Wednesday, September 18, 2019


(What's happening at your publication? Let us know. Email editor Fred Kuhr at

LGBT HISTORY MONTH, coordinated by the EQUALITY FORUM, has unveiled its list of 31 icons for 2019. The icons include presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind., Mayor PETE BUTTIGIEG, Prime Minister of Serbia ANA BRNABIC, transgender activist and author KATE BORNSTEIN, WASHINGTON BLADE senior news reporter LOU CHIBBARO JR., Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist RONAN FARROW, Parkland gun control activist EMMA GONZÁLEZ, Oscar-winning filmmaker JAMES IVROY, and Colorado Gov. JARED POLIS. Beginning October 1, a new icon will be featured with video, bio, downloadable images and other resources free for journalists and educators at LGBTHISTORYMONTH.COM

OUTWORD, based in Sacramento, Calif., celebrated its 24th anniversary in August 2019.

THE WASHINGTON BLADE announced that D.C. Mayor MURIEL BOWSER and openly gay Rhode Island Congressman DAVID CICILLINE will be among the speakers at the newspaper’s 50th anniversary gala on October 18, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in D.C. Tickets are available at

RUSS YOUNGBLOOD, senior sales representative and the first full-time employee at Q MAGAZINE in Atlanta, has stepped down for a new career opportunity. Also a photographer for the magazine, he will stay involved as a contributor.

Volume 21
Issue 6

NLGJA confab pushes diversity while Fox News sponsorship stirs controversy

by Joe Siegel

More than 400 journalists, news executives, communications professionals and educators attended NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists’ annual convention, which was held August 29 through September 1 in New Orleans.

"We were excited to see so many new faces at the convention this year, as well as many of our veteran attendees," said NLGJA Executive Director Adam K. Pawlus. "I hope everyone left feeling energized and prepared to carry on the mission of NLGJA. We're very excited to see everyone next year in Chicago."

The Washington Blade was the recipient of the NLGJA Legacy Award. "Thank you to NLGJA for this honor,” said Blade Editor Kevin Naff. “The Blade team works hard each day to hold this administration accountable, to cover hate crimes targeting our community and to shine a light on the plight of LGBTQ people around the world. We have helped write the first draft of LGBTQ history for 50 years and while much progress has been made, we look forward to the advances of the next 50 years."

The NLGJA Leadership Award was bestowed upon Reuters Deputy Managing Editor Arlyn Gajilan. Lucas Grindley and Robert Feiseler were the recipients of the Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for LGBTQ Journalist of the Year and NLGJA Journalist of the Year, respectively.

Convention speakers included financial guru Suze Orman, Senior Vice President for MSNBC & NBC News Yvette Miley, CBS Sunday Morning Executive Producer Rand Morrison, AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee, and Them Executive Editor Whembley Sewell.
NLGJA President Sharif Durhams

More than 30 breakout sessions and five plenary sessions were on the agenda this year. Also, more than 25 organizations and companies were exhibiting at the Career & Community Expo. Work that is produced by the students in the CONNECT: Student Journalism Training Project can be found at

One of that project’s stories focused on how NLGJA is working to increase diversity in the media and its news coverage. “You have to have diverse people in your newsroom who are at all levels of the newsroom to advocate for these stories,” NLGJA President Sharif Durhams, the first African-American president in the organization’s history, told student reporter Andre Menchavez. 

The convention’s “How to Increase Diversity in Your Coverage” panel focused on encouraging attendees to seek and pitch stories about communities that are underrepresented in mainstream news. “There is so much diversity within our [LGBTQ] family,” said Simon Bouie, panelist and producer of the CBS Evening News, according to Menchavez’s reporting. Bouie believes “the news should look like the nation.”

A conversation between Correspondent Mo Rocca and CBS Sunday Morning Executive Producer Rand Morrison focused on the ways of keeping broadcast news appealing to audiences amid heavy competition from cable news outlets.

