Last year, the Arkansas Times launched of Out in Arkansas, a series of LGBTQ-focused stories with the aim of ultimately building a separate publication. It’s now time to increase our commitment to Out in Arkansas with a stand-alone website that will publish content every day, some of which will also appear on the Arkansas Times website and weekly print edition. We also will produce Out in Arkansas as a print magazine twice a year.
Leading the effort will be Little Rock’s Bryan Borland, who knows a thing or two about LGBTQ publishing. In 2010, he founded Sibling Rivalry Press, an independent publishing house based in Little Rock he operates with his husband, Seth Pennington. In a few short years, SRP has published work by some of the most exciting LGBTQ writers today, such as Saeed Jones, who was the Buzzfeed LGBTQ Editor and now heads Buzzfeed Reader, and Ocean Vuong, who was profiled this month by The New Yorker and who was the recipient of a 2016 Whiting Award. Sibling Rivalry Press is also the only publishing house, large or small, to ever win Lambda Literary Awards in both Gay and Lesbian Poetry, and SRP titles have been honored 21 times by the American Library Association. Borland also founded Assaracus, a quarterly journal of gay poetry that was recognized by Library Journal as a best new magazine of 2013. It is still going strong, having just published its 22nd issue. Last summer, the Library of Congress inducted all SRP titles — past, present and future — into its exclusive Rare Book and Special Collections division.
As a writer, Borland has authored two previous collections of poetry, “My Life as Adam” and “Less Fortunate Pirates,” with a third, “DIG,” scheduled for publication this September from George Mason University’s Stillhouse Press. Borland honed his craft in Arkansas and cares deeply about the LGBTQ community here — he was born in Dumas and raised in Monticello, where he won the 1996 Editor of the Year award for high school journalism, and he’s a graduate of Conway’s Hendrix College. He’s committed to using the lessons and network gained from his publishing and editing experience to tell the stories of LGBTQ Arkansans.
“As I’ve travelled around the state, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some of the most amazing people,” Borland says. “The 85-year-old man who just found the voice to come out. The couple who’ve been together for 50 years and who are finally able to marry. The high school student, out and proud, embraced — not bullied — by his rural classmates, or the student punished by her school board for starting a gay-straight alliance. The success of Lucie’s Place, Arkansas’s only shelter for homeless LGBTQ young adults, the people who run it and the people they help. These are the stories I want to tell. As a lifelong Arkansan, I’ve also seen firsthand issues we need space to discuss. The difficulty of finding adequate and honest healthcare for LGBTQ people of our state, especially for our transgender community. The need for racial diversity in our queer spaces. Who are the LGBTQ-friendly employers and where are the LGBTQ-accepting churches (particularly outside of our urban centers)? Who are the attorneys willing to take on our cases? Where are we safe, where are we in danger and who can we turn to when we need allies? What’s going on in our neighboring states and in the South in general — who needs our support and our attention and what bills, good and bad, are being hammered into law?
“I’m also committed to racial diversity and diversity-of-identity in both content and contributing writers. The LGBTQ community is made up of people of all colors who fall all over the LGBTQ spectrum, a spectrum that must be reflected in Out in Arkansas. We’ll also highlight art, movies, books and music that are of interest to the LGBTQ community. I grew up in a small town, and often it was a connection to musicians and literature and film that provided a lifeline to a world outside of myself. Art gave me hope.
“As a poet, my job has been to witness and report on the beauty and the madness of the world. As an editor and publisher, my job has been to create a bridge between isolation and community and to provide a venue for people to amplify their voices. Out in Arkansas will allow me to continue to do what’s become the work of my life and to document and share what makes our home sometimes brutal but more often magical. I’m lucky enough that all of this will manifest through a media outlet committed to providing information, resources and news that will better the lives of LGBTQ Arkansans.”
To get to the finish line, we need your help. Like most small publishers, the Arkansas Times survives on a slim margin. We can’t afford to bear costs for a new internal startup on our own, but the need for Out in Arkansas is great, and that’s why we’re reaching out to you. We are optimistic that, once established, this effort could be supported largely, or maybe even entirely, through advertising sales, but for our startup year, we’re seeking funding to pay Borland a salary, cover overhead costs, pay for web development and support a network of freelance writers, photographers and videographers. We’re looking to raise $125,000, which will buy us time to establish, grow and sell our effort.
Because we’re raising money through the nonprofit crowdfunding platform ioby.com, all donations are tax deductible. Go to arktimes.com/outinark to make your contribution today.
Out in Arkansas’s mission is to provide a base of information for the LGBTQ community, not only in Little Rock and Fayetteville and Eureka Springs, but throughout our state, including the rural areas that traditionally receive little coverage. In a world where knowledge is both power and saving grace, we have a responsibility to our neighbors.
With this in mind, Out in Arkansas and Arkansas Times will provide the stage — then to get out of the way and let our LGBTQ community sing. Sometimes the songs will make us smile and sometimes they’ll make us cry, but trust us: We’ve heard them, and they deserve to be heard by a broader audience. With your help, we’re going to find the people with stories that need to be heard, and we’re going to say, “Here’s the microphone. Take it. It’s yours.’ ”