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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Celebrating 15 Years

We salute our writers, advertisers, & readers

Anniversaries offer an opportunity to reflect, take stock, and celebrate. This year is one of those milestone anniversaries for Baltimore OUTloud. On May 16th we celebrate our 15th year publishing as an independent voice for Baltimore’s LGBT communities. It hasn’t always been easy, especially in the dramatically changing landscape facing print media, but we’ve managed because of the incredible dedication of our staff, volunteers, advertisers, and you, the members of Baltimore’s sexual minority communities!

This year we are particularly thankful for the vision of Jabari Lyle, president of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland and the Center’s board of directors. After assuming responsibility for the Center under dire circumstances, Jabari and the board made the bold moves that we believe will strengthen both the Center and this newspaper.Last year, the Center accepted the offer of Pride Media to buy the Center’s newspaper in exchange for a commitment that Baltimore OUTloud would provide space in each issue for the Center to publicize its work. This decision has allowed the Center to focus on its core mission while continuing to have access to the communities’ newspaper. It has also strengthened Baltimore OUTloud by consolidating the ad revenue and editorial talent of the city in one newspaper. Consequently, both LGBT organizations are stronger and better able to serve the communities.

Baltimore OUTloud has benefited from scores of volunteer reporters and columnist, without whose generosity of time and commitment, we would not be able to cover the news and provide insightful opinions. On this 15th anniversary we want to make special mention of Steve Charing (writer, columnist, and former editor), Chuck Duncan (movie reviews), and Greg Shapiro (celebrity interviews and reviews), who were with us from day one and remain contributors. We also want to give a particular thank you to Associate Editor Mary Taylor who started out as the ad sales representative and is now the driving force behind the publication. We simply would not be able to keep going without her dedication and hard work. Mary’s partner in crime, Bill, our layout editor and our personal guru, deserves special mention for keeping us off the straight and narrow! Anja Saine, our tireless webmaster, keeps us on the web.

Our continuing mission...

Baltimore OUTloud was founded by activists and we have always considered advocacy as a paramount responsibility. We endeavor to hold the wider community accountable on critical issues such as homophobic and transphobic violence, school bullying, police harassment, and discrimination in all its forms. We also provide a forum for lively debate on issues percolating in sexual minority communities.

However, we have a wider focus. In our second issue, published May 30th, 2003, we announced our commitment to sexual liberation, our belief that as LGBTQ people we are outsiders with a unique perspective to offer on political, social, and economic issues, and that our lives are tied to the broader world in ways that demand a focus beyond what may be seen as traditional LGBT issues. We restated this expansive view of the issues that are important to the LGBT communities and our pledge to covering them in our 10th anniversary issue and although the language may seem dated – particularly the use of “domestic partner benefits” – we think it cannot be said too much. On May 30th, 2003 we wrote:

We are committed to improving our lives and... to holding the wider community responsible for actions that attack our humanity. But we are also aware that our lives are tied to the broader world. Of course we will rally support for gay rights initiatives, domestic partner benefits, and adoption rights. But we recognize that a prohibition against job discrimination based on sexual orientation will have little practical effect if the economy is in the tank and there are few jobs to be had. What good is it to have domestic partner benefits if affordable health care is out of reach for both partners in a relationship? For these reasons, we intend to provide coverage and commentary that reach beyond what might be viewed as the LGBT ghetto of news, events, and ideas. We will cover the queer community thoroughly (and hopefully) provocatively. But we will also give voice to those people and organizations promoting a progressive agenda for political, economic, and social justice.

As we noted five years ago, our communities have seen a remarkable shift in public acceptance, in large part due to our growing visibility. However, this acceptance may come at a price for those among us who have differing identities and interest. How will our communities support other visions of what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning? During the past five years we have been chastised for controversial columns discussing the relationship between transgender women and feminism. Two years ago we faced harsh criticism for an editorial questioning the ready embrace by some of state intervention in sexual matters. It was a discouraging time for us but we recognize that controversy comes with the territory. In today’s frightening political climate we must more than ever fight for spaces to challenge orthodoxy. We redouble our commitment to explore these issues and invite you to join us in the struggles for equality, justice, and liberation! Please celebrate our birthday with us by continuing to read the print edition, visit our website, provide feedback, and above all, support our advertisers without whom we wouldn’t be able to provide this vital community forum.

