Over the course of her 28 years as Editor of The Empty Closet Newspaper (EC), the oldest continuously published LGBTQ+ newspaper in New York State and second in the country, the winds of change have blown gently, fiercely, violently. Throughout these extraordinary times the steady hand of Susan Jordan put pen to paper and documented the challenges, successes and setbacks in the Rochester gay community’s fight for equality and justice.
In her very first editorial in August, 1989 Susan wrote, “The Empty Closet is your paper, and your ideas and input make it what it is.” Susan’s commitment to that focus is what has kept The Empty Closet growing and has involved more people in its production so that it is truly a newspaper written for, by and with the community. A feminist perspective has secured the community’s first amendment rights in every issue.
In 1990 the Gay Alliance moved from the Genesee Co-op on Monroe Avenue, thus ending the era of putting the EC together with light tables and glue sticks. The new era of digitization dawned with Rochester’s fight for domestic partnership benefits for City of Rochester employees and their partners. In her August 1994 editorial “Domestic Partnership, Marriage, and Sacred Cows”, Susan wrote, “Because as things are now, lesbians and gays are being punished for the ‘immorality’ of wanting to marry, and heterosexuals are being punished for the ‘immorality’ of not wanting to marry. Perhaps morality has more to do with love, respect and responsibility than with the sacred cows of patriarchy.”
From August 1994 to June 2011 Susan would report on the strategy and grassroots efforts to bring Marriage Equality to a vote. In the July 2011 issue of The Empty Closet Susan wrote in her editorial “A Long Week and a Moment of Transformation”, “This is a historic, once-in-a-lifetime moment. People of all orientations are watching, all over the country and around the world, as one of the largest American states says that LGBT love and families are REAL.”
Over the past 28 years, Susan has documented the changes in the Alliance from a not-for-profit umbrella organization of grass roots organizations, to a social service agency, to the inclusive challenging OUT Alliance. Susan has been editor through the Reagan years, the Bush White Houses, the Clinton years, the first African American President Barack Obama, and now the unimaginable “reality show” presidency of Donald Trump. Throughout these years, Susan has been able to maintain her focus on people and the impact of social, political, and economic change on the lives of her gay brothers and sisters. Truth, integrity and compassion have been the hallmark of her writing. Sugar coating is not one of Susan’s tendencies. Susan deals with reality head on, and has successfully documented the lived experience of the Rochester LGBT community.
In her first editorial in the August 1989 issue of the EC, Susan articulated these challenges that faced the Gay Liberation Movement as a whole: fighting the AIDS epidemic; empowering people with AIDS (not just “giving charity”); and struggling with the great social issues of our time, such as sexism, racism, poverty, classism, ableism and homophobia (both external and internal). Today, Susan would say there has been forward movement but there is much more to do.
On the 40th anniversary of The Empty Closet in 201l, Susan Jordan said that the EC still gives voice to radical thought, and I quote, “Maybe it’s better for one’s ‘sanity’ to concentrate on the work being done by unsung progressives and community organizers who fight racism, sexism, homophobia and all forms of hatred and injustice – than the cynical exploitation of hatred to win votes.” (Susan Jordan, Empty Closet, Dec/Jan 2011). Consistently focused on the real issues confronting us, Susan never lost sight of the inclusiveness needed to bring about change. Susan’s editorials challenged many to look at their biased attitudes and their discriminatory actions and behavior.
Today, The Empty Closet is a professionally staffed newspaper published 11 times a year, with a circulation of 5,000 and an active web site. Over the past 28 years, Susan Jordan has never missed putting out an issue. That is more than something to be proud of, it is a monumental accomplishment and an unparalleled commitment to keep the Rochester LGBTQ community informed. The EC under Susan’s editorship generates a sense of pride in the contributions the Rochester LGBTQ community has made to the economic, social and political life of Rochester, New York State and the nation.
Through Susan Jordan’s leadership, the EC has provided us with a mirror reflecting the incredible and often problematic diversity of our community. At the same time, the EC has helped to provide that common ground where we can stand together in solidarity and power. The EC has also documented accurately and passionately the LGBTQ community’s journey from oppression to liberation for future generations.
Susan, the Rochester LGBTQ community is proud to recognize your talent, literary expertise, tenacity, perseverance, dedication, and commitment to reporting gay news for the Rochester LGBTQ community for the past 28 years. The Rochester LGBTQ community owes you an unending debt of gratitude for the work you have done in making our struggles visible, in strengthening our resolve to continue the fight for justice and equality, in bringing a sense of pride and joy to our lives individually and as a community, and in helping to make Rochester a gay friendly inclusive city where we can be free to be who we are.
Susan, thank you –
Evelyn Bailey, Chair
Shoulders to Stand On Program
Out Alliance dba Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley
100 College Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607