Wednesday, December 24, 2014

‘It was HIV deja-vu’: Dallas Voice, located in America's ground zero for Ebola, takes unprecedented look comparing Ebola to HIV

by Chuck Colbert

The first diagnosed case of Ebola in the U.S. — Thomas Eric Duncan of Dallas, Texas — presented local LGBT media with an opportunity to explore the similarities and differences between that disease and HIV/AIDS.

As Tammye Nash, managing editor of Dallas Voice, explained in email correspondence: “We wanted to find an angle that was uniquely ours to write about the situation, and the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became — a deadly blood-borne virus that apparently originated in Africa, creating hysteria with talks of quarantines, etc., and creating irrational animus against a whole community of people. It was HIV deja-vu.”

Accordingly, Dallas Voice published a 2,400 word piece on October 10, “From 1981 to 2014: The virus is different, but the fear is the same.” The reporting was a team effort with staff writers David Taffet and James Russell, along with managing editor Nash contributing to the effort.

Graphic by Dallas Voice Art Director Kevin Thomas
Nash also credited Dallas Voice art director Kevin Thomas. “I told him what copy I wanted and drew a very basic idea of how I wanted the AIDS 1981/Ebola 2014 headline to look,” she said. “He took that and created a very powerful cover image and then laid out the inside pages in a way that made a ton of information look interesting and readable.

“Our whole purpose was to report on Ebola as sanely and as responsibly as we possibly could,” said Nash. “We wanted to give people the facts — not downplay the dangers, but at the same time not sensationalize it. We wanted people to have accurate information they needed to be safe and make rational decisions. And we also wanted to remind people in our community that we wanted people to be rational about HIV/AIDS and so we needed to be rational about Ebola. We knew it was a big story simply in terms of the amount of information and research and interviews involved. And we decided that to do it justice, we would all work on it together.”

Sure enough, the Dallas Voice piece took aim at hysteria and the role of the media:

“In the days since news first broke that a man in Dallas had been diagnosed with Ebola, the hysteria in news coverage has been evident. ‘Good Morning America’ began a broadcast with the declaration, ‘The city of Dallas is in a panic.’ Reporters at a press conference by Dallas city and county officials obsessed what Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zach Thompson wore when he went into the apartment where Duncan — who died Wednesday — was staying when he fell ill, and why. County Judge Clay Jenkins didn’t wear a protective hazmat suit when he drove Duncan’s family members to a new location to wait out a 22-day period of isolation to make sure they haven’t been infected.

“Reporters at that press conference asked questions intended to feed the hysteria rather than ascertain — and share — actual facts. In their news stories and broadcasts, they left out facts and focused on speculation and hyperbole.

“Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings noted angrily that members of the media have offered to pay other residents of the apartment complex where Duncan’s family lived, asking that reporters be allowed to move into those neighboring apartments in an effort to get as close to the family as possible before the family was moved to an undisclosed location for their own safety. The city of Dallas, in fact, issued a press statement asking the news media to back off because their overly aggressive tactics were beginning to alarm and frighten residents of the area.”

Dallas Voice reporting also recalled the hysteria surrounding HIV/AIDS in the early years of the epidemic:

“The fear and the misinformation, fed by hyped up coverage by the media on ‘the gay plague’ and a ‘killer blood’ supply, began to spread even faster than AIDS. Police and paramedics wore rubber gloves when they interacted with someone in a ‘high risk group’ for AIDS. There was talk of quarantines, and even doctors and nurses refused to treat AIDS patients for fear they would contract the disease themselves.

“Even after scientists in France in 1983 and in the U.S. in 1984 discovered the virus that causes AIDS — the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, which originated in Africa — the epidemic of fear continued. That fear, fueled by bigotry, misinformation and willful ignorance, in turn fueled the spread of AIDS. Because, as some people went to extraordinary lengths to avoid people and situations they thought would put them at risk of contracting AIDS, their ignorance led them to stumble blissfully and blindly into situations where they really were at risk.”

At the same time, Dallas Voice explored the similarities between public reaction to and media coverage of the two diseases, the newspaper provided accurate information on Ebola’s symptoms and infection:

“AIDS Arms Executive Director John Carlo said he sees a link between the public and media response to HIV in the 1980s and 1990s and media response to Ebola today, and he said treatment of Ebola owes quite a bit to AIDS research.

‘“HIV expanded our knowledge on viruses,’ he said. ‘That research taught us how the immune system works. We learned how viruses attach to cells.’ He also noted that the test used to do an HIV viral load count is the same technology used to test for Ebola.

