Nick Jonas is an okay dude—at least, he seemed that way on Wednesday night as he hosted a Manhattan event for his collaboration with audio electronics company Altec Lansing. He seemed nice, understanding, maybe a little bit moody (he was running an hour and a half behind at one point). He seemed like the kind of guy who wouldn’t make too much of a fuss if you pulled him aside to tell him his zipper was down, or if he made an insensitive joke. Since I didn’t get the chance to do it last night, consider this as me pulling Nick Jonas aside.
The thing is, Nick Jonas is a pretty attractive straight dude. As such, he's basically catnip to a large cohort of gay men and since realizing that, the Jonas brother has seized his "gay icon" status with vigor. And though it's not his fault that man-loving men like him, some of his latest actions are what gay Twitter likes to call problematic.
Nick Jonas always doin somethin gay "for his gay fans". That's pandering, not allyship. Next he'll doing scenes w/ @colbykeller 4 the fans.— MM (@maxmohenu) June 16, 2016
it's so obvious Nick Jonas is trying so hard to hint to being bisexual to get some more gay fans he's been doing it for a while— ️ezz (@honeymoonaura) November 10, 2015
In a May interview, the “Bacon” singer was asked whether he’d had sex with a man before. “On Kingdom I have a sex scene with a guy,” Jonas told The Sun, referring to a scene in which his character Nate was essentially drugged and raped. “It is always this thing have I, has Nick? No. But it’s my lips, it’s my hands, it’s my body, even if I’m playing a character. So technically I have done that, so I wouldn’t say I haven’t, because that would be lying. But as me, Nick, I am very open about who I am and that I have nothing to prove. I know what I am, I’ve been honest about that."
Wait what? So, by this Jonas brother's logic, when Eddie Redmayne and Jared Leto portrayed trans people, the actors themselves became trans by committing trans acts? When any gay actor performs in a mixed-gender sex scene, do they become straight, or are they bi? How does this all work?
It doesn’t, Nick. It doesn’t work like that.
You can't say you've had gay sex until you actually have gay sex. And insinuating otherwise as a hyper-sexualized celebrity is the same kind of gaybaiting PR move that gay and out actor Noah Galvin accused fellow actor Colton Haynes of committing. “Jonas knows he didn’t have gay sex, but he definitely wants people to masturbate to him and then maybe by his album and fuck their boyfriend to it,” Mic staff writer Mathew Rodriguez told Complex.
But if you ask Jonas, he’s not gaybaiting the LGBT community.
“It’s not the majority, but a large handful have a negative opinion for whatever reason, and I think it’s really quite sad.” he, a straight man, told Out Magazine—arguably the country's most prominent LGBT publication—for the cover story during pride month. He expounded on this idea in our own cover story: “There’s always going to be negativity toward anything that is a positive effort toward change,” he said. “As a heterosexual male, [I am] open and comfortable about loving my fan base, gay or straight, because to me there is no difference, it is my fan base. Your sexual preference does not matter to me and it shouldn’t matter to anybody.”
While that’s all well and good, you can't say “I can't say I haven't had sex with men” in a play to drum up speculation after declaring definitively that you are heterosexual and think you're doing your duty as an ally.
Most recently, Jonas got taken to task for speaking prominently at an Orlando vigil held at Stonewall Inn. In an interview with Watch What Happens Live, Jonas said he actively wanted to get involved after the tragedy: “I looked at my team and I said ‘Listen, I'm in town and I would love to lend my voice in any way that I can and be part of it in any way that's possible." As a result, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked him to give an impromptu speech. Jonas' resulting address, which caused him to cry, unsurprisingly garnered boos. We know why.
50 LGBT POC died in a violent massacre and Nick Jonas got to make a speech about it outside of Stonewall. Is this a SNL sketch or real life?— Phillip Van De Kamp (@MajorPhilebrity) June 14, 2016
If Nick Jonas gets to speak over LGBT people go ahead and invite Azealia Banks, Vladimir Putin and the homophobic dude from Sacramento.— 無感覚 (@MalePocahontas) June 16, 2016
can Nick Jonas let the LGBT community collectively breathe for ONE sec before he appears shirtless at gay clubs trying to sell albums again— girl almighty (@fortunafiasco) June 15, 2016
As an ally to any marginalized community, sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is know when to yield the floor and give someone else the spotlight.
“How dare someone who is not a part of our community take up space in this way?” artist, photographer, and popular Twitter user Shon Yves told Complex. “How dare someone who is not one of us speak at a HISTORIC site for LGBT rights and speak about this tragedy that has taken the lives of nearly 50 of our own The same homophobia that motivated Omar Marteen is what fuels Nick Jonas’ popularity, fame, and fortune—ESPECIALLY among gay men.” Yves is referring to the common preference gay men have for "straight-acting" men, which many believe is a result of internalized homophobia. His statements echo the sentiments of many.
2— Mathew Rodriguez (@mathewrodriguez) June 14, 2016
Thirst for Nick Jonas trumped acknowledging the dignity of QPOC. Y’all bent over backwards to put Jonas on a stage after mi gente
3— Mathew Rodriguez (@mathewrodriguez) June 14, 2016
was shot and killed. Nick Jonas thirst trumped gay Latino lives. FUCK OUTTA HERE WITCHU
While Nick’s presence was greatly appreciated, the idea that his voice should have been a focal point was ill-advised. Rodriguez went so far as to say that “getting invited to speak at the event was not only inappropriate, accepting that mic when he has a platform every day was bad allyship and irresponsible.”
As neither a person of color (as a majority of Mateen's victims were) or a queer-identified person (as a majority of Mateen's victims were), Jonas' prominence at the Orlando vigil shifted the focus from those affected directly by the tragedy. Several people of color contacted for this article suggested sponsoring benefits or hosting events featuring queer people of color as a more viable alternative for Jonas to show his support. But what really happened was not the right way.
With Nick Jonas and James Franco, the relationship is entirely different. Their relationship with us is PARASITIC.— Black. Queer. God. (@Adamant_Yves) June 5, 2016
Nick Jonas and James Franco intentionally exploit the internalized homophobia in our community for fame, relevance, and MONEY.— Black. Queer. God. (@Adamant_Yves) June 5, 2016
Nick Jonas and James Franco do the same thing that gay-for-pay porn stars or straight men who bartend at gay clubs do.— Black. Queer. God. (@Adamant_Yves) June 5, 2016
It’s not that Jonas needs to disavow his relationship the gay community—until he does something egregious (and even likely afterward), the LGBT community will always have a soft spot for the "Jealous" singer. But the Jonas brother needs to understand that it's time to pivot. Pretending or alluding to having experimented or wanting to experiment with your sexuality isn't the best way to rope in a queer fan base—keep taking your shirt off and those slash fan fictions will just write themselves. But if you really want to make a difference—if you really want to establish a genuine and healthy relationship with your gay fans—it's time to get to know them and understand that your platform (not your words) is the most powerful thing you can give them.