Other plenaries included “Fact Checking in a Trumpian World,” “Driving the Rainbow Wave: LGBTQ Women,” “Perfect Podcasting: Finding Your Voice,” “How I Survived as a Freelance Writer,” “Reporting on Bi+ Identities,” and “Stonewall 50.”

There was also a New Ways: Reporting HIV & AIDS Today workshop, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control’s Act Against AIDS program. NLGJA has a partnership with the CDC's Partnering & Communicating Together (PACT) for the program.

The convention featured two local performing arts groups, including The Original Pinettes Brass Band, New Orleans' only all-female brass band.

Corporate sponsors of this year’s convention included Coca-Cola, JetBlue, CNN, Fox News, CBS News, McClatchy, Scripps, Comcast NBC Universal, ESPN, the Facebook Journalism Project, MGM Resorts International, Prudential, Stoli, and Verizon Media.

But Fox’s continued sponsorship has become a bone of contention this year after the National Association of Hispanic Journalists recently returned more than $16,000 to Fox. That was in reaction to Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes’ remarks against Latino immigrants.

Critics of the sponsorship say that the network’s conservative editorial positions should disqualify it from being associated with NLGJA. “By promoting Fox News with sponsorship logos and ads, NLGJA is helping pinkwash the image of a far-right corporation,” said Dominic Holden, NLGJA’s 2016 Journalist of the Year and a vocal critic of Fox’s sponsorship, told CONNECT student journalist Jonathan Lee.

The topic of corporate sponsorships came up at the annual meeting of NLGJA’s board. “We discussed feedback that we’re hearing from members,” Durhams, the group’s president, told Lee, “and there wasn’t a change in policy.”

The 2020 convention will be held in Chicago, September 10-13. For more information, visit

(Editor Fred Kuhr contributed to this report.)

Volume 21
Issue 6

Rhode Island’s Options at a crossroads

by Joe Siegel

Options, based in Providence, R.I., is looking to regroup following the resignations of its chairman and several members of its board of directors.

“Due to financial reasons, the board of directors decided not to publish an August/September issue, and also decided to cancel the Gay 5K planned for September 22,” wrote Editor Jen Stevens in a message posted on an LGBTQ listserv. “Subsequently, several board members have resigned and new leadership is needed to keep this 37-year-old institution afloat.

While Stevens, as editor, does not serve on the board, she offered to connect potential board members with the remaining members of the board.

The publication, which launched in 1982, has undergone many changes through the years, starting as a newsletter produced in conjunction with AIDS Care Ocean State and evolving into a glossy monthly magazine.

Options ceased publication in 2017 due to financial difficulties but relaunched in 2018.

“What we’re looking for is potential board members to come on and help run Options,” said board member Joty Allison.

The remaining board members had considered shutting down the print edition of the magazine and publishing online only. But readers expressed their support for the print edition.

“A lot of our sponsors prefer we have a print magazine as well,” Allison said, noting it was “so expensive” to produce.

Allison said that if the board of directors is unable to raise enough money, the print edition will be shuttered for good.

Stevens said work on the magazine’s October/November issue will proceed “thanks to a generous sponsorship from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island.” The publication’s writing and design staff are intact.

Options’ management team intends to solicit feedback from the community to determine the magazine’s future direction.

“We know that Options must develop a more consistent and valuable online presence to compete in the digital age, and strides are needed to reach marginalized community members,” Stevens said. “We intend to hold a community meeting this autumn to assess how Options can best serve our diverse local LGBTQ community. We hope that readers will share their ideas and opinions to chart our path and reinvest in our mission.”

Volume 21
Issue 6

Washington Blade returns to Mexican border and Central America

by Fred Kuhr

The Washington Blade continues to be the highest profile LGBTQ news outlet covering the plight of Latin American immigrants as Michael K. Lavers, the newspaper’s international news editor, returned to the U.S.-Mexico border over the summer.

