I started QueerAF as a response to an editor who told me to stop pitching 'gay stories.' They said there was no 'money' or 'audience' for them.
As a young, budding journalist - this was hard to hear. And its impact was huge. It made me think pursuing a career with our lives in mind was worthless.
Then I did something inherently queer. I set out to prove that editor wrong.
I started the QueerAF podcast, with funding from National Student Pride. We built an international audience, won awards, and yes, even picked up revenue along the way...
No one should be told their lives aren't worth telling a story about.
I didn't understand this at the time but newsrooms create awful experiences because they are locked into a system.
One that creates enormous pressures on journalists and editors, who by and large, want to make a difference.
This system rewards stories, that feed hungry and divisive algorithms. It's all to serve enough ads, to simply repeat the cycle over again. And it's still happening.
“As someone who's written for mainstream platforms, I've been increasingly frustrated with how I am not allowed to write about certain things. Or [being told] certain angles aren't 'mainstream' enough.” non-binary activist and trans advocate Ugla Stefanía, (My Genderation co-founder, they/them) told me just the other week.
As a journalist and producer, I've seen newsrooms make cruel decisions. Content commissioned based on the clicks they'll drive. Regardless of the harm, the content might have.
We need a media industry to make content because it's worthwhile to our community. Because it moves the narrative forward. Instead of just using us as a tool to drive their ad revenue.
With QueerAF's new chapter, we're going to challenge the status quo again. By showing the change is possible, we're going to take away their worst argument - that 'it can't be done.'
An urgent change is needed
This project is a direct response to rising anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiment in the UK.
We've been working on launching this project for over a year now. In that time we've seen attacks in the media on our community’s largest charity Stonewall. They led the media regulator Ofcom, BBC and even more to devastatingly withdraw their support.
The building undercurrent of transphobia in society led by some of the press is growing and growing. And it's spilling out onto the streets.
We've seen the shocking rise of LGBTQIA+ hate crimes, in the UK - there were just shy of 20,000 in 2020. A huge number anyway, but especially in a year, many of us were at home in isolation and lockdowns. This is now urgent.
As this urgency raised, we began speaking to a broad set of people, with all kinds of lived experiences. We did this because we wanted our mission to be grounded, not just by our values, but in the need of our community.
We’ve locked our profits and assets into the LGBTQIA+ community, so anything we bring in as a community interest company is regulated, transparent, and redirected back to our mission - and the community.
We've built a platform funded by people, not adverts. It's so we can tell stories because they matter to the community, not for clicks. Content for you and the LGBTQIA+ world, not advertisers.
25 media professionals, LGBTQIA+ community leaders and awesome queer folk who have chipped in funds. People like comedian Joe Lycett, the MD of Forbes in Europe and the founder of National Student Pride.
They support us because we're going to develop a new generation of resilient LGBTQIA+ creatives - who can go on to change the way stories about queer lives are told.
What will QueerAF do first?
We've used our founding member's funds, along with grants and our podcast's revenue, to commission underrepresented LGBTQIA+ creatives. Our first ten writers are going to write in our new free weekly newsletter.
It has the top LGBTQIA+ news you need to know. Queer content you don't want to miss. And a beyond the binary spotlight on the voices that deserve to be heard.
It does this all while explaining and analysing the queer world, with a calm and nuanced tone. We've designed it so you can skip the doom scrolling and live your best queer life, on your own terms.
We're going to keep track of what the media is up to and hold it to account. But we're going to spend even more time writing about queer joy. And spotlighting incredible LGBTQIA+ creators. Why? To model the change we want to see.
That means, matching the intention to the impact of any words we write. If we're going to do this, it has to count right? We're going to get it right, not rush it.
Right now, we're going to build an awesome newsletter and work to bring back our podcast. That's so we can deliver the immediate wins of commissioning content that counts. All while we pay creators who don't get funded by the mainstream media.
We believe our audience, and this incredible community, are more valuable editors than any gatekeepers. So we're excited to start to twist the tables and experiment with ways to put you in control of our commissions too.
And in the future? (This is the really exciting bit.)
We're going to build a network of QueerAF alumni, who are working in and with the media - to change it.
That's how we're going to change the media, and it starts today.
Sound good? Great. It’s really easy to support us:
- Skip the doom scrolling on divisive platforms with algorithms that filter out our lives.
- Sign up for our free weekly newsletter for a calm explainer of the queer headlines, that amplifies new voices and has beyond the binary content you might have missed.
- And if you think we've earned it, join our members and subscribe to support queer creatives too.
We are QueerAF, and so are you.