June 24, 2018

Hi queens,

For most of its history, queer magazine culture has thrived underground because of safety concerns, legal issues, and lack of big money backers. Today, the two leading magazine publishers, Hearst and Condé Nast, both have LGBTQIA+ offshoots. The progress is palpable, but it feels like we’ve hardly scratched the surface.

As Condé Nast exec Pamela Drucker Mann said on the 2017 launch of them, a LGBTQIA+ publication: “It’s where we should be.” Media should be more gay because we all keep getting more gay! If you need tips, my pal Kelsey wrote an A+ guide to being so gay.

We also hope you forgive our absenteeism over the past two weeks. Natalie was celebrating a new job at NowThis, and Danielle was celebrating a dive into freelance writing and a new sister-in-law.

Flags waving,


Danielle & Natalie

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Media Censorship: When Gay And Lesbian Content Was Illegal
a loooong time coming

As with media produced by any marginalized group (including women), the history of LGBTQIA+ publications is so rich and layered and nuanced that I couldn’t begin to capture it here. In addition, I (Natalie) am a cisgender hetero woman — I have a very clear privilege in our society, and I take seriously my responsibility (and privilege!) as an ally to loved ones and strangers who do not fit neatly into boxes.

That said, even a brief scroll through this Wikipedia list  of “LGBT periodicals” will show you how global and varied these hundreds of publications are. The list is of course not comprehensive. Literary journals such as Lassacarus and Respa and Vetch occupy a whole other domain; Danielle also flagged On Our Backs, the first women-run, 80’s erotica magazine based in San Francisco and wrote about gay audiences in our Playgirl issue.

What’s also striking is the will of the people who started these bygone publications. Take for instance, Edythe Eyde who risked jail to found Vice Versa, a lesbian magazine published between 1947 and 1948. Eyde wrote under the pseudonym “Lisa Ben” (get it?) and physically passed out copies of her magazine on the streets of Los Angeles. Eyde recalled decades later: “I would also say to the girls as I passed the magazines out, ‘Now when you get through with this, don’t throw it away. Pass it on to another gay gal.” Eyde helped set the foundation for publications like The Advocate and Autostraddle for women today.

The advancement of rights for LGBTQIA+ folk in America has been slow, and much of that progress is tied to media representation and visibility of the community. I got to cover New York’s Pride in 2014 for NBC News right after the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, and the larger cultural attitude then already seems quaint now. Only last year, California became the first state to approve “LGBT-inclusive textbooks,” which gives me hope for future generations, without sacrificing the urgency to continue demanding change for ours.

In 2018, there’s a greater expectation in media to hire the right people to properly tell sensitive stories (see: Jezebel on The Atlantic’s coverage of detransitioning) — and there’s Twitter to call out a publication that screws up. On the flip side, creators of media must avoid tokenization of individual people or the assumption that members of a certain community want to share their deepest traumas for public consumption.

This year, feel free to join me in reading and supporting publications made for the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m not queer, but why shouldn’t I read Autostraddle to better understand people who are different from me?  I find it makes for better conversation, better arguments, better relationships and better understanding of what my role is in this dependably changing world.

Resistance While Queer, Trans, and Black | The Library | them.
them, a "next-gen community platform"

Conde Nast’s them went live October 26 as a “Next-Gen Community Platform” to chronicle and celebrate the community’s stories—and also cash in on that money, with Burberry, Google, Lyft and GLAAD signing on as launch partners. The press release announcing the brand wasn’t demure in pointing out that Gen Z will represent 40% of all U.S. consumers in three years, and more than half of that generation identifies as queer.

them’s staff is a dream team of chief content officer Phillip Picardi (who pitched the idea of the title to Wintour), Meredith Talusan, and Tyler Ford. It’s a delight to see what they can produce with a legacy publisher’s support and budget.

In an interview with Man Repeller, Talusan noted the additional work it takes to get trans stories approved, which proves why them’s editorial board is so refreshing and powerful.

“There are so few trans editors,” Talusan said. “Of those who are, many of the established ones don’t edit or work on trans issues. I have to do all of this cultural translation and justification in order to get pitches approved,” she says. “It requires a lot of logistical and emotional labor to get someone who is not up to speed about the issues you’re dealing with…”

HERE, for Gen Z

One month after them debuted, Hearst launched HERE as a social-first LGBTQIA+ brand. In its launch post, the editors of HERE discussed their struggle to find LGBTQIA+ communities as teens and their plan to create a resource and “safe space for queer teens to amplify their voices.”

HERE and them both target Gen Z audiences, but HERE’s content comes off as much younger. Example 1, the above side by side comparison of their Instagrams. Not that is necessarily bad.

"While there are many amazing resources and platforms for the LGBTQIA+  community, many of which we're excited to work with, what we felt was missing was a place dedicated to young people who were exploring their identities and still coming out in the world," site director Kristin Koch told Fashionista.

Seventeen’s editors and LGBTQIA+  teens and influencers produce the content that lives primarily on Facebook and Instagram. LGBTQIA+ content seemingly exists as a vertical on their website, and  the readers run into queer content on the homepage, even if they are just visiting for the 13 Reasons Why recap.

At points, HERE does feel like an afterthought or a rush to one-up Condé Nast at the LGBTQIA+ game.

how do you include the excluded?
Mykki Blanco recites ‘I Want A Dyke For President’ 

I (Danielle) am very into big companies paying queer people money to direct and produce content! I also support marginalized people telling the histories of other marginalized people with cutting-edge technology, killer fashion closets and esteemed editorial vision.

While I’m still parsing out my identity (and that’s ok!), my millennial generation didn’t have a legacy publication or community. We had (pre-Yahoo) Tumblr, where we found news, culture, porn, vibrator recs and even significant others. I’m really excited about these new communities and LGBTQIA+ publications, but I do feel conflicted about the risk of othering these issues and topics. It’s productive to have deep conversations in your own community. It’s also productive to integrate these conversations into more traditional publications. So what now?

for further reading/listening
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Thanks for reading, and hit us up! We want to know your memories with magazines, including what you loved and hated. And if you’ve never read a women’s mag, welcome. Send notes and scans:

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Written by
Natalie Daher and Danielle Fox. Designed by Martina Ibanez-Baldor.
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