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A Look Back at OutSmart’s 2021 Monthly Editions

Houston’s LGBTQ community remained resilient during another complex year.

After the stressful whirlwind that was 2020, many of us started 2021 hopeful that better days were ahead. An ongoing pandemic, a climate crisis, and political conflicts tested our optimism this year, but, as expected, LGBTQ Houstonians remained resilient in spite of the challenges.  

OutSmart’s 2021 print editions showcased the lives of local queer personalities who kept moving forward. Here’s a look back at those success stories, along with some insights into the editorial process of putting together each print issue.


Cover story by Sam Byrd
Photography by Alex Rosa

January: New Beginnings

We started off the year with some much-needed peace and tranquility. OutSmart’s annual New Year’s Health & Wellness issue featured a cover story on openly gay Dr. Wade Maggert, a Zen Buddhist and mental-health therapist who shared some advice on how to be more mindful during 2021. Because January is typically a great time to reprioritize your life and set some goals, this issue of OutSmart also spotlighted six out health experts who didn’t let COVID-19 stop them from helping us achieve our wellness dreams.

Elsewhere in the January issue, we evaluated the political climate in the U.S. and in the Lone Star State. As we eagerly anticipated LGBTQ allies Joe Biden and Kamala Harris taking office, Equality Texas’ Angela Hale filled us in on the 2021 Texas Legislative Session. As expected, local LGBTQ rights were again on the line and there would be an unprecedented nationwide spike in legislation targeting transgender youth in particular. 


Cover story by Krystle Lyons
Photography by Alex Rosa

February: Up Close and Personal 

From budding new flings to committed long-term relationships, there are countless LGBTQ love stories in Houston. The February edition of OutSmart highlighted five one-of-a-kind relationships and showcased the ways that each of these queer couples connects and navigates their lives together in Space City. Writer Krystle Lyons chatted with our cover stars Ashley and Cortney Adams-Matthewis, local wives whose popular mental-health podcast is making waves. 

The Black History Month issue also highlighted several gifted Black LGBTQ leaders. Writer Lillian Hoang spoke to Houston Public Media’s Eddie Robinson about his radio program, while writer Sam Byrd interviewed Top-20 recording artist Justin Michael Williams about his surprising new approach to the practice of meditation. 


Cover story by Zach McKenzie
Photography by James Law

March: JAG Jabs Back

OutSmart celebrated Women’s History Month by spotlighting local LGBTQ ladies who make Space City a better place. Writer Zachary McKenzie introduced us to our cover star and out world-champion fighter Jessica Aguilar, who had recently brought her queer pride back to Houston. We also interviewed entrepreneur and musician Whitney Howard, and filled you in on The Ranch Houston—a unique woman-owned urban farm, art studio, and wellness center.

This month marked one year since the surge of COVID-19 cases in Houston forced non-essential businesses to shut down. As the world entered its second year of turmoil and uncertainty, we spoke with several LGBTQ Houstonians who revealed how COVID-19 was impacting their lives.


Cover story by Connor Behrens
Photography by Alex Rosa

April: Locally Grown

Several LGBTQ local professionals are behind some of Houston’s hottest trends in home design. Three of those creatives shared their tips in our April House & Home issue, starting with cover star and landscape designer William D. Skinner III, who spoke with writer Conner Behrens. Then we discussed home remodeling trends with designer Jacob Medina and shared some illuminating pointers from lighting designer Martin Sunday. 

One of the most sought-after (and pricey) Houston neighborhoods these days is, of course, Montrose. If you live here—or are just a fan of the area’s goings-on—you’ve most likely been amazed by all of the new construction happening throughout our quirky five-square-mile community. All of this redevelopment prompted OutSmart to ask a few seasoned LGBTQ Houstonians what they thought about the transformation of “Old Montrose.” We shared some revealing answers from JD Doyle, Jack Vallinski, Annise Parker, AJ Mistretta, and Bill Baldwin.


Cover stories by Ryan Leach, Jenny Block, Kim Hogstrom, and Zach McKenzie
Photography by Connor Thompson

May: Great Escapes

Because we all deserved some much-needed respite as pandemic restrictions finally began to ease, our May travel issue served as your personal guide to LGBTQ-friendly getaways in Texas and beyond. Our cover feature spotlighted five local gay-owned destinations, and a few top LGBTQ travel agents told us about popular getaway options, including celebrity couple Jonathan Bennett and Jaymes Vaughan’s new queer cruise operation.

Elsewhere in the issue, we celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month by highlighting five local AAPI professionals from the LGBTQ community who work to make Space City great—Mel Gonzales, Macy Oupraxy, Bao Long Chu, Eesha Pandit, and Dr. Bhavik Kumar.


Cover story by Sam Byrd
Photography by Frank Hernandez

June: Pride 2021

Pride Month is a time to celebrate—and also a time to reflect on the past, present, and future of our LGBTQ community. This special June edition of OutSmart looked at where we’ve been and where we’re going by showcasing queer Houstonians who continue to shape our local history.

For instance, our fabulous cover star Blackberri helped put Space City’s one-of-a-kind drag scene on the radar. Writer Sam Byrd interviews the “bearded beauty” about her February appearance in a Super Bowl commercial, and her commitment to nurturing up-and-coming performers. We also asked three notable local leaders to interview out-and-proud colleagues in their respective fields who are making a difference. Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters introduced you to ballet dancer Jack Wolff, District Attorney Kim Ogg interviewed Judge Phyllis Frye, and fashion model Jessica Zyrie interviewed glamorous influencers Madelyn and Margo Whitley. 


