SLUG Magazine: Underground – and Gay – Since 1989

Utah may currently have only one gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender publication, but SLUG Magazine is gay nonetheless. At least, according to the shirts and banners its staff has sported for the last five years during the Utah Pride Festival.

“We just loved the idea,” said editor Angela Brown who, despite whatever she wears during the annual festival, identifies as straight. “Number one, it’s a play on words and number two, I guess it’s just a symbol of standing in solidarity, and saying anybody can be gay, we can be gay, and [as] some of the staff members believe, everyone is gay, or has a gay side or the ability to be gay.”

But SLUG Magazine (an acronym for Salt Lake Under Ground) isn’t just all talk when it comes to gay issues. Although it primarily covers independent music and the bars that host independent artists, the publication has reported on a number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-related stories over the years and regularly features two columnists from the local community: Princess Kennedy and a lesbian sexologist who goes by the pseudonym Dr. Evil. SLUG has also sponsored the Utah Pride Center’s Queer Prom for the past three years by serving as the event’s chaperones and giving lucky young couples makeovers and free dinners from a number of its advertisers.

Before Brown became _Slug_’s publisher and editor, she was a photojournalism student and a music aficionado who juggled classes, freelancing for papers like The Private Eye (City Weekly’s previous incarnation) and a job at the now-defunct music store Salt City CDs with ease. This last job put her in touch with then-editor Gianni Ellefsen, who hired her to create one of the issue’s covers. Their working relationship continued until 2001, when Ellefsen, who had grown tired of editing the magazine, offered to sell it to Brown. Although Brown then had opportunities to become a full-time Salt City CD employee or an artist development representative at San Francisco-based Universal Music and Video Distribution, Brown took him up on the offer — in part to remain close to her father who had just been diagnosed with cancer.

“It was really funny because at the time that was not the intention,” she said. “It was just an opportunity that fell into my lap.”

Under Brown’s soon-to-be 10 year leadership, SLUG has doubled its circulation to 30,000 issues per month and turned the monthly publication into a full color magazine. She also opened it up to coverage of two other then-underground “scenes:” snowboarding and skateboarding.

“I grew up with a lot of skateboarders,” said Brown. “Back then it was a rebel sport and people were persecuted for it and beaten up and harassed.” Likewise, she added, snowboarders had to have special passes to go on ski lifts and had to take safety courses before they could hit the slopes.

“You had to fight for your lifestyle,” she explained. And even though the publication received some letters from readers upset at its editorial staff for “letting in the jocks,” the magazine reports on these sports today.

Brown and SLUG’s staff got involved in the Utah Pride Festival five years ago through the suggestion of one of her drag queen friends, who asked her why the magazine had never entered a float in the parade. As a late entry, said Brown, the group also didn’t have a float for its first year. Instead, its marchers thought of something clever and easy to pull off at the last minute: the now-infamous SLUG Mag is Gay T-shirts. Of course, the publication entered a float in the following year’s parade and all parades after. In 2009, their entry even took home an award, a fact which made Brown very proud.

“I hope that people do put more glitz and glam and energy into the floats, I really do,” she said, noting that last year was the first time she and the staff gave the float their all.

Brown also hopes that the magazine can give its all in helping Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, should they so require it.

“Any queer organization that is interested and needs our help we’d love to provide it if we can, whether it’s [hooking them up] with financial support, or coverage or getting the word out,” she said.