Melanie Davis (left) with her life and business partner, Gabriela Kandziora.
Melanie Davis (left) with her life and business partner, Gabriela Kandziora.
By Melanie Davis, PQ Monthly

I grew up in a fish bowl. Exposed to the eyes of the public before I even had two digits in my age, I headed out on the campaign trail with my grandmother as she headed toward becoming the first Latina to hold executive office in our nation as secretary of state for New Mexico. Early on, I knew life was different at home, growing up a tomboy on the wrong side of El Burque (Albuquerque, New Mexico). My neighborhood and school juxtaposed strikingly with the life I saw my grandmother living out in Santa Fe when I served as a senatorial page, but in both places I saw people like me creating real, lasting change in the lives of others. However, I saw no place for a tomboy like me, one full of confusing feelings and questions, be it in El Burque or Santa Fe.

I eventually did what I thought I was supposed to do: burned my way through school, worked hard, and got married to a man who used to be fond of saying that if he and I were to ever get a divorce — which we did when I was only 25 — I would end up with a woman. I came to realize that in my own frenzy of doing what I felt was expected of me as a daughter, a woman, and a Latina, that I had never really seen myself. It was perfectly clear: my ex was right.

I came out to my family in 1999, but we were a political family — appearances had to be kept up, and anything relating to sex was simply something that others couldn’t know about. It took me until 2004 to finally fess up to the truth of myself in public. Until and during that time, I tried to drown myself in booze and partying; after so long hiding, it was simply too scary to actually see myself for who I was, let alone let other people see me. One day, my sister (God bless her) looked me in the eyes sternly and cut through my bullshit.

“Look, Melanie,” she said. “If you can’t come out in Portland, Oregon — the lesbian capital — we have bigger problems on our hands.”
It was this moment that ultimately led me to put down the bottle in 2007 and get in touch with something much bigger than myself.
Through all of this drama, my lifeline and saving grace has always been the newspaper industry. In 1992, I started as a sales rep for El Hispanic News. Eighteen years later, my entrepreneurial spirit got the best of me and, with deep faith in the community I knew and loved deeply, I took over as owner-publisher of El Hispanic News in 2010 through my LLC, Brilliant Media. With the help of my core El Hispanic News family — Julie Cortez, Christopher Alvarez, and my life partner, Gabriela Kandziora — and a team that tripled in size almost overnight, we set our sights on launching a second publication, aimed at the LGBTQ community, and on Feb. 16, 2012, we launched Proud Queer (PQ) Monthly.

Since day one, PQ’s mission was to have “every letter and every color represented.” I am proud of our Brilliant Media team as they have kept this mission at the forefront of every story pitched, every interview done, every event we’ve thrown, and every image that has graced our pages and web presence. Now 32 team members strong, Brilliant Media, LLC, prints both publications monthly (El Hispanic News every first Thursday and PQ Monthly every third Thursday) with daily updates online. We’ve added an online eDirectory and APP (PQ Directory available on Android; Apple devices coming soon). We’ve seen people step up and advance to leadership positions within the team, and watched as they formed what is a truly cohesive and effective media force to be reckoned with.

Now, one year later we are having a co-celebration with both publications at our Portland City Hall — and we are ready for our next big step forward. Over the last year the team (particularly Gabriela Kandziora, our business development coordinator, and our recently-promoted web editor, Erin Rook) has signed writers from around the nation as well as internationally to add their diverse voices to the PQ team. Today, we are proud to launch PQ Republic, expanding our mission to: “Every Letter, Every Color, Everywhere.”

Here’s one thing I’ve learned over the years: we always need to be learning. Brilliant Media lives by this credo — and considering that we sometimes serve as the only outlet for our communities’ voices, this is a huge responsibility. I encourage our team to always be true to themselves first and foremost, because that is the only way we can truthfully serve our communities. I learned this the hard way by numbing myself with alcohol for years to avoid the truth about myself. It was only when I dared to speak, and actually heard my own voice, that I was able to live comfortably in my own skin.

We all have the right and responsibility to look at every issue from all sides and be fair in our presentation of the facts, and the first step of this is seeing all sides of ourselves and being fair and honest in our self-assessments. It starts with us as individuals, and extends out to transform our lives, our communities, and the world. We are all in this together — so please, let us all speak our truth with kindness and love, and make room for each other to do so. After all, we’re all breathing the same air!

Melanie Davis is the owner/publisher of PQ Monthly and El Hispanic News.

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