It Was 25 Years Ago Today

Selections from the Village Voice's annual Queer Issue

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.


The 25th Annual Queer Issue

  • Beyond the Stepford Queers
    Welcome to the age of do-it-yourself identity
  • I Ruck, Therefore I Am
    Rugby and the gay male body
    Christopher Stahl
  • My Big Fat Funky Queer Marriage
    Forget the rice. (We're on Atkins.) No his-and-his towels. (Nothing matches in our house.) Just give us Viagra—and wish us well
    by Richard Goldstein
  • Transmale Nation
    Remaking manhood in the genderqueer generation
    by Elizabeth Cline
  • The Great Gay Way
    A brief history of Christopher Street
    by Wayne Hoffman
  • Elements Of Style: Chasing Rainbows
    Peace tees, platform shoes, and big pussies get ready for Pride day
    by Lynn Yaeger
  • Listings: There She Is, Miss L.E.S.
    She'll Take the Town by Storm
    by Keisha Franklin
  • Pride Events
  • We hope you enjoy this selection from our archive of queer voices, and we wish you, as we always do, happy Pride!

    —Richard Goldstein

    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 posture—all 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 don’t want to sound distant or patronizing because I don’t really feel that. I simply feel it’s 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 didn’t understand the necessity of all the role playing. And in a way I still don’t.

    You never thought of yourself as being gay?

    No, I didn’t have a word for it. The only one I had was homosexual and that didn’t 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)

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