The Power of Storytelling

11.14.2013

By Aaron Hicklin

The Out100 is built on the resonance of our stories and the power of visibility

Putting together the Out100 has become an annual exercise in masochism for all concerned — it’s difficult, fractious, and exhausting, but also supremely gratifying. It’s no lie to say that nothing we do makes me as proud of our work on this issue, which, cumulatively, year-on-year, reflects the ongoing shifts in LGBT identity and our place in the wider world. In 2007, when we first decided to photograph all 100 honorees, the idea of being able to shoot out professional athletes, such as Brittney Griner or Robbie Rogers, was inconceivable, while getting a major TV star, like Jim Parsons, to do the cover was an exercise in futility. Have we finally reached a tipping point where being closeted has become the anachronism it deserves to be? “It’s a time when actors are feeling a lot more comfortable about being able to be out,” Maulik Pancholy, of 30 Rock fame, told us. “And it’s just a very, very nice time to be a part of the gay community.” Quite.

Over the course of three months we have jostled, hurdled, and bulldozed our way across one obstacle after another to assemble the world’s largest original photo portfolio, and if we failed to pin down everyone on our wish list — the absence of long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad is a big gaping hole — we managed, by hook or by crook, to get most of them. In 2013, it would have been un-thinkable not to put Edie Windsor on the cover — one of this issue’s four covers — or to include her attorney, Roberta Kaplan, who took United States v. Windsor all the way to the Supreme Court, and, in so doing, changed the face of America. Likewise, there was never any question that we had to include the plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, whose successful lawsuit to have Proposition 8 deemed unconstitutional was masterminded by Chad Griffin and given impetus by Dustin Lance Black, among others. Alongside them you’ll find Lee Daniels, an African-American director who’s vaulted all obstacles to become a bona fide box-office success; the great British actor and gay rights activist Sir Ian McKellen, who showed others the way by coming out 25 years ago; and Laverne Cox, a transgender actress playing a transgender character in the pioneering Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. When we asked you to vote online for our inaugural Readers’ Choice Award, it was Cox who won by a landslide. Transgender rights is increasingly the yardstick by which we measure our true progress in the world, and though we have a long way to go, the higher preponderance of transgender honorees in this Out100 suggests room or optimism. To quote Diego Sanchez, national policy director of PFLAG and the first openly trans legislative member of Capitol Hill: “When I was in junior high school, I never imagined living past 18... Our stories are reaching, with resonance, more people than ever, and I think that’s only going to improve.”

That, in essence, is what the Out100 is built on: the resonance of our stories and the power of visibility. In this issue you will find 100 stories, each honoree a tale of personal triumph and the power of dreams. From a teenage scientist whose medical invention will save lives, to a transgender homecoming queen, to three generations of Boy Scouts, there are stories within stories in all these portraits. But for all their variety and distinctiveness, one theme emerges loud and clear: the unyielding will of a community of people who, recognizing the justness of their cause, refused to take no for an answer.

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