In the post-Marriage Equality era, GCN will be radically changing next month, but one thing will always remain intact…
This Editor’s Letter was originally published in the June 2017 Issue of GCN (Issue 330) which is available to read online here.
This time two years ago we published a special commemorative issue of GCN with a triple gatefold cover, a take on //Vanity Fair’s// annual Hollywood issue, featuring the key players in achieving marriage equality in Ireland. Wanting to be on the shelves in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, we’d pulled together two different versions of the issue, one with all the contributors celebrating a Yes vote, and one with them reflecting on a No. I asked the people on the cover to pose with the slightest of smiles, with their heads held high – that way we could either rejoice in the victory of the Yes campaign, or in the face of rejection at the polls, say we still stood proud and would fight another day.
The result on May 23, 2015 was so clear-cut, so early on; it now seems strange that up until the moment the referendum was won, we all feared the worst. It’s also hard to really remember how visceral the experience was, how it brought up so much about our shared and individual histories, our experiences of homophobia and oppression, the sense of otherness every LGBT person has struggled with since time immemorial, and our previously fixed invisibility in Irish society. On one level during the referendum it felt we were being welcomed into the fold, as straight people showed their acceptance wearing Yes badges and calling themselves allies, and on another we felt more vilified, visible and vulnerable than we ever had.
Publishing that issue of GCN felt like the end of an era. For ten years or more, while we’d reported on every issue facing LGBTs in Ireland, and extensively covered our culture and community, GCN’s core focus was always marriage equality. Every organisation and individual involved in the growing campaign had written in our pages, I’d written countless editorials about the complexities of the fight, and I’d quizzed ministers, TDs, heads of NGO’s, union leaders, Presidents and Taoisigh, about achieving LGBT equality in the form of same-sex marriage. Now that it was won, I was wondered if we’d lose our focus.
Between then and now, however, there has been much to focus on, as our ‘State of the Queer Nation’ feature on page 26 clearly sets out, but at the same time we’ve long felt like it was time for GCN to enter the post-marriage equality age in a more substantial way. We also felt it was time to refresh the brand, to give it new life. However, we didn’t want to make any radical changes too quickly, and we especially didn’t want to do anything without consulting you, our readers.
To that end we conducted two major consultations, firstly as part of the Burning Issues 2 survey in 2016, and then in our biggest readership survey ever, earlier this year. Taking the findings from those questionnaires, and from special focus groups we held, we’ve spent the last few months rebranding and redesigning both in print and online, and we’ll be launching the new GCN next month, as the Pride festival gets underway on June 16.
There are major changes ahead, and we hope you like them as much as we do, but one thing remains intact, our mission statement to be an information service and support for Ireland’s LGBT community. Published by a voluntary body, the National LGBT Federation, and distributed to our readers free of charge, GCN is not-for profit, and as such is unique not only to Irish publishing, but to LGBT magazines across the world. Since its inception it has striven to be a central hub for a community that is non-geographical, and which gathers in disparate ways.
What this means is that while our readers are not all in living in one area like most communities, nor do they gather in one specific place, they can find and adhere to a sense of their community in our pages. We’re what might be called the Irish LGBT mothership.
Over my years as editor I have taken many phonecalls and received many letters and emails from people who rely on GCN as a kind of lifeline. When the recession hit in 2009, and we were in financial trouble, through our GCN Forever campaign I learned how much this little magazine is treasured. People would drop into our office with cash, a fiver, a tenner or more, telling us how much GCN meant to them, and that meant a huge amount to us. It reaffirmed for us, the GCN staff and the members of our publishing board, just why we do what we do.
You may be reading this issue in a gay bar, surrounded by people who are part of what you might understand as a gay community, but there are many more who are reading it in much more limited circumstances. We may be in the post-marriage equality era, but as the Burning Issues 2 report found last year, there is still much isolation for LGBTs across Ireland, whether it be to do with location, age or social circumstances. There is still much of the vulnerability that arose during the referendum campaign.
People may be able to find information online, and they may be able to talk to each other, but the print version of GCN is a kind of touchstone, a physical manifestation that appears every month without fail and is part of our lives in a less fleeting way, underpinning the vibrancy, diversity, cohesiveness and actual existence of our community. Come June 16, GCN will be a different beast in many ways, but it will remain that touchstone and lifeline. We look forward to sharing the exciting new changes with you. Until then, I hope you enjoy this last issue of GCN as you’ve known it for eight years.
© 2017 GCN (Gay Community News Ireland). All rights reserved.