“Carlo said people who live in the neighborhood where Duncan stayed are being told by their employers to stay home from work, even if they had no contact with Duncan and don’t live in that apartment complex. And he noted that after Jenkins drove Duncan’s family to a new location without wearing protective gear, people have been canceling speaking engagements they had previously arranged with the county judge. ‘We can’t overcome the fears with the science,’ Carlo said.”
No other LGBT media outlet took as comprehensive a look at Ebola and HIV/AIDS, their similarities and differences, as Dallas Voice. 

However, Tyler Curry, writing in The Advocate, noted one way Ebola and AIDS are very much alike. “Today, virtually all of the coverage on Ebola is about the situation in America, not the massive problem abroad,” he wrote. “To date, roughly almost 5,000 people have died from Ebola, but the victims were from the wrong country and were the wrong skin color for people to think it had anything to do with them. Exchange wrong skin color for the wrong sexuality, and it’s the same problem in a different package.”

The Washington Blade ran an op-ed that compared the HIV/AIDS epidemic to Ebola and mentioned how prejudice was once again winning against accurate information. “Perpetuating racism and homophobia at the expense of listening to medical science can cause the public to engage in behaviors that perpetuate the spread of disease,” wrote Jimmie Luthuli.

And Gay City News ran a piece by Duncan Osborne that reported on leading AIDS activists’ opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s quarantine orders for anyone returning from West Africa after having close contact there with someone who has Ebola.

Volume 16
Issue 9 

South Florida Gay News launches mainstream neighborhood publication

by Chuck Colbert

At a time when some LGBT media outlets are cutting back, South Florida Gay News (SFGN) has launched a new print publication, Wilton Manors Gazette, a hometown community newspaper.

“A lot of community newspapers cover the different municipalities throughout South Florida,” said Jason Parsley, associate publisher of SFGN and the Gazette, during a recent telephone interview. “But Wilton Manors did not have its own, and we saw that as an opportunity for us, based here. It was a natural fit because a large part of our readership is based in Wilton Manors.”

Launching the Gazette, said Parsley, also derives from the success of SFGN’s supplement publications, namely a “Bars and Club Guide,” “Best of Issue,” and “Guide to the Drive,” which, in fun-map brochure format, is a directory of every business in Wilton Manors.” (Wilton Drive is the main street in the city.)

Parsley said that the supplements provide SFGN opportunities for both editorial content as well as new revenue streams.

Wilton Manors, located in Broward County, is a city with nearly 12,000 people, according to the 2010 Census. It ranks near the top for the most per capita gay couples, according to the Census. With 140 per 1,000, Wilton Manors is second only to Provincetown, Mass., which has 148 same-sex households per 1,000.

The Gazette is not a gay publication per se. Its focus is “hyper local mainstream content that would be of interest to the gay people who live in Wilton Manors and the broader straight community,” Parsley explained.

Publisher Norm Kent put it this way in an August 6 editorial, the Gazette’s inaugural issue:

“There is no question that Wilton Manors has a wealth of gay news in it, but it also has a plethora of straight lives, families and businesses supporting growing commerce and communities, integrating and enhancing population cores. We think there is enough growth to publish a twice-a-month newspaper focusing and highlighting not just our diversity, but the breadth and depth of our activities and accomplishments. So whether you are interested in country square-dancing or city zoning and planning, there’s a good chance the Gazette will be here to tell you more about it, from our Green Market to our local and home grown dry cleaners.”

“This is the 21st century. You don't have a straight community newspaper with a gay, youth, feminist or environmental insert.” Kent added in an email. “You have a gay paper with a straight insert. So who is the minority now?”

Much of the Gazette’s content has focused on local government and news.  “We cover every city commission meeting and come out a week after that meeting every month,” said Parsley.

Other content includes a calendar of events and a “Humans of Wilton Manors” section, modeled after “Humans of New York.”

“A photographer goes out and takes photos of random people and asks them a question,” Parsley said. The short answers help to fill in each photo’s caption. The overall aim of the section is to capture the diversity of the local community. “Humans of Wilton Manors” is also posted online.

Parsley said he is also looking to build up columns and is looking to do lighter features and business profiles.

Even with a mainstream content focus, one recent story was gay-specific, with the Gazette covering the recent release of the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, which rates how municipalities treat LGBT employees and how the public officials relate to LGBT residents.

“HRC rated us 100 [percent], but over the summer we were at risk of being ranked 80,” said Parsley. “The city worked out the issues and we were able to raise the score.”

Distributed through out South Florida, SFGN is a weekly publication with a print run of 10,000 copies and an average page-count ranging between 48-56. The eight-page Gazette is included in SFGN and is available as a stand-alone publication (1,000 copies) in Wilton Manors. The Gazette is published twice a month.