Lavers spoke with a number of activists and immigrants, including Héctor Ruiz of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, Imelda Maynard of Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico and Paola Fernández of the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee. Lavers also interviewed a gay Ugandan man who recently won asylum in the U.S., Nathan Craig and Margaret Brown Vega of Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) in the Chihuahuan Desert, and Ryan Steinmetz of PFLAG Las Cruces Rainbow Refugee Project in Las Cruces, N.M.

Lavers also traveled to El Paso, Texas, and its sister city Ciudad Juárez, which is just across the Rio Grande in Mexico. That trip was prescient as it was only two weeks before a white supremacists drove from Dallas to a Walmart Supercenter in El Paso to kill 22 people and injure two dozen others.

One of the Blade's Michael K. Lavers' images from the border
During an interview with Lavers in Guatemala City, Guatemalan Congressman-elect Aldo Dávila “sharply criticized his country’s government over its decision to sign a ‘safe third country’ agreement with the White House that requires migrants who pass through Guatemala on their way to the U.S. to first seek asylum in the country.”

Since January, the Blade has reported from California’s Imperial Valley; Arizona, New Mexico; Mexico City; Mexico’s Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua and Chiapas states; Guatemala; El Salvador and Honduras.

Along the way, Lavers has photographed people and places that illustrate the political battle underway. These photos include Guatemala’s Dávila protesting outside that country’s presidential palace, a transgender woman from El Salvador living at a shelter in Ciudad Juárez, a sign in an El Paso Walmart advertising that it is investing in “American” jobs, and a mug with a gun handle for sale in Abilene, Texas, a sign that gun culture is alive and well there.

Volume 21
Issue 6

GUEST COMMENTARY: We are more than LGBTQ, we are queer

by Rick Claggett
(Rick Claggett is the publisher of Watermark, based in Orlando, Fla. This commentary originally appeared in the May 30, 2019, issue of Watermark.)

Hi! My name is Rick and I am queer.

How does that make you feel? Does the word queer invoke anger or fear? Or is it something you embrace? Is this a generational question?

I understand and respect completely that the word queer is a trigger for some. I vividly remember being asked if I was queer when I was younger. It was usually accompanied by some snarl-faced look that let me know being queer was not a good thing in their eyes. Not knowing what queer meant, I would answer no, which would result in my gender being questioned or chased around the playground. By the time I was called “as queer as a three dollar bill,” I knew what they were saying.

Watermark's Rick Claggett
It was more than 30 years ago so my memories might be a little hazy, but I don’t remember being crushed by the word. I have definitely been called worse. Let’s be real, my last name is Claggett, pronounced kla-git. Now go ahead and sing it in the “Name Game.” My brothers and I are certainly no strangers to being called the “F” word.

For me it was different, obviously, as I am gay. Yet again, I don’t remember it bothering me so much. In fact, I got to the point where someone would yell “faggot” and I would retort, “Yeah, so what?” That usually shut them up. Although, I realize it wasn’t as easy for others, so I’ll just refer to it as the “F” word from now on.

Watermark Film Company is currently working on the documentary, “Greetings From Queertown: Orlando.” The goal is to follow the path of Central Florida’s LGBTQ history. We will detail the evolution of LGBTQ rights through politics, HIV/AIDS, Pride and entertainment, highlighting the struggles and heroes who built our community and made it possible for us to weather unthinkable tragedy. We have to talk about how bad it was to understand how good it is. That is how I feel about the word queer.

When I was in school in the ‘80s and ‘90s, queer was a derogatory term. What made it derogatory was the intent of the user. Much like how acceptance of the LGBTQ community has evolved, so has acceptance of the word queer by the LGBTQ community. It seems fitting to use queer in the title of the upcoming documentary because, like the community, the word queer started out as a negative connotation and transformed into something that is representative of a diverse and inclusive world.

In my last column of 2018, I asked for the conversation to begin for us to change how we refer to our community. Too many people in our community do not identify with L, G, B or T. I used to jokingly say that we added Q to stand for Queverybody, but the truth is everybody is not represented by LGBTQ. The only way to make sure our alphabet soup is all inclusive is to make it 26 letters.

