venus.jpgCharlene Cothran, the publisher of Venus, a magazine targeting black same-gender-loving people, recently determined that she was no longer a lesbian and has changed the message of her magazine. While Cothran wants to target the same audience (people of African descent In The Life), her new theme is how God can deliver you from being gay. This has left some of her readers – and former writers – somewhat perplexed.

Amy Wooten of The Windy City Times discussed Cothran’s conversion and the new direction of her publication as well as Cothran’s intention to continue targeting a gay audience. She quotes Cothran as saying,

“… I know that there is a connection in the African-American and gay community at large. … The responsibility that I now have is that those people that are connected to it receive a different message. I will not change the name. I have not changed the distribution points. I have not changed the subscribers who have paid for it in the past but are still getting it. We built this business over 13 years to target Black, gay households and communities and outlets. That is still where we are going, but with a new message.”

Cothran became rather unhappy with Wooten’s article, especially with Wooten suggesting that Venus had now become a voice for the ex-gay movement. Cothan rebutted on her website:

Reporter Amy Wooten and others try to have VENUS shut down by attempting, in this article, to define VENUS as a magazine re-established by and ‘now a voice for the ‘Ex-Gay’ movement,’ then using the article as reference in a letter to VENUS advertisers. I personally have nothing against the work of Exodus and other organizations like them, but VENUS clearly DOES NOT REPRESENT THEM. Wooten’s opening statements are clearly meant to harm VENUS. I have no control over the ‘Ex-Gay’ movement’s celebrating my new life, if indeed they are, I don’t know.

Yet Venus’ latest issue includes a cover article about former lesbian Carla Thomas Royster and a reprint of the article Redeemed: 10 Ways to Get Out of the Gay Life, If You Want Out.

Wooten did a follow-up story about the attitudes and opinions resulting from Cothran’s conversion and the new purpose of Venus.

Two things impressed me in looking at Wooten’s article and the feedback on the Venus blogsite. First, though in some cases dismayed, many gay people expressed support for Cothran’s right to her personal choices and decisions. The other was this within this comment:

Affinity, a non-profit organization that provides programs and services for Chicago’s Black lesbian community, is also upset by the direction the publication has taken. “This isn’t a part of why we connected ourselves to that publication,” Chris Smith of Affinity told Windy City Times.

Smith said that for years, Affinity only received one copy of Venus each quarter. But just last week, 200 copies of the most recent issue were sent to the organization.

Smith said they intend to send back all 200 copies, along with a letter of response. “We cannot support the direction of the publication,” Smith said.

It struck me as odd that a gay organization that had previously received only a single copy now received 200. I am curious whether this is simply a shifting of distribution points (something Cothran has said she did not do) or whether this is the result of a ramping up of production.

For a magazine of Venus’ size, the largest expenditure – by far – is printing cost. If there was an increase in production in proportion to the increase of magazines received by Affinity, this clearly would have required a huge investment of funds.

Another item of note is that on the Venus blogsite a person identified as “Editor” is DL Foster, an ex-gay activist best known for his hostile hateful attitude (some here may recall the meep-meep comments) and his stirring up of anti-gay attitudes in the Carribean. Foster is also listed as one of Cothran’s spiritual mentors.

Should Wooten follow up further on this story, she might want to inquire whether Cothran has received new funding as a result of her new-found ex-gay identity and also inquire as to her relationship with this speaker for Exodus Global. It is possible that such questioning may expose a conflict with her claim not to be a voice of the ex-gay movement.

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