Thomas Barker has changed the landscape of gay publishing as we know it in South Florida. He is one of Miami’s most influential young professionals and is serving on the executive committee of this year’s Miami Beach Gay Pride. This is in addition to being the executive editor and co-publisher of Wire Magazine, a company he owns with Rafa Carvajal.
A Florida native, Barker grew up in Pace, Florida, a small town near Pensacola. A child of divorced parents, Barker spent a lot of time living between both of their homes. If that wasn’t difficult enough, he grew up in a town which wasn’t and still isn’t exactly gay friendly. “Like most other gay teenagers, I was so eager to get out of that small town and move to a place where I could be open about my sexuality without the worry of being beaten or, even worse, murdered.”
Approximately 8 years ago, Barker packed up his belongings and made the journey to Miami to attend Florida International University, where he majored in public relations and international business. “I wanted to stay in Florida for school, and between the sun, sand, and beautiful boys, I just couldn’t think of a better place to live.”
A true workaholic, Barker began his first job at 16 as a national youth spokesperson and paid public speaker on youth empowerment programs. Shortly after, he took a position with the New York Times as a corporate trainer. “I really loved to interact with people, and, of course, I love to talk, so both jobs were amazing for me.” After graduating FIU, Barker began a career in public relations, working for GolinHarris International, one of Miami’s most respected firms.
Five years ago, Barker accepted a position at Wire Magazine, the publication he now owns, as a features writer, editor and nightlife columnist. “Eventually my current business partner, Rafa and I decided to purchase the publication and utilize our past business experience to really focus on creating a gay lifestyle publication.”
Wire Magazine offers readers a great mix of editorial content focusing on the arts, culture, local personalities, food, and fashion. “We really like to focus on the lifestyle features, as opposed to hard news subjects. Publications like South Florida Gay News are already doing a really great job of covering hard news.”
Because the publication refuses to accept personal, massage and escort advertisements, it is able to distribute in more family friendly establishments than bar guides. As far as future plans, Barker is currently in the process of updating the publication’s website. “It should be up and running by the end of this month. It is going to be fabulous!”
Barker, a member of the Miami Beach Gay Business Enhancement Committee, was a founding member of the Miami Beach Gay Pride Board of Directors. “I guess because I am a writer, everyone felt I should serve as the secretary. They didn’t realize I write everything in shorthand.” In addition, he serves as the chair of the marketing committee.
The inaugural celebration was a huge success and Barker anticipates the same this year. “Pride is really important to me. This is not just a community celebration; it is a personal celebration of me as a gay man and the difficulties I endured in order to be proud of who I am.”
When Barker isn’t spending time coordinating events or publishing a magazine, he devotes a lot of time to philanthropy. “There are so many charities that are important to me. I am a big supporter of Equality Florida, Care Resource and Pridelines Youth Services because they do great work with young gay people who have little or no support.” In the past few years, Barker has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the organizations.