Spectrum South’s 2017 Year in Review

A photo of Spectrum South co-founders Megan Smith and Kelsey Gledhill.
“We’re still learning and growing, but the journey has been better than we ever expected.” -Spectrum South co-founders Megan Smith (l) and Kelsey Gledhill.
Photo by Hannah Olson.

Wow, what a year! Well, in our case, what a half year! Spectrum South officially went live in June 2017, just in time for LGBTQ Pride month. The next six months were a wonderful whirlwind of heartwarming (and sometimes heartbreaking) interviews, long nights of editing, colorful celebrations of community, and building a digital safe space for queer folks across the South. We’re still learning and growing, but the journey has been better than we ever expected.

A photo of Spectrum South's Pride booth.

The Spectrum South team greeted thousands of festival goers at Houston’s LGBT Pride Celebration in June 2017. Photo by Danielle Benoit.

Spectrum South is composed of a team of young, dedicated queer individuals, each with their own unique identities and lived experiences. From the very beginning, we wanted to build transparency and connection between our readers and the voices they would be hearing from on a regular basis. To help in that process, we had each writer share their own personal narratives, detailing the impact that their queer and southern identities have made on their lives thus far. Yvonne Marquez wrote about reconciling her queerness with her coming-of-age in the Rio Grande Valley. Sasha Lamprea detailed her journey of self-acceptance as a queer woman, an Afro-Latina, and immigrant. And Josh Inocéncio described coming out to his conservative family in Kentucky. We now have more than a dozen writers, each one with a story to tell.

We’re proud to say that our stories have resonated with readers in ways we never anticipated. A high school classmate of Marquez’s in the Rio Grande Valley thanked her for her personal narrative, sharing that his father just came out to him last year. As a result of Spectrum South’s article on queer podcast Jotxs y Recuerdos, creator Alexandra Nichole Salazar Vasquez’s dad officially came out to her as a transman. University of Houston Professor Trevor Boffone even used Spectrum South’s personal narrative series in his Introduction to LGBT Studies course to help students explore their own intersecting identities.

In September, we held our official launch party at the Sharespace Warehouse in East Downtown. Over 250 guests came together to learn more about Spectrum South’s vision, enjoy amazing performances by The T.R.U.T.H. Project, and of course, treat themselves to tacos and donuts. Seeing so many queer folks from all walks of life gather together in one space was an incredible experience and only reaffirmed the community we seek to build.

A photo of Spectrum South's launch party.

Writer Josh Inocéncio reads his personal narrative at Spectrum South’s official launch party in September 2017. Photo by Danielle Benoit.

The connections we’ve made with community partners have also been invaluable. Our launch party raised over $800 for The Montrose Center’s LGBTQ Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund. Spectrum South was proud to sponsor the 2017 Houston Transgender Unity Banquet, the city’s largest annual transgender event, which featured bisexual documentarian Fiona Dawson as the evening’s keynote speaker. With the help of Pride Portraits, we launched Transouthern Youth, an ongoing series spotlighting transgender youth across the South. Look for the latest installment on 18-year-old non-binary youth Gwen Lambert next week! Plus, we sponsored the Houston Roller Derby’s 2017 season, and are excited to roll out a brand-new series on the league in 2018.

A photo of Spectrum South's sponsorship of the Houston Transgender Unity Banquet.

Spectrum South was proud to sponsor the Houston Transgender Unity Banquet in November 2017.

This half year was an exciting time to say the least, but we’re looking forward to what 2018 has to offer and are excited to bring you even more in queer southern culture. Our queer-inclusive sex blog, Asking for a Friend, will be transformed into a dynamic video blog hosted by certified sexologist Dr. Laura McGuire. We’ll be hosting more interactive events throughout the year to bring community together under one roof, as well as launching a podcast in late 2018 focused on queer southern identity. And, of course, we’ll be bringing you all-new content on the South’s up-and-coming queer leaders, trendsetters, artists, and more.

In order to grow, evolve, and keep our finger on the pulse of such a diverse community, we need your help. Feel free to contact us at info@spectrumsouth.com to leave feedback, suggestions, and story ideas—we want to hear from you!

Cheers, queers and happy New Year!

Xoxo, Kelsey and Megan

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