a chat with amy middleton, editor of Archer Magazine
‘This is going to be the huskiest interview there ever was,’ Amy laughs. ‘Just a couple of frogs talking to each other.’
We bond over how croaky our voices both are. Admittedly, listening back to the audio of our interview, I just wanted to suck on a Soother.
She orders a soy mocha in a mug, ‘but go easy on the coffee’. I tell her I won’t judge her if she just gets a large hot chocolate. I order a latte, with soy milk as well. We have a lot in common.
‘My writing career started when we got our first computer. When I was 8 or 9, I started a newspaper for my soft toys called the Moo Paper Weekly,’ Amy says while sipping her “coffee”.
‘So the Moo Paper Weekly basically was all about who was going out with who in the toys, who was living with who and any fights that happened. There was a period where I really wanted a ferret and my parents wouldn’t let me get one, so there was this campaign on how to convince my parents to get a ferret.’
Amy is the Founding Editor and Publisher of Archer Magazine, an award-winning bi-annual Australian publication about sexuality, gender and identity, which first hit newsstands in November 2013 after a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Long before Archer, Amy began her official writing career at The Bulletin, a news and current affair magazine, around 2009. She’s since written for Wheels magazine, Australian Geographic, Daily Life, Spike: the Meanjin blog, The Guardian, Three Thousand and The Big Issue and, finally, Caravan World.
I ask her how many different articles you could possibly write about caravans. She answers, ‘I know a lot about caravans’.
‘I started thinking about what I wanted to write after caravans and I just wanted to write about sex, sexuality, gender and the politics around that stuff’, she says.
Although places like Daily Life and Hello Mister were increasing in popularity, she realised that there wasn’t much out there that discussed queer politics as well as representing her: someone attracted to all genders.
Amy believes talking about gender and sexuality so openly in magazines like Archer is incredibly important for solidarity of the queer community.
‘When you’re different, you have no idea that everyone else is different too,’ she tells me.
‘You think it’s just you. I would say the poor mental health outcomes for me based on my diverse sexual identity came from feelings of isolation and alienation. Truth was, everything I thought was so different about me, there are a million people like me out there in terms of how they have sex or who they’re attracted to or what their desires are like. You have no way of knowing that without the media reflecting that sort of stuff. Nobody has a straightforward sexuality; everyone is weird in some way.’
One thing that sets Archer apart is its print format – particularly in a thriving time of digital publications. Amy justifies this decision by telling me how queer people, people with diverse gender/sexual identities or diverse bodies never get to see themselves reflected in glossy magazines. Mainstream print magazines are packed to the brim with photoshopped heteronormative people that society deems “normal” or “beautiful,” so Amy wanted to give queer people a chance to see their own beauty reflected in Archer.
The name for the magazine is mostly based off a statue Amy’s great-grandmother owned of a naked female archer that she kept in the basement. Historically, archers were strong matriarchal women, so to Amy, the statue reflected a combination of masculine and feminine qualities. The fact that her great-grandmother had to keep the statue in the basement because of its nudity symbolises art and censorship, which have both become integral parts of the magazine.
One of the controversies surrounding Archer was the sex and ageing issue, which was seen as “shocking” by many news outlets. Amy found this strange.
‘When I’m talking about people who are less represented by the media, which is what Archer deals with, older people were at the forefront of my mind.
In an interview with The Age, Amy was asked if she was deliberately trying to shock audiences as a PR move. She was puzzled.
‘We’re all going to look like that one day,’ she tells me. ‘We’re all going to get older and our bodies are going to change and our attitudes are going to change. I think older bodies and beautiful because all bodies are beautiful.’
The issue went on to win a UN Human Rights Media Award for its positive representation of the older body.
When Amy’s not working, she likes to wind down by watching The O.C. Forgetting I was interviewing her, we chatted about The O.C for ages. We both love Alex, the queer character, and upon re-watching the show, feel that Seth Cohen is kind of a sexist. She watches it for ‘a lobotomising effect’. We talk about personality quizzes as well. She’s an ENFJ, just like President Obama. Later, I send her a Buzzfeed quiz that tells us we are both Caitlin Cooper from The O.C.
Amy tells me how being part of the LGBTIQA community has influenced her writing in a huge way. She jokes that she could still be writing about caravans if she wasn’t. Acknowledging how many sad stories are in the media about queer mental illness and suicide attempts, Amy tries to publish about 90% celebratory stories in Archer.
‘I try to present positive role models like JD Sampson who are doing well and not despite their identities but alongside and with their identities. In a way, I’m just trying to make a celebration of diversity.’
For the years to come, Amy has high hopes for Archer. Working hard as a self-made entrepreneur publishing one of Australia’s most incredible magazines, Amy shows no signs of slowing down.
‘Stay afloat,’ she tells me. ‘That’s my main goal.’