By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
This paper has a long history of commitment to the LGBT community. We published openly gay and lesbian writers at the height of the homophobic '50s. A decade later, Voice columnist Jill Johnston wrote groundbreaking essays on lesbian liberation, and in 1969 we ran extensive coverage of the Stonewall rebellion (our office at the time was located above the bar). A few years later, we established the first gay-news beat at a major paper, and hired a gay reporter, Arthur Bell, to work it. Then, in June of 1979, the Voice published the first gay and lesbian section to appear in a mainstream publication.
It was not exactly a gay-friendly time. Back then some readers carried our special issue with the front page folded over, so the G-word wouldn't show. It didn't stop us from doing another Gay Life section in 1980, and every year since.
Over the decades, many major writers have appeared in the Queer Issue, as it's now called. The list includes novelists Armistead Maupin, Eileen Myles, and Edmund White; actors Ian McKellen and Harvey Fierstein; performance artists Karen Finley and Holly Hughes; comic Marga Gomez; historian George Chauncey Jr.; sociologist Richard Sennett; theorist Monique Wittig; and many more. In 1984, James Baldwin chose this section to give a rare interview on his ideas about homosexuality. Among our other subjects were Christopher Isherwood, whose writing inspired Cabaret, and the civil rights leader Bayard Rustin.
We hope you enjoy this selection from our archive of queer voices, and we wish you, as we always do, happy Pride!
Present at the Creation
By Andrew Kopkind
From the moment gays begin to test their identities against straight "norms" they learn to pretend: to hide behind straight masks, to perform straight parts in straight plays, to divide gay selves from the straight roles. Only the eyes betray the truth: gay men check out everyone within eyeshot for the sly glance, the subtle mannerism, the hidden smile, the measured gait, the clothes, the postureall to find fellow members of the tribe and announce their own "ethnicity" in ways so covert that outsiders (those whom other tribes may call strangers, barbarians, ofays, or goyim) seldom catch the exchanges. It happens all the time: on the subway, in an office, on a movie line, in all-night banking centers, airport lounges. The universal gay check-out may be a kind of "cruising," but its basis is survival and support more often than sex. Until recently, a gay grew up believing he was the only queer in the world; the search for others is essentially a means of reassuring himself that he will never again be alone. (1979)
Gowing Up Lesbiana
By Marga Gomez
The first lesbians I ever saw were on one of my mother's favorite television programs, David Susskind's Open End. She had turned the volume down low, but I could hear Mr. Susskind say, "Tonight's program might be offensive to people with certain religious beliefs, and not suitable for children. I will be interviewing Lady Homosexuals."
I could hear this upstairs in my room with my door shut and my radio blasting because, by the age of 10, I had already developed homosexual hearing. I followed David Susskind's voice downstairs and sat next to my mother on the sofa. I made sure to look and sound completely repulsed so she wouldn't catch on that I was mesmerized by the Lady Homosexuals and riveted to every word that floated from their perverted lips. There were three of them, all gloomy. And they wore disguises: raincoats, dark glasses, and wigs. Although what they said was not encouraging, the wigs made me want to be one. (1996)
Go the Way Your Blood Beats
An interview with James Baldwin
By Richard Goldstein
Do you feel like a stranger in gay America?
Well, first of all I feel like a stranger in America from almost every conceivable angle except, oddly enough as a black person. The word gay has always rubbed me the wrong way. I never understood exactly what is meant by it. I dont want to sound distant or patronizing because I dont really feel that. I simply feel its a world that has very little to do with me, with where I did my growing up. I was never at home in it. Even in my early years in the Village, what I saw of that world absolutely frightened me, bewildered me. I didnt understand the necessity of all the role playing. And in a way I still dont.
You never thought of yourself as being gay?
No, I didnt have a word for it. The only one I had was homosexual and that didnt quite cover whatever it was I was beginning to feel. Even when I began to realize things about myself, began to suspect who I was and what I was likely to become, it was still very personal, absolutely personal. I was really a matter between me and God. I would have to live the life he had made me to live. I told him quite a long, long time ago there would be two of us at the Mercy Seat. He would not be asking all the questions. (1984)