Neighborhood: Lefferts Gardens
Most Likely To: Bring Judith Butler into the conversation.
Occupation: Writer, Editor, Organizer of Queer Community
Favorite Quote: “You guys know about vampires? You know how, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, ‘Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?’ And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might seem themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” – Junot Diaz
“I recently quit my soul-sucking corporate job to become a full-time homosexual” is how Fran Tirado introduced himself to us at our 30 Under 30 cover shoot. The Executive Editor of Hello Mr. and co-host of the podcast Food 4 Thot, Fran has been working to facilitate exclusively queer spaces since his early college years and has no plans of stopping. Founded in 2013, Hello Mr. is a bi-annual print magazine internationally distributed and available for purchase in stores or online. To know Fran is to know the light inside of yourself you often dim, because you want to fit in. His work, as well as his being, is important for this reason. Fran’s commitment to building spaces that nurture queerness is his way of telling people, while reminding himself, that we were born to stand out.
What is your earliest memory associated with what you do now?
My first year in college was a lonely one. I studied writing, sex and gender at the Kinsey Institute of Indiana. The straightest, whitest, most racist, most conservative state in the country. After taking a job writing an LGBTQ column for the local newspaper, by the grace of goddess, I was invited out of the blue by the editor of the newspaper to an event they called “Gay Wine Night.”
On Fridays at 8pm, a handful of gays would meet at his apartment to talk trash and politics over cute hors d’ouevres and shitty merlot. When I entered the room with a box of Triscuits, the queers in the room were talking about dominatrixes and Hillary Clinton, laughing over Carlo Rossi and stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. It was my first exposure to an exclusively queer space, one where our conversations were uninhibited and required no context. I went to Gay Wine Night every single Friday for the three years after that. It was one of the most formative and revolutionary ways I developed a queer understanding of myself, a sense of humor, an interest in advocacy, and so many other things that queer spaces provide and empower you with.
I try to recreate this activating, stimulating, psychosocially safe spaces every chance I get—with the events we do for Hello Mr.; my podcast which champions both sex-positive and highly intellectual conversations for a global audience; and in our queer artist collective and dinner series (Communion).However flippant it may have felt at the time, Gay Wine Night set me on a path convening queer spaces that I have never faltered from, nor will I for the rest of my life.
When did your occupation become real to you?
After my first year at Hello Mr., a person who I didn’t know walked up to me to say hi at a Valentine’s Day party we throw every year. We brand it as an “anti-love” party, a party for single people and couples alike to come and dance and not feel polarized by the shitty, heteronormative Hallmark holiday. The person said that they loved my work, that they were a fan of the magazine, and went on their merry way.
The next morning, I got an email from that same person saying all these things they wished they’d said—that my writing, the magazine, and everything I put out on social helps them. They said it helped them with their anxiety; helped them gain confidence romantically, understand their queerness, and feel “a little less alone.” It was the first of many emails, DMs, notes, and people who walk up to me at gay bars and say much of the same thing, and it is because of these moments that I know I am in the right field.
How does Brooklyn/your neighborhood particularly inform your work?
Brooklyn is a provider of space by way of the people you seek community with. I’ve found great solace in being able to go to a gay bar alone and inadvertently meeting up with 5-10 queers who were already there. I’ve asserted myself enough in the queer community to have a big network of queer friends. And where gay bars used to feel like predatory and misogynistic places, being a regular where my community is, has revitalized what the space means to me here.
What do you feel is most challenging about being where you are now?
Working on the trajectory of my advocacy and content full-time means that immediate results, pats on the back, and check-ins with supervisors are no longer a thing, and holding myself accountable to that time is tough. As a freelancer, it’s tempting to do whatever you want with your schedule, to take random days off and botch your workflow, but I’ve dedicated my 9-6pm day sitting at a desk and doing this work, because a queer community deserves 100% of my time (and anyone’s time) if I’m going to make it my job.
