A peek into the queer publishing past

February 3, 2013

Long before Ellen came out on TV or Tyler Perry began making films as a drag queen, pioneers of gay media faced – and faced down – censorship of homophile writing and literature.

As early as 1947, lesbians wrote and disseminated Vice Versa, and other mags tangentially gay, such as Physique carried the homophile message to thousands.

ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives celebrates its 60th Anniversary with Queers Print at the ONE Archives Gallery & Museum in West Hollywood, an exhibition exploring LGBTQ publishing and activism in Los Angeles.

The exhibition features a range of queer magazines, newspapers, newsletters and zines, varying from foundational homophile publications such as ONE Magazine, groundbreaking gay liberation and lesbian-feminist titles such as The Advocate and The Lesbian Tide, and significant queer people of color publications such as BLK, as well as numerous DIY zines.

Each title included in the show, over forty different publications in total, has been photocopied and bound for visitors to peruse and read, inviting the public to engage with six decades of queer history through the printed page.

Often founded as a response to widespread biases of the dominate media, or the desire to create a space where marginalized voices can meet and flourish, the distribution of news, ideas, and information through publications has been a driving force behind queer activism in the United States over the last sixty years.

The exhibition mixes groundbreaking publications that had national and even international circulations with materials that would be understood as tangential to mainstream gay and lesbian history, such as early queer publications and zines that were self-produced and had a small circulation. Such an eclectic mix is meant to inspire new readings of history, while revealing some of the rare materials held at ONE to the public.

The exhibition focuses special attention on ONE Magazine, the first widely circulated publication for homosexuals in the United States, and the namesake of ONE Archives.

First published in January 1953, ONE Magazine was distributed throughout the U.S. and abroad, giving voice to early LGBTQ activism, then termed the homophile movement.

The magazine did not shy away from tackling provocative issues, such as employment discrimination, police harassment, and homosexual marriage, and often included queer literature, poetry, op-eds, and letters to the editor.

The magazine’s 1958 Supreme Court victory over obscenity laws, the first time the court considered a case involving homosexuality, paved the way for all later queer publications in the U.S. As such, it is fitting for the exhibition to begin with and pay tribute to ONE’s legacy.

In addition to a selection of copies of the magazine, the exhibition will also include archival objects such as printing blocks, original drawings, and paste-ups used to produce the magazine.

Additional publications on display include:

Vice Versa (1947-48), the earliest known lesbian publication; 

The Advocate (founded in 1967), which began as the newsletter for the L.A. organization Personal Rights in Defense & Education (PRIDE) and is today the longest running queer publication in the U.S.; 

The Lesbian Tide (1971-1980), an influential lesbian-feminist magazine that was distributed nationally; 

Mirage (1974), arguably the first national transgender magazine; 

BLK (1988-1994), a local magazine for LGBTQ African Americans that became a nationally distributed news magazine;

and many more.

Queers Print will be on view at the ONE Archives Gallery & Museum from February 2 through March 17, 2013. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, February 2 from 5 to 9 pm.

ONE Archives would like to the University of Southern California Libraries and the City of West Hollywood for their support of exhibitions at the ONE Gallery. 

Queers Print is organized by David Frantz, Curator at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives. Generous support for exhibitions and programming during ONE’s 60thAnniversary is provided by Wells Fargo.

February 2 – March 17, 2013

ONE Archives Gallery & Museum

626 North Robertson Boulevard

West Hollywood, CA 90069

Find location, hours, and parking information about the ONE Archives Gallery & Museum here.

Opening Reception: Saturday, February 2, 2013, 5-9pm (More information here)

Panel Discussion on Queer Zines at ONE Archives: Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 7-9pm (More here)

Talk and Reception with Alan Bell and Jeanne Córdova: Saturday, March 9, 2013, 5-7pm (More here)