WITH GRATITUDE 04.10.16 9:19 PM CT
In the words of Tony! Toni! Toné!, it’s our anniversary! We’d love to buy you flowers and take you out for a nice dinner to celebrate, but this is the Internet. So instead, here’s a heartfelt letter from our managing editor.
Time has flown by since MOSWN first debuted last March. And although you’ll see articles with publishing dates prior to that, we technically didn’t launch until Monday, March 2, 2015. On that day, I recall being extremely excited but simultaneously anxious about the reception of the site, thinking, “will people want to hear my perspective or interpretation of what’s happening in our community?” I had written for my school newspaper back in college and did a brief stint with another LGBTQ blog just before starting MOSWN. So while I was somewhat confident in my writing ability, I wasn’t sure if anyone would care to read my work. But as a relatively new out gay man at the time, the desire to help shine a light on my community’s successes, achievements and the bullshit we have to go through as LGBTQ people, overshadowed any trepidation I experienced during the launch phase. Since then, I’ve invested countless hours of pitching, interviewing, writing, editing and formatting; faced humbling rejection from various individuals I have wanted to feature on the site; and have made embarrassing mistakes that almost led me to quit. I’d like to think I’ve gotten the hang of this “editor” thing by now, but I know I have much more to learn and greater milestones to conquer.
One of the biggest things that have really kept me motivated during this first year is the kindness and encouragement expressed by all the wonderful people that have been featured on MOSWN. I thank them all for trusting me with their image and story. I must confess, the thought of interviewing people I respect, and in some cases have long admired, was at first intimidating. However, when I actually sat down with them they were all very open, warm and friendly. I’d like to especially thank Bry’Nt, my first feature-length article on the site, for making me feel comfortable and taking the time to help me craft a really great piece about him and his artistry. He set the tone for the rest of my interviews and helped give me the confidence that I really could use MOSWN as a platform for LGBTQ people, especially those of color. I’ve gone on to interview several other prominent and inspirational personalities in the community, and I’ve been impacted quite a bit from each one.
As I reminisce over this first year, I thought it’d be nice to compile some of the best nuggets of wisdom offered in each of the 2015 feature stories. Let’s take a look:
Phylle: On Music, Marriage Equality, and Relationships (February 2015)
“I feel like as a community we have to work together. We pay all of this money for straight artists to entertain us, as opposed to paying for LGBT artists who are grinding to represent and close the gap between our worlds. If we work together we can build a network where we are supporting our own.”
“The internet is amazing. When I was younger and growing up I thought I was alone. I thought nobody was going through what I was going through. [But] in this day and age, you can look up anything you want, or find stories of people going through the exact same thing you’re going through. There are answers out there. Don’t feel like you’re alone.”
“I feel passionately that fashion should not be limited by our gender. It should be something based on what your style is, by how you want to express yourself creatively. It’s important that I can be the voice and be visible as part of those communities, because visibility is what educates and education is what defeats ignorance.”
“Oftentimes it can be mistaken that if you’re not a straight black man, you’re not subjected to police brutality. If we’re [going to] scream black lives matter, we have to encompass all black life, and not just the black life that’s been deemed acceptable by the majority.”
“I know there are a lot of other gay men in education, a lot of them are not out, for various reasons. I don’t judge that, but when there are occasions when people can test those waters and present something different, it’s a huge help to young men, and not just to gay young men. The straight young men [I’ve] taught [have] gained so much from the experience of being able to see strength in a very different way than they possibly could have imagined. I’m sure they’ll be different men and husbands and fathers because of that experience.”
“People need more education on what orientation means. I think there’s a slippery thing heterosexuals do with [their] immediacy of thought when you talk about being queer or gay, [and that] is to start imagining sex. We have to challenge that they’re doing that.”
“Interestingly and ironically, education is a very close minded area when it comes to orientation. The Department of Education barely wants to address LGBTQ issues, most school districts don’t want to touch it. If we can get past that, we can have students who are a lot more aware of what’s going on in the world, less bullying, less suicide, and greater public health and awareness about STI and HIV infections.”
“I really want people to know they have to follow their passions. So many people are stuck on jobs that they hate. And if you’re always working for somebody else, you’re only making their vision come true, you’re never following your own dreams. I just can’t live like that. I’d rather be broke.”
#OOTH2015: Annal summit sheds light on LGBT health and wellness (September 2015)
“There’s a desperate need to discuss holistic health in our community and how they are closely related to the black experience. There’s a need to educate those different parts of our black family, not only our blood family but our chosen family also, so people can be better supporters in our different networks. We need to figure out how to create more opportunities for black LGBT people to have their voices heard in both mainstream circles and traditionally black environments as well.”
“There are so many stories right now that are illuminating our experience in really profound ways. For example, look at Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ book, Between the World and Me. These types of issues are what we need to be focusing on, and one of the ways to really hone that type of focus is to get invested in books. Reading is a great way to take yourself out of your world, learn about somebody else’s world, and open your eyes to an experience you may not be necessarily privy to.”
Inside Frederick Smith’s latest book, ‘Play It Forward’ (November 2015)
“We have a societal responsibility to look at how we can reduce shame and secrets. If we can learn to take steps back from our sense of judgment on each other and on ourselves, it can really free us to be who we are and not feel like there’s anything wrong with us. We also have to examine our individual responsibility to think about the ways in which we might open ourselves up to having our privacy invaded (if that’s not what we want). For example, if we go to someone’s house [to have sex], they could possibly have cameras somewhere. Or if we decide to text someone [sexual] pictures, they could end up in front of another party’s eyes. We need to think about those things.”
“I think it’s important for everyone to really come to understand and know who they are. Oftentimes we can grow up in communities where mainstream society says you’re supposed to be ashamed of being gay, or you’re supposed to be ashamed of being black, or ashamed of whoever you are. Developing a sense of pride in your identity and then using that pride to empower others is essential.”
So there you have it. Those are are some of the past year’s most resonating thoughts that have stuck with me. There are countless others found in the Q&A interviews, guest contributions, expert advice and new blurbs offered last year. I highly encourage you to revisit those articles as well. You’ll find a wealth of information and insight on everything from personal finance to fitness to the latest on music and other entertainment and art forms.
I look forward to the future and expanding MOSWN’s reach. I want to urge anyone reading this letter to continue to support the LGBTQ media outlets that regularly spotlight people of color. Our stories and contributions are important and deserve public recognition. So let’s make sure we are supporting our own and not always clamoring to be included in other outlets that obviously don’t value inclusion and diversity. A like, a share, a retweet, goes a long way in helping our platforms grow.
Before I go, I must extend special thanks to three individuals who have really helped me this year in regards to the site: Marley Malenfant (for your friendship, encouragement, and advice), Keith Brown (for all the opportunities and suggestions you gave early on), and Dana Wood (for all the support you have shown via social media). I would also like to say thanks to everyone who has liked our Facebook page and/or followed us on Twitter. Your endorsement is much appreciated. Cheers to year number two.
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OUTWRITE 2016 – a celebration of LGBT literature
August 5-7 | Washington, DC
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