What’s most rewarding?
Knowing that none of my time is wasted. The day our shrieking canker sore of a president tweeted out the trans military ban, I was sitting at my ad job writing social media copy for Banana Republic. I had never felt so useless, so helpless, so without liberty to take to the streets and do something about it. Now that I’m no longer at that job, none of my time feels wasted on things I have no interest in doing.
5 spots in Brooklyn people should know about?
- It is extremely hard to find good tacos in New York—whether they are overpriced, too fussy, not fresh enough, hot enough, or just plain bad. There is only one taqueria I would recommend, and that is tortilleria Los Hermanos. The no frills, no fuss taco joint inside a tortilla factory is the closest I’ve ever felt to my home, and the food that comes from there. It has just the right array of hot sauces and the tacos are served to you on a paper plate, as god intended.
- Papi Juice is one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to queer Brooklyn nightlife. Their pop-up parties, panels, and dances create some of the most incredible spaces for queer and trans people of color in a way that insulates and creates genuine connection within the crowd—one that I’ve truly never seen before. Their Instagram announces their parties, and anytime I have a queer friend in town, I try to take them to one.
- There is an extremely good climbing tree in Fort Greene Park on the grassy hill west of the tennis courts that, if you take a cushion up there, makes a great place to park your butt and read a book, the news, or you can just meditate or cry, privately. It’s illegal to climb trees in New York, but who cares! Live on the edge.
- Every year, Horrorchata and Merrie Cherry host what is essentially the Lollapalooza of Brooklyn Drag at the Knockdown Center, called Bushwig. It doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight, into drag or not. It is one of the most life-giving and creatively vibrant spaces you could ever be in. Drag queens and kings, trans, nonbinary, across every ethnicity come out to showcase what drag means to them. It is a true testament to the true world of drag, one that goes beyond what people see on RuPaul’s Drag Race, which is just a sliver of the culture.
- The Whole Foods in Gowanus. Don’t question it.
What’s your most significant accomplishment to date?
Our magazine has come so far as a piece of content, across all platforms and the difference is palpable, hosting some of the most amazing writers and artists queer culture has to offer because I clock so many hours making sure the content is up to snuff. If you pick up a copy of issue 01 of Hello Mr., and then a copy of issue 09, you’ll see that.
When I came on in issue 02, part of my mission with the founder Ryan Fitzgibbon was to diversify and complexify the content.This most recent issue—featuring people like Alexander Chee, Michelle Tea, Jenna Wortham, John Early, Kehinde Wiley, and Ren Hang—was my greatest accomplishment, editorially, journalistically, and just as a curator who picked many of the names for the issue.
Who/what inspires you?
I have a personal project with my creative partner Justin Wee, hosting 20 people to come into a queer-exclusive space where we cook a huge meal and convene around the table, engaging in a conversation on a single topic. As a queer in the media, we are always going to shows and dinners that are sponsored by Kiehl’s or some other brand, and you spend the whole time networking or blowing hot air, and I get a lot of fatigue for events like that.
One of Communion’s missions as a not-for-profit venture is to completely eliminate networking from the space. Truly divorce the space from the outside world so people could simply converse. We eliminate people’s last names on their name cards so they can’t be Googled after; everyone’s emails are private; and we don’t monetize it through social media or a website. Still, I was nervous about the influencer/media hot-shots on the invite list and cynically thought it would be just like the other ones. Instead, these power queers made themselves vulnerable enough to be honest, open, and deeply emotional as we talked until well after midnight, bonding and hugging each other not wanting it to end. Despite that we are trained to guard ourselves and network in this crazy city, we stepped away from that for a moment—and yeah, that just really fucking inspires me.
Thinking about the future, where do you see yourself in the next 30 years?
Hopefully, I still won’t have grown tired of queer dance parties.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got some surprises in the mix coming up. I can’t reveal the details but can promise they will be gay as hell.