Memphis mother and son run LGBTQ magazine, radio show
MEMPHIS — Gwendolyn Clemons and her son Davin have a lot in common.
They both are gay. They both work in criminal justice: she is a counseling supervisor for the Shelby County Division of Corrections, and he is a tactical unit police officer and Memphis Police Department LGBTQ liaison.
They both are ministers.
And, together, they founded and run a nationally distributed, bimonthly multicultural LGBTQ magazine and host a weekly LGBTQ radio show. “The Unleashed Voice” radio show debuted in 2014. It airs at 5 p.m. on Saturdays on KWAM 990. “The Unleashed Voice” magazine debuted a year later.
After reading Steve Harvey’s book “Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success,” Gwendolyn was inspired to start a magazine with “empowering, engaging conversations about our community.”
“We’re able to have a media platform and educate people,” she said. “We have had people call [the radio show] and say, ‘Hey, can you describe what you mean by pansexual?’ and hang up. We say we have three equal principles: education, empowerment and enrichment …. One big barrier between prejudices and stigmas and biases is education.”
Davin said the magazine and radio show have saved lives. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 15 to 24. LGBTQ youth have significantly higher suicide rates than the rest of that group.
“They kill themselves because of people in society saying, ‘You’re not worthy. You’re going to hell,’” Davin said. “If a 13-year-old picks up our magazine and reads it, they can get liberated and free from an issue that says ‘love yourself.’”
With a circulation of 20,000, print issues are distributed in mostly LGBTQ community centers in 36 cities, as well as coffee shops and grocery stores. People can also subscribe for home delivery.
The November/ December 2018 issue of “The Unleashed Voice” features Academy Award winning actress and comedian Mo’Nique on the cover and her interview and photo shoot inside.
Typically, though, the cover features regular folks.
“I’m not into who you are; I think all of us are phenomenal,” Gwendolyn said.
The magazine has regular features from a transgender correspondent and an HIV/AIDS correspondent.
Flipping through several issues shows articles on topics including literature, financial advice, an interview with a drag queen, health and fitness advice, fashion, HIV criminalization, profiles of entrepreneurs and various types of artists across the country, politics, religion, relationship advice and gay history.
There also are articles featuring local resources such as OUT Memphis, the Family Safety Center of Memphis and Shelby County, Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi and the local Ryan White Program.
“We’re very intentional about our content,” Gwendolyn said. “We center a lot of our stories about HIV and AIDS awareness. The report came out [in December] that we’re still in the top 10 for infection rates in the city and then mostly in the African-American community and women. Women are coming up the ranks fast.
“The mainstream media only does it when it’s a topic, but we make sure that every issue, we have a story in there, with a writer that’s from some of these social agencies around the city. We dedicate a section to community agencies to talk about what they’re doing.”
Being in the South, and specifically being in Memphis, sometimes is a challenge for the magazine, Davin said.
When the radio show started, he recalled getting hate mail and hateful calls regularly.
“People are hesitant about putting their business in the magazine sometimes, because they don’t want to be labeled as LGBTQ — stigma — so, we have to go and reassure people, that ‘Hey, this is not a LGBTQ publication, this is a publication that highlights this.’”
The radio show features interviews with local playwrights, political candidates, Memphis Theological Seminary professors, community organizations, activists — even a medium.
In 2017, The G-Listed awarded the magazine its “Black LGBTQ Media of the Year” honor in its Power 100. The urban queer pop culture website chooses honorees based on factors including cultural impact and social influence.