“Hello Mr.” founder Ryan Fitzgibbon releases new anthology, “A Great Gay Book”

Hello Mr. was founded by Ryan Fitzgibbon in 2012. Over its ten-issue lifespan, the beloved and groundbreaking indie magazine became the first home for some of the most prestigious queer voices of a generation. Now the author brings us "A Great Gay Book."

“Hello Mr.” founder Ryan Fitzgibbon releases new anthology, “A Great Gay Book”
Photo courtesy of Ryan Fitzgibbon

Between the bustling boroughs of New York City, the sultry sun of Palm Springs and the rich oil fields of Tulsa, Oklahoma, queer experiences reveal themselves in forms and fashions of love, self-discovery, triumph and tragedy. For over a decade, one great, gay man, has given his life to tell these stories through pages of periodicals and now, A Great Gay Book.

Ryan Fitzgibbon, a visionary queer media entrepreneur, set the foundation for A Great Gay Book: Stories of Growth, Belonging & Other Queer Possibilities when he founded  the groundbreaking gay magazine, Hello Mr. in 2012. Over its ten-issue tenure, the magazine became the first home for some of “the most prestigious queer voices of a generation” including Jeremy Atherton Lin, Lady Bunny, Alexander Chee, and Garth Greenwell.

“One of the most important things is that this book isn’t about me or uniquely my story,” Fitzgibbon told Queerency. “But this book is massive with over 100 people who showcase this diverse range of experiences and queer life.’

In the later years of Hello Mr., Fitzgibbon said the LGBTQ+ media market became saturated because queer stories were being celebrated in mainstream magazines, creating a fierce competition for advertising dollars. And with the rising cost of paper, advertising dollars prove paramount for media outlets. The magazine printed its last run in 2018 and Fitzgibbon was ready to grieve his baby and rest.

“[The magazine shuttered] also for personal reasons,” he explained. “Hello Mr. had consumed my 20s and taken a toll on me and my relationships. I needed to let it go and have some distance from it all.”

hello mr. Issues 1-10

Looking for a space to grieve through art, in 2020 he applied for the Tulsa Artist Fellowship and was accepted into the program in 2021. The fellowship designated a salary, housing and other stipends that set Fitzgibbon up for success.

“I knew at some point I would create this greatest hits collection of Hello Mr.,” he said. “I was awarded the Tulsa Artist Fellowship to live and work in Oklahoma and this was the best opportunity for me to dedicate two years of my life to creating this book.”

While producing his book, Fitzgibbon became engulfed in all things Tulsa, becoming a community activist. Shortly after arriving, he was diagnosed with HIV at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. These events inspired his creation of In Our Blood, a platform to detect, exercise, and replenish your inner activist. In addition to organizing to protect LGBTQ+ rights and expanding HIV/AIDS care and prevention in Oklahoma, his work includes supporting the Black Wall Street Times through the production of multiple print publications and the opening of their newsroom and storefront in Greenwood. 

Originally, Hello Mr. stories focused heavily on LGBTQ+ meccas in the United States — New York City, L.A. and so on and so on, but being in Tulsa inspired Fitzgibbon to focus on the Bible Belt and flyover states for A Great Gay Book — after all, he hails from Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Fitzgibbon

“It felt appropriate to frame my environment that was overlooked or stereotyped from some of the coastal cities as a completely non-affirming place where it is impossible to be queer, but the reality is queer people exist here and have unique challenges,” he assured. “We have a different kind of resilience and motivation to create and find community because it’s so far and few between so it makes it feel more important.”

Currently, Fitzgibbon is on a national book tour spanning the rest of 2024. For more information on him, follow him on Instagram and visit his website.