Cover story by Sam Byrd
Photography by Gavin Calais

July: The Numbers Narrative 

After nine years in the making, local nonbinary filmmaker Marcus Pontello’s Friday I’m In Love documentary highlighting the historic Numbers Nightclub in Montrose screened in its entirety. OutSmart highlighted Pontello and their remarkable film with a cover feature in this July edition. Writer Sam Byrd chatted with the filmmaker about the documentary, and also dug into the history of Numbers by sitting down with some of the club’s former and current owners and DJs. 

Elsewhere in this annual Galveston summer issue, we spotlighted a few of the people and places that make the Island so special—Rumors Bar & Grill owner Todd Slaughter, Texas United Charities’ Galveston chapter president Sheila Morton, and the Galveston Artist Residency’s Ian Gerson and Everest Pipkin.


Cover story by Ryan Leach
Photography by Jazmine Watson

August: Sonic Superstars

Houston’s rising LGBTQ musicians are one of the city’s best-kept secrets, so OutSmart filled you in on some of these local artists in our annual August music issue. To kick off our artist roundup, writer Ryan Leach introduced you to cover star Sugar Joiko, a multi-talented singer, producer, and performer who is on track to become Houston’s next pop supernova. We also gave you the spin on DJ GNDRBNDR, indie singer-songwriter Uliya, country artist Curtis Braly, and operatic bass Cory McGee.  

To celebrate our evolving awareness of the issues that gender-expansive individuals face, this issue of OutSmart also highlighted local advocates whose identities extend beyond the traditional male/female binary—Juliann Losey, Moe Penders, and DJ Mel.


Cover story by Jenny Block
Photography by Martine Gutierrez, courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York

September: Evocative Creations

COVID-19 safety restrictions forced local theaters and galleries to close, resulting in devastating job and revenue losses. And while artists, musicians, and actors are using the internet and socially-distant in-person platforms to keep us engaged, we missed the energy that being in a large, enthusiastic audience can provide. Fortunately, with the rollout of vaccines combined with ongoing COVID protocols, Houston’s arts and entertainment venues have been welcoming back their audiences. OutSmart’s September Arts & Entertainment issue served as your guide to the return of our city’s thriving cultural scene. 

One exciting Houston exhibit on display at the time was Martine Gutierrez: Radiant Cut, a micro-survey of provocative works by New York artist Martine Gutierrez. For September’s cover feature, writer Jenny Block talked to Gutierrez about her explorations of identity, fashion, and cultural norms.

We also featured eight local LGBTQ creatives who are prospering in Houston and beyond—gallery owner Magen Pastor, painter Edgar Medina, comedian Bob Morrissey, burlesque performer Tifa Tittlywinks, photographer and rapper Emilio Coochie, and actors Adam Zapata, Scott Luptin, and Greg Dean.


Cover stories by Zach McKenzie, Sam Byrd, and Jenny Block
Photography by Frank Hernandez

October: Glitz n’ Glam 

This year’s Gayest & Greatest Readers’ Choice Awards issue celebrated our readers’ recommendations in over 200 categories, and shined an additional spotlight on 14 of their top picks. Three of our readers’ favorite Space City entertainers were featured on that month’s cover. Writers Zach McKenzie, Sam Byrd, and Jenny Block introduced you to nonbinary actor Stoo, drag artist Queen Persephone, and musician DJ Athenz, respectively. 

Elsewhere in this issue, we celebrated LGBTQ History Month by featuring queer pioneers who have made their mark on Houston—Latino activist Arthur Cordova, 1970s racquetball champion Jan Pasternack, and artist/collector couple Barbara Levine and Paige Ramey.


Cover story by Zach McKenzie
Photography by Alex Rosa

November: Positive Living

Celebrating the fall and winter holidays is an important part of many people’s traditions. Some of the LGBTQ community’s most meaningful observances also occur during those final months of the year. 

World AIDS Day is recognized annually on December 1 to promote HIV awareness and remember those we have lost to AIDS-related illnesses. Transgender Awareness Week occurs November 13 through 19,  and promotes trans visibility ahead of November 20’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorializes those we have lost to anti-trans violence. 

This November issue of OutSmart honored all of these LGBTQ observances by highlighting local leaders in their respective movements. 

Our November cover star, Caleb Brown, uses his influence to dismantle HIV stigma. Writer Zach McKenzie chatted with Brown about being a “sex-positive, body-positive, and HIV-positive” social-media star. McKenzie also spoke to healthcare workers B’Yancha Lawson and Riley Burns, who provide vital HIV resources to trans Houstonians. 


Cover story by Sam Byrd
Photography by Victor Contreras

December: Joyous Voices 

The 2021 holiday season feels extra-festive as we venture out to safely participate in group festivities once again. There was lots to do, so this December OutSmart issue was your guide to several merry and gay local events.  

Writer Sam Byrd introduced you to our cover stars, the members of Pride Chorus Houston who performed their annual holiday concert in the Heights on December 11. Meanwhile, we featured a few other LGBTQ locals who revealed how they were celebrating the holidays. American Indian activist Anna Farris planned on giving back to her community, while bakery owner Brian Duong talked about his tasty and charity-minded confections. Designer Eliot Perez also let us know about his holiday decorating services.  

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

Happy New Year!

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Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.
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