Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit the ONE Archives Foundation—an institution that researches, curates and collects items of importance to the LGBT world. In their small center, off the USC college campus, they store an archive of some of the most important LGBT publications throughout history—from the first edition of The Advocate to small, independent art zines.
While walking through the narrow halls lined with steel bookshelves, I couldn’t help but realize something was missing. Magazines from today—those LGBT publications that have been integral to my own cultural awakening as an out, gay, queer, (millennial) guy.
The phrase LGBT has been used to encapsulate an increasingly diverse group of individuals. The letters capture both sexual and gender identities, which as some have pointed out, aren’t always companions, nor necessarily mutually exclusive. As the LGBT rights movement grows and expands around the world, I find myself part of an increasingly fragmented sociological group. That’s not bad, per say, but it’s definitely confusing.
Magazines are cool again
The Rise of Indie Gay Publishing
Regardless, this diverse LGBT identity has seen a number of shifts throughout history. I’d argue that as “gay” becomes more and more mainstream, more and more “cool” even, we’re currently seeing a resurgence of gay, LGBT, queer, whatever-you-want-to-call-it culture. Yes, gay bookshops are closing down. Iconic, historic, legendary gay nightlife spots are shutting their doors. But we’re also seeing new places open up—ones safe for LGBT individuals, for this new generation growing up in a more gay-friendly world (in some places, not all. There are still 79 countries with anti-homosexuality laws*). And with this new scene, there’s a lot more of interest to the new, modern gay man.
Indie magazines are popping up every few months now, gay-owned and ready to take on this new gay culture. LGBT culture is quickly changing thanks to political advancements and increased exposure. That’s why we’re seeing new TV shows and web series with LGBT lead characters. And with the rise of magazine publishing, this need to keep and capture our transient culture is becoming easier and easier. The magazines below are some of my favorites, my go-to sources on gay culture. They’re the ones I’m asking for in my stocking this Christmas…
5 Gay Magazines You Should Be Reading
It started as a weekly newsletter and nightlife guide for NYC and in 2014 expanded to a beautifully designed print magazine. With just three editions under its belt, Gayletter has grown to be one of the most impressive indie gay magazines. Beautiful photography mixed with original stories, all put together in a thoughtful and useful way. Personally, I find the stories and content interesting and unique from other gay magazines in the fact that most of it seems quite personal to the publishers—which is a good thing. It just makes the authenticity really shine, making it a true indie magazine, though one that is made professionally. Clearly a labor of lots of love.
Where to get Gayletter: Find it at indie bookshops around the world, and online at gayletter.com/shop
The darling of the indie gay publishing world, Hello Mr. came onto the scene back in 2013. Since then, it’s won awards, been featured extensively, and grown a loyal following of passionate readers. Based in Brooklyn, printed in Berlin and distributed around the world (in a mix of both indie magazine shops and corporate booksellers), Hello Mr. has set the standard for other indie magazines, not just those focused on LGBT culture and issues. The magazine is printed on a smaller-than-usual size, 6x9inches—making it easy to carry around. The small size also allows for the magazine’s beautiful design and page layout to really show through. Bold, bright colors, strong typography and beautiful imagery (the latest edition has photos shot by Berlin favorite gay photographer, Matt Lambert). The magazine is built on the back of stories from contributors, so the voices are wide and varied making the content especially interesting.
Where to get Hello Mr: Bookstores like Barnes & Noble in the USA, Waterstones in the UK and newsstands throughout Australia, as well as many other countries around the world. More information here.
The newest magazine on this list, Loverboy includes high-quality, exclusive content aimed at the international queer community (with a strong emphasis on Europe and the Americas). It’s particularly strong at covering music, fashion and adult entertainment. With a strong, glossy design, Loverboy Magazine has the “high-end, yet edgy” appeal coveted by so many other glossies. Their covers are certainly a bit more edgy than other gay magazines, focusing on the fringes of the LGBT and queer scenes—often overlooked by the other publications on this list.
Gay Times is *not* an indie magazine, by any standard. It’s been around for decades, has print, digital and app editions and has been at the forefront of gay media in the UK since 1984. But the magazine’s easy-to-digest format, its feature articles and friendly style make it one of my favorite gay publications. It’s my go-to magazine whenever I’m in an airport and accurately reflects my style. Check out their website for regular LGBT news and pop culture.
Where to get Gay Times: Available internationally at major bookstores and newsstands, or online through the Gay Times app. Learn more here.
Again, OUT isn’t an indie gay magazine, but their curation of style, entertainment, fashion, arts, politics and culture makes it one of my favorite gay publications. In addition to their popular Popnography blog, OUT has some strong travel content. This month’s edition is the first time a sitting U.S. President has been featured on a LGBT magazine cover, which is particularly historic.
Where to get OUT Magazine: Subscriptions are widely available and the magazine can be found at most major bookstores and newsstands. The magazine is part of a larger network of other LGBT publications, including the more political The Advocate, and the travel-focused OUT Traveler. Learn more on their website.
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Note: There are so many other gay magazines, and new ones coming out regularly, so this does not purport to be an exclusive list—it’s just a guide to my favorite gay magazines out now. Not to mention all the local gay and LGBT magazines, produced in a number of different cities around the world. Check your local gay and lesbian bars, shops and LGBT centers for local magazines, or visit the growing amount of small, indie bookshops which are increasingly including LGBT-specific titles in their stock.
*The number of countries where anti-homosexuality laws exist is constantly changing. Check 76crimes.com for regular updates, or Equaldex which keeps a running tab on equality issues around the world.