How would you describe your outreach work & what do you hope to accomplish?
Megan Smith I’ve worked in LGBTQ media in Houston, Texas for the past six years and—for the past year and a half—that work has been as the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Spectrum South, an online magazine focused on queer identity and culture in the South. Community is, and forever will be, centered in my work. I’m a native Houstonian, but moved to Austin for college at age 18, and it wasn’t until I returned to Houston post-graduation that I became familiar with, and immersed in, the city’s queer community. The activists, organizations, and friends I’ve met along the way have become my chosen family and have gifted me with a vital support system that I never knew I needed, but now could never live without. My work with Spectrum South is my way of giving back to that community, as well as passing that much-needed support onto the next generation of queer southerners.
Kelsey Gledhill As the co-founder and chief creative officer of an online LGBTQ magazine, it’s my duty to create a more inclusive and diverse space for our community. There has been a lack of visibility and media representation for the LGBTQ community for some time now, especially for queer southerners. Many think queer people leave the South as soon as they can, but we know better. We are here, thriving in business, the arts, philanthropy, community organizing, and so much more, and Spectrum South intends to shed light on the many personalities that make up and drive our family forward.
How do you define community, and what communities do you work to engage with?
MS For us, community is our foundation. It’s our support system, our family, and the invisible thread that connects us, regardless of our different and varied lived experiences. We specifically serve and engage with the queer southern community. Though it’s no easy task, we aim to bring visibility to all identities within the LGBTQ+ community—from QPOC to trans and non-binary folks to queer women to those who fall on the asexual spectrum.
Why is this work important?
KG The common thread among most marginalized groups is the lack of visibility and representation. The LGBTQ community—especially within the South—is no different. We are striving to be seen, recognized, acknowledged, and most importantly, heard. Spectrum South uplifts and centers the voices of our community, puts faces to these voices, and shares the stories of our brilliant and resilient siblings. Our community deserves a seat at the table, and by continuing to deliver on our mission to bring visibility to all queer southerners, we are helping to keep that seat.
What do you hope people gain from experiencing your outreach?
MS We hope that our readers will experience a sense of connection to the stories we tell and the people we feature. We aspire for our content to help other queer southerners know that they are not alone in their experience, that all queer identities are valid and should be celebrated, and that it is possible to thrive in the South as an LGBTQ individual.
Is collaboration something you incorporate into your practice? Why or why not?
KG Yes, absolutely. Megan and I believe that in order for us to reach and inspire our community, as well as our allies, collaboration is key. Since our launch in June 2017, Spectrum South has partnered and collaborated with dozens of individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses. Each collab and partnership has helped us to not only further spread our mission, but to gain a larger and more diverse following.
What inspired you to embark on this path?
MS Kelsey and I both have a background in queer media and, as we became more involved in Houston’s LGBTQ community, we began hearing a common narrative—that young queer people, QPOC, trans folks, queer women, and non-binary folks, among others, weren’t seeing themselves accurately represented in the media platforms available to them. The idea for Spectrum South was born out of this need. It started as a simple conversation over lunch one day and, as time went on and we had the same conversation over and over again, we decided to take a leap of faith and start the magazine. We launched Spectrum South in June 2017 and haven’t looked back since.
How do you make your work/outreach/project more inclusive and intersectional?
KG Wherever you fall on the spectrum—gay, trans, non-binary, asexual, etc.—we believe that your identity is valid and deserves proper media representation. At Spectrum South, we seek to provide that representation through our content (inclusive, well-curated interviews, commentaries, and personal narratives), and through the voices on our team, which span the gender and sexuality spectrum, as well as come from various geographic and cultural backgrounds. We believe representation is not just about highlighting one identity, but exploring how all of our identities intersect, and how that intersection shapes our lives as queer people. We want folks to know that others have gone through or are going through similar experiences, and the more we share and create dialogue around these stories and identities, the more our community thrives.
What feminist book are you reading right now & what do you think about it? Is there a particular quote or passage you found especially meaningful?
MS I recently finished Yesika Salgado’s debut book, Corazón. Yesika is a Salvadoran poet and self-identified “fat fly brown girl” who writes about her undying hunger for love, the celebration of heartbreak, and rejoicing in our flaws and insecurities. It was one of the most honest books I’ve read in awhile and, even though it punches you in the gut at times, that’s what makes it so beautiful and healing. Below is one of my favorite poems from the book:
I want love so bad
I chew on it in my sleep,
brush it into my gums
have you seen my quick smile?
this question laid across my face
is it you? is it finally here?
I say I want love
but I know it’s not true
when it comes,
what will I do
with this habit
of asking for what
I do not know how to keep?
How has feminism impacted your life personally?
KG Honestly, I’ve never considered feminism a driving force within my personal or professional life until recently. It’s helped me settle in and become more comfortable with my personal identity as a queer woman, as well as broadened my perspectives on the world and those around me, and ultimately led me to my community and chosen family.
MS As a queer woman, I often feel as though I view the world through a completely different lens than others—which can often feel lonely and isolating. Intersectional feminism, however, has served as a uniting force in my life, one in which I can find sisterhood and like mindedness that transcends (but honors and uplifts) race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and all other characteristics that have traditionally divided us. It has provided me with connection, community, strength, self-love, and autonomy.
What are 5 ways our readers can support the work you’re doing?
1) Spectrum South recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help us grow in our second year as a magazine! Your generous donations will help us to produce more quality articles, videos, and podcasts, invest in our talented LGBTQ writers and photographers, host more community events for our readers to connect in-person and celebrate their identities in a safe, inclusive space, and allocate funds for maintenance and operations costs. The campaign ends on September 27, so please donate if you're able! If not, we'd love for you to help spread the word by sharing with your friends, family, and co-workers!
2) Check us out at spectrumsouth.com!
3) Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter at spectrumsouth.com/newsletter! We’ll send a roundup of the week’s top content straight to your inbox every Friday morning.
5) Pitch us a story! We would love to hear your ideas for new content, for you to share a personal experience, or suggest an interview.
Photographs courtesy of Danielle Benoit, Hannah Olson, Pride Portraits