Volume 16
Issue 9

Boston media memorialize pro-gay ‘rock star’ Mayor Thomas Menino

by Chuck Colbert

Thomas M. Menino, Boston’s longest serving mayor and much beloved within the LGBT community, died Oct. 30 after a nearly year-long battle with cancer. His passing prompted local gay media to reflect on a remarkable pro-gay legacy, which included more than two decades of steadfast advocacy.

Sue O’Connell, co-publisher of Boston’s Bay Windows, offered her thoughts on the mayor’s legacy in a piece, “Menino: Gay Boston’s Tough Big Brother,” for Bay Windows and

“As a Boston city councilor in the 1980s, Menino worked closely with gay people who worked in city government. He also interacted regularly with the gay neighborhood groups. It's no surprise that this community, one that often lived in fear, rewarded Menino, the blue-collar policy guy from [the more conservative] Hyde Park [neighborhood], with unwavering loyalty. As Menino grew in power, his most trusted inner circle always had at least two gay people at the table. And he never took the community's support for granted — he fought the battles brought to him, and looked for others.”

The late Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (Photo: Chuck Colbert)
Early on, Menino refused to participate in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade as long as openly contingents were banned.

“The first high-profile LGBT issue was an unlikely fight with the most powerful political neighborhood in Boston — Southie,” O’Connell wrote, referring to South Boston by its more colloquial name.

“He was asked at one of the first neighborhood meetings he attended as mayor if he would march in the traditional St. Patrick's Day Parade. The organizers, the Allied War Veterans Council, had won a US Supreme Court ruling for the right to exclude gay groups from the parade. Menino told me that he glanced at his chief of staff — openly gay Ann Maguire — and blurted that if gays can't march, he won't march. ‘You should have seen the look on Ann's face,’ he said. He had just told South Boston off. For Menino it was a double win — doing the right thing and avoiding parades, which he said he hated. He said he never worried about the political backlash. He never marched.”

The Boston Pride Parade was a different story, wrote O’Connell. “Menino often referred to the parade as ‘my parade.’ In a country where many gay groups fight to fly a rainbow flag on a city flagpole, Menino raised the rainbow flag at City Hall Plaza each year with pomp, led the Boston parade and allowed uniformed Boston Police officers to march. He opened Boston City Hall and hosted the Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth's (BAGLY) annual gay prom for teenagers at Boston City Hall.

“Regular-guy Menino's support of marriage equality was an important cog in the machine that delivered gay marriage. He never wavered in his support, lobbying state lawmakers during the state house battles and later as co-chair of ‘Mayors for the Freedom to Marry,’ helping big city mayors get on board. On Monday, May 17, 2004, Menino proudly escorted the lead plaintiffs in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, Hillary and Julie Goodridge, with their daughter Anne, to the Marriage License window at Boston City Hall to receive the city's first marriage license for a same-sex couple.”

For her part, Nicole Lashomb, editor-in-chief of The Rainbow Times, also based in Boston, recalled Mayor Menino’s integrity. She wrote in an editorial, “Perhaps most known for his overdrive and conviction to truth and fairness in a city that he loved, in a profile on a local news station, [Menino] said he wanted his legacy to be inclusion. He succeeded.

“Beginning as a city councilor, he supported HIV education and prevention and pioneered the first needle exchange program in [Massachusetts]. He fought on behalf of the LGBT community in a variety of ways. From refusing to walk in the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade since the LGBT community was not allowed open participation to addressing Dan Cathy, president of Chick-Fil-A, via an open letter reinforcing his position that the anti-LGBT equality chain would not be welcomed to establish one of its restaurants on Boston’s Freedom Trail. His written words to Cathy are still burnt in my mind: ‘Here in Boston, to borrow your own words, we are ‘guilty as charged.’ We are indeed full of pride for our support of same-sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people. ... There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.’”

And yet, as O’Connell noted, the mayor’s bravado “was no doubt an overreach ... threatening all sorts of unconstitutional action against a business due to the owner's political beliefs — but classic Menino. He later backed off the threats, a national dialogue was launched, and there is no Chick-fil-A on the Freedom Trail. All of this made Menino a rock star in the LGBT community.”

Menino was elected to the office of the mayor five consecutive times and served from 1993 to 2014.

Volume 16
Issue 9


(What’s happening at your publication? Let us know at

SHEILA ALEXANDER-REID joined the staff of THE WASHINGTON BLADE as its Vice President of Strategic Branding and Digital Initiatives. She will spearhead sales efforts across the Blade’s digital properties as well as sell advertising in the weekly print edition. Previously, she worked as Director of Strategic Engagement at weekly alternative WASHINGTON CITY PAPER.

