A straight man who found fame in a Zara pencil skirt seems to have come out as anti-gay

The first word that appears on Mark Bryan’s Instagram is “straight”, followed by “cis male”, and “Porsche fan” – an amber alert for anyone who might read his appetite for pencil skirts and red bottoms as being a little bit fruity… which is fine. Straight, cis-gendered men can click-clack into Zara and express themselves in whichever way they choose. More power to them! And when Bryan – shaved head, weathered face, body built like a labourer – first went viral for his business dragz at the beginning of 2021, the fashion industry applauded his confidence. He starred in Ninamounah’s SS21 campaign and Martine Rose’s AW21 show, alongside a slew of glossy editorials and interviews. 

But it’s not been easy for the “father of three”… some people think he’s a homosexual! And I get it, it can be distressing to have your identity misrepresented. So Bryan has henceforth decided to divorce himself from the LGBTQ+ community, who he thinks are “too outrageous and too flamboyant.” Speaking to Avi Jakobs – one of the German Queer Eyes – on the TV show Beyond Fashion, the influencer said that gay people haven’t “helped themselves” by dressing in gender non-conforming clothing. What’s more, they’ve actively “made it worse” for him as a straight man. “Now I’m assumed to be gay when all I want to do is wear a skirt and high heels without being classified as sexual…”

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There is nuance to what he’s saying (delineating gender expression and sexuality) but his perceived gayness is the result of homophobia – not gay people themselves – and that’s where his argument slackens. “How is Mark Bryan blaming the LGBT community for the assumptions associated with the way he dresses when it’s straight cis people who built the standard, my brother in christ we have the same enemy,” as one Twitter user commented. Though Bryan shows some awareness of the liberties he has been afforded – to step into a peplum without fully abandoning his privilege as a heterosexual man – he says this is all the more reason as to why LGBTQ+ people should conform to gendered codes of dress. “I show myself as a straight masculine male. But if I was gay, and wearing the same thing, I’d probably be attacked and stuff. Or have problems.” 

@geraldobigstuff Avi Jakobs speaks to fashion influencer Mark Bryan about his bold fashion takes a turn when he basically victim blames the LGBTQ community. #markbryan #homophobia ♬ original sound – Gerald Biggerstaff

It’s possible to be queer-adjacent and not be a helpful ally (Caitlyn Jenner, Darren Grimes) but this person has never positioned themselves as being anything other than a cis-het man who likes to wear heels, and we should manage our expectations accordingly. Following a load of backlash, some valid, some not – like accusing Bryan of misappropriating queer aesthetics when he is literally a cross-dresser – he offered up an apology on Instagram. With the colours of the trans flag illuminated behind him, he said: “I’m really sorry… I mentioned that I wanted to be seen as separate from the LGBTQ+ community but not because I’m homophobic. I was simply referring to the fact that sometimes it’s harder to make my point that fashion should not define your sexuality.” It seems more of a butrress to his original interview than an acknowledgement of where he went wrong, but there are clearly limits to his understanding.

“I’m not gonna give up wearing heels, I’m not gonna give up wearing skirts, I’m not homophobic,” he concluded. ”And I’m not gonna stop giving the message that clothes do not dictate sexual orientation or gender.”