As with media produced by any marginalized group (including women), the history of LGBTQIA+ publications is so rich and layered and nuanced that I couldn’t begin to capture it here. In addition, I (Natalie) am a cisgender hetero woman — I have a very clear privilege in our society, and I take seriously my responsibility (and privilege!) as an ally to loved ones and strangers who do not fit neatly into boxes.
That said, even a brief scroll through this Wikipedia list of “LGBT periodicals” will show you how global and varied these hundreds of publications are. The list is of course not comprehensive. Literary journals such as Lassacarus and Respa and Vetch occupy a whole other domain; Danielle also flagged On Our Backs, the first women-run, 80’s erotica magazine based in San Francisco and wrote about gay audiences in our Playgirl issue.
What’s also striking is the will of the people who started these bygone publications. Take for instance, Edythe Eyde who risked jail to found Vice Versa, a lesbian magazine published between 1947 and 1948. Eyde wrote under the pseudonym “Lisa Ben” (get it?) and physically passed out copies of her magazine on the streets of Los Angeles. Eyde recalled decades later: “I would also say to the girls as I passed the magazines out, ‘Now when you get through with this, don’t throw it away. Pass it on to another gay gal.” Eyde helped set the foundation for publications like The Advocate and Autostraddle for women today.
The advancement of rights for LGBTQIA+ folk in America has been slow, and much of that progress is tied to media representation and visibility of the community. I got to cover New York’s Pride in 2014 for NBC News right after the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, and the larger cultural attitude then already seems quaint now. Only last year, California became the first state to approve “LGBT-inclusive textbooks,” which gives me hope for future generations, without sacrificing the urgency to continue demanding change for ours.
In 2018, there’s a greater expectation in media to hire the right people to properly tell sensitive stories (see: Jezebel on The Atlantic’s coverage of detransitioning) — and there’s Twitter to call out a publication that screws up. On the flip side, creators of media must avoid tokenization of individual people or the assumption that members of a certain community want to share their deepest traumas for public consumption.
This year, feel free to join me in reading and supporting publications made for the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m not queer, but why shouldn’t I read Autostraddle to better understand people who are different from me? I find it makes for better conversation, better arguments, better relationships and better understanding of what my role is in this dependably changing world.