by Joe Siegel
Options, Rhode Island’s longest running LGBT publication, is marking its 35th anniversary. To celebrate, the publication put on a gala celebration in downtown Providence on May 20, 2017.
The publication has undergone many changes through the years, starting as a newsletter produced in conjunction with AIDS Care Ocean State and evolving into a glossy monthly magazine. “The dedication of our volunteers is the only reason Options has survived,” Kyle McKendall, the publication’s executive director, said while mingling with writers, readers and other supporters.
McKendall said that Options has been a reflection of the LGBT community’s evolution, beginning in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic, the battle for civil rights in the 1990s, and the fight for marriage equality in the early 21st century.
He noted, however, that it remains a challenge for Options to meet the needs of readers and advertisers when the staff is all volunteers. He said the volunteers who write, proofread, and distribute Options all over the state are the magazine’s “lifeline.”
Lee McDaniel, a longtime LGBT activist, said Options is special because the community it serves is small and tight-knit. “It’s a family publication,” McDaniel said. “We see pictures and stories that document our lives.”
McDaniel said Options kept him in touch with Rhode Island’s LGBT community when he returned to his home state of Missouri after graduating from Brown University, located in Providence.
Options also provides a comprehensive listing of every social and religious group for LGBTs in the state, McDaniel added.
Joan Prendergast, who was on Options’ first board of directors, acknowledged the challenges of keeping the publication going and said it serves a purpose. “It’s important for young people to have a voice,” Prendergast said
Options is “more relevant to what’s going in the community and the country,” said Marc Gauthier, noting its coverage of national news stories.
Gauthier also noted Options is “more welcoming” to the straight community. The magazine can be picked up in coffee shops, cafes, and libraries in addition to gay bars.
And most importantly, Options readers believe it provides a mirror of LGBT life. “It lets us know we’re here,” Gauthier added.
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