Fifteen years ago, Nashville was a very different place: it wasn’t one of the 25 largest cities in the country, Pride wasn’t one of summer’s must-attend, city-wide events, and our leaders weren’t dependably LGBT allies.
It was in that Nashville that O&AN was born, the work of Jerry Jones and a team of dedicated volunteers, who agreed that the LGBT community in Nashville needed a reliable source of news and information on social and political events and issues facing us. In the years since, it has grown from a small paper mailed out, to a newsprint monthly, to the magazine it is today. Numerous other LGBT publications have come and gone in the market, but O&AN stuck to its roots and has held on to become the oldest, and largest, LGBT publication in Tennessee.
This month, our staff reflects on what the magazine has meant to them and to our community, and next month we will look at O&AN’s next fifteen years, with some exciting new announcements!
Jerry Jones, Publisher
I started this publication 15 years ago with just an idea and a dream—I felt like Nashville needed a professional publication that would report on the LGBT community and serve as a hub to the many spokes in our community. For 15 years a brilliant team of volunteers, editors, journalists, and designers have built one of the best monthly LGBT magazines in the country.
We have grown with the times, had our ups and downs, and as a community, experienced our share of heartache. We have worked hard to constantly give back to the community through many ways that we don’t even publicize.
Our future, with our readers as our beacons, is bright and we are excited to be constantly changing to meet the many challenges that we face.
I would be remiss to not take the time to thank those that have helped us for the past 15 years—our advertisers and our small staff. Without the advertisers, well, there would be nothing. We are proud to say that we have many, many advertisers who have been with us for all 15 years, supporting you and our community along our journey. We have always worked with a very small staff, some without pay or recognition, and to them I remain grateful for their dedication to our cause in building a great LGBT community here in Middle Tennessee.
Donna Huff, Advertising Design
My history with O&AN dates back to its humble beginnings with an all-volunteer staff of editors, writers, photographers and designers. We spent many an evening at Jerry’s home gathered in a circle brainstorming the next month’s articles and feverishly hand-stuffing envelopes and separating them for bulk mail to deliver to the post office for our subscription service.
During that first year in 2002, I volunteered as a layout designer for O&AN. I first picked up O&AN on the newsstand at my college. At the time, I was still dealing with an emotional coming out to my family and knowing there was a large LGBT community in the Nashville area helped me to have a better perspective of my personal situation.
Becoming involved with the publication became a defining moment for me; not only did I make lasting friendships, but O&AN also heavily influenced my career path. During my early volunteer days with O&AN, I met my current ‘day job’ employer. At that time, many people were still worried they could be fired over sexual orientation and working for a lesbian co-owned company alleviated that concern for me. I was relieved to not share the same burden as so many of my friends who were having to hide their personal lives.
After a short break from O&AN, I returned to the paper as a member of the editorial board taking the position of advertising production/graphic designer in 2007. Besides Jerry Jones, our O&AN publisher and a wonderful personal friend, I am proud to say I have been with O&AN longer than any other member of the board. We have seen many changes over the years and our publication has changed to remain current and timely. I am extremely grateful to have crossed paths with such a talented and loving group of people.
Joe Brant, Managing Digital Editor
I didn't know ANY of these people—yes, that includes you!—before I joined the staff at O&AN all those years ago. I began writing news articles way back when there was no website, no Facebook algorithms to deal with, back when we all met up once every month to eat pizza and stuff mailing envelopes with copies of the latest print issue.
Remember when subscriptions were free? Back when the LGBT Chamber of Commerce was called NAPP, when Tribe and PLAY were new, when lawmakers only acknowledgment of us came when they were banning us from getting married, when LGBT bookstores like OutLoud! here in Nashville were... you know, still alive and reasonably thriving. Remember when porn was only available on overpriced DVDs? <insert long wistful sigh here>
In the time since, Jerry and all the staff and volunteers have become prized friends and now, more importantly, they hold all of my admiration and respect for their devotion and contribution and commitment to the health and well-being of this community.
James Grady, Managing Print Editor
Shortly after I came out in 2013, I decided that I wanted to get more involved in the Nashville LGBT community, something that would force me as an introvert to explore a world that was new and uncomfortable to me. Writing for O&AN became a way for me to meet groups and community leaders and to discover a lot about my new world.
Then, in June 2014, I became managing print editor—something I never expected and hadn’t event thought much about. In the years since, I have had the great honor and privilege of meeting many of the great people who make the Nashville LGBT community the vibrant entity it is—artists, writers, actors and directors, activists and advocates, business leaders—and have made many friends I probably would never have even met otherwise.
I won’t lie, the job can be frustrating. But I stick with it because there are still too many people I need to meet and too many stories that need to be told. If I haven’t met you yet, introduce yourself (please)—it’s never gotten any easier for this introvert, but I’d love to hear your story.
Mike Moore, Layout & Production
I moved to Nashville 10 years ago and I remember seeing O&AN on the stands at Kroger. I was in the closet then, and I was terrified to be seen picking it up and putting it in my cart. To say the least, a LOT has changed since then.
When I saw that there was a design position open for the publication three years ago, I applied immediately. Magazine layout has always interested me and I knew working for a LGBT publication would be so much fun. It was a very exciting time for me, personally, to see this publication transition from a newspaper to a magazine.
Jerry and the rest of the staff put so much of their heart into this magazine and it’s exciting to be around. Being a part of something that the entire LGBT community in Middle Tennessee sees every month is truly rewarding.
Eric Ginsberg, Ad Sales
When I started selling ads for O&AN, it changed my life forever. It allowed me to finally accomplish my dream of having a career that would allow me to be who I am and to work closely with the Nashville LGBT community. My position has helped me be engaged more in my community by representing O&AN at events such as Nashville Pride, Murfreesboro Pride, & Nashville Cares’ AIDS Walk. O&AN has even allowed me to get more involved with of some of my passions such as Nashville Pittie, which holds Pit Bull Awareness Day. I have appreciated getting to know all of our wonderful advertisers. Their support has been the driving force to tie O&AN to the community.
I am also proud and honored to be part of such an amazing team! We all work so hard together and it's truly a dream to be able to work with my team, and I couldn't have asked for more.
NEW to O&AN!
Jay Yochim, Ad Sales
O&AN publisher Jerry Jones recently announced the hiring of a second, full-time advertising sales person. “As O&AN has grown and evolved, it became clear to me that getting our beautiful publication in front of potential advertisers was the work of more than one person,” Jones said. “We began looking for just the right person to help Eric Ginsberg represent our brand and grow its presence in Middle Tennessee.”
“O&AN was happy to be able to hire our top prospect, Jay Yochim,” said managing print editor James Grady. “He has the energy and enthusiasm for building connections beneficial to Nashville’s LGBT community and O&AN.”
Jay Yochim, the newest member of the O&AN staff, just moved to Nashville in March from Houston, Texas. He has his degree in Public Relations, and is a former NCAA athlete.
For the past 2 years he has been working for Nordstrom and is excited to join the O&AN team. “I’m excited to get more involved in the LGBT community here in Nashville,” Yochim said, “and I cannot wait to see what I can bring to the table.”