BOBBY BLAIR, founder of MMP WORLDWIDE which publishes AGENDA: FLORIDA EDITION as well as other publications, celebrated his 50th birthday in the pages of the newspaper’s October 22, 2014, edition.

Mark's List founder Mark Haines
MARK HAINES, founder of South Florida-based website MARK’S LIST, died on November 14, 2014, after a truck hit his car on U.S. 1 on Grassy Key in the Florida Keys. He was 54.

JOE NICHOLSON, the openly gay reporter at the New York Post who came out in 1980 (a first for a big city daily newspaper), died on October 8, 2014, of cancer. He was 71.

SAN DIEGO LGBT WEEKLY is the winner of nine 2014 Excellence in Journalism Awards from the San Diego Press Club. They are:
First Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Front Page Design
First Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Investigative Reporting
First Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Multicultural
Second Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Political/Government
Second Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Health & Medicine
Second Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Essay/Commentary/Opinion
Third Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Feature Layout Design
Third Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Profile
Third Place, Non-Daily Newspapers: Travel

UNITE BUSINESS, based in Nashville, Tenn., has entered into a licensing agreement to launch UNITE CINCINNATI. That publication would join UNITE NASHVILLE and UNITE INDIANAPOLIS under the same umbrella.

THE WASHINGTON BLADE, based in Washington, D.C, received the annual Making D.C. History Award in the category of Local Media from the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. The award was presented at a November 5, 2014, ceremony at the organization’s headquarters in the Carnegie Library Building in downtown Washington.

THE WISCONSIN GAZETTE, based in Milwaukee, Wisc., celebrated its fifth birthday in its November 13, 2014, edition.

Volume 16
Issue 9

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TOP STORY: Effort to launch .gay denied, but fight far from over

Governing body rules that the word “gay” is not well enough understood
by Chuck Colbert

The effort of dotgay LLC to secure a top-level domain (TLD) for the LGBT community hit a significant roadblock when ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — released results last month that denied community status to the “.gay” application.

ICANN is the non-profit corporation which serves as the governing body for domain names and addresses on the Internet. 

In establishing dotgay LLC, its chief executive officer, Scott Seitz, wanted to ensure that an LGBT-owned corporate entity was behind the initiative to secure a TLD for the LGBT community, and that it was governed by a community-comprised board.

dotgay LLC chief executive officer Scott Seitz
“It’s not as if we decided the world needs a .gay,” Seitz told Press Pass Q three years ago at the beginning of the effort to secure the domain for the LGBT community.

“We realized that in the 500 new domains, chances were high that a number of non-gay investors were going to do .gay. But this domain needs to be part of the community,” explained Seitz, who is the openly gay founder of SPI Marketing, perhaps best known for being the agency of record for Absolut Vodka to the LGBT market. “The purpose of .gay is to create something that has a benefit to our community. And if it that doesn’t happen, then a rare opportunity to unite the global community and invigorate our non-profits and businesses has been lost.” 

He added in recent email correspondence, “In a nutshell, if we don’t have a place at the table, ICANN will have removed the LGBT community from direct access to the dynamic economic and social benefits the Internet has created.”

The .gay initiative, Seitz explained, is all about community building and networking, with two-thirds (67 percent) of the profits from the sale of .gay domains going back to the community via a non-profit foundation.

dotgay LLC vice president of marketing
Jamie Baxter
During a recent telephone interview, dotgay LLC spokesperson and vice president of marketing Jamie Baxter discussed the decision to deny .gay community status.

“ICANN’s evaluators said that we don’t meet the standards for community status designation,” he said. 

Baxter was referring to the Community Priority Evaluation (CPE), which gave dotgay LLC a score of only 10 on a 16-point scale. Achieving community status required a score of 14 or higher.

“It’s a lost opportunity not to win outright as a community,” he added. “Now we are being forced to bid for .gay with the standard applications that did nothing in the community in the development of their models.”

Baxter went on to explain that there were “two tracks to follow. We could apply as a standard application, which is a generic business proposal, or we could apply as a community, knowing that we would have to jump through higher hoops. In doing that, we would come out the winners if we jumped as high and as far as were we were asked to.”

While dotgay LLC passed the initial evaluation process, it fell short in the Community Priority Evaluation phase.

In determining Community Priority Evaluation, ICANN relied on a third-party evaluator, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which is a part of The Economist Group and The Economist magazine.

In its determination, EIU said that “gay” is “not a well-known short form, or abbreviation of, the community.”

