Historically, the pages of print magazines have been filled with the bodies of only a select few — typically those who are white, straight, slender, cis-gender and able-bodied — but a group of emerging publications are moving the equality needle forward. While queer-driven magazines have been around for some time — for example, Out debuted in 1992 and Condé Nast launched digital platform Them last year — there are a number of lesser-known, more independent magazines that promote storytelling and visibility for and by LGBTQIA+ individuals in a way that is dynamic, authentic and non-exploitative.
Driven by a desire to forge a real sense of belonging for their peers (and perhaps survive in a rapidly evolving medium), indie queer magazines such as Posture and Drøme are extending beyond the confines of publishing to become multi-channel platforms that exist in a myriad of spaces. Plus, with the powerful backing of social media, these niche and underrepresented communities are strengthening their voices and establishing lasting relationships with loyal fans on and offline. It's a different approach from many of today's mainstream publications that are waning and, ultimately, folding. Read on to learn more about how these LGBTQIA+-focused media outlets are leading the way.
Launched as a blog in 2013 by Winter Mendelson, Posture has now become a digital magazine, annual print magazine, a membership community and a full-service creative studio that produces a podcast, events and branded projects. Mendelson, who identifies as non-binary, launched the platform because they did not see themselves reflected in the media when they first graduated university. "There were no media outlets focused on supporting underrepresented creatives — particularly queer, non-binary and trans folks — and further, [none that] focused specifically on the arts and fashion," they say.
The platform's mission is to champion the voices of women, people of color and LGBTQIA+ creatives, as well as foster a deeper sense of community for those who don't see themselves represented. "We matter and deserve our own space to celebrate each other, learn from each other and feel less alone," they explain.
With interviews and style profiles, both online and in print, Posture supports independent designers and the slow-fashion movement. Instead of focusing on what is considered trendy or cool, the platform focuses on the voices of creatives who are pushing culture forward and making a real impact. "We celebrate expression in all its forms, but we also acknowledge the history and signifiers that come along with fashion and aesthetics," they add.
Mendelson, who took on running Posture full-time in 2016, believes that while queer representation is definitely improving, there is still a lack of storytelling about the experience of non-binary and trans folks. But Mendelson hopes the platform will close the gap on these narratives and is looking to commission more photojournalism projects and essays as funding for Posture increases. Currently, the magazine relies on its membership community, print sales and brand partnerships. It's also partnered with large brands on projects that bring the company's "awareness and perspectives to more corporate environments," such as Mastercard, HBO and Techhub.
Noticing a lack of compelling and non-exploitative media about LGBTQ artists, Caroline D'Arcy Gorman decided to launch Drøme in 2015 as a space where young artists who challenge norms can congregate and share their work. In 2016, friend Satchel Lee came on as Gorman's business partner and co-creative director.
Based in New York, the founders describe Drøme as a "queer-positioned online and print magazine" with contributors from all over the world who are found via Instagram and through submissions. (Funding comes through sales, advertising and partnerships.) When it comes to storytelling about the queer community, Lee says the overall perception is sometimes reductive and what's still missing from queer representation in mainstream media is "complete acceptance rather than tolerance." Out of this, the founders hope that Drøme is a place where people can see someone different from themselves and still be inspired and excited.
The publication's stories highlight the importance of fashion for the queer community: A feature from the latest issue, titled "Fluid Future," explores gender fluidity in collaboration with some of the team's favorite designers who challenge the gender binary, such as Cheng-Huai Chuang, Wardements, Laurence & Chico, Luar, Vasilis Loizides, Maison the Faux and Private Policy.
To date, the team has released three annual print issues and will begin releasing online monthly covers in January 2019. Drøme also hosts parties and events, has launched a podcast and video series and has produced two shows at New York Fashion Week. Lee and D'Arcy Gorman also have big plans to open up a physical creative space, start a clothing brand, make films, produce music and launch a creative agency.
