What do you do when you want to start an LGBTQ+ magazine? Front the costs on your credit card, of course.
At least, that’s what Fred Palmer did in 1995 when he started Outword magazine, Sacramento’s premier publication for all things queer life and culture. But for how much of a community staple the magazine has become, Fred says he never really intended to become a publisher. It was just something that happened by circumstance.
“I got involved with the former LGBTQ+ magazine that was here, which then had to close for a variety of reasons,” Fred says. “And I felt really bad that the 6 or 7 employees were going to lose their jobs. So, I had a full-time job, and I thought—young and dumb—oh, I can start a magazine!”
Fred, who had already established himself as an active community advocate during the HIV epidemic, was energized. He believed the community “needed to have a louder, bigger voice,” and took a risk to make it happen. Sacramento’s former LGBTQ+ magazine closed on a Friday in 1995, and by the following Monday, Outword was born.
“I wasn’t scared…I just did it,” Fred says. “I’ve been a part of the community, and I’ve worked very closely with all the different aspects of the community, from drag queens to bears to leather to queer culture to film festivals.”
28 years later, the publication has endured as a beacon of awareness, education, community building, and opportunity. Outword’s themed monthly issues cover topics like Farm to Fork, movies and media, LGBTQ+ history, tech, Sacramento Pride, and much more. Its pages are filled with features produced by the queer community, for the queer community. And it’s this authenticity, Fred says, that has kept the project alive.
“A lot of our success has really just been our ability to be involved with the community, our ability to be a chameleon,” Fred says. “We’ve gone through multiple economic downturns. I had my identity stolen by an employee. We’ve had lots of highs and lows, but I like to celebrate all the wonderful things that we get to be a part of.”
One of those wonderful things, Fred says, is Sacramento’s original Drag Queen Bingo, a program that the Outword staff began themselves. They expected the event to be a hit—but they didn’t expect it to grow so quickly and exponentially.
“When we reached the $100,000 mark that we’d raised and donated, we were frankly getting a little tired,” Fred says. “It’s a lot of work, so at that time, we gave it to the Rainbow Chamber to manage. So, I was taking a step back…and lo and behold, here I am as Executive Director [of the Rainbow Chamber] running Drag Queen Bingo, and I’m proud to say that today, it has raised and donated well over $380,000.”
As long as Sacramento’s LGBTQ+ community is growing and thriving—and it’s certainly showing no signs of slowing down—Fred hopes there will be an Outword magazine. After all, there will always be new stories to tell and new bridges to build.
“I’m really proud of the work I’ve done in multiple aspects of our community,” Fred says. “That’s what I like to celebrate. Just wrapping my arms around everybody and including everybody.”
You can browse the Outword archives and stay up-to-date on the latest LGBTQ+ news and coverage at https://outwordmagazine.com.
Hear more from Fred on Sacramento as an LGBTQ-friendly destination on the Visit Sacramento Podcast: