Reader and Editor Favorites From Outward’s First Year

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Aug. 26 2014 8:45 AM

Celebrating Outward’s First Year

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Happy Birthday!

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Bryan: When June and I began discussing Outward—or rather, the possibility of a then unnamed LGBTQ-focused section like Outward—with the Slate brass in early 2013, we could never have imagined how quickly our fledgling vertical would become a vibrant, thoughtful, original space for queer voices and discussions. Today, on Outward’s first birthday, we couldn’t be prouder of how the section has—with the help of our amazing roster of regular contributors and freelancers—grown into a unique forum for “gay stuff” on the Web.

We named this thing Outward because we wanted to push and expand LGBTQ journalism and criticism beyond its existing contours both in terms of editorial sensibility and audience, and I like to think we’ve succeeded. While it’s very difficult to choose, here are a handful of pieces that represent us at our best; if June and I have anything to do with it, you can look forward to even more like them as we embark on year two.

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One of the stated goals of Outward has been to bring in voices that are less often or rarely heard in the LGBTQ conversation, not to mention the wider media in general. Since her first essay on gay life and love in Senegal, drag performer and writer Miz Cracker has become one of our most striking contributors, offering a mix of personal essay and reportage that I love just as much as her Friday night act.

As Outward has grown, we’ve attempted to present larger projects and features in addition to the kind of daily news analysis and criticism that’s our bread and butter. Sarah Stankorb’s deeply reported and bracingly personal look at the potential for schism in the Methodist Church over LGBTQ issues is a highlight of those efforts.

When June and I surveyed the LGBTQ journalism landscape during the formation of Outward, one of our shared complaints was the rarity of intelligent—even borderline “academic”—writing on queer concepts and history amid more mundane political and entertainment news. Jesi Egan’s smart and totally accessible corrective to the misuse of Michel Foucault and “social construct sexuality” is an example of the kind of writing we want to see more often.  

Because it is part of Slate, Outward shares the same irreverent, puckish DNA as the rest of the magazine. Which is why we were not afraid to ask—or rather, have Justin Moyer ask—why HBO’s Looking, the anointed messiah of gay representation on television, is so limp when it comes to gay erections. This is not an entirely unserious question.

* * *

June: One of the most rewarding aspects of working on Outward has been the chance to collaborate with wonderful writers. Some—like Mark Joseph Stern, Nathaniel Frank, Masha Gessen, and John Culhane—were already part of the Slate family. Others—like Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart, Tyler Lopez, Christin Milloy, Shauna Miller, Liam Hoare, and Marc Naimark, to name just a few—are relative newcomers who already seem like old friends. Selecting just a few pieces is an impossible task, but here are some that moved me to laugh, cry, or want to march on Washington.

One of the things we wanted to do when we launched Outward was—as it says in the strap line—to “expand the LGBTQ conversation.” I love this piece, because it’s a beautiful, personal piece of writing about growing up and finding one’s place in the world, told from a rarely represented perspective: that of one of the “gaybies” who are very much a part of our community.

J. Bryan Lowder, my wonderful Outward co-conspirator, is a brilliant critic and thinker, which made choosing just one of his Outward contributions a horrid task. But this hilarious look at the ads that ran during Logo’s transmission of Season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race is a wonderful showcase for his high-low sensibility.

I sometimes think that Mark Joseph Stern was grown in a lab using DNA from Michael Kinsley, David Plotz, Dahlia Lithwick, and Christopher Hitchens. He’s classically Slatey: a brilliant, funny, writer who can grok a judge’s opinion, explain it clearly, and place it in the context of American jurisprudence in the time it takes some of us [cough: me] to locate the decision. His pieces about the law are second to none, but Mark was writing—beautifully—about Truvada long before the mainstream media discovered it.

* * *

And in case you’re wondering which pieces readers—or at least the Internet sharing machine—enjoyed the most, here are the biggest traffic hits of the year.

3. "Ellen Page Comes Out," by Dan Kois

Thanks for reading! 

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

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