If you’ve been around the St. Louis scene a while, what I’m about to say might make you feel really old: Many LGBTQ twenty-somethings don’t know who Nancy Novak is. The five years she’s been in exile (or retirement) is a lifetime in the bar scene where Novak reigned. But for those of us who have been around long enough to have been invested in all the excitement and drama that surrounded her, it feels like yesterday. For better and for worse.
The catalyst for the Great Media Divorce of 2014 — when the team running our city’s oldest LGBTQ publication irrevocably split apart — was a fierce disagreement over running a feature on her. The subsequent media war divided the community for years. In the past few months I have learned the hard way that in some corners the passions around Novak are as potent as ever, and it felt history was repeating.
Threads binding our Out in STL team together were beginning to unravel as our internal debate raged. Vacations were interrupted with dire warnings that key advertisers would walk and the community would revolt if we ran a flattering piece, while others were aghast that anyone would even suggest being critical of a dying woman (Novak has announced that she has terminal cancer). Some on our team implored us to drop the piece altogether, citing “more deserving” people.
If I had to boil down this publication’s mission to one sentence, though, it would be this one: We are here to introduce our community to itself. Even if you’re just hearing of Novak, she shaped the place you live in, often when that wasn’t even her aim. To avoid bias, we assigned the feature to the illustrious Patrick Collins, who lived in Portland during Novak’s rise and fall and hasn’t patronized bars in ages.
Speaking of introductions, on our cover is GutterGlitter’s Elizabeth Van Winkle, who may be the most influential person you’ve never heard of — especially if yours is more of a mainstream, color-between-the-lines existence. Associate Editor Melissa Meinzer takes us to a world most of us could never or would never access as we get a glimpse inside one of Van Winkle’s “no-men” kink events.
If you need a shot of testosterone after all this, I’ll introduce you to the rough and tumble St. Louis Crusaders rugby team, who are more than up to the task.
Enjoy this hard-fought issue, and stay tuned to find out if the dire warnings of “the Novak curse” make this our final edition.
Editor in Chief