However terms like “gay rights,” “gay pride” and “anti-gay” are “globally used under an inclusive interpretation or umbrella term in mainstream media on a daily basis,” according to a dotgay press statement.

The EIU also said that dotgay LLC ‘”substantially over-reaches” to include trans, intersex and ally in the common community use of the term “gay,” citing the Oxford English Dictionary definition as “a homosexual, especially a man.”

Oddly enough, The Economist magazine uses the word “gay” to refer to all segments of the LGBT community and “goes on to describe the colorful acronyms that gay encompasses, extending out from LGBT to intersex and queer,” said dotgay's Baxter.

The EIU’s critique stands as a “double standard,” he added, "one that penalizes dotgay LLC and contradicts even their publishing arm’s use of the word 'gay.' By EIU definition, gay rights discussions — and events like gay pride — would be exclusive to 'homosexual men,' which is untrue."

Baxter said he believes that ICANN evaluators "don’t understand our community. We are being overlooked because of this weird word semantic. I can guarantee that when you use [the word ‘gay’], people understand what you are talking about.”

To support his claim of double standard, Baxter points to the research of Dr. David Gudelunas, associate professor of communication at Fairfield University, who wrote to ICANN and the Economist Intelligence Unit evaluators on April 14, 2014:

“In summary, I present the following research as conclusive evidence that ‘gay’ is not only a clear match of the string and the name of the community, but that ‘gay’ also has a clear and common use for identifying the community. Without ever needing to explain how or why the term ‘gay’ continues to be the term most ‘commonly’ associated with the community of people described in dotgay LLC’s application, or if it is ‘the best’ or ‘least imposing,’ it cannot be disputed that it is a term most commonly understood by its members and ‘others’ as defined by the EIU Evaluation Guidelines. As ICANN considers whether the string ‘gay’ matches the name of the ‘gay community,’ it warrants restating that what appears as obvious to most can also be supported as ‘fact’ when statistical research is analyzed.”

The effort to gain community status for .gay is not over yet. “We have to go through a reconsideration process, but we don’t get to challenge the decision,” explained Baxter. “We have a chance to show where the evaluators went wrong, where they did not apply the rules consistently or fairly.”

Volume 16
Issue 8

LGBT media remembers gay icon Joan Rivers

by Chuck Colbert

Norm Kent, the publisher of South Florida Gay News (SFGN), went all out with the weekly newspaper’s coverage of the recent passing of Joan Rivers. Her picture ran the full page on the front cover of the newspaper’s Fall Arts and Entertainment Guide on September 10 under the tag line, “Can we talk?”

SFGN's front-page photo showcasing
Joan Rivers' final LGBT media interview
SFGN also published her last LGBT interview, one that Rivers gave days before entering the hospital. And Kent’s editorial left no stone unturned in assessing Rivers’ iconic significance in the LGBT community.

“Joan Rivers was a female Liberace,” he wrote. “She exuded opulence and arrogance with an unrelenting flair and fancy.” ‘Can we talk’ was the Joan Rivers prelude to speaking the truth. She was saying, 'Get ready, I am not holding back.' It's a trait you should have as a gay person. Be who you are. Don't apologize for marrying who you want, even that ugly hairy frog holding your hand right now. Hey, he's your frog.

“The gay community loved Joan Rivers, and she loved us back. She joked about all our common themes, from aging to sex, from glamor to glitz. If she had just passed away of cardiac arrest at the age of 81, we simply would have said she lived a great life. We are shocked at her passing because there is something ironic about a woman who seemingly went for extensive and painful plastic surgeries every six months dying during a routine 30-minute endoscopy. It was like hearing astronaut John Glenn slipped and cracked his head in a shower.

“A simple comedienne with the ability to make us laugh incessantly, she made our news section last month by joking that President Obama was gay and his wife Michele transgender. Friends with Prince Charles, she performed for our own queens in South Beach and real ones in London on the world stage.”

Here is a brief excerpt from SFGN staffer Michael Cook’s interview with Rivers, her last one with an LGBT media outlet.

Cook: There is just something about you and the gay men, who just absolutely adore you! What do you think makes the gay men love your shows so much?

Rivers: As long as I have at least six gay men in the front row, you're gonna have a good show. They are the best audience in the world. I don't know why really. I started with them in the Village [in New York City] and they've always been so much a part of my life, with my friends. The humor is right there and they are the ones that you can make the joke with. I find that fascinating.

Cook: I can't speak for all of us, but most gay men I know love you for your honesty and your openness.

Rivers: Oh vice versa definitely. I always make sure I wear good shoes too. The audience looks up.

Sure enough, other LGBT media outlets covered Joan Rivers’ September 4 passing.

