This anthology of writers aims to show the dimensionality of queer life

Zach Stafford, journalist former editor-in-chief of The Advocate, discusses the collection 'Boys' for our Black History Month Creative Excellence series

Published On
Feb 18, 2022
20220218_Boys-An-Anthology_BookCover_BHM_3x2.jpg

Editor's Pick

 

We close this week's collection of stories for our Black History Month Celebration of Creative Excellence with Zach Stafford. An award-winning journalist, he curently serves as a contributor to MSNBC and hosts the iHeart Radio show "In the Deep: Stories That Shape Us." His career is filled with many other notable roles—he was the first Black editor-in-chief of The Advocate, editor-at-large of Buzzfeed, chief content officer of Grindr and also worked as an investigative journalist at The Guardian. His work has earned him accolades such as a spot on Forbes' 30 Under 30 as well as The Root's list of 100 most influential Black people. 

"Movements are as powerful as the storytellers who memorialize them, and Zach Stafford has dedicated his career to ensuring that people of color and LGBTQ folks are not forgotten," said this week's guest editor, GLAAD Creative Director Abdool Corlette. What I've admired about Zach in the 13 years I've known him is his pursuit of the truth. His expansive and diverse career is one that paints the picture of a creator who understands that storytelling is the backbone of creativity. His ability to get to the bottom of an idea and generate an experience that's rooted in authenticity and equity is truly a superpower. Zach is looking at intersectional ways to bridge the lessons from the past, the demands of the present, and the hopes for the future in a way that makes us all feel seen." 

Here, Stafford one of his first major projects, the anthology of queer writing "Boys," a work that not only helped open doors for his career as a journalist, but also created a space for his fellow LGBTQ writers and creators to express the dimensionality of their lives. 

Zach Stafford
Zach Stafford photograph by Grant Legan

 

Right after graduating from college in Chicago, I was a contributor to the digital youth culture magazine Thought Catalog, which had just launched a publishing imprint. I called a friend and collaborator, journalist Nico Lang, to pitch him an idea: Should we do a collection of essays about the queer writers in our life that goes beyond their coming-out stories? Should we call it "Boys" as an ode to Lena Dunham's wildly popular HBO show, “Girls”? After a quick pitch to the editors, they said, “Yes,” and we were off to the races. 

This was around 2012 and the LGBTQ landscape looked very different from how it does today. It wasn't common for newsrooms to have an LGBTQ culture reporter or an LGBTQ news desk—finding stories in mainstream outlets about our lives beyond the fight for marriage equality was hard. So this project was our attempt to try and showcase just how complicated the lives of queer folks are outside a coming out or a dream for marriage—and the book did that with incredible contributions from writers like Alok Vaid-Menon, Noah Michelson (HuffPo), and even the porn star Buck Angel. 

Zach Stafford

The book went on to rank #1 on various Amazon lists. The picture here is from a book signing once it came out. It’s at the bar Akbar in Los Angeles (my now home!).  This project and this moment were so big for me as a creative because they marked the first time in my life that I worked with so many creative people (the book has over a dozen of writers) from start to finish on every level—taking in pitches, designing covers, editing copy, etc.

The book’s success and the community it built are obviously foundational to so much in my career. Since then, I buit Grindr’s first magazine (INTO), became the first Black editor-in-chief of The Advocate and so much more. But most importantly for me, it was the first time I was really told in a big way that not only do the stories I love matter, but my life matters. And without that nothing else I’ve done would have ever happened. 

Credits

Date
Feb 18, 2022
Journalist :
Zach Stafford

Need a credit fix? Contact the Creativity Editors