With the start of a new year, OutWords has taken a huge step that we expect to be controversial in the queer community – we are no longer running ads for Cruiseline and Squirt. It was a decision that was a long time in the making and one that was debated with some emotion by staff and board members. We know that some people will cheer this move while others will condemn it. Either way, readers deserve an explanation.
First a little history: OutWords, and Swerve before it, have always enjoyed a strong and professional relationship with the organizations behind Cruiseline and Squirt. Their ads ran consistently year after year and were a significant part of our income. This magazine doesn’t get government funding, it relies on advertising to survive. We owe a debt of gratitude for the support of all advertisers and certainly a special debt to Cruiseline and Squirt.
But times have changed, so has our world and the queer community. As regular readers are aware, the magazine has been gradually shifting direction for the past few years. We are no longer that rough-and-tumble newspaper that was distributed in bars, clubs and queer organizations. We are now a glossy magazine that is focusing on reflecting modern queer lives.
We haven’t forgotten our roots – an open attitude to sexual diversity and practices between consenting adults. But OutWords is more than a magazine about sexual diversity. It runs stories about all sorts of people in the LGBT community – stories that hopefully inspire, educate and entertain readers. Recognizing that we can’t be all things to all people, we want the magazine to meet the needs of as much of the queer community as possible. We also want the magazine to be available in a broad range of locations – including schools, health clinics, social agencies, book stores and coffee shops.
Cruiseline and Squirt are legal businesses but the reality is they are selling sex. Because of that we are getting a lot of pushback from businesses and advertisers who are uncomfortable with the Cruiseline and Squirt ads. We are also getting pushback from queer families who say they don’t like having the magazine in their homes where their children might see the ads.
It’s easy to argue that there is an element of homophobia and moralizing in this attitude. There may also be an element of hypocrisy. Most major daily newspapers, including the Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun, have sex-for-sale ads in their classified sections. The Winnipeg Yellow Pages carries three pages of full-colour ads for escort services. These can only be described as sex-for-sale ads, yet the Yellow Pages can be found in almost all homes and organizations.
If we were in a city like Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, it is doubtful this would be much of an issue. In our little prairie pond, the sex-for-sale ads were hurting our efforts to expand our magazine and our distribution range. That’s the reality we struggled with as we debated whether to keep the ads or move on. No one at OutWords found the decision easy. But it was the one we had to make.
– Rachel Morgan is the editor of OutWords.