In the Beginning...

Baltimore OUTLtoud started in 2003 when four of us – Joe Berg, Lee Mooney, Jim Williams, and me – decided that Baltimore could benefit from a second gay newspaper that was free of the intrigue associated with some of the communities’ then existing organizations. Since 1979-80, Baltimore has been fortunate to have at least one, and at times two, newspapers for the LGBTQ communities. In the 1980s, the Gay Paper and The Alternative competed for ad dollars and support with both newspapers thriving and helping to galvanize the LGBT communities to fight for sexual freedom, civil rights and to confront the AIDS crisis. By the end of 2000, The Alternative had ceased publishing, leaving Gay Life (the new name for the Gay Paper) as the city’s only LGBTQ newspaper. Despite the good work and solid advocacy journalism of Gay Life, some of us, who in the past had been associated with the newspaper or its publisher in various capacities, sensed an inherent instability caused by the organizational structure of Gay Life and its publisher. Our solution was to form Pride Media as an independent company owned by people with decades of experience in community organizing, and activism, as the publisher of a new newspaper, Baltimore OUTloud.

Our first action was to hire Mike Chase as publisher. Mike’s second stint as editor of Gay Life was nearing an end and he had years of experience working for community newspapers. He was also a Baltimore native with strong roots in the gay community and his vision drove the newspaper as we started on what he described as a time-consuming, nerve-wracking, and exciting adventure.

With Mike as publisher and Joe Berg as editor, we set out to produce our first issue. Mike brought with him a loyal group of writers and columnist like Steve Charing, Chuck Duncan, Greg shapiro, Alexander St. John, Dawn Culberston, Ben Ryland, Bob Steele, Paul Varnell, and Katherine Ostrowski, and a strong support team that included Mary Taylor, Carol Baker, and Ramon Montiel. Ramon has rejoined the team after an absence of several years.

Baltimore OUTloud inaugural issueOn May 16th, 2003 Baltimore OUTloud, debuted with the front page lead story devoted to a celebratory review of the Spotlighter’s superb production of Laramie Project, the award winning 2000 that dramatized the reaction to the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. Although we may not have realized it at the time, that front page review portended one of our signature approaches – that art and artist can be as compelling and worthy of editorial prominence as hard news stories. Ryan Clark’s front page interview of Joseph Ritsch, the director of Dorian’s Closet, a musical about the life of Harlem drag queen Dorian Corey that premiered at Rep Stage last month, is the latest example of the prominence we place on the arts to tell our communities’ stories.

The inaugural issue of Baltimore OUTLoud was very successful but trouble was brewing. Almost immediately the Community Center sued the newspaper (unsuccessfully) and a few years later we returned the favor. Fortunately, those bad feeling have long been put aside; the Center and the newspaper have developed a collaborative spirit for the common good of our communities.

We also suffered personal tragedies. On Thanksgiving night, 2004 Arts and Entertainment Coordinator Dawn Culbertson died suddenly at age 53. Then on January 20th, 2007 we suddenly lost newspaper co-founder and co-owner Lee Mooney. Lee was Mike Chase’s partner for 29 years and his death was such a loss for Mike that in 2009 he decided to retire and move out-of-state.

Fortunately, Steve Charing was willing to assume the position of editor for several years and guided us through the transition with the highest level of professionalism. Without Steve at that critical time, we might not have been able to continue. When Steve resigned as editor in 2001, he recruited Dana LaRocca to fill that role. When Dana left in 2012, Mary stepped up, most recently as associate editor.

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BALTIMORE OUTLOUD
PO Box 4887
Baltimore, MD 21211
Office: 410-244-6780
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