Change Is Good

2020 GCN Impact Awards
Matt Tracy and Paul Schindler in a photoshopped composite at the 2020 Gay City News Impact Awards in Long Island City, where the two were socially distancing for COVID safety reasons.
Donna Aceto/ George De Castro Day

Today’s issue of Gay City News is the last one for which I will serve as the newspaper’s editor-in-chief.

Steering this newspaper over the past two decades has been the proudest achievement of my life. Gay City News was launched in May 2002, and was the successor to a previous publication I worked on, Lesbian and Gay New York, or LGNY, which got its start in late 1994. I began writing for LGNY a year later, and became its editor-in-chief in 1997.

It’s scarcely possible to put into a brief few words how much the LGBTQ community and its role in New York, our nation, and the world have changed in the past quarter century. HIV, which for a decade and a half had destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, many of them gay men, became, with new drug therapies, a manageable health condition. What was almost unthinkable in 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act was enacted became a reality with the 2015 marriage equality ruling from the Supreme Court, and gay men and lesbians can now serve openly in the military. Transgender and non-binary folks, once largely overlooked even by lesbian and gay advocates, have stepped forward to claim their space and their rights, even as they continue to face fierce resistance in many quarters.

The LGBTQ media has played a vital role during these past decades in bringing our stories, struggles, and achievements to wider public appreciation, and if the mainstream press is doing a far better job of that now than it did in 1995 I am convinced it is because our own community publications have shown the way. Gay City News has been at the forefront of quality, reliable reporting amidst all the tectonic changes unfolding.

Tat Bellamy-Walker joins Gay City News as the new digital editor and reporter.Courtesy of Tat Bellamy-Walker

The community still has a long way to go to achieve full, lived equality. The nation lacks a comprehensive civil rights law protecting LGBTQ Americans. We continue to face hate violence, which has become an epidemic against transgender people, especially trans women of color. Trans folks can still not serve in the military, and their participation in sports has sparked backlash and disqualifying restrictions. The LGBTQ community also continues to face critical health and economic disparities, particularly among its trans members and in communities of color. And worldwide, in far too many places, being queer carries lethal risks. All this, of course, is just a partial list of the challenges that lie ahead.

As it has in the past, the queer media must play a leadership role in airing these issues and pushing for change, and I am convinced that Gay City News will stay at the front of the pack.

For myself, I plan to continue contributing both at the newspaper and as an activist and writer generally. But at the age of 66 and after 25 years of work in the trenches, it is time to make way for newer and younger voices. Institutions and communities make a mistake when their leadership resists orderly and timely transitions to fresh blood. The generations that have come of age in the years since I was young have different perspectives on the challenges facing our community and even on what it means to be queer in American society. Those perspectives demand to be heard.

Fortunately, the newspaper will be in excellent hands under its new leadership. Matt Tracy, the new editor-in-chief who is an Ithaca College graduate, joined Gay City News more than two years ago, and in the time since has proved to be a dogged and passionate reporter, inventive in uncovering stories the newspaper should shed light on and unafraid to challenge powerful institutions and public figures. In his first year on staff, his work was recognized with several honors from the New York Press Association. Working with him as my colleague has been an unparalleled pleasure.

Joining Matt is our new digital editor and reporter, Tat Bellamy-Walker. Tat earned his master’s in journalism from CUNY in 2019 and has built a strong set of professional credentials, including work for The Daily Beast, CNN, NBC, Inc. Magazine, Business Insider, and New Hampshire Public Radio. Tat impressed both Matt and me from our first interview with him, and he came to us with the highest professional and academic recommendations.

Looking back over my time with Gay City News and LGNY, I have many people to thank, including the newspaper’s publishers — since 2018, Victoria Schneps-Yunis and Josh Schneps, who helped us broaden our platforms to include webinars and a podcast; Jennifer and Les Goodstein, who brought us into a more diversified media company between 2012 and 2018; and John Sutter, who provided LGNY founder Troy Masters and me with the resources to launch Gay City News in 2002.

I’ve also had the pleasure of working with excellent editor colleagues, including Beth Stroud, Liz Tracey, Aaron Krach, Mick Meenan, and Brian McCormick.

But Gay City News could never have made the impact it did without the tireless commitment of talented freelancers, including Duncan Osborne, Donna Aceto, Andy Humm, Arthur S. Leonard, Kathleen Warnock, Michael Luongo, Susie Day, Kelly Cogswell, Sam Oglesby, Nathan Riley, Ed Sikov, Donna Minkowitz, Yoav Sivan, Benjamin Weinthal, Dr. Lawrence D. Mass, David Kennerley, Christopher Byrne, Michael Shirey, Steve Erickson, Gary M. Kramer, David Shengold, Eli Jacobson, James Jorden, David Noh, Christopher Murray, Nicholas Boston, Dubbs Weinblatt, Eileen McDermott, Court Stroud, the late Doug Ireland, and the late Dean Wrzeszcz. I could never thank any of these individuals enough.

On a personal note, it would have been impossible for me to do this work without the undying love and support of my husband, Bert Vaccari.

Wishing you the very best in 2021, we should all move forward into a new year and a new presidential administration with hope and resolve.