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Blog Roll

An inside look at Austin's top bloggers covering LGBT issues and lifestyle

Austin Photo Set: shelley_LGBT bloggers_june 2012_michael barnes
Michael Barnes: Out & About, Austin360 Photo by Seabrook JOnes
Austin Photo Set: shelley_LGBT bloggers_june 2012_chase martin
Chase Martin: The Republiq
Austin Photo Set: shelley_LGBT bloggers_june 2012_bryan kosarek
Bryan Kosarek: Gay in Austin

Moving onward in the series of Austin's top bloggers in different categories, we shift from profiling political and style bloggers to highlight bloggers that focus on LGBT issues and lifestyle.

June 27 was the 43rd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and President Obama will soon make a visit to Austin to meet with the LGBT Leadership Council on the heels of his recent official support for marriage equality.

Michael Barnes: Out & About, Austin360

As the Austin American-Statesman's social columnist, Michael Barnes has penned the Out & About blog since 2005. Covering Austin's gay and lesbian social scene was the third subject matter that Barnes considered. In the early days of blogging he tried a travel theme, but he says, "I discovered that I didn't travel enough to feed the monster."

 Eventually, Out & About became so popular that it was imported into the print edition of the paper — something highly unusual for any blog, anywhere. 

Next he turned to his former beat in the paper, the arts. But blogging about that topic meant he was mostly duplicating what was already in the paper. "I looked for a subject that was not covered closely at the time and turned to the city's gay and lesbian scene, thus Out & About," says Barnes, who was the Statesman's entertainment editor at the time.

Therefore, a lot of cultural reporting, as well as news from social events, seeped into the Out & About blog. Eventually, Out & About became so popular that it was imported into the print edition of the paper — something highly unusual for any blog, anywhere. Today it's his full-time job to write profiles, event reports, trend stories and historical pieces under that title.

"I was lucky enough to come out three years after the Stonewall Riots," says Barnes, referring to the watershed events at the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969 that spurred the gay rights movement. "I marched in Houston's first big gay protest in 1977 (my picture was on the front page of the Houston Post). I was an openly out teacher for years. As soon as I joined the American-Statesman in 1989, I wrote about gay identity and, later, about my partner. It always seemed natural."

When he's not writing about social events, trends and history, Barnes loves to walk the city, though he admits that gets difficult in the heat of the Texas summer. He lives in a south Austin bungalow with his partner, Kip, and numerous pets. "There's a million things to do within a two-mile radius of our home off South Congress Avenue. And it looks like the rest of the world has figured that out." But Barnes says he doesn't mind the influx of people into Austin, "as long as we are prepared to handle it graciously."

The main advice that Barnes would give for improving your social life is simply to get out of the house. "It's so easy to melt into the couch at the end of a long workday. Yet consider the number of ways you could meet Austin's smart, fit, fun, kind and open citizenry."

Chase Martin: The Republiq

The goal of the Republiq is to deliver a LGBT website that is news oriented, Austin focused, and safe for work. There are entries on sports, health, travel, life, community events and the arts. For Chase Martin, it's not just about covering LGBT topics, but also mainstream issues and topics that that affect gay people differently — and to cover them from that perspective. 

"I cover news that impacts my community — and me," Martins says. "That's something you don't get from mainstream media or even most LGBT media."

 "I cover news that impacts my community — and me," Martins says. "That's something you don't get from mainstream media or even most LGBT media." 

He adds that most media cover only the highlights of the gay community, such as gay pride day, but rarely portray the community in its entirety. "You won't see them talk about how Softball Austin brought in nearly a thousand players for their tournament last month for the Texas Shootout. You won't see them talk about the Austin Gay Basketball League, the first gay basketball league in the state, will start it's 4th season this next week."

The Republiq grew from Martin's original magazine for the LGBT community that he started in 2006. However, shortly after its launch Martin's partner was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and Martin went back to full-time consulting in order to take care of him and pay the medical bills. After his partner went into remission, Martin lacked the financial resources for another print magazine start-up, and decided to move it online in the form of a blog. That also gave him the ability to expand coverage to more under-reported areas, since space was no longer an issue.

