FS magazine, the gay health and life mag, has just released its Coming Out Issue. This truly international publication dedicated to providing gay men, and the wider LGBT+ community, with honest and upfront articles on anything from sex, to mental health, is read by countless gay and bisexual men across the globe. And not only do I happen to be one of these men, I've also been writing for the magazine since April.
FS was probably one of the first magazines targeted at a gay readership that I ever flicked through. Of course, the reading was done in secret, facilitated by the fact that FS can be read online for free. Like so many of our reader's today, I wasn't ready to tell anybody about my sexuality when I began reading articles from the magazine. The risk of being caught buying Attitude or Gay Times from a newsstand was simply too great; the internet was the only door into this 'other' world.
Something that struck me immediately, was just how openly sex between men was being written out in the magazine. Nobody in my entourage spoke about what two men got up to in the bedroom, and sex education in my school only covered sex between a man and a woman. Unfortunately, this still seems to be the case for so many young gay men. I didn't know much about HIV or how to protect myself from it, but here were men living with HIV opening up about their experiences on the pages of the magazine. If there's something that the writers before me should be proud of, it's how their honesty about HIV has educated a generation of readers into thinking more closely about their sexual health. And the work of current writers around eradicating the stigma faced by men living with HIV, is equally praiseworthy.
This being said, sexual health is just one of the prongs to the FS fork. Mental health is an important issue for everyone, it can affect anybody and at any time of their lives, with gay men being a group with alarming rates of depression, self-harm and suicide. In the last issue of FS, Matthew Todd's book Straight Jacket inspired me to write about mental health and how we need to be having more conversations around how we're feeling. I have no doubt that this book is contributing to the efforts around simply talking about these issues; silence is the biggest threat when it comes to mental health.
The year before I began writing for FS, I was busy writing for PACE, the LGBT+ mental health charity. A charity that had also played a vital role in educating and supporting me earlier on in life. I'd gone from writing fact sheets that my 15-year-old self would have spent evenings reading online, to writing articles for a magazine that I would have also found myself flicking through. Not only is there an extreme pride that comes with writing for such a publication, but also a subtle weight of responsibility. On the one hand it is a privilege to be able to express my opinions to such an open-minded readership, whilst on the other hand, also trying to 'get it right' for the readers, who may be going through a time of crisis and looking to the magazine for guidance and reassurance.
The importance of the Coming Out Issue is unquestionable. The ability to feel comfortable enough to come out is perhaps one of the most important things for any gay man. So it did make me reflect on how I felt before coming out, and how I feel now, writing for the very magazine that I went to for guidance. Ultimately, there are still young gay men out there looking for support and a place to turn to; that's why this magazine is so vital.
It's also an exciting moment in the history of FS, given that Liam Murphy has taken over as editor, guiding the magazine into its new chapter. I'm eager to see where the future articles in FS take our readers, but most importantly, I hope that the magazine will continue to be there for the next generation.
FS magazine's latest issue can be read here