Last month, students at the University of Michigan published the first issue of The Michigan Gayly: LGBTQ+ Issues, a newspaper dedicated to publishing articles related to the LGBTQ+ community.
Established this October, the organization is currently made up of about 20 undergraduate and graduate students and publishes an issue every month. Students can pick up copies of the newspaper at the Spectrum Center and the campus dorms.
LSA freshman Shoshana Weinstein, editor-in-chief of The Michigan Gayly, said she came up with the idea for the newspaper because she felt like there was not enough attention on the policy and the legislation that surrounds LGBTQ+ rights in the media and on campus. She was pleasantly surprised to see the excitement among others in the community to contribute to the newspaper.
“I hadn’t realized there was such a hunger within the LGBT community to be able to tell our stories,” Weinstein said. “I thought maybe people would want to do an issue or two; I wasn’t really sure if there was going to be enough support or momentum to keep it going. But people immediately responded really passionately with all these things that they cared about.”
LSA freshman Adrian Beyer said he became a staff writer because he was intrigued by the student-run nature of the publication, created by people who felt strongly about the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
“This is a group of people who just cared really passionately about having a newspaper and publishing queer voices,” Beyer said. “And I think it’s really important too, because a lot of other publications might shy away from some of those stories, but here, it’s kind of a chance to really be uncensored and say what you want to say.”
According to the University of Michigan Maize Pages, The Michigan Gayly is the only newspaper on campus that publishes stories solely dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community. The newspaper has articles about politics, business, sports, health and more, all relating to the community.
LSA freshman Edha Shirodkar, the news editor of the publication, said The Michigan Gayly is important in terms of giving students in the LGBTQ+ community the representation they deserve on campus. It made her feel more comfortable with her own identity because she was able to find comfort in a group of people who understood some of the experiences she had gone through.
The newspaper also features articles about writers’ coming out stories and other personal experiences. Weinstein said these stories are crucial for those who are still discovering their identities because they can read these articles and see they are not alone.
Beyer went to a high school with very few openly gay students. He explained that if he wanted talk about queer issues, it was always a test to see how far he could go before his teachers said they didn’t understand his comments or before they became uncomfortable.
Writing about his personal experience in The Michigan Gayly was empowering for him because he was able to speak about the LGBTQ+ community in a way he had never been able to before.
“When I first sat down to write, I was like, ‘Oh my god,’” Beyer said. “It was kind of crazy just staring at it. I could just actually say what I felt. It was a little overwhelming to have that unrestricted opportunity, but it was really fun.”
Rackham student Daniel Salas-Escabillas, opinion editor of the newspaper, wrote an article about his experience being an ethnic minority as a Pacific Islander, while also being in the LGBTQ+ community. He said he intended the story to serve as a resource for others who may have a similar story but feel alone.
“It’s very motivating for somebody to read (my article) and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I see myself in that,’” Salas-Escabillas said. “If they want to contact me, that’s okay. If not, that’s also okay. Just knowing that somebody else has gone through what you’ve gone through and hopefully giving you some motivation to go out there and do you, basically.”
Weinstein said these articles are crucial in spreading awareness among LGBTQ+ allies as well.
“I think that if you’re trying to be the best straight ally you could be or best cisgender ally you could be, knowing those things and understanding how your words affect people in marginalized communities is really important,” Weinstein said. “So if we can educate people about that, then maybe we’ll just be able to have an impact on how people speak and maybe just thinking more carefully before they talk about LGBT issues in front of people.”
For people who do not personally know any queer or trans people, the LGBTQ+ community can seem vague or abstract, Weinstein said. She hopes that through The Michigan Gayly, queer issues will be humanized and more tangible for those at the University not directly involved in the community.
“I think that understanding that a lot of students on campus are part of that community and that your actions on campus affect them whether you’re aware of it or not is good,” Weinstein said. “I don’t think that we’re going to single-handedly end homophobia, but we’re trying to make a little bit of a difference.”