Slate Plus Video

“Now That I’ve Thoroughly Embarrassed Myself”

Outtakes from the Ask a Homo series and reflections on Outward’s first birthday.

It’s been a year since Slate launched the magazine’s first LGBTQ-focused section, Outward. Since then, Outward has grown into a unique space for queer voices, discussions, and other “gay stuff.” That includes Ask a Homo, the section’s “no-judgment answer service for questions on LGBTQ politics, culture, etiquette, language, and other queer conundrums.” In celebration of Outward’s first birthday, here are some outtakes from the video series.

Slate Plus also asked Outward’s editors, June Thomas and J. Bryan Lowder, to reflect on the section’s first year. Here’s what they had to say.

June Thomas: Bryan, did you think we’d ever get to eat our rainbow cake with one candle on top? I confess I’m a little shocked by how popular the new LGBTQ section has been.

J. Bryan Lowder: Let’s say I feel a mix of vindicated and relieved. As you know, back before Outward was a thing, I strongly felt that it was weird that Slate didn’t already have an LGBTQ section. All the cool sites did, and we are certainly a cool site. Plus, I had been covering that beat for some time under the Double X rubric, which, for obvious reasons, was often not a great (and perhaps even problematic) fit.

But I would be lying if I said I didn’t have any misgivings—for it to work, the section we had in mind had to actually speak just as much (if not more) to straight people as to queer folks. We couldn’t just be another Queerty or Autostraddle; we had to bring the Slate approach to gay issues in a way that would appeal to everyone. A year out, I feel fairly confident now that such a thing is possible!

Thomas: Ditto! I had my own personal reasons for being a little less enthusiastic than I now realize I should have been. Partly it was that my very first journalism jobs (and volunteering) had been in GLB—as it was at that time, which makes me feel about 100 years old—journalism, so I was worried that I was taking a step back into the gay ghetto. But that was just my stinking thinking. The positive response and—dare I risk jinxing it by saying so—the relative lack of homophobia and general lack of trolling in the comments has made me feel good about America.

Slate Plus: How did Outward come to be?

Thomas: Obviously, our timing was fantastic. Every week—at least until we got to the dog days of summer—there seems to be some major breakthrough for queer rights. Some new celebrity comes out. A new state gets to experience the heteronormative joys of matrimony. And a new gay TV character is the 2010s’ equivalent of Cousin Oliver.

We get to write about it, but even more gratifyingly, Slate readers seem to want to read about it.

We launched more than four months before the Sochi Olympics, but the Russian “gay propaganda” law was the topic du jour. That—and, perhaps, the fact that I was once the foreign editor—made me think we’d be heavy on international content. We’ve certainly had a bunch, especially around Russia, Uganda and Nigeria, and other places with homophobic laws, but it’s been less of the mix than I expected.

Lowder: Yeah, I recall how heavily Sochi figured in our initial discussions about coverage—I think given our relatively small size, the amount of international stuff we’ve done has been pretty impressive; but as certain civil rights wins approach closure in the U.S., I suspect we’ll have to turn our gay-ze elsewhere with more intention.

That said, I’m generally proud of our day-to-day mix: With three regular writers and a cozy group of freelancers, we manage to jump from court decisions to drag queen self-conception to Ask a Homo questions to the trouble with “lady parts” fairly seamlessly. We hit high and low and long and short. We may not produce as much content as larger sites or sections, but I’m pretty confident that the stuff we get out is stronger than much of the competition—not that I’m a competitive queen.

Thomas: I so agree. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved in our first year. Every day I wake up happy to be a professional homosexual and full of excitement about all the new things we’ll take on in the coming year(s), the writers we’ll get to work with, and the ideas we’ll get to work through.

Lowder: So true. But June, now that we’ve made it a full year, what do you think we oughta do next?

Thomas: A podcast! More people of color! More bisexuals! Mo’ Outward, mo’ betta! You?

Lowder: Yes, I’m all about upping the diversity situation on the regular. And total media platform domination is a good call, too—let’s get off this chat and work on that. If you handle gaying up the iPods, I’ll get on queering, I don’t know, 3-D printing. Onward and outward!