LGBTQ+ students at the University of Michigan (U-M) have a fresh outlet for self-expression, thanks to a new student-run publication called The Michigan Gayly.
Launched in November 2020, The Michigan Gayly covers LGBTQ+-related current events, politics, culture, and entertainment, both on campus and around the globe.
"The Gayly feeds a real hunger that many LGBTQ+ students have for sharing their stories. We have a lot to say and a lot that we want other people to hear," says Shoshana Weinstein, the Gayly's driving force and editor-in-chief.
Weinstein understands that yearning all too well. She recalls moving from Missouri to start college straight out of high school last year, and deciding to come out of the closet at the same time.
"I had stayed silent for so long about my personal life and also about issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community at large," she says. "I was ready to be seen. I was also looking for an outlet to share what was important to me."
Weinstein arrived at U-M in the last week of August, and she soon realized that there wasn't an on-campus newspaper for LGBTQ+ students. So she decided to create one, despite the intimidation of not knowing anyone and being new on campus. By September she had rallied a small team of like-minded students, and the first issue of the Gayly was launched in November. The 100 printed copies of the issue were snatched up almost immediately.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Gayly into an online-only incarnation, but that hasn't dampened enthusiasm for the publication. Weinstein says she is constantly floored by the community support the Gayly has received. The periodical got a boost when it received some funding help from the Spectrum Center, which supports LGBTQ+ advocacy and community building at U-M.
Additionally, the Gayly's positive impact was rewarded recently via the 2020 Accolades Achievement in the Arts Awards. The Accolades recognize U-M student organizations for their outstanding leadership and achievements in the arts. The Gayly was crowned the 2020 Emerging Arts Winner by student voters.
What's resonating with readers, Weinstein believes, is the publication's dedication to being "honest, rich, diverse, and inclusive of a non-LGTBQ+ audience".
"We're really mindful of our allies in the community, but we're not toning down the way we speak in order to be palatable," she says. "Rather than being something that caters to the outside community, the mission is to be a space for joy, clear expression, and reflection."
U-M student Rose Younglove, 22, says deep empowerment and healing come from having such a safe place to share LGBTQ+ experiences and perspectives. Younglove is the Gayly's director of digital media content and a regular writer. She transferred to U-M last summer and met Weinstein at a campus LGTBQ+ meeting soon afterward. Younglove was determined to help out in any way as soon as Weinstein showed her a copy of the Gayly. While her contributions have varied from poetry to opinion articles, a personal reflection piece about her identity that she wrote last year proved pivotal.
"I was new in town. I had gone to a club and I had a really negative interaction with a man there that really shook me and I was texting people throughout the night for support," Younglove recalls. "I was dealing with internalized homophobia and ended up writing an article about self-love, identities, and how important it is to find self-acceptance."
Younglove says it's not uncommon for LGTBQ+ students to reach out to the Gayly's writers, and she often hears similarly impactful stories from readers who contact her online. Their excitement extends to everything from seeing a Facebook post about a local campus event to stories covering national political developments.
Younglove also wants to bring more awareness to the resources section of the Gayly's website. Readers can find a remarkably comprehensive, user-friendly list of on- and off-campus organizations where LGTBQ+ students can find support for needs ranging from counseling and financial aid to wellness advice and safety.
"People are finding themselves reflected in what they're reading," Younglove says.
As the Gayly continues to grow, she says she wants to encourage readers to realize that "you can be more than one thing, and it's okay if your identity doesn't fit into one neat little box. You aren't alone."
Weinstein expresses similar sentiments. While she may have started out knowing no one on campus and starved for an outlet, she now has the support of a stable of 20-30 LGTBQ+ students eager to cover issues they're passionate about.
"I've spent so long waiting to say things, and now finally the opportunity is here to be who I am and share that with others," she says.
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.