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. http://taggmagazine.com/features/doma-struck-supreme-court/ and http://taggmagazine.com/photos/doma-prop-8-ruling/. 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 editor@presspassq.com.)

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