Hello and welcome to HuffPost Gay Voices.
In the last several weeks, whenever I've told anyone that I had just joined The Huffington Post to edit the soon-to-be-launched Gay Voices "vertical" (our term for a specific page or section of the site), I was inevitably hit with the same two questions (well, three if you include "What's Arianna really like?"): "The Huffington Post is already so queer, why do you need an entire section devoted to that kind of content?" and, "Why did you decide to call it Gay Voices (and why not LGBT Voices or Queer Voices or...)?"
To answer the first question, I offer that while The Huffington Post has done an incredible job of covering queer stories in the past, Gay Voices will provide a place for all of those stories to "live" together, thereby making it much easier for readers to find, share and discuss queer topics. What's more, with a specific vertical dedicated to the queer "community" (I use the term "community" loosely and for lack of a better one, as I don't want to ignore the diversity of those who identify and/or empathize within and without the boundaries and barriers implied by terms like "lesbian," "gay," "bisexual" and "transgender," nor do I want to gloss over the internal struggles, disputes and different ways of seeing and approaching problems and solutions that we as individuals and coalitions have), The Huffington Post will be able to delve deeper into the issues that matter to queer people and that can't be addressed by other verticals due to time or the specificity of the issue.
My hope is also to make the Gay Voices vertical just that -- a page comprised first and foremost of voices. I have spent the last month reaching out to and securing an incredible group of writers, activists, celebrities, organizations and everyday people to become Gay Voices bloggers. As the queer "community" brushes up against, includes and complicates so many other aspects of identity, from race to class to ethnicity to religious affiliation, I couldn't be more excited about The Huffington Post's unique position to provide a platform unlike any other on the Internet where so many diverse opinions informed by so many diverse backgrounds can make themselves known. It is also my hope that if you read something that you agree with, you'll join in the conversation with your own specific and unique perspective by commenting. Likewise, if you read something that you disagree with (and I'm guessing at some point you probably will), you'll find a constructive way to share your thoughts and experiences with the rest of "us."
I would also like to state that while I'm encouraged by the progress that has been made in recent years (especially the last 15 or so) in terms of securing long-overdue rights and protections and raising queer visibility in almost all areas, I believe we have a long way to go. As long as queer people are being disenfranchised, murdered, driven to suicide or otherwise traumatized and/or victimized, no one should claim that we are living in a "post-gay" or "post-queer" era. For this reason, sites like HuffPost Gay Voices remain crucial for queer people to be able to gain information, discuss and debate issues, and witness and take pleasure in their presence in the world.
When it came time to name the vertical, we considered a bunch of possibilities, including HuffPost Pride, HuffPost LGBT Voices and HuffPost Queer Voices. "Pride" felt wrong to me, as I want the vertical to be capable of critical (and I mean that in every sense of the word) as well as celebratory discourse (and if I'm being totally honest, it also felt just a tad too early-'90s). "LGBT Voices" is a little clinical and, to me, still not as instantly recognizable or evocative as Gay Voices (especially in mainstream circles). I personally prefer the term "queer" (as you've probably already noticed) as I think it most successfully speaks to the largest group of people who identify as having a marginalized sexual or gender identity (though, even still, there are arguments that it doesn't actually satisfactorily address gender identity), including those who are polyamorous, asexual, kinky, etc. I also like that "queer" hints at the idea that there's a bit of inherent glory in being considered different or non-normative. However, it's still a controversial term and many people (including those with marginalized sexual identities) find it problematic and/or offensive, and so we didn't think it was appropriate for use as the vertical's primary identifying term.
That being said, while you're reading Gay Voices, you might come across other terms that you find uncomfortable, shocking or offensive. Words like "fag," "dyke" and "tranny" will appear from time to time in blog postings, as many people see the value in "reclaiming" language that has been and/or continues to be used against queer people. Posts featuring frank sexual language and discussions may also be featured on the vertical. In a similar vein, sadly our "community" is all too familiar with sensitive and distressing subjects like suicide, abuse, murder, family strife and depression, to name a few, and those subjects will also appear on Gay Voices. If you find this kind of content especially or unduly alarming or upsetting, I suggest that you simply choose not to continue reading those particular posts or that you offer a comment about why the post in question troubles you, thereby furthering the conversation and hopefully causing others to (re)consider a perspective different from their own.
Which brings us to the term "gay" and why we chose the name Gay Voices. As an adjective, the word was first used in the late 14th century to mean "full of joy, merry; light-hearted, carefree." The word was first used as a noun in the 15th century to mean "excellent person, noble lady, gallant knight" -- all of which sound pretty good to me. The Dictionary of American Slang states that "gay" was first used as an adjective by homosexuals (even typing that word gives me the creeps) to refer to themselves as early as 1920, but the term didn't reach mainstream society until closer to the 1950s. While it most often describes a "male homosexual," "gay" has been and can be used by (and to refer to) those with other marginalized sexual identities.
I fully concede the term may not be one everyone feels comfortable claiming or wants to be associated with (especially when it comes to issues of gender rather than sexuality), but after realizing that there was never going to be the perfect term for us to use, we felt that "gay" packs the most instantaneous punch and immediately identifies the content on this vertical as dealing with these types of issues and events. I also feel that there is still -- even in 2011 -- something inherently radical about saying the words "I'm gay" out loud, whether for the very first time or any time (as most of "us" know that coming out doesn't happen once -- "we" are forced to do it over and over and over again). With so many people still in the closet (especially in the media and other places offering prominent visibility), I like seeing that defiant, unnerving little word blazing so happily on The Huffington Post.
The last thing that I want (or anyone at The Huffington Post wants) to do is make anyone feel as if they are not welcome or that their perspectives, experiences or beliefs do not belong on the vertical -- and straight people, I'm also talking to you. While this vertical will serve to examine and explore queer and queer-adjacent issues, ultimately there is much we cannot do without our straight allies, advocates and friends, and I hope that if you identify as such, you'll join in the conversations, too.
I guess what it really boils down to is that these issues are tricky and I'm trying to be (and will continue to try and be) as transparent and thoughtful as possible while editing Gay Voices. We have gone to great lengths to invite and include contributors who come from hugely diverse backgrounds, but we're counting on you to tell us if there's a story we need to be covering or if there's someone who should be writing for us or if there's something we got really wrong (or really right, for that matter). You can always reach us at GayVoices@HuffingtonPost.com, and we hope you won't hesitate to contact us.
I am thrilled by the raw possibilities inherent in the launching of HuffPost Gay Voices. There's a lot to celebrate, there's a lot to mourn, there's a lot to be proud of, and there's a lot of work left to do. This is one more beginning -- another place to start. I'm happy you're here and look forward to sharing the Gay Voices vertical with you -- it's as much yours as it is mine or anyone else's -- in the days and months and years to come.
Follow Noah Michelson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NoahMichelson