PRESSING QUESTIONS: The Gayly of Oklahoma City

by Joe Siegel

Geographic coverage area: Five states in the south-central region of the U.S.

Year founded: 1983 

Physical dimensions of publication: 13 1/2” x 10 1/2” tabloid

Average page count: 32-40

Key demographics: More affluent than the general public

Print run: 12,000/month (15,000/month by summer)

Press Pass Q: What part of The Gayly is the most popular?
Editor in Chief Robin Dorner: We have several that are popular. Right now, we have a four part investigative piece ongoing about two guys who were on death row. They were lovers, lived in an apartment and robbed this bankk. One guy murdered the people and robbed the bank and the other, oh, I shouldn’t give it away, I guess, huh? (Read parts one and two at and That series has been wildly popular. Our photo layouts and designs are also very popular. We do special events and general photography with those. We have three of our columns that people give us a lot of compliments on. So, I’d say it’s special pieces we do, special photography and some of our columns that our most popular.
PPQ: What challenge has your publication had to overcome over the past few years? 
Dorner: Discrimination in several forms.
#1. By people who see our newspaper stands in our approved distribution points and choose to destroy the stands and, in some locations, our papers are destroyed, thrown away. Or people who just write us nasty notes about what “FAGS” we are and leave the note on our rack. One note said, “Fuck you rainbow huggers.” There have been others.
#2. Businesses who will not do work for us — like print our papers — because we are a gay paper and they can’t print our publication because, “You know, we are Christians and all.” Apparently it’s against their religion to “love one another.” 
Bear in mind, I do not think our fans or readers are doing any of the [vandalism]. And our advertisers and readers will certainly take our business. In fact, I do much of my business with my advertisers anyway. It’s the bigots and haters and “Christians” who do these things. I seriously have had two people say to me, “Well, we are Christians so we can’t do business with you.” That was the printer who refused to give us even a quote on printing the paper.
And I had one of my advertisers, a gay guy, who sold his store to a couple. I knew they weren’t going to keep the ad running, but I went to deliver papers and she said, “Oh, since we own the store now, we can’t pass out those Gaylys.” I asked her why and she said, “Well, you know, we’re Christians and all.”
I said, “Honey, you know there are gay Christians, right?”
“Well, my husband is a preacher and all,” she said in her little Baptist voice. “And it’s a conflict of interest.”
However, I must say, where these challenges are sometimes difficult, costly and frustrating, it makes me know we are in exactly the right place publishing an LGBT newspaper where our community really needs us. If you have a problem with discrimination, call The Gayly; a problem with bullying, call The Gayly; want to find out if your civil rights were violated, write The Gayly attorney and she will address it in her next column; anything people need, they know they can call The Gayly and something will be done about it.
PPQ: How has your publication changed since it was first launched?
Dorner: It has changed pretty much completely. We have significantly more pages, many more are color pages than there ever used to be, and we have a great deal more advertising. Also, the paper for the first 20-plus years, was more of a “gay boys” magazine. Now it’s everybody’s magazine. In fact, I just won a community award for the work I have done personally and with The Gayly in the transgender community. We are also very cognizant of the diversity we show within our own community when we take and place our photos.
PPQ: What’s the most surprising feedback you’ve received from a reader?
Dorner: I guess when someone actually takes the time to write us and tell us we are doing a great job, which is not just surprising, it’s completely awesome! I know how busy people are, myself included. So when I received this note from Toby Jenkins, the executive director of Oklahomans for Equality in Tulsa, it really made my day:

“I just finished reading the May issue of The Gayly, Oklahoma’s only LGBT aka gay statewide print news publication and online news source. I consume it mentally cover to cover just like my copy of Readers Digest or Vanity Fair each month. Three words stand out to me. 
First word is REGIONAL: From Joplin down to Eureka Springs over to Norman and back up to Wichita I traveled the gay highway in this month’s issue. I thought, ‘I am a part of the gay heartland and The Gayly refuses to let me forget it.’
Second word is INCLUSIVE: I read about people of color, First Nation indigenous references to our sovereign Indian nations residing in Oklahoma, plenty of all genders equally balanced, LGBT older adults contributing, multiple faiths celebrated, Spanish translation for those who have English as their second language, transgender leaders finding their voice and respected for it, and a shout out to the straight allies who are demanding equal rights for their LGBT pals.
Third word is MOTIVATIONAL: In reading The Gayly, I was struck by how gays like to party, love entertainment, like sports and art and culture equally, want a bargain, but we are also conscientious, politically active, value our military service, aware that we must be sexually responsible, and I was given the tools to make my situation better. I like being gay in the heartland and The Gayly reminded me of that this month. Good job Robin and the staff of The Gayly. Thank you for stepping up to the plate [current publisher] Bob Lemon and reviving The Gayly. And, thank you heartland folk, for rainbow-washing your patch of our section of the United States. I am a native son and I choose to stay here and be queer.”
— Toby Jenkins
Executive Director
Oklahomans for Equality and The Dennis R. Neill Equality Center
PPQ: How do you think LGBT publications will evolve in the next few years?
Dorner: I think it depends on the publication and their readership. The mediocre LGBT news sources will be out of business, I think. Our community has a hunger to feed themselves with news that matters to their lives, news that is pertinent. They don’t want sources that whine about inequality but do nothing to change things. They want to read how equality is made possible and the outcomes once equality is implemented in their school, organization, job, higher education, because that is the road they want to travel. They want to focus on the solution of equality rather than the problem of inequality. If people are not getting what they need in “their” media, they will look online or elsewhere to find it.
PPQ: What advice do you have for others working in LGBT media?
Dorner: You have the platform to really make a difference. Make sure every word you write makes an impact toward equality and fairness, and will help wipe out LGBT discrimination.

Volume 15
Issue 11

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February 25, 2014