Behind the pages: Addressing Diversity

Each time that we send out a new issue, it seems that we receive a note from a reader along the lines of: Why are all of the contributors straight, married, rural Caucasians? As you might imagine, open- and broad-minded person that I'd like to believe I am, this inquiry hits me squarely in the gut and causes no end of introspection and concern. There are so many ways to answer this question, but I'll attempt few.
  1. Submissions: Our submission policy is completely open. Take a look at it here. We request a short bio and publication history, but make decisions about inclusion completely on the merits of the work submitted. We don't use anything we might glean from 100 word bios about marital status, sexual orientation or race when making these decisions.
  2. Transparency: We have decided to treat all of our contributors equally within the pages and in the contributor section of the website. Everyone gets a bio and image (sometimes a head shot, sometimes not). Because of this, you can see the skin color (and gender, but more on that later) of everyone who has been a part of the issue. Many (most?) magazines do not do this, so you would have no way to know the racial/gender/sexual orientation make up of the contributors.
  3. Youth: We are 6 issues into Taproot. That translates to just about a year and a half, so we're just on the cusp of magazine toddlerhood. Each issue takes about 3 months to produce, but planning the issue happens 3-6 months before that, so the pipeline for developing new talent (of any kind) actually takes quite a while.
  4. Assumptions: We all do it. We read something and then fill in the blanks. The truth is, we can't know a person from a 100 word bio or even a 4000 word essay. Are they married or just not? Are their kids biological or adopted? Are they Biracial? Bisexual? Transgendered? Just because something is left out doesn't mean it's not there. I'd like to think that we've created a space (and a culture, though that one's more dubious) where people don't feel a need to say "lives with her husband and one biological Caucasian child and two adopted biracial children". Better to say 3 children, because that's what they are to loving and accepting parents; there should be no distinction!
The irony of this discussion is that what no one ever points out is that the overwhelming majority (90%+) of our contributors are female. Perhaps because most of our readership is female this goes unnoticed (we all have our blind spots), but it is to me (as a man) the single most disconcerting disparity. And this is not for lack of trying. Both Amanda and I have worked hard to find male writers (it's easier to tell someone's gender by their name than their race or sexual orientation), but it has been a real struggle to find males interested in contributing. However, even if we found a secret stash of them tomorrow, it would take another 6 months before you would see them in the magazine (see #3 above). So here's my challenge to you: If you know of, are friends with, or are a person who is not currently represented in the pages of Taproot but are interested in the topics we cover and in being published, be in touch! Submit something! Send it to: I assure you your piece will be read and considered on its merits. -jason