luisa Brimble (magazine spreads) and Benny Capp (portrait).
This piece was originally written for On Dit.