Saying so long is never easy, especially after 20-plus years
by Lainey Millen
(Lainey Millen is the outgoing associate editor and production/art director of QNotes, based in Charlotte, N.C. The following piece was published on January 22, 2021, and is reprinted here with permission.)
Do you see it? It’s right there on my cheek. Its moisture glistens in the light, and bears the emotions that I feel at this juncture of my life.
A tear. It is one of many that will be shed as I experience the last days working as a staffer for QNotes as I begin my retirement. Yes, I am leaving. Hey, I’m celebrating my 70th birthday and I’m stepping aside to give younger people the opportunity to bring their time and talents to our readers. But, I am not doing this lightly. The decision came after much soul searching. It was simply just the right time for me to do this. Hey, I’m an alter cocker (Yiddish for old person). It’s time for a respite!
Over the 20-plus years that I’ve been with the paper, I’ve seen a plethora of changes in our society. Some of them have been remarkable, such as the decisions of Lawrence v. Texas, Obergefell and Windsor, and more recently the three anti-discrimination cases that more clearly recognized the transgender community and others. I’ve also seen the advances in HIV/AIDS treatment, a much more embracing global acceptance of the LGBTQ individual including gender-diverse children, religious groups finding a place in their work for us to be who we are, recognizing our elders, finding solutions to homelessness, as well as the LGBTQ community being more visible in the arts, media and more. Pepper in the countless numbers of LGBTQ political voices who have come to the forefront to champion our cause.
However, some of them have left me feeling sad, angry or anxious, like HB2/HB142, the Trump Administration’s countless ways that it stripped civil rights from LGBTQ citizens, immigrants and Latinx people, a rise in racism and anti-Semitism, hate crimes increasing, the overwhelming disdain by the alt-right toward us, global cruelty, disassociation of family and friends, and others too numerous to name.
I never thought that my retirement would take place during a global pandemic. I always envisioned those early days of being a little less responsible as a respite from the years of daily deadlines. That I could head out on the road and visit family and friends whom I had not been able to see because it was always “production weekend.” I guess that will have to wait now.
Being part of QNotes during my sojourn here has been something of which I am so proud. To be able to share the “news, views, arts and entertainment” with readers has given me an incredible sense of accomplishment. I feel like a proud parent who with each posting sends their child off to experience the world, in hopes that it will bring satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment with each moment.
Originally hired to be the associate editor and the graphic designer for the paper, my duties were expanded to include being the de facto webmaster (I’m not a maven at this, but have learned so much in order to do what I am tasked to do), archivist and production manager, among others. Some of these responsibilities came as the needs arose, either from staff reduction or the simple desire by management for someone to fill the roles that were operating in a void. I approached each with determination to do the job well. I hope that I have fulfilled those requirements to satisfaction by management and for readers. I was on board for the first full-color issues, too. I’ve even lent my wisdom and experience to various interns who spent time with the paper as part of their professional growth experience. And, I’ve done all this (so far!) without missing one press deadline. I’ve worked during times of illness and also through times of immeasurable grief. After all, the news waits for no one, right?
Over the years, I have made wonderful connections with readers and contributors and will miss you so much. Our banter and repartee have given me expansiveness in my daily living and knowing each of you has been a rare pleasure. I especially am so grateful for the graciousness of those of you who worked with me on filling the slots for Legal Eagles and Spiritual Reflections. Those two columns were first conceived by the staff at a meeting and were brought to fruition by me. Finding clergy and legal professionals who wanted to share their expertise and inspiration with our readers helped me expand my scope of the community. And, as our world found more faith-based congregations who were willing to become welcoming and affirming, that list grew. Your thoughtful messages have given readers hope during stressful circumstances. Lawyers’ messages have given everyone valuable tools to use to traverse troubling times. For that we are eternally grateful.
My tenure has taken me to places close by and to those far away. I’ve had boots on the ground in places like Eureka Springs, Ark., for their Diversity Weekend and witnessed the horrors of the aftermath of 9/11 in New York, as well as the ancient history and current affairs throughout Israel during one of my trips there, in addition to Pride celebrations and other events across the Carolinas. My News Notes coverage has given me access to community leaders far and wide. You know who you are and how much I’ve come to admire and respect you. I’ve even had the opportunity to interview a few celebrities, too!
I’ve done all of this not for the almighty dollar, but for the love of the work and for the community for which it serves. I have been honored over the last two-plus decades to represent your views as well as mine to a vast audience. I am so grateful for the experience.
Rest assured, even though I am leaving my jobs as associate editor and production/art director, I will not be totally abandoning you. You’ll still from time to time see my byline when there is something that I feel especially inspired to write about. QNotes has been a real home for me. I’ve had the privilege of working with some remarkable people over my tenure. I have grown and learned from their expertise. I may have lent a little to theirs as well. I especially want to thank publisher Jim Yarbrough who offered me an opportunity many years ago to be part of this Carolinas LGBTQ news organization. His trust and confidence in me have been rewarding and heartfelt. Thank you, Jim, for the unique opportunity you gave me.
So, folks, I’m ending an era, but not my relationship with the community. I look forward to serving a larger circle in the years to come. Later!