From The Publisher: Giving Big, Gay Thanks

A note from GO Publisher Amy Lesser.

The gay calendar, at least in New York City’s LGBTQ media world, isn’t your garden variety January-through-December business. Pride Sunday is our New Year’s Eve, Super Bowl and Fourth of July rolled into one celebratory (and occasionally debaucherous) day. Big plans and resolutions for the next year commence on the Monday after Pride—or whenever the hangover clears.

Early last June, my personal and professional gay agendas looked promising. My close friends and family were all relatively healthy; GO Magazine was about to launch a new website and begin plans for its 15th-anniversary celebration. The country was enjoying the fruits of President Obama’s domestic agenda: the Affordable Care Act; expanded rights for LGBTQ people, including marriage equality; and the most diverse administration in American history. And, of course, Americans were about to elect our first female president.

Despite appearances, Lesser claims to be 5 feet tall “in those heels.” It’s possible. Photo by Judy Davidoff

Several tragic, terrifying hours in Orlando on June 12, 2016, signaled the beginning of what would become my very own annus horribilis. The momentum of our community’s progress toward equality seemed to come to a shocking halt. It wasn’t just the heart-wrenching reality of a mass shooting targeting gays in a gay club, an invasion of a sacrosanct space. It was the subsequent revelation of a growing undercurrent of hate in America, visible in online chatter after the event. Perhaps our recent progress had seduced me into believing that universal acceptance of my community had arrived. The results of election night 2016 confirmed every concern regarding that “undercurrent.”

I entered 2017 uninspired to celebrate much of anything, especially an important anniversary for GO—a magazine known for boosting all that’s positive in our community. I worried about our world regressing to a point where homophobia, misogyny and intolerance would continue to rise. My gay calendar, that timeline of our community’s joys and accomplishments, was now tempered with almost paralyzing fear.

One gay year later, I’m still here, still queer and in the midst of a personal quest to do whatever I can to resist the tide of hate, restore functional (and sane) people to power and do my small part to keep our country moving forward. Many are out there, fighting the good fight during these challenging times, and I want to give them a proper shout-out.

I’m thankful for the advocacy groups that have (again) accepted the challenge to defend our rights and dignity. Even when many in our community disagree fiercely on any number of issues—something we seem particularly adept at—GLAAD, HRC, the New York City Anti-Violence Project, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU and hundreds of grassroots organizations are working to foster a united and productive front on our behalf. They’ve shifted gears from celebrating advances to doubling down in the battle against intolerance and discrimination.

I’m eternally grateful for NYC Pride, the nonprofit that produces New York City’s official Pride events each year. Against many odds, the organization continues to grow, and its staff and volunteers are looking past this month’s festivities to 2019, when NYC hosts World Pride to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion.

I continue in my limitless appreciation for those who provide safe and dynamic spaces and events year-round for our community. The LGBTQ community centers, bar owners, party promoters, theatre and concert producers, symposium coordinators—the events they produce are the soul of our community. These women and men carry on in tricky economic times and in the face of challenges within and outside our community. They carry on despite ongoing threats of violent acts like the one that robbed us of 49 souls last June. I salute them all.

I am extraordinarily grateful for our straight allies. I think I’ve reached my limit for arguments with those who believe that our proportionately small demographic has transcended the hate and discrimination we have to date all by ourselves. Just 20 years ago, a majority of straight people viewed our love as repugnant. It was only in 2003 that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws that made homosexual behavior illegal in 14 states. Today, openly LGBTQ people hold positions of power in government, business, the military and virtually every other field. We pushed for change, and straight friends and allies helped make the difference. If we have any hope of stemming the current tide of intolerance, we’re going to need their ongoing support. I, for one, will never lose sight of that reality.

More than ever, I’m so grateful for GO’s readers, patrons and, yes, even our critics. Publishing GO for the past 15 years has been an incredible privilege, and I’m gratified to see that despite recent setbacks, women are eager to contribute and be featured, out and proud, in stories like our yearly signature piece, “100 Women We Love.” GO’s contributors, readers and editorial subjects keep one of the few remaining women-owned and women-focused LGBTQ publications timely and relevant.

I especially want to thank the talented and tireless core staff of GO, as well as the dozens of alumnae who continue to contribute even after they’ve moved on to other positions. Their belief in me and in this philanthropic effort, as well as their patience and support (I gather I’m not always the easiest person to work with… who knew?), inspire me to continue to publish in challenging times. My love and thanks to them all.

We’ve got “yuge” things planned for what I hope will be the kick-off of another 15 years of GO. We’re finally going to commemorate that milestone 15th anniversary with a jam-packed September issue and several exciting events this fall.

Please enjoy the Pride / Summer Issue. It took thousands of woman hours to produce and I am extremely proud of the finished product.

A very safe and happy Pride—and a happy gay New Year!