OUTINPERTH INTERVIEW WITH GRAEME WATSON
All around us paper prints are falling by the wayside, getting washed down the gutter, then picking themselves up again on deserted beaches to start a new life, covered in sparkling seaweed and bejewelled with shells. Graeme Watson, editor of OUTinPerth talked to Amber Fresh about saving the diversity-focussed paper from the liquidators and moving into the family room for Game of Thrones coffee breaks and a continuation of making a true difference in the lives of gender and sexuality-diverse beauties across WA…
Do you think ‘OUTinPerth’ is a matter of life/death for ppl who aren’t mainstream straighties?
While we do write lots of stories about disco, rainbows and glitter, we also cover a lot of serious topics like safe sex, HIV, ageing, homelessness, coming out and the high level of suicide in the LGBTIQ community. It’s always very humbling when you discover something we published actually had a big effect on someone’s life.
Over the years I had some very enlightening conversations with people who have shared that finding OUTinPerth allowed them to find the resources and shared experiences that they needed.
Lots of ‘mainstream straighties’ are big fans of OUTinPerth too, because we apply our tagline of ‘Something Different’ to everything we do.
There are many publications that I randomly get surprised exist in Perth that I’ve never heard of, does that happen to you too? Shout-outs to any sister/brother presses you enjoy?
It amazes me sometimes that people don’t see a lot of the local media that is in Perth, whether that’s radio, print or online options. We’re great mates with the team at Premium Publishers who make Primo Life magazine, and I live half my life at RTRFM 92.1, I love all the University magazines, I started writing at Metior at Murdoch, these have some real creativity in them.
There’s also a great world of LGBTIQ+ press in Australia with Fuse, Q-News, SameSame, Star Observer, Gay News Network, Heaps Gay and many others.
Sometimes with OiP do you feel “Why do we bother?”, and other times that it’s the most important thing in the world?
Sure, everyone has those moments, but then I go and have a short break and rebuild my energy.
It can be frustrating to have never-ending conversations about marriage equality, a discussion that just spins in ever decreasing circles. For something that the large majority of Australians support it’s ridiculous that politicians are so out of touch and lacking action. There are so many other areas of inequality that we need to be addressing alongside marriage.
Sometimes the most powerful insights can come from unexpected places; I remember chatting to ‘80s pop star Belinda Carlisle about her support for gay rights, her son is gay and she’s a huge advocate. In this month’s issue we talk to Ladyhawke about how her marriage to her same-sex partner is not legally recognised when she comes to Australia. Sometimes what you think is going to be a light interview about music can suddenly have a deeper revelation.
Me and a friend just started a little street press called “down the dogole”, as XPress finished in print. So people can have something in their hands as they drink coffee, but also really with the purpose of making perth/freo, and hence our world, better, by giving people things to read about that they just wouldn’t know otherwise. To open minds. What is the true purpose of OUTinPerth, in your words?
We have a mission statement that we live by: http://www.outinperth.com/about-us/
OUTinPerth is about creating conversations, sometimes conversations that we don’t want to have, sometimes they are conversations that question our own behaviour in the LGBTIQ+ communities. We like to be provocative, we like to encourage people to act, think and speak up. We’re often a little tongue in cheek and we’re well known for hiding little subversive things within our pages.
We think a lot about connecting people, with each other and the community around them. We think about the word OUT a lot, whether that’s being out about your sexuality, or just getting out of the house, or out of bad habits. It works on lots of levels.
I know you guys are keeping OUTinPerth as not-not-for-profit, mainly because of time reasons when you were rescuing the paper from the almost ashes. But are you happy to be starting again at least on the back of donations from true believers? (Also, can you explain is it a Go Fund Me or Pozible campaign or are you guys doing both?)
Last month the company that owned the magazine closed down with little warning. We were half way through writing stories when we had to put down our pens and pack up our stuff. The next 10 days were a roller-coaster experience as Leigh Hill and I, the magazine’s editorial team, worked hard to buy the rights to the magazine from the Liquidator.
We’re not a non-for-profit, but we view the magazine as a social enterprise, our goal is to be sustainable and contribute to our community. Neither of us have dreams of buying a tropical island.
In the days following our brief closure, so many people encouraged us to start our own magazine and set up a crowdsource campaign. We had to move very quickly to buy the rights for OUTinPerth and save the archive of LGBTIQ publishing. What we don’t have though is any of the infrastructure, equipment or software to efficiently create a magazine.
That investment will also allow us to support many LGBTIQ community groups in WA by documenting their events and sharing their information.
Our GoFundMe campaign is at www.gofundme.com/outinperth. Thanks to the support so far we’ve been able to create a legal entity to house the magazine and set up our accounting systems, we also were able to send our June issue to the printers, it’s got Culture Club on the cover, a story on homelessness, musicians Ladyhawke and Olympia and Michelle Visage from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
We’re currently driving around town dropping it off at 300 locations.
How is the OUTinPerth pressroom different from pressroom’s we’re used to seeing in film and tv? Do you all smoke cigars while you’re typing furiously on type writers and you as the editor mainly yell at your reporters and then occasionally give them a life-changing “You did good, son!”?
Reality is always so different. For many years OUTinPerth has been located above a signage workshop. Downstairs people were welding and beating pieces of metal. Not the best location for phone interviews with superstars!
We have two editorial staff, so I do 50% of the writing on the magazine. We’ve got around 40 contributing writers registered with us, and that’s something we’d like to build on. If you scroll to the very bottom of our website you can sign up.
Right now, we’re located in the family room in my house – which is actually quite nice because we can stop to watch ‘Game of Thrones’, and the dog likes people being around.
It’s actually been very liberating not having an office, we spend lots of time with laptops in café’s and pubs. The other day I interviewed someone over the phone while I was at The Scotsman.
What’s something you think people outside Perth’s LGBTI community still don’t understand that you wish they would?
It amazes me that people still think people choose to be gay, or bisexual or transgender. I total stranger stopped me in the street the other day, presumably he’d overheard me and my friends talking, and he asked if we were gay, which we confirmed.
Then he went into this lengthy interrogation about why we’d chosen to be gay, why didn’t we try harder to like women, why we weren’t concerned about religious implications. People are just gay, maybe they’re 100% same sex attracted all their life, maybe their sexuality changes when they’re 37 years old, maybe it changes back again, maybe they’re attracted to all genders. It’s not some giant mystery to solve, it just is.
Also, we don’t all know each other. We don’t have membership keyrings.
What do you hope for OUTinPerth, now that you guys are completely free to do whatever you want with the paper?
To be honest we’ve always been pretty free to do what we want with OUTinPerth. We once did an interview over Twitter and published it as one tweet per page. We’ve done Snapchat based interviews and launched a podcast. We publish poetry, and cartoons, and word clouds.
But yes, I think our most insane ideas will be allowed to shine now.
Are there any recent stories that have made you outrageously proud to print?
We did a story a while back about a young guy in Perth who was 22 and recently discovered he was HIV positive, on one level I wished we never had to publish that story, but I’m honoured that he wanted to share his experience with us. It had a big impact in highlighting that HIV is not something that only applies to guys in their 40s.
We did a lo-fi fashion issue which we shot at a mates’ house in North Perth, it also included a glasses feature which we shot in some back alleyways of the city. We were walking around with $40,000 of designer glasses and hoping nobody ran off with them. It all looked fabulous.
Last year we met a wonderful lady named Velma who was a proud lesbian celebrating her 90th birthday. It was fascinating to hear about gay Perth in the 1940s. Sadly Velma recently passed away, her obituary is in our June issue.