For the final issue of Gay Magazine, we wanted to explore power, this thing that shapes all our lives. Our contributors did not disappoint. In “As a Sex Worker I Didn’t Feel Exploited,” Kitty Stryker writers about the juxtaposition between sex work and writing and how she felt exploited in only one of those professions. It is an unvarnished look at the challenges of the writing life, the precarity of it for so many freelance writers who write for far too little compensation, with no safety net and few benefits. Sara Schaff explores the vulnerability women face, and how quickly we can learn about safety and the lack thereof, in the hands of men. The line between anger and love, the tenuous relationship between a mother and daughter, the complexities of North Korea, are at the center of Marie Myung-Ok Lee’s powerful essay, “Mother Land.” We often see the word “triggered” used in the most demeaning ways. Molly Ackhurst and Francesca Lee write about the ways in which our culture has co-opted the language of PTSD to the detriment of people who actually suffer from the condition. There are times when people assume you share their prejudices. Isaac Fitzgerald writes about the discomfort of bearing witness to his barber’s racism and misogyny, how he had to confront his own biases, and the ongoing work he does to be a better man. The ways cultural erasure, identity, and language are intertwined are at the heart of Noor Hindi’s essay “Identity Politic Confessional.” She highlights the value of actively choosing to read identity-based and political work and how doing so allows us to fight the erasure inherent to the writing world.
In “I Play With Dolls,” Paul Crenshaw reflects on playing with dolls with his daughter, and what he has learned about gender and identity through fatherhood. Jen Soong writes a companion essay of sorts to her previous essay “Mother: A Dictionary,” in “My Father, Bàba, in Proverbs.” This ruminative essay examines her relationship with her father, how she tries to find common ground with him. There is a great deal of mythology surrounding David Foster Wallace but in “An Impossible Grief,” Amy McDaniel writes about the man instead of the myth, trying to reconcile the competing truths of her experiences with him and the experiences other women had with him. “The Snack Shack Blues,” by Emily Withnall, begins in an unconventional home on the edge of a highway. Withnall lays bare the illusions of class mobility and how as an adult, she can pass as something she feels she is not, how that passing might exact from her too high a price. And finally, Chelsea G. Summers writes about the power of what women wear versus what our culture tells us is powerful for us to wear.
What each of these essays demonstrate is that power and how it is wielded, are far more complex than most cultural discourse allows for. Power is deeply embedded in nearly every aspect of our lives, from how we are raised, to how we learn, how we love, how we hate, and how we move through the world.
That this is the final issue of Gay Magazine is also, in a bittersweet way, a treatise on power. In online publishing, the power is in the numbers and when you don’t have the right numbers, you don’t have enough power to sustain a publishing enterprise. It has been an incredible year, nonetheless, and a real privilege to publish this magazine, pay writers a reasonable wage for their work, and collaborate with two of the finest people and editors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, Laura June Topolsky and Kaitlyn Adams. When I started this project, I wanted to create a space online for thoughtful personal essays and cultural criticism that didn’t require writers to exploit themselves for clicks and views. I’m proud of the body of work Laura June, Kaitlyn, and I assembled alongside our incredibly talented contributors. We hope you enjoy this final issue and all the writing preceding it, as much as we enjoyed having a small hand in bringing it into the world.