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A Look Back at OutSmart’s 2020 Editions

Both in print and online, OutSmart covered LGBTQ Houston’s response to an unprecedented year.

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OutSmart’s 2020 print covers (designs by Alex Rosa for OutSmart magazine)

While every year is marked by a few defining moments, 2020 was jam-packed with world-changing events. From the worsening climate crisis to a deadly pandemic and the global push for racial justice, many long-standing problems finally came to a head this year. 

OutSmart worked to accurately report on the various ways that LGBTQ Houstonians responded to the past year’s challenges. Our community’s strength and resilience shines through in this look back at OutSmart’s monthly editions for 2020.  

January: Wellness Warriors  

We started the year off strong—literally. OutSmart’s annual New Year’s health and wellness issue featured local openly gay fitness gurus James Mai, John Micheal Race, and Pinij Nalampoon, who gave us a glimpse of their workout routines. 

Elsewhere in the print issue, we covered an LGBTQ-affirming Montrose church that is protesting the United Methodist Church’s ban on same-sex wedding ceremonies. We also launched our new Wigging Out column, where writer Sam Byrd shares his Q&A chats with local drag performers. Look for Sam’s column on the last page of each issue.  


February: Love Bugs

In honor of Valentine’s Day, our February issue introduced you to six local LGBTQ power couples, including cover stars Ruben Salazar and Tristan Erickson. The duo owns Bug In The Box, a booming business that preserves and stages insects in colorful artistic displays. 

This Black History Month issue also included several queer Black Houston leaders, including Impulse Group Houston president Ian Haddock, who had recently teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to tackle HIV stigma. 


March: Leading Ladies

March is Women’s History Month, so we featured six businesswomen who are making their mark in Houston. Three of these leading ladies appeared on the March cover—baker Angelina Marie, writer Jenny Block, and siesta-facility owner Khaliah O. Guillory.  

We also chatted with the creators of the Marsha’s Plate podcast, a local online forum that gives transgender people of color a seat at the table. Sadly, our March calendar of events was the last one published before COVID-19 restrictions ended public gatherings locally and across the nation.


April: First Responders

Shortly after the OutSmart team began working on its annual April food-and-drink issue, COVID-19 infections began to rise in Houston and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a stay-at-home order requiring most businesses to close. It soon became evident that OutSmart’s coverage needed to shift so we could share the stories of LGBTQ Houstonians who were being most directly impacted by the pandemic. We were honored to highlight three local gay healthcare workers—including our cover stars, nurses Nick Olaverria and Akil Jones, who have been working tirelessly on the front lines of this health crisis.  

In spite of the toll that Houston’s lockdown took on advertising and magazine distribution, our family of LGBTQ-affirming advertisers made it possible for us to publish an 80-page issue that included a list of relief resources for restaurant and bar workers who continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic business restrictions.


May: Combined Forces

Tackling the sudden spike in food insecurity brought on by COVID-19 was the topic of our May cover story. Five LGBTQ and ally nonprofit workers from the Houston Food Bank, YMCA of Greater Houston, and Brighter Bites were featured on the May cover.

We also celebrated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by introducing you to four LGBTQ Asian American leaders—Addie Tsai, Jenna Pel, Fahad Punjwani, and Albert Wei—who are doing their part to make Space City a better place. 


June: The Art of Pride

Despite not being able to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month with an in-person festival or parade, OutSmart’s annual June Pride issue still commemorated the 1969 Stonewall uprising that eventually sparked Houston’s own LGBTQ rights movement. Cover star Nicholas Nguyen, a popular local gay fashion designer, discussed moving to the U.S. and his journey to self-discovery.

Just before OutSmart’s June issue went to the printer, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man from Houston, was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. Floyd’s murder sparked passionate civil-rights protests throughout the U.S. and around the world, and trans activist Monica Roberts’ June OutSmart column called for an end to the horrifying pattern of innocent Black Americans being brutalized at the hands of out-of-control police officers throughout the country.  


