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LGBT History: Former Utahn takes top seat at longest-running queer publication

Two years before the Stonewall Riots in New York City and 10 years before the election of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office, a newsletter known as the Los Angeles Advocate began circulating. More than 44 years later, now called The Advocate, it is the longest-running, and one of the most widely distributed, queer publications in history. Focusing on news and entertainment, it has featured some of the most prominent members of the queer community as writers and subjects.

Former Salt Lake City resident and editor-in-chief of The Advocate, Matthew Breen, 37, is using the history and legacy of the magazine to push it into a new digital age, hopefully attracting a new generation of readers.

“We are absolutely still very relevant and offer content and viewpoints that can’t be found anywhere else,” Breen said. “There’s still plenty of new readers to reach and with changes to our website and social media strategies, I think we’re getting there.”

Breen took the helm of the magazine in March of this year. He’s utilizing his experience working with the Sundance Film Festival and graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in English, to ensure that The Advocate continues the tradition of being the premier queer news source in the nation, Breen said.

Breen’s family moved to Sandy, Utah when he was 3 years old. He grew up as an outsider, being one of the few kids in the neighborhood that wasn’t a member of the Mormon Church.

“The space that was present because my family wasn’t Mormon was tangible. That separation can be subtle but insidious,” Breen said. “I’d hear damaging remarks like, ‘Oh you’re so nice, I just assumed you were Mormon.’ That group-think and pressure to exclude people who are not like you is very powerful in some parts of Utah.”

Breen left Utah shortly after graduating from college in 1996 and coming out as gay. Along with the Sundance Film Festival, Breen was the executive editor at Out Magazine, program director for the Austin Film Festival and the film programmer for the West Los Angeles Film Festival.

“I think my true passion really lies in arts and entertainment and I have a special place in my heart for films,” Breen said.

Breen said he misses the mountains and breathtaking beauty of Utah and he cherishes the lessons he learned while living in the Beehive State.

“I hope my work, along with all the talented and hard-working individuals here, helps everyone, especially people in Utah,” Breen said.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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