It Was 25 Years Ago Today

Selections from the Village Voice's annual Queer Issue

The First Couple:
Don Bachardy and Christopher Isherwood

Interviewed by Armistead Maupin

You told me once that you felt you had entered the gay rights fray too late, that you wished you’d gotten involved earlier. In what way?


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
  • Well, I never really felt, myself, that I was leading the charge, or taking the role of some kind of leader. Never for one moment. On the other hand, I never denied that I was queer. During all those years in Hollywood I just took it for granted that they knew what I was doing. I suppose it was a kind of arrogance.

    When were you first aware you were gay? What are your earliest memories of feeling homosexual?

    Very early, I suppose those boys in Germany.

    Chris, your long term friendship with Wystan Auden is a matter of record. Did you begin that as lovers?

    Now, we had lots of sex, but there wasn’t a romance at all.

    What we call a fuck buddy these days.

    A fuck buddy, yes, that’s what we were. It would have been unthinkable under the circumstances if we hadn’t at least tried. (1985)

    The Way We Were
    By George Chauncey Jr

    By the end of the decade some observers remarked that New York's drag balls had surpassed those of Chicago and New Orleans in size and opulence, and that the city rivaled Berlin in its tolerance of such affairs. . . In the late '20s the police regularly turned out in force to guard and maintain order at these extravaganzas. They were not the only representatives of legitimate society there to observe; the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and other pillars of respectability took boxes to view the spectacle below. Carl Van Vechten, a chronicler of the Harlem Renaissance, whom one newspaper described as "quite familiar with many of the brunettes in question," occasionally served as a judge at the beauty contests which were the highlight of the balls; on one occasion he joined two other prominent literary figures in awarding first prize to a young man almost "stark naked, save for a decorative cache-sexe and silver sandals, and..painted a kind of apple green. (1986)

    The Politics of Drag
    By Edmund White

    Marsha patted a dab of rouge on his brown cheeks, added a scent of faded cologne, focused on me, on the potato salad, on the air, and continued on his lazily singsong voice.

    "I was in a lot of raids before. All the street queens were. The paddy wagon was a regular routine. We used to sit in our little 42nd Street hotel rooms—'hot spring hotels' they used to call them—and party and get high and think about walking down the street someday and not worry about getting busted by the police. That was a dream we all had, sitting in those hotel rooms or in the queens' tanks of the jails. So, honey, when it came that night, I was ready to tip a few cars for a dream. It was that year—1969—when I finally went out in the street in drag full-time." (1979)

    Butching Up Is Not a Liberated Act
    By Michael Musto

    There are supposed to be eight million ways to be gay. But these days more and more of us are trying to seem "straight"—the old "Hey, we're just like you" approach, which could nauseate anyone who came out to celebrate the idea of not being just like them. Mandatory macho has given the butches ammunition to purge the femmes from gay male consciousness. It's gotten so bad that we're dividing up our usual turf into style—districts: Clones in the West Village, fashionites in the East Village, and guppies wherever a branch of Charivari can be found. These people have always eyed each other warily, but nowadays, they approach each other as if they don't even belong to the same species, let alone sexuality.

    Now, some femmes are walking around with vises on their hips to keep them from swiveling, and developing such firm handshakes they sometimes draw blood. It's a lost cause—swaggering like John Wayne, most femmes would still be called by his real name: Marion. But that hasn't stopped former Miss Things from doing their apartments in Stallone posters, and trading in the sweatshirt that says "I never laid a hand on those fucking kids. Sincerely, Joan Crawford" for a button-down shirt, pullover sweater, and nice, heartening smile. This is the uniform