A Frontiers front-page from 1984
In Southern California, Frontiers “covered Joan Rivers’ unexpected tragic death as breaking news with an obituary and followed up with reaction, the controversial reports about how she died, her funeral and various remembrances,” said news editor Karen Ocamb. “Rivers had a huge gay following in Los Angeles, from drag queens imitating her for years during West Hollywood’s huge Halloween party to people appreciating her early public support for people with HIV/AIDS, including a Frontiers cover in 1984 promoting an AIDS fundraiser.”

For Ocamb there was also a personal connection. “I met Joan Rivers and her husband Edgar Rosenberg in the mid-1980s through a close mutual friend. I was taken by how smart and what a voracious reader she was. It seemed to contradict her raunchy, simplistic comedy act. But I didn’t know just how complicated she was until after Edgar committed suicide. We were sitting shiva at her home in Bel Air when she quipped to her friends Vincent Price and Roddy McDowell about how angry she was at Edgar, then collapsed briefly into their arms, only to spring up a second later as if she had no time to be weak, especially with Melissa upstairs fuming, blaming her mother for her father’s death. Some of this would play out later in one of their reality shows — but in that moment it was an insight into how so many comics create humor out of pain. I remembered that every time I gagged at one of her over-the-top jokes.”

In Chicago, Windy City Times ran an opinion piece, by the Rev. Irene Monroe, noting that Rivers' “style of humor and feminism made her an icon. Rivers' time, energy, contribution, action and love for the LGBTQ community made her a hero. The self-proclaimed 'Queen of the Gays' thanked us every chance she got.”

Monroe also recalled Rivers’ support for same-sex marriage. “In the fight to legalize marriage equality in New York State, Rivers offered her celebrity endorsement, stating, ‘All New Yorkers believe in fairness, that's why we should support marriage equality. For goodness sakes, come on guys.’ And when New York State legalized same-sex nuptials, Rivers, as an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, officiated a gay couple's wedding atop the Empire State Building in 2013.”

In a piece for New York’s Gay City News, David Noh reminded readers of Rivers’ pioneering role for women in comedy.

“Offensive to some, adored by many, there is no denying that she broke ground in the stand-up comedy field, traditionally a boys’ club, where her indefatigable drive, professionalism and comic chops gained her the respect of everyone in the business,” he wrote. “In later years, she was looked up to as a true pioneer by younger funny women including Rosie O’Donnell, Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman.”

And in San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter, Victoria A. Brownworth provided more details of Rivers’ early support for people living with AIDS.

“In the 1980s, Rivers would be one of the first celebrities to speak out for people with AIDS, and to support efforts on their behalf,” Brownworth wrote. “She saved lives in the years when no one would touch a PWA, let alone help them, by supporting the founding of an agency that provided meals for people with AIDS in New York City, God's Love We Deliver. Rivers volunteered for the agency for more than 25 years, and had been on the board since 1994. She brought her grandson Cooper every Thanksgiving when he visited to work in the kitchen with her.”
Writing for the Washington Blade, Kathi Wolfe noted that it was "not surprising that Rivers’ funeral was the gayest (in all senses of the word) ever: from the Gay Men’s Chorus singing ‘There’s Nothing Like a Dame’ to speakers telling ribald stories to Joan Rivers impersonators standing outside on the sidewalk.”

And yet, “While often controversial, she distributed her insults on an equal opportunity basis,” wrote Mallorie De Riggi for The Seattle Lesbian. “She was noted for being a strong ally for the LGBT community despite sometimes making offensive jokes in the process. In the end, it was all done for entertainment and laughs.”

For Seattle Lesbian publisher Sarah Toce, generosity stands out among Rivers' enduring traits. "Despite her oftentimes brash, unapologetic, demeaning tone regarding the LGBT community, Joan Rivers was a beloved gay icon,” said Toce. “Part of her charm was her candor — her sensationalizing, her gravitas, vim and vigor. She was eccentric, loyal, outspoken and, above all, generous. She championed the effort to cure HIV/AIDS and was a staunch supporter of the arts, civil rights and humanitarian causes."

Volume 16
Issue 8

Smithsonian adds to its LGBT collection

by Chuck Colbert

In a move that prompted both LGBT and mainstream news coverage, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History announced in August that it would significantly expand its collection of LGBT memorabilia and archival material. Some of the notable donations include studio props and scripts from the NBC television series "Will and Grace," the original transgender flag, a racquet that once belonged to transgender tennis player Renee Richards, and diplomatic passports of a gay U.S. ambassador and his spouse, among other objects. 

