Call it a passion project. Johnny Trlica wants to keep gay Houston informed – and its enemies on notice – so nearly five years ago he helped launch the Houston Rainbow Herald to put all the LGBT news that's fit to print just a few clicks away.
“I felt Houston’s LGBT community needed a one-stop source for news,” Trlica says. “I saw how Huffington Post is basically a consolidation of news sources that provides links to the original website of the story. I find news and stories from other websites that I feel will be of interest to Houston’s LGBT community, and bring them all together in one spot in an easy to read and navigate website.”
“It works out well for HRH readers and gives exposure to the original source, as well. I wanted to provide a forum for local LGBT people to share the thoughts and ideas as well so I encourage input and feedback. If you write it, I’ll post it,” he adds.
Becoming the editor and co-founder of HRH was an extension of Trlica's contributions to the Montrose Gem, a community newspaper published briefly by Henry McClurg, who has a long history in Houston's LGBT media scene. With the help of webmaster Alvin Linton, Trlica produces the LGBT news aggregation site to keep readers informed about news ranging from national politics to local bar culture covering the leather and drag communities.
As one who has been around long enough to see and report on the arc of LGBT equality, Trlica says one of the main reasons he produces HRH is to educate young people.
“I love having discussions with younger gay men about how things used to be. Two people I talk to the most are Mychal Bass and Miguel Hernandez (aka My Key). I mentor them, and anyone else that will listen, about LGBT history like Stonewall, Judy Garland, bar raids by Houston’s police department and other points of historical interest,” he says.
Trlica also edits a consolidated print version of top stories for Montrose Star, a biweekly newspaper published by Laura Villagran focusing on LGBT news and entertainment in Houston and Galveston.
“Laura expressed a desire to have a news column in her paper and asked if I’d be interested,” Trlica says. “I told her I’d give it a try and the rest, so to speak, is history.”
Born in Rosenberg during a more conservative era when being out was not an option, Trlica remembers a seminal moment in his development as a gay man.
“When I was 17 or so I still had not accepted being gay. I went on a date with a girl. I picked her up, took her out to dinner and then to a movie. The movie was “Ode to Billie Joe” where cute Robby Benson’s title character committed suicide after having sex with another man. I could not get my date home quickly enough. I considered that an omen and never went on another date with a girl again.”
Trlica talked with Project Q Houston about his passion project, what's coming for site in the coming months and how his family inspires him and offers a message to LGBT youth.
There’s not a lot of money in this style of reporting. What keeps you going?
It’s a passion. I consider HRH a public service because I think it is so important that everyone, especially our community, to know what is going on. There are so many forces that literally hate us and wish us ill and we need to know who they are.
I remember years ago when I was visiting with my mother, she was in another room listening to Rush Limbaugh. Mind you, my mother was a lifelong Democrat who I always refer to as the first liberal I ever knew. After a few minutes of listening to the hate monger, she was fuming – he just made her so mad. I asked her why she listened to him, and she replied with one of the smartest things I have ever heard and never forgot: “You should always know what your enemies are saying about you.”
That’s why I run articles about our enemies – and yes, they are our enemies. We cannot get complacent just because we have the right to marry now; there are still many battles to be fought. There are politicians and right ring activists still working to undo marriage equality and they will not give up.
Looking back on your years in the LGBT media, what has been your proudest moment?
That’s an easy one. It came last year when the Supreme Court struck down bans on same-sex marriage. It was a fulfillment of years and years of hard work by so many in our community. In a related story I got to personally write about the first same-sex marriage license issued in Fort Bend County. It was by my sister Betty Trlica Kacal who was given the opportunity to refuse by her boss, the county clerk. She told me a heart-wrenching story about an elderly lesbian couple that came in for a license. They shared their story about how they thought this would never happen in their lifetimes and began crying there at my sister’s desk. She handed them some tissues and said, “Well, let’s get you your license.” A couple of days later my sister received a bouquet of flowers delivered to her at work from the couple thanking her for showing them the respect and dignity they were afraid would be denied them when they went to get a marriage license. That story still gets me teary-eyed.
It’s not unusual for you to share personal remembrances of your family on your site. Why is that important to you?
My family is very important to me. My mother was the first family member I came out to and she made it so easy. She said she knew I was gay since I was a child. When I was about 10, one Christmas I got a toy mobile home complete with dollhouse-type furniture (second photo) that I would spend hours rearranging and decorating the interior. Yep, I guess she knew! My sister Donna is probably the most open about my lifestyle and was the first to approve of same-sex marriage. She even bought me a ticket to the Cher concert.
Why is it important to report on our the drag and leather communities?
Leather and drag are just as much a part of our community as twinks and gym bunnies. It was drag queens who are credited with starting the Stonewall riots. It angers me when some in the LGBT community try to exclude others. We have to remember we are all in this together. There is an active movement in our community to drop the T from LGBT. That’s crazy and just not right.
And leather guys are hot. Why would I not want to cover them? I try to give equal coverage to bears, too.
Anything to add?
I want to encourage everyone to keep fighting the good fight. As long as we have gay youth and transgendered kids killing themselves because they are being bullied or do not feel worthy, we have to persevere. We as adults and older LGBT people have to let them know that they are OK just the way they are. We as a community have to be united and resist efforts to divide us or to exclude some of us. We got this far as a group.
Also, look out for a new and improved HRH coming soon. Alvin is working on a modern and clean updated format that he is creating from scratch that promises to be even more user friendly, mobile adaptable. And it will include an app.