July: Demanding Racial Justice

Over 60,000 Houstonians gathered in downtown Houston on June 2 for a peaceful march and rally in honor of George Floyd. That event was organized by our July cover stars, the LGBTQ organizers of Black Lives Matter Houston, which is the local chapter of Black Lives Matter. That grass-roots civil-rights organization was founded in 2013 to empower and uplift Black voices following the heartbreaking acquittal of the man who murdered 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. 

Elsewhere in the issue, we looked at how some notable queer Galvestonians were spending their time on the Island while staying safe during the pandemic. 


August: Beyond the Binary

Gender exists on a wide spectrum that extends beyond the traditional male/female binary. To celebrate this evolving awareness, OutSmart’s August issue highlighted four trailblazing nonbinary activists who are redefining the way our community embraces gender diversity. Our August cover star, artist-model Chiugo, embraces gender fluidity while stepping out in front of the camera. 

That annual music issue also showcased local and national LGBTQ musicians whose tunes should all be added to our quarantine playlists. We also caught up with young Texas trans girl Kai Shappley, who appeared in Netflix’s new series The Baby-Sitters Club


September: Pride Houston’s 2020 Grand Marshals 

COVID-19 was still out of control as we headed into the fall season, so in-person Pride Houston events that normally occur in June had to be canceled. However, the LGBTQ organization continued to uplift the community with a fresh lineup of online happenings, noting that “the queer community should be celebrated year-round.” For that reason, OutSmart’s September issue included six digital covers featuring Pride Houston’s 2020 grand marshals Tommie Ross, Landon Richie, Austin Dexter Williams, Kelsey Reynolds, Lillie Schechter, and William Loyd.

Elsewhere in the issue, we highlighted eight local queer artists who are elevating Houston’s creative landscape. We also interviewed newly elected GLBT Political Caucus President Jovon Tyler about his vision for the organization heading into the 2020 general election.


October: Gayest & Greatest 2020

OutSmart’s Gayest & Greatest Reader’s Choice Awards honored the top local individuals, organizations, and businesses that had persisted throughout a challenging year, and our October issue showcased 15 of the G&G winners who made Houston a better place while doing it. Cover stars Angel Cabrera and Brian Ponce, the married couple behind Tacos Doña Lena in Spring Branch, took home the 2020 Best Mexican Restaurant award.  

We also prepared you for the November elections by filling you in on 19 LGBTQ Texas candidates running for office. In her final OutSmart column, Monica Roberts urged readers to get out and vote in “the most important election in American history.” 


November: Unapologetically Trans

Pioneering transgender journalist and advocate Monica Roberts passed away at age 58 on October 6. Our November issue highlighted the life and legacy of Roberts, a native Houstonian who became nationally recognized for providing accurate information about transgender homocide victims, who are often misgendered in police reports and media coverage. Rest in Power, Monica.

Because the holidays can be especially difficult for some queer people, the November edition highlighted three Houston mental-health workers who shared some valuable end-of-the-year survival tips. We also featured longtime OutSmart photographer Dalton DeHart, who was about to receive the Montrose Center’s LGBTQ Community Vision Award. DeHart spoke with writer Jerry Simoneaux about the three decades he has devoted to capturing community history. 


December: Family Ties

OutSmart ended the year with a holiday issue dedicated to family, friends, and community. Our cover stars—Holocaust survivor Ruth Steinfeld and her openly gay grandson Brandon Montano—shared their belief in the power of unconditional love and acceptance. We also spotlighted six notable queer locals who were busy spreading holiday cheer in spite of all the COVID-19 restrictions. 

Elsewhere in the issue, writer Ryan Leach debuted his sixth annual list of Things to Leave in 2020 (and Keep for 2021). Leach emphasized the need to remember the positive developments from 2020 so we can start the New Year mindful of the progress that is being made. 

To look back at all of OutSmart’s print editions, visit

Happy New Year!


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Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is the managing editor of OutSmart magazine.

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