Former #Fusion editor, MJ Eckhouse, died October 21. He was 29 years old. Eckhouse was a key advocate for #LGBTQ+ non-discrimination rights and protections in Kent and throughout Ohio.
Eckhouse graduated from #Kent State University in May 2018 with a bachelor’s in political science. He was an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community in Kent. He was a driving force behind the city’s adoption of an anti-discrimination ordinance that provided protections for LGBTQ+ citizens. Eckhouse was also involved in pushing the city to ban conversion therapy – which is the process of attempting to change an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation and has been discounted by such prominent groups as the American Psychiatric Association – for LGBTQ+ minors.
In addition to an internship with Equality Ohio, Eckhouse became the Outreach Specialist for Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative and the Communications Coordinator of the Ohio Environmental Council. Eckhouse was known for his devotion to social justice and passion for helping others, especially those in recovery.
“One thing that he was most passionate about was making the world a better place,” says Lis Regula, Eckhouse’s husband. He added that Eckhouse never stopped working to achieve this goal and was extremely persistent, being able to see others’ strengths and organize accordingly.
John Hess, a friend of Eckhouse, said following the 2016 presidential election, the two established a chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America in Portage County. The chapter was involved with the push for non-discrimination protections in Kent, as well as community clean-ups and attending protests around Northeast Ohio. Hess added that Eckhouse was not only capable of large-scale activist work, but also able to build relationships and speak with legislators and government officials to create those pathways for change.
“He was very rare in his ability, I think, to do both of those things and do them well,” he said.
Hess went on to say, “We all have a little bit more work to do … we need to sort of pick up the slack and be the kind of person that he was, or aspire to that.”
Eckhouse was the editor of Fusion Magazine from Fall 2016 to Spring 2018. According to Regula, he began as a staff writer for Fusion and, seeing the potential the magazine had, applied to be the editor. The Student Media Board was skeptical of Eckhouse due to his grades, but he persevered and won the position, maintaining a high GPA afterwards. Regula described the magazine was “his baby” and that he was always immensely proud of the work his team produced.
“One of the places that he saw where he thought he could make a difference was with Fusion Magazine,” he said..
Ella Abbott, former editor of Fusion from Fall 2018 to Spring 2019, worked closely with Eckhouse, combining their backgrounds in political science and journalism to take the magazine down an activist path. Abbott said that Eckhouse wanted to use the magazine’s platform to write stories not just about the LGBTQ+ community, but for them.
“Under MJ, (Fusion) took a lot more of an activist stance,” she said. Abbott’s work with Eckhouse would inspire her own ideas of using the magazine for activism during her tenure as editor, such as publishing a mini-magazine dedicated to the 2018 midterm elections.
Eckhouse touched countless lives with his compassion and willingness to help others from so many walks of life.
“He was just such a big personality,” says Regula.
Eckhouse fought for a better world and the LGBTQ+ community of Kent – and Ohio at large – have been made better by him. Though he was a passionate activist, he was also a musician, a writer, a husband, a son and a friend.
To honor Eckhouse’s memory, donations can be made to the Kaleidoscope Youth Center and ACLU Ohio.