LGBT magazines tossed from local businesses
by Heather Cassell
After years of gaining increased acceptance, some LGBT publishers continue to stumble upon discrimination when they distribute their publications. What's most shocking is that it's mostly from gay-owned businesses.
Out Now and Jane and Jane, two free Northern California queer glossy lifestyle magazines, experienced the sting of not being welcomed in gay-owned and straight-owned businesses.
"Being an owner of a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender publication, I've discovered homophobia, not only with heterosexuals, but also within our own community," said Troy May, publisher of ON, which is based in San Jose. Frustrated and disappointed after an incident with It's a Grind Coffee House near the San Jose airport, May addressed the matter in his letter from the editor in ON's Pride issue.
"I know some businesses who will not put the magazine in their lobby, not because they think it's inappropriate, but because they don't even want their customers to know they are gay or that they could be gay. It's been eye-opening," said May.
It wasn't a gay-owned business that prompted May to address the issue. According to May, It's a Grind Coffee House, a straight-owned franchise, suddenly requested May cease distribution of the magazine after three months. According to May, the owner of the coffee shop, Daksha Mehta, told him that the publication was inappropriate due to corporate policy, but wouldn't provide more information.
May assumed that Mehta discovered that ON was a gay magazine and was offended and, May suspected, recycled the magazines.
May agreed to pick up the magazine rack, but when he went to retrieve it a week later, it was gone.
"What if it was a black or Hispanic newspaper that was being distributed?" asked May. "People would be outraged about it, [but] when it comes to gay and lesbian people, we're still the one community that can be openly discriminated against, and it's OK even here in the Bay Area, I want to say somehow, 'No it's not OK to do that.'"
Mehta refused to comment when the B.A.R. contacted her. She referred the B.A.R. to It's a Grind Coffee House headquarters in Long Beach. Representatives from the company did not respond to messages seeking comment.
The recent distribution problem disturbed May, but not as much as being denied distribution at a gay-owned pet store, Andy's Pet Shop in San Jose, after being allowed to have the magazine there.
Dennis Thomas, the owner of the pet shop, declined to comment.
Alison Zawacki, publisher of Jane and Jane magazine, based in Sacramento, had the same distribution issue with Andy's Pet Shop. May and Zawacki said they were told by Thomas that the publications were unacceptable because the store was a family shop and that he received complaints from customers.
May and Zawacki both said their publications have advertising policies that don't accept sexually explicit ads or others deemed inappropriate.
"There is nothing in our magazine that I don't have a problem showing my mom or dad," said Zawacki.
Zawacki said the pet shop wasn't the only LGBT-owned business where she had distribution problems.
"The most disappointing part to me is the two issues that we've had so far have been from other gay-owned businesses," said Zawacki, who thought gay-owned businesses would support each other.
According to Zawacki, a year ago she thought she found a great fit at lesbian-owned A'Roma Roasters and Coffee House in Santa Rosa. She dropped off a stack of magazines after speaking with a clerk at the counter, but within minutes after leaving she was called to pick up her magazines and told that if she didn't they would be recycled. Zawacki immediately picked up the magazines, but told the B.A.R. that she never received an explanation from the owner. She just assumed that these businesses were catering to mainstream customers and just moved on. Zawacki said that Jane and Jane is accepted in many mainstream and other LGBT-owned businesses.
"There are so many other places that are just thrilled to have us there," said Zawacki.
Dayna Irvine, co-owner of A'Roma Roasters with her partner, Kay Irvine, told the B.A.R. that it wasn't a matter of the lesbian content. Her partner and she "think it's a cool magazine." The issue was that they didn't have space, according to Irvine.
"Space was the only reason," said Dayna Irvine, who said that the coffee shop was open to everyone and said they would consider carrying Jane and Jane when space becomes available.
Unlike Zawacki, who moved on, May isn't letting the distribution issue go. The San Jose Rainbow Chamber of Commerce, where he is a board member (May said that he didn't bring up the distribution issue to other board members) is inquiring into the matter. In the meantime, May is considering purchasing outdoor magazine racks approved by the city of San Jose to place in appropriate locations.
He did think about placing one outside of It's a Grind Coffee House.
"It has crossed my mind," said May, laughing. He said it is an ideal location with the gay-friendly technology corporations and the San Jose airport nearby and a gym next door. "My goal is to have the magazine out in the community where the community is."