LOOKOUT PHX is an online newsletter on Substack.
Arizona is one of 15 states with 10 or more anti-queer laws this term.
The state regularly makes national headlines, whether it’s for allowing foster homes to discriminate against gay people or a bomb threat at a drag queen class. Some say there isn’t nearly enough coverage in the local press.
“When I came back here two years ago, I noticed that all the weird messages I visited as a kid were gone,” said Joseph Darius Jaafari, a reporter for the Arizona Republic.
In January he founded LOOKOUT PHX, an online LGBTQ newsletter on Substack
“And I just said, ‘This is something we need. It’s something people want,” Jaafari said. “But there was no indication that the old media in Arizona was ready to really cover it fully.
So far, LOOKOUT has covered a homophobic radio show, a gay couple being evicted from their suburban home, and more. They ran a story about Arizona prisoners being punished for queer intimacy.
And Jaafari says that’s just the beginning.
“We have health issues that we need to talk about, we have testing issues that we need to talk about, we have education issues, we have housing issues, all these things that just aren’t being dealt with thoroughly and consistently. They are treated as an afterthought,” he said.
Jaafari formed LOOKOUT with Jake Hilton, a Phoenix real estate agent and Jaafari’s husband. The newsletter is not affiliated with the Arizona Republic.
“I have to be very clear that I’m not part of LOOKOUT,” said Jaafari. “I don’t write for, I voluntarily edit every now and then when a piece comes in.”
Joseph Darius Jaafari founded LOOKOUT PHX with Jake Hilton, a Phoenix real estate agent and Jaafari’s husband.
The history of queer publications in Phoenix
Queer publications often start out as small projects with just a handful of people. Established in 1977, Sunday’s Childe was the first of its kind in Phoenix.
“It was made on a duplicate piece — the early version of Xerox — by a woman named BJ Bud who, right up until her death, was a pioneer in everything she did for the queer community,” said Robrt Pela, founder of Phoenix’ Third queer publication: Phoenix Resource, formerly known as Previews and Reviews.
Pela, who is now a KJZZ contributor, founded the newspaper at the age of 23.
“I was always an angry young gay man. So I was kind of angry in general, but I was really angry about our fourth-class citizenship in contemporary culture,” Pela said.
Previews and Reviews, which Pela was working on at the time, was a queer publication that, as the title suggests, focused on previewing and reviewing local events and parties. Eventually he scraped together enough money to buy the newspaper. Pela changed the name, format and content; basically creating a whole new newspaper.
“We got really political and very culture oriented and we got rid of all the coverage of gay bars and drag shows and stuff that I thought held us back as a community and culture and as individuals because we define ourselves in those very narrow confines , very specific ways,” Pela said.
Pela said he started Phoenix Resource at a time when there was a lot of fear and misinformation about AIDS.
“Gay men were dying of this unknown cancer,” he said. “And the mainstream media didn’t know how to cover this crisis. And if so, then often irresponsibly.”
Phoenix Resource ran every two weeks until 1994. Pela said he wasn’t young and angry anymore – and he was tired.
“It was an impactful voice at a time when we didn’t feel like we were making the impact we wanted,” he said.
But the disappearance of Phoenix Resource didn’t leave a gaping void in queer coverage. Echo, a magazine founded in 1989, became Phoenix’s longest-running LGBTQ publication. Amy Young served as Editor-in-Chief from 2017 to 2021.
“The goal and mission of creating content that serves a specific community has always been what drove everyone, and everyone felt really great about it,” Young said.
“The goal and mission to create content that serves a specific community has always been what drove everyone…”
— Amy Young, former editor-in-chief of Echo magazine
Echo became rooted in Phoenix’s LGBTQ community by attending Pride events and even hosting the annual parade for a year. And according to Young, the magazine meant a lot to people.
“I was at a restaurant once and a young chef came out of the kitchen and said, ‘Oh, you’re the editor of Echo, … can I give you a hug?'” Young said. “And he started crying and he was like, ‘You know, I’m just so grateful to have a magazine like Echo, you know, that I can go to for support and to make me feel like I belong.’
But a few years ago, Echo’s owner Bill Orovan sold the monthly magazine to OUTvoices, a national LGBTQ publication. It has been renamed to OUTvoices Phoenix. Only four issues were printed.
“The last issue I worked on, to save money, they cut down to one article and all the ads,” Young said.
Now, with the release, OUTvoices is online-only, according to a content specialist. It mainly focuses on lifestyle content like the best margarita recipes or how to find an LGBTQ-friendly hairdresser.
The only physical LGBTQ publication in Phoenix is ION Arizona. The latest issue of the small magazine featured two profiles of a traveling drag queen and an Arizona filmmaker, horoscopes — known as “homoscopes” — and ads for events, bars, and other businesses.
“If we’re the fifth largest city in the nation, our communities, whether it’s race, gender, sexuality, whatever, should all be represented in reporting, in the media, and in culture,” said Hilton, president of the board and chief executive officer of LOOKOUT PHX. “And at the moment we are still being pushed into the closet for lack of better conditions.”