When I came out in 1986, there was a pernicious myth that lesbians and gay men simply did not get along, that we had nothing in common and sometimes even hated each other. I was a baby lesbian prone to belting Evita’s “High Flying Adored” with the gay men in the theater department of the college I attended. Some of my earliest memories of being queer are of me dancing with my old friend Jeff, arms over our heads and sweating in shared rapture, to Erasure’s “Sometimes” at the old Backstreet bar’s Sunday beer bash in Hartford, Conn. Personally, I couldn’t square the myth that I wasn’t supposed to innately love the hell out of my gay brothers. But on a larger, more insidious scale, that old narrative served to erase the diversity of sexual and gender identities that comprise the LGBTQ+ world in favor of fabricating some sort of vicious binary catfight. (Like all myths, it simply wasn’t true.)
The Advocate launched the Women of the Year issue years ago as a way to amplify LGBTQ+ women in pages where men had most often shone. But times have changed since we published our first issue celebrating women. Campaigns and events like the Women’s March, #TimesUp, and #MeToo shone a light on systemic misogyny, and queer men stood with us. So is a Women of the Year issue still important?
The conversation about how to amplify all identities, like nonbinary folks, is critical. And the current push to eradicate gendered categories at entertainment awards shows is a part of that dialogue (after all, do best actor and best actress require a different skill set?). It’s clear that fluid and nonbinary folks continue to expand the boundaries of gender. Several of the people we profile use “she/they” pronouns and are proud to pay homage to women while broadening what that means. Our cover star Kehlani, who uses “she/they,” speaks candidly about their identity as a queer, cisgender-presenting artist who is especially thankful for the Black trans women who inspired her. She envisions a future for her daughter as one in which everyone’s story, no matter their gender or sexuality, is understood equally.
Of course, a women’s issue is important when it stands out against a sea of magazines with men on the cover. But as The Advocate features more gender diversity, a specific issue to call out the importance of those who are not men may soon no longer be needed. This year we decided to depict an array of queer people of various identities on our cover: musician Kehlani, who identifies on the nonbinary scale; trans cannabis pioneer Renee Gagnon; Javicia Leslie, the first Black bisexual person to play Batwoman; and Jo Ellen Pellman, the queer actor-turned-activist who wowed audiences as a lesbian teen in The Prom.
Last year, I became only the third woman in this magazine’s 53-year history to hold the editor in chief title. As we put this issue to bed, knowing that it could well be the final issue dedicated solely to women as identities shift and grow, I’d like to dedicate these stories to all of the badass pioneers who bucked gender norms before me and to all those who’ll continue to do so well into the future.
Yours in storytelling,
Tracy E. Gilchrist