For LGBTQ activists, magazine has been a lifeline.
By Annise Parker
We didn’t trust the police. We eyed strangers warily. And we knew that at any moment, things could go horribly wrong.
That was the life of a lesbian activist in the 1970s—organizing and attending meetings intended to advance our movement for equality, but always with a lingering sense of fear. Fear of becoming a target of discrimination or a victim of a hate crime. Fear of being arrested, because sodomy laws were alive and well in Texas. Fear of abandonment by family members shamed by our activism.
It was a different time. And while people of color, immigrants, and other members of our community continue to face many of these same challenges, attitudes toward LGBTQ issues have changed dramatically. Many factors contributed to this shift, most notably the push for our community to come out of the closet and the increased visibility in media, politics, and everyday life that resulted.
Yet, a driving force behind much of that progress was also a strong LGBTQ press—easing our isolation, chronicling our lives, and providing a sense of community. Before the Internet, it was our primary source of information for community gatherings—whether a rally at City Hall or a fundraising event for friends with HIV/AIDS. For activists around the country, these publications were lifelines. In Houston, one of my lifelines was OutSmart.
OutSmart debuted near the start of my political career, and was a source of pride for our community from the beginning. While the weekly papers had more current events, OutSmart was a glossy monthly magazine. Though it has always featured entertaining columns, it has stayed true to its core mission of being our voice and our watchdog. It has also been our voters’ guide—laying out the slate of candidates for local office and the positions they hold on equality.
Its political coverage helped secure LGBTQ support for my nine successful races for public office—three each for City Council, city controller, and then mayor. The monthly OutSmart column I wrote while I was city controller gave me a chance to raise my public profile while also providing readers with needed information.
While mainstream media now covers our community and issues more extensively, and information and events can be shared through social media with ease, OutSmart and other LGBTQ publications remain as critical as ever. They continue to provide a platform for LGBTQ candidates who have yet to catch the mainstream media’s attention. They ensure that the diversity of our community and its perspectives are given a platform. And they continue to provide the in-depth coverage of our issues that is essential to sharing our story on social media or elsewhere.
OutSmart deserves our gratitude for 25 years of public service. I am confident that Houston is a more equal—and fun!—city for LGBTQ people because of its great journalism.
Annise Parker is president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund.