Shameless came into my life when I was looking for community
Illustration: Beena Mistry
For our fifteenth anniversary we’ve reached out to the Shameless community and asked what the magazine has meant to them. What has Shameless meant to you? Talk back to us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Read past entries in this series: Melinda Mattos and Marta Balcewicz.
From my first blog post to taking on the job of arts editor, Shameless was my creative outlet, classroom and community centre. I learned how to be a collaborative editor, a conscientious team member, a fundraiser and a cheerleader. I saw people with multiple jobs and responsibilities commit themselves to activism and social justice in everyday ways. I saw the power of radical empathy.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from working with Shameless is that social justice and art don’t live in mutually exclusive spaces. Everyone who worked at the magazine, from the copy editor to the web illustrators, was committed to creativity and community without compromise. That dedication showed through every time we sat down to plan an issue, have a party, or raise money to support our mission.
Learning how to run a magazine, from art direction to circulation, was an invaluable part of my Shameless experience. It was difficult and time-consuming, but it was also a lesson in perseverance. We wanted to amplify marginalized voices and shed light on issues that mattered to young people, and we did it, month after month. One of my favourite issues as arts editor was the Tech issue, when we published a short story by one of our teen readers. It was so fun to work with a motivated young writer, and it inspired me to take more risks with my own writing. I got to work on so many exciting stories, and every time an issue came out, it felt like a minor miracle.
That sense of achievement has helped me as a freelance writer and editor since leaving Shameless. Brainstorming, asking for help, pitching ideas and having the confidence to put those ideas into action are all essential skills for working in independent media, and I would never have attempted any of them without my Shameless training. I knew that my colleagues would be there to answer questions or lend support as I embarked upon a writing career, and their advice and insight was always spot on.
Shameless came into my life when I was looking for community, even though I wasn’t quite sure what community would look like for me. At the magazine, I saw that community can take many forms, and looks like support, shared values and commitment to a cause. But I also discovered necessities that are rarely discussed in activist circles: laughter, dance parties, snack buffets and cat cuddles. Just as art and social justice work together, so do activism and fun.
I stepped down from the Shameless masthead almost five years ago, but I never felt like I left the fold. Whenever I meet a young person who is passionate and eager to make a difference, I always recommend that they pick up a copy of the magazine or see what Shameless is up to online. It means a lot to me to be able to continue to share that resource with youth who may be searching for their own community outside of school, family and friends.
As Shameless celebrates 15 years of talking back, I look forward to learning from a new generation of creative activists about the issues that they care about and the things that excite them. In 15 more years, Shameless will look very different, but I hope it stays safe, nurturing, delightful and thought-provoking for all the teens who will still need it.