Dedicated to shedding a new light on queer culture, Sean Santiago founded Cakeboy: a male-oriented zine that concurrently questions what being ‘male’ actually means. Born in Brooklyn but accessible for anyone interested in “hunting, fishing, finishing, feeling freedom uniquely, ass play, how to tie a bow tie DOWN THERE, nutting on camera, poetry-ish, lubrication, raising children to death, elaborating on shit and stuff, burgers, elucidation (muddled), entitlement and cars”, Cakeboy is a must-read that raises questions as much as it inspires. Glamcult and GET ME got you the nuts and bolts.
What was your main motivation to create Cakeboy?
I’d been blogging for a few years and realized that I wasn’t necessarily building the creative skill sets I wanted. An agent had come to me and asked if I was interested in signing with their company, but I turned it down. I didn’t really want to work towards building a career as a fashion and lifestyle blogger. So I shut the blog down and took a few of the stories I’d been planning to publish online and put them in a zine. I debuted it at the Brooklyn Zine Fest and Cakeboy was born. Since then my understanding of what it is and what it can be has expanded so much.
You ‘about’ page states that Cakeboy is setting a new standard for LGBTQ media. How would you describe the LBGT media landscape as it is? What were the previous standards that you are referring to and how is Cakeboy setting the new standard?
I’ve always felt that what is conventionally referred to as gay media was kind of out to get me, if that makes sense. It often feels predatory, especially when you’re younger. The images of men aren’t rooted in a queer aesthetic that I relate to. There’s nothing inherently queer about a butch guy standing around in his underwear. So now he’s holding another guy’s dick, oh ok, I get it. But that image sends the message that gayness is relational, and I think the subtext is that gay men don’t exist outside of their sexual identity, and that gayness is acted out in these different contexts. I think it left me feeling very hollow. If I didn’t act overtly gay or have sex with men, what was I doing? It was hard to find images that aligned with my perception of myself. I didn’t have strong male-identified figures that I looked up to when I was younger. And I think gay media have a tendency to thrive on iterative messaging that is really damaging.
Creating a ‘men’ specific magazine for an agender world? Isn’t that a bit contrary?
I feel it’s necessary to stake a claim in the “men’s world.” I was so worried about talking about the magazine as something for men or about them—but then I started to look at that market, at the titles that were coming out that were staking a claim and declaring themselves “gay media” or “for men.” And they were so not for me. At the end of the day, it may be problematic to make that distinction, but I’d rather actively work through that and have the work reflect the nebulous areas that I feel speak to my understanding of gender.
In the end, do you think human beings are capable of looking at others without taking in their race or gender?
No. But the problem isn’t having eyes and acknowledging that human beings all look distinct from one another. The problem is the societal constructs around what that shape or size or presentation means, the subliminal messaging that surrounds and privileges one culture or gender over another. And we can change those constructs; we can affect that system.
It’s 2016, and although just nine percent of the world population is ‘white’ we still act like the world is white. Like Henry Bae perfectly describes it: white is seen as natural— the main component we compare ourselves with. Do you think this will change? What is your vision about the necessities that will force this change?
My hope would be that Cakeboy can be a way to engage in a conversation with people that may not have access to other views. Maybe they can read an interview that shifts their perspective or at least lets them know an alternative one exists. I think de-centralizing the way white people experience the world is really important, which is why the magazine functions almost as a gallery where individuals are given space to articulate something beyond themselves. Like Henry talking about the way he uses his clothing to create a specific, politicized image of himself, and shooting him in those clothes to speak to that, to speak to the way he moves through the world. Maybe just confronting these things and not letting everything default to whiteness is a start. Like, I don’t necessarily agree with everything someone might say, maybe someone else in their position would have a different perspective altogether—the important thing is to understand that these experiences are valid. White people forget that having your experiences reaffirmed and validated is a privilege. Not everyone gets that. But maybe you think I’m horribly wrong. That’s great. Let’s talk about it.
Where can people, in Europe and especially in the Netherlands, buy Cakeboy or how can we support you?
Well! We’re going to be in MagCulture in London and 0fr in Paris, but otherwise I’m still looking for stockists abroad. The easiest way is to maybe purchase the magazine online!