In an interview with Shortlist, Queer Eye star Tan France opened up about coming out as a gay man of Pakistani descent and learning more about the LGBTQ community through the show.
France, the fashion expert of the new Fab Five, reflected on coming out as a gay man of color and the unique struggles he faced because of those two identities. France, who has been married for 10 years, revealed that he only recently came out to one of his siblings, right before the first season of the rebooted Queer Eye was released on Netflix.
“Sexuality can be difficult to articulate and we have to be patient and compassionate,” the fashion expert explained, and that being openly gay is a “luxury of Western culture,” noting that white gay people are more represented and accepted in the media and everyday life.
“They see themselves reflected, so they feel a sense of acceptance,” he said.
France also suggested that coming out might have been easier if he was a white man.
“I have to battle so many issues, and the biggest is racism,” he admitted. However, France told Shortlist that he felt confident going into Queer Eye, claiming that his upbringing and background put him in a unique situation to help people on the show.
A resident of Utah, France claims that although the state is predominantly white, he is ultimately glad he lives there because the people of Salt Lake City “get to meet a brown person and I can address misconceptions about the LGBTQ community.”
Tan noted that he’s received several emails from viewers in both the Middle East and Africa, who are glad to finally see someone on TV that they can relate to.
“Our cultures are very similar. They’re often very strict, conservative and shame-based,” he said. France also revealed that he is still learning about the LGBTQ community. “I think a lot of straight people assume that because I’m gay I must understand all aspects of the queer community.”
The show has helped him learn more about his own community.
“We had our first trans hero on Queer Eye this season. I’d never met a trans person before and although I’m really aware of some of the issues they face, the finer points that a person experiences physically and emotionally when they transition were often things I hadn’t considered,” France said.
France also stresses that there is no right or wrong to be gay or even to come out.
“Gay men can sometimes feel ashamed or chastised when the messaging is ‘Be out and proud!’ or ‘Just come out.’ It’s not that easy. It certainly wasn’t for me,” he said.