Launched two years ago in Cape Town, South Africa by Michael Oliver Love, Pansy is a response to the founder's desire for "more gender-bending softness in men's fashion." Love, who studied gender studies in university and did a postgraduate degree in marketing, also took inspiration from his affinity for imagery that pushes the boundaries of what is considered masculine and feminine, as well as his personal upbringing. Growing up in a small town, Love was surrounded by narrow-minded thinkers who promoted conservative ideologies about gender. He hopes that his digital magazine combats this thinking.
"I think it's good for people to see a different narrative, a different type of masculinity per se, so it doesn't seem like such a strange thing to be a bit quirky," says the founder. With contributors from across the globe, Love believes Pansy represents something wholly unlike what we are used to seeing in mainstream media, thus becoming a platform that shares content that might not be published or seen otherwise.
At this time, the platform is completely self-funded and run by Love, who hopes to acquire advertisers and bring an editorial team together. The first print issue, which was released earlier this year, can be purchased on the magazine's website.
While studying fashion at university in the U.K., Marvin Maddix noticed a lack of outlets in the industry for recent graduates and young talent to highlight their work, and decided to launch FGUK Magazine, short for Fashion Glossary United Kingdom, in 2013.
Putting people at the center of its stories, FGUK focuses on the power of love, support and the freedom of speech. "While the media can sometimes shy away from politics and sitting on the fence, we look to educate and become a voice of the game-changers, influencers and future thinkers," says Maddix.
With an online magazine and a biannual print edition, FGUK addresses pertinent topics: LGBTQ+ issues and visibility, Black male masculinity and the female voice. Some of FGUK's best stories includes a piece on queer drags in Jamaica and the rights of trans people in Brazilian favelas, or low-income areas.
Maddix also points out that though queer conversations have been steadily growing, brands and social media have been at fault for exploiting the movement. "Instagram has transformed this real subject affecting millions into a monetized marketing strategy," says Maddix. "But it still keeps the conversation going and that's the most important." To combat this, he says the media must highlight real stories about queer individuals, not just those with significant followers and likes.
For FGUK Magazine, fashion is a vehicle for changing the world, promoting the belief that clothing can shift cultural perspectives and make people feel something real. Though FGUK Magazine already has distribution in select boutiques across the U.K., Europe and the United States, Maddix hopes to do more events, collaborations and even open a physical store.
Founded in 2013 by André Verdun Jones, Khary Septh and Kyle Banks, The Tenth describes itself as "Black, gay and unbothered." The New York-based platform focuses on storytelling by and for Black, brown and queer individuals, creating digital and physical spaces devoted to their own self-expression. Working across imagery, text, fashion and culture, The Tenth also explores the history of the Black gay community as a counter to most mainstream narratives, which have largely focused on stories surrounding gay white men for some time.
In an interview with NPR, Septh said the magazine's subject matter is not limited only to queer Black men. Rather, it aims to reflect "the multiplicity of our identities, the layers of our lives" with stories about queer Black women, trans people, white people and straight people. The co-founders also expressed their challenges finding advertising dollars and brand partners willing to back their vision. However, they have since partnered with brands such as Ace Hotel, Hendrick's Gin and HBO.
Launched in 2015 by Sean Santiago, Cakeboy Magazine takes its name from a line in the movie "Clueless." Santiago, who lives in New York and was recently tapped by Phillip Picardi as the new art director for Out, found he wanted to tell niche and compelling stories about the queer and gender non-conforming community. At the time, Santiago realized that creating Cakeboy would allow for more freedom to showcase the voices and style of those in the community who weren't being profiled in an authentic and original way.
Now, three years later, Santiago and his creative team remain committed to that mission, with both in print and online. The magazine releases a new issue every fall and spring, with some of its features going up on the digital site, too. Cakeboy is heavily focused on fashion editorials, as well as diving deep into topical conversations with important individuals, such as writer and critic Andrea Long Chu for its latest issue.
According to Santiago, the magazine wants to reach its audience in a very specific way and cut through the noise of mainstream media. "We're really not for straight people and that's our big selling point for us," he explains. All of Cakeboy's issues can be purchased online through its website, and are also found at specialty bookstores, boutiques and other stockists across the globe. Santiago plans to continue growing Cakeboy across Europe in 2019, thanks to a partnership with new distributor.