"You will find me out there covering everything that I can. The joke is that if there are more than three gays involved, Chase will be there covering it. Regardless if its a gala event downtown or a hip-hop dance party on the East Side; if I'm welcome, I'll try to be there."

Martin personally loves music, diversity and the unexpected. "I love that you can see a man riding a donkey down Congress Avenue and no one bats an eye. I love that I have to fight over a pedicab driven by a guy wearing speedos and fairy wings and covered in glitter."

Martin says that the most important thing is not to let others decide how you live your life. Embrace who you are, and don't let anyone make you feel less than because of it. "Life is too short to let cliques, fears and preconcieved notions hold you back from enjoying life to its fullest."

Bryan Kosarek: Gay in Austin

 "I felt that sharing my insight about Austin, and being able to connect with individuals moving here, would provide some cool and interesting experiences. .."

Kosarek is a Realtor in Austin, and while his blog (and business) are geared toward helping people find a new home in town, Gay in Austin is really about making a home in this city — complete with insights into living, working, socializing, exercising and shopping. He started the blog as a creative outlet to tie together his love for exporing Austin, meeting new people and his real estate career. 

"At the point when I started the blog, I felt a lack of creativity in my life. I made a list of things I enjoyed and after I filtered through everything I wrote down, the idea of a guide for gay people relocating to Austin popped into my head."

Sixty percent of Kosarek's clientele move here from other cities. "I felt that sharing my insight about Austin, and being able to connect with individuals moving here, would provide some cool and interesting experiences. Also, my friends jokingly call me the gay ambassador of Austin since I'm always meeting new people through my job or entertaining out of town guests."

His instincts paid off: Recently a new Austin transplant told Kosarek that he had moved to Austin from France because of the Gay in Austin blog. Kosarek says that ever since he was a kid, he had a passion for getting involved with a community, and giving back to it. 

"Throughout the years the organizations and issues have changed, but I've always found it rewarding to connect with people working towards a common goal. Now that I'm adult, I feel LGBT issues are more important to me because I understand their importance and the impact they have on our relationships, families, and lives." Although his blog is geared toward gay people who are new to town or moving here, it has a decent heterosexual readership as well.

In his personal time, Kosarek has a list of favorite things that make him stop and think, "God, I love this city!" They include lying under the stars at the ACL Music Festival, sitting on a blanket at Blues on the Green, swimming at Barton Springs and boating on Lake Austin. He dreams of one day opening a bed and breakfast on the East Side, but admits that the fact that he doesn't like to cook breakfast could be a problem. "I guess it would only be a bed and Egg McMuffin."

Kosarek's best advice for people new to Austin is to enhance your socialization.

"Austin is one of the most social cities in the country. Your ability to be social in a social city will determine your happiness in Austin. Being able to get involved, meet new people, explore neighborhoods, check out events, go outside of your comfort zone and develop the new relationships you've made along the way will contribute to your Austin experience," Kosarek says.

"Every person you meet allows you to discover a secret world you didn't know about before, introduces you to new characters that create crazy and fun experiences, and plugs you into the culture that is Austin."

Kate X Messer: The Gay Place, Austin Chronicle

The Chronicle is really the Bible for everything cool and happening in Austin, and also has the most active, thorough blog for the LGBT community, The Gay Place. 

Kate X Messer (the X is silent, she says) is one of the main bloggers at The Gay Place, covering dining, theater, dance, bars and nightclubs, rallies, festivals and volunteer opportunities. She's also the editor for the Chronicle's famed "Best of" annual poll, and something of a local icon to gay and lesbian Austinites.

With more than three decades in media, from editor-in-chief of her college newspaper to president of an indie record label, Messer takes a special interest in underserved populations and social justice. The Gay Place gets an honorable mention in this round-up, because it is obviously one of Austin's best and most-read blogs.

However, it is currently undergoing a regrouping, and the Austin Chronicle has plans to relaunch it in the near future. So, keep an eye out for the new Gay Place and remember — you heard it here first!

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