In announcing the expansion of its LGBT collection, the Smithsonian said in a statement that its National Museum of American History “has a long tradition of documenting the full breadth of the American experience and what it means to be an American. The LGBT narrative is an important part of that American story, and the Smithsonian has been documenting and collecting related objects for many years.”

The museum officially accepted the artifacts at a donation ceremony held on August 19. In attendance were “Will and Grace” creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, transgender flag designer Monica Helms, photographers Patsy Lynch of Washington, D.C., and Silvia Ros of Florida, and LGBT historian and activist Mark Meinke. Also present were representatives from donor organizations, including the GLBT Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland and the D.C. Cowboys. In attendance as well were David Huebner, former U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, and his spouse, Duane McWaine, according to Baltimore OutLoud reporting. Appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate, Huebner served from 2009 to 2014.

“The pursuit of civil rights in America is woven throughout our history,” John Gray, director of the museum, told Baltimore OutLoud. “It is a tale of struggle and accomplishment as the nation strives to fulfill its ideals. We are grateful to our donors for assisting us to fulfill our mission to help the public understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future.”

In its coverage, the Washington Blade spotlighted the donation by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore (GLCCB).

“Our donation to the Smithsonian was gleaned from duplicate/unwanted materials that are in our ‘official’ holdings,” Dan McEvily, GLCCB’s director of communications, told the Blade. “After the GLCCB archives committee transported the holdings to the University of Baltimore, Smithsonian representatives came in to root through what remained. We donated approximately 1-2 cubic feet of a variety of material, including a few editors’ files from the ’90s, old copies of [newspaper] Gay Life, photographs, and miscellaneous materials from other LGBT organizations that were sent to the GLCCB (i.e. Act Up, GLAAD), etc.”

In his reporting, Steve Rothaus of the Miami Herald found a local angle to the story. She is lesbian photographer Sylvia Ros of Miami Shores who donated 86 photographs to the Smithsonian’s expanded LGBT collection. Most of the donated photos were taken in Washington D.C., at the 2009 National Equality March.

Ros told Rothaus that she hopes future generations benefit from her work by learning how LGBTs achieved equality. “As rapidly as these things are changing, I want to make sure we don’t forget or lose the history of this movement,” she told the Miami Herald.

The Associated Press also ran a story, which noted the Smithsonian’s effort to help non-LGBTs get to know and understand the LGBT community. 

"Will and Grace" used comedy to familiarize a mainstream audience with gay culture, said curator Dwight Blocker Bowers, according to the AP. It was daring and broke ground in the same way "All in the Family" did in the 1970s around issues of bigotry and tolerance, Bowers said.

“There have always been gender non-conforming people in the U.S., and we've made contributions and lived life since the beginning of the country," curator Katherine Ott, who focuses on sexuality and gender, told the AP. "It's not talked about and analyzed and understood in the critical ways in which it should be. So for us to build the collection means we can more fully document the history of this country.”

Volume 16
Issue 8

PRESSING QUESTIONS: Tagg Magazine of Washington, D.C.

Interview with ,Managing Editor Eboné Bell
by Joe Siegel

Geographic coverage area: Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Delaware

Year founded: 2012 (the magazine celebrated its second anniversary with its September/October 2014 issue)

Staff size and breakdown [writers, sales reps., etc.]: 1 managing editor, 3 photographers, 2 graphic designers and 10 writers (not staff, contractors)

Physical dimensions of publication: 8.5” x 11”

Average page count: 32-40

Key demographics: Metro D.C.‘s lesbian community

Print run: 7,000+


PPQ: Who came up with the name Tagg?

Managing Editor Eboné Bell: I came up with the name. I wanted a name that meant “connecting” and “linking” the queer women’s community. In the game, when you tag someone, you have to reach out and touch them. Tagg seemed like the perfect name. Tagg, you’re it!

PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome over the past few years?

Bell: Getting through that first year. They say most businesses fail within the first one to two years. It was a big challenge to make sure we didn’t become another statistic. It was important to continue to get the word out and try to grow the publication. The first year was very scary, but we got through it and continue to grow.

PPQ: What challenges are you facing right now?

Bell: We are a small business with a small staff. So now that we are growing, some of the tasks are a little more tedious and time consuming. We are now looking at bringing in more help to resolve this challenge. It’s a good problem to have though.

PPQ: How has your publication changed since it was first launched?

Bell: The look of the actual print publication changed significantly. We went from a small (8-12 page) magazine to a thick full glossy (32-40 page) publication.

PPQ: Do you see yourself as an “activist journalist”? If so, in what way?