I recently attended the annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast put on by The LGBT+ Center. A prominent ally mentioned — and I am paraphrasing — that she always felt the word “ally” described someone who was not part of a group, but supported the members from the outside. It made me take a step back and think. Our allies shouldn’t feel like they are not 100 percent members of our community, and they should be able to claim name to our existence.

My roommate just bought a rainbow magic band, rainbow T-shirt and a string of rainbow lights to wear at RED Shirt Pride Day at the Magic Kingdom. That cisgender, heterosexual ally is completely part of this queer community.

This is my official pitch that we adopt the word queer and an all-inclusive way to join our cisgender, non-binary, allied, L, G , B and T family. The word is weathered, tested, evolved and strong. It speaks to how our community fought and how we were defined to become what we are today. It speaks to the strength and love we have for each other, and it speaks to our diversity.

Still don’t like queer? Then start a conversation about another word. Let’s cut ourselves a break from having to stumble through the words “LGBTQ community” when speaking in public.

Volume 21
Issue 6

PRESSING QUESTIONS: Swerv Magazine of Upper Marlboro, Maryland

Interview with Publisher Jamil Fletcher
by Joe Siegel

Geographic coverage area: National, distributed free of charge directly in 70 cities within 30 states

Year founded: 2008

Staff size and breakdown: Three plus a number of independent contributors

Key demographics: Black LGBTQ


PPQ: What feature or features of Swerv have been the most popular with readers? 
Publisher Jamil Fletcher: It varies. The basis of our popularity is centered on the fact that we tell stories about a community at the intersection of race and sexual identity that are not being told elsewhere. The entertainment, columnists, and cover profiles are very popular.  
Swerv's Jamil Fletcher

PPQ: Who came up with the name and what is the inspiration for it?

Fletcher: The name was suggested by a friend. It's a play on the word swerve, meaning "to change course." We dropped the closing "e" for style purposes. 

PPQ: What challenge has Swerv had to overcome since its inception?

Fletcher: There is little to no advertising market invested in Black LGBTQ people. Thus, advertising is a HUGE challenge. Entities interested in reaching LGBTQ audiences are not interested in segmenting based on race, and those looking to reach Black folks are not interested in segmenting based on sexual identity. Beside the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture medicines for HIV/AIDS patients, no one really has this unique demographic in mind. 

PPQ: What challenge or challenges is Swerv facing now?

Fletcher: Advertising, advertising, advertising. On top of that, advertisers discount the value of this demographic, so they don't want to pay market rates. 

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

Fletcher: The look and feel of the publication has evolved over the years. Since 2012, my brother, who is an experienced graphic artist, has been coordinating the layout. We look a million times better than before. It's like night and day. 

PPQ: What one change would you like to make? 

Fletcher: I would love to add more pages to the publication, but that is currently based on the advertising support. 

PPQ: What’s the biggest news story or stories Swerv has covered?

Fletcher: Some of the more widely viewed stories thus far have been our cover profile of Bishop Yvette Flunder, as one of the great spiritual leaders in the country, our profile of former adult film star Mustang, and our musical profiles of both B. Slade and Toshi Reagon.

PPQ: On the Kinsey Scale of 0-6 (exclusively straight to totally gay), how gay is your publication?

Fletcher: Totally gay or same-gender-loving, but we include allies and things that are relevant to all Black people, no matter the sexual identity. 

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

Fletcher: No, not activist. Just creating a forum to capture and celebrate the humanity of Black same-gender-loving people.  

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

Fletcher: Honestly, nothing has surprised me yet. I am always inspired to hear feedback about how a particular story may have had an impact. What I do find startling is what many in our community are not aware of about each other. 

PPQ: What advice would you give to anyone who may want to launch their own LGBTQ publication?

Fletcher: I would say if you are looking to make money from the publication as an LGBTQ entity, then you must gear it towards white gay men. That's the only demographic within the LGBTQ community that advertisers appear to value. Otherwise, be prepared to basically finance it yourself.

Volume 21
Issue 6