ELIXHER Logo by: Marsha Peters Kimberley McLeod Head shot by: Charla Harlow
ELIXHER.COM was founded a year ago by DC based writer and activist Kimberley McLeod. McLeod has worked as a journalist for several women’s magazines, after recognizing a lack of stories about the black lesbians, bisexuals and trans women, she started ELIXHER.COM to fill the void. The site is, ” a go-to resource for all things empowering, thought-provoking and pertinent to the black female queer community.” The 2012 Esteem Award honoree for Outstanding Magazine Reporter/Columnist or Feature Article – National for her provocative piece, “Taking A Lead on Faith: Four Black Pastors At The Forefront of LGBT Equality” at EBONY.com talked with PrideIndex; McLeod shares what women everywhere, including straight women, can learn from it.
PRIDEINDEX (PI): Why did you start ELIXHER?
KIMBERLEY MCLEOD (KM): I created ELIXHER out of a void I witnessed both personally and professionally. As a Black lesbian and journalist, I noticed the lack of images and stories that spoke to my community and my experience. In the media, Black lesbian, bisexual and trans women are generally not depicted in ways that represent our multifactedness. We’re mothers, daughters, wives, doctors, artists and more. It’s important that we feel affirmed and see our authentic selves reflected in the world.
PI: What were the circumstances that led to the founding of the ELIXHER?
KM: The idea of ELIXHER had been forming in mind for quite some time. I’ve always been passionate about giving voice to the underrepresented and when I came to embrace my identity as a lesbian, I turned to the media to help me find my voice. I was disappointed with what I found. I didn’t find me. I knew I couldn’t be the only one that felt this way and I became determined to change that. Finally, I mustered up the courage to just start. And that wasn’t easy. Putting yourself and your “baby” out there is a very vulnerable feeling. But I couldn’t be happier that I did it.
PI: Talk about ELIXHER.’s demographic make-up.
KM: ELIXHER readers are between the age of 18 – 49. We have a strong East Coast following that is rapidly expanding to the South and West Coast. Our readers are smart, web savvy, and cultured. They’re an array of women creatives, activists, thought leaders and trendsetters.
PI: How do you decide which topics to cover?
KM: We cover news, culture, politics, and commentary as it relates to the larger context of the Black LGBT female-identified community. Our content critically and intelligently examines relevant issues. A lot of what we cover has to do with current events and conversations presently happening within our community.
PI: Is there any subject that you would consider to be off limits and thus won’t cover on ELIXHER?
KM: No subject is off limits. I only challenge writers (and readers) to not bash anyone in an unproductive or unhealthy way.
PI: What has your family said about the website?
KM: My family is entirely supportive of the website. My mother who has gone through her own journey of acceptance (with me being gay) now proudly shares the website with gay and straight people she meets. It’s been a blessing.
PI: Did you model ELIXHER after popular women’s magazines? If so which ones?
KM: I’ve worked at various women’s magazines including Marie Claire, ESSENCE and PEOPLE StyleWatch, so I’ve learned a lot about marketing towards women and what language resonates with female readers. I fuse that knowledge with my personal experience of what resonates with Black LGBT women as well as the media activism work I’ve done at organizations like the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
PI: What do you like most about what you do?
KM: I love being able to impact people with words and images – whether that’s by sparking a debate, challenging the way someone has typically thought of something, teaching someone something new or affirming someone for who they are. I get emails from gay and straight readers thanking me for creating this space. I’m humbled by it all.
PI: Why did you choose to focus solely on African American queer women rather than the African American and or gay community as a whole?
KM: There are incredible websites like Rod 2.0 and GBM News that speak primarily to Black gay men. And there are certainly outlets that speak to the Black community and gay community as a whole.
Black queer women experience an unparalleled level of invisibility. For instance, most people don’t know that 28 percent of children raised by Black female same-sex couples live in poverty. That’s more than double the poverty rates of children raised by Black married heterosexual parents (13 percent) and white married heterosexual parents (7 percent). In comparison to their white counterparts, Black lesbian couples are more likely to be raising children. As a Black queer woman, I wanted to help raise awareness about the challenges we face and also highlight the great work Black LGBT civil rights organizations like the National Black Justice Coalition are doing to help us own our power – to move from victims to victors.
Thankfully, more and more websites and magazines like TransGriot, IKONS, bklyn boihood, Janet Mock’s Fish Food for Thought and others are serving as spaces for Black LGBT women. I’m honored to be a part of that.
PI: What can straight women learn about queer women or about themselves after visiting ELIXHER.com?
LM: Straight women can learn about our shared humanity and experiences. There are straight women that read ELIXHER religiously. They get the same sense of affirmation and inspiration LGBT women get from columns like “InspiHERed By,” which spotlight phenomenal women in the Black queer community.
PI: What does the future hold for ELIXHER.com?
KM: Growth. I’m looking forward to ELIXHER’s continued growth and expanding its presence all over the country. We will be hosting regular events for women to come together and celebrate each other. I love the energy and women ELIXHER brings together. We’ve gotten really great feedback from our events and readers have been demanding that we do more. So we will be hosting get-togethers in various cities very soon.
The 2012 Esteem Awards will take place in Chicago on Saturday June 30, 2012 visit TheEsteemAwards.com.