Bell: Yes and no. We are definitely more of a lifestyle magazine, which means we don’t have a huge focus on news and politics. However, we still cover important political topics like marriage equality. But as a publication dedicated to the lesbian and queer community in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware, I think unconsciously we have become somewhat of an activist publication, representing a niche that is often forgotten in mainstream media and our local LGBT publications.

PPQ: What's the most surprising feedback you've received from a reader?

Bell: “We got our copy of this month’s Tagg in the mail yesterday. I wanted to send you a quick note to say, WOW. Tagg is truly an insightful and totally gorgeous magazine. I read every single article when I got home from work yesterday. You’ve created something that was totally missing from the community.” — M. Novinskie, Tagg Subscriber 
PPQ: What is the biggest story Tagg has reported in the last few years?

Bell: We’ve had two big stories. Number 1: When the Supreme Court struck down DOMA. We covered it with an article and photos from the actual decision. and We also had a big story that was more of a local fluff piece, but we were the first to make the announcement. It was an article about one of the D.C. lesbian clubs (Phase 1 of Dupont), which had closed its doors. 

PPQ: What advice do you have for others working in LGBT media?

Bell: As long you continue to have a passion for the LGBTQ community, our causes and stories, there will always be a place for LGBTQ media.

Volume 16
Issue 8


(What’s happening at your publication? Let us know at

AGENDA: FLORIDA EDITION, based in Fort Lauderdale, published its 250th issue on September 3, 2014.

ECHOMAG, based in Phoenix, celebrated its 25th anniversary with its September 25, 2014, issue.

THE GAY & LESBIAN ALLIANCE AGAINST DEFAMATION (GLAAD) celebrated its 29th anniversary on November 14, 2014

LESBIAN NEWS, based in Torrance, Calif., celebrated its 40th anniversary with its August 2014 issue.

TAMMYE NASH has returned as managing editor of DALLAS VOICE. She first began writing for the newspaper in 1988 and was named editor in 2006 after the death of the first editor, DENNIS VERCHER. She left in January 2012.

OPTIONS MAGAZINE, based in Providence, R.I., a largely volunteer-run  publication, is seeking a new advertising manager.

OUT IN JERSEY, based in Trenton, N.J., entered its 13th year of publication with its October/November 2014 issue.

VITAL VOICE, based in St. Louis, Mo., relaunched Voice Your Choice, its readers’ choice awards.

WATERMARK, based in Orlando, Fla., celebrated its 20th anniversary with its September 11, 2014, issue.

Volume 16
Issue 8

Sunday, October 26, 2014


(What’s happening at your publication? Let us know at

AFTERELLEN, the women’s-focused online community, has been acquired by EVOLVE MEDIA, leaving its parent company VIACOM. Evolve Media also owns TOTALLYHER, another LGBT female-focused site.

FRONTIERS MEDIA, based in Los Angeles, will sponsor its second edition of Hitched, the newspaper’s gay and lesbian wedding event to be held on November 9, 2014.
Fred Kuhr

FRED KUHR celebrated his eighth anniversary as editor of PRESS PASS Q in September 2014.

LAMBDA WEEKLY, a weekly LGBT talk show on 89.3 KNON-FM in Dallas with DAVID TAFFET, LERONE LANDIS and THE LATE PATTI FINK, was named Best Radio Talk Show in Dallas by the Dallas Observer. (And The Late Patti Fink isn't dead, just late).

M.E. PUBLICATIONS, owner of New York City-based ODYSSEY MAGAZINE, has launched a Florida monthly edition of Odyssey. The publication of its first issue will coincide with Halloween. Also, the company’s Los Angeles and Toronto editions are now available digitally.

THE NATIONAL LGBTQ TASK FORCE is the new name of the NATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN TASK FORCE, the group announced on October 8, 2014.

TAGG MAGAZINE, a lesbian-focused magazine based in Washington, D.C., published its second anniversary issue in September/October 2014.

THE WILTON MANORS GAZETTE was launched by the SOUTH FLORIDA GAY NEWS as a supplement in its August 8, 2014, issue. Meant as a hometown community newspaper, the Gazette will eventually be a stand-alone publication.

Bob Witeck
WINDY CITY TIMES, based in Chicago, was a sponsor of the Work! Chicago LGBTQ Youth Job Fair on October 22, 2014. The event was a followup to the newspaper’s LGBTQ Homeless Youth Summit in May 2014.

BOB WITECK, president of public relations firm WITECK COMMUNICATIONS and a longtime LGBT rights activist, married his longtime partner BOB CONNELLY JR., a senior researcher for the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL and an adjunct professor at American University, on October 1, 2014, in Washington, D.C. They have been together for 20 years.

Volume 16
Issue 7