A Conversation with Roman Habibzai, Editor-in-Chief of Visible
by Noah Stevens
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Visible, the newest student media publication at American University, is aiming to give a voice to LGBTQ+ students on campus. After Visible’s inaugural meeting, I sat down with Roman Habibzai, the publication’s founder and current Editor-in-Chief.
For those who may not know, what is Visible? What kind of content will you be publishing?
Visible is AU’s first LGBT publication. We’ll be focusing on publishing news, art, and culture. News will focus on investigative reporting...we have a lot of unique resources being in DC. We want the Arts section to be a platform for LGBT artists in the area and beyond who want to be able to say that their work has been published in something...and to give them the ability to be able to build their portfolios, as well as give them the experience a lot of artists in the community deserve right now, but aren’t really getting. Culture is going to be highlighting a lot of artists not well-represented in mainstream media...it’s going to be film reviews, Spotify playlists, a really cool mashup of all branches of culture.
How did Visible come to be?
I’ve had this idea since freshman year. I switched to journalism ─ I used to be in International Studies ─ and one of the first things I did after I switched majors was look online to see what kind of organizations I could get involved with. I knew I wanted to write, I just didn’t know where or what, exactly. I noticed there wasn’t necessarily a publication dedicated to LGBTQ students...it stood out to me. I was like, “That’s really interesting.” I clicked through [the Club Council website] a few times to be sure. From that moment, I knew it was something I would be interested in starting. Honestly, the process seemed too intimidating to me that I decided I would start at a publication, then see what happened.
I tried out The Eagle a little bit, but I lost interest. I ended up hearing about The Blackprint through a close friend who was a writer there...I thought that would be a really cool place to write, it aligned with a lot of things I wanted to talk about. I applied, and I heard back the same day. It was like, “Oh my gosh, we’re doing this!”
After writing for The Blackprint for a little while, I gained enough confidence to see a lot of the things I would be able to work on and use that experience to work on what I envisioned with Visible. I started to think about minor details and flesh them out in a way that was really unique. I was already in the room with editors [at The Blackprint] and I got to see how they all worked together, it started to occur to me that this was something that could really happen. The more the thought came to me, the more I talked to people on campus, my friends, and got feedback from everyone I talked to ─ it was like, “This is an amazing idea.” Most people I talked to were shocked to find out that AU didn’t have an LGBTQ publication already.
I got together the group [of editors at Visible]...it was a lot of work. Actually ─ I went to this event that Politico hosted here at AU in November . All these really amazing people were there…Professor [Sherri] Williams was there, it was a conversation between her, the president of Politico, and the producer of Vice. They talked about these issues within the journalism community that got me thinking that [Visible] could be a really great thing to bring to campus. That night, I went and talked to Professor Williams, and with her moral support, I decided that this is something that could really happen. It took months to really put it together...figuring out the right editors, getting the advisor...I met Professor [Jeremiah] Patterson that night, funny enough. It really was exactly what we needed at the right time.
It took a long time, but we’re finally here, and I’m so excited about it.
What’s the importance of LGBTQ spaces and publications on campus?
I think it’s really important. I know PRIDE on campus is doing a lot of great work, there are other organizations doing amazing, amazing work. I think the importance of having an LGBTQ publication provides a specific creative outlet for LGBTQ people.
Growing up, in part of suppressing myself, I was suppressing things I wanted to do...I was more or less scared [to express myself] and scared of how I would be perceived...I think that same kind of thing carries over. I think there’s nowhere near enough representation [on campus], and I think taking that into our hands and creating a space where we can express ourselves as freely and as often as we want to goes a long way.
Where do you see Visible a year from now?
I think a lot of it depends on how much interest we have, and where we stand with AU Student Media Board. The more interest we develop, the more of the meaningful content we’ll be able to create, and that’s what Visible is about, at its core.
By next year, and I can’t say for sure, I would like to be on Student Media Board, to have a lot of content out there...I see, a year from now, a happy group of people producing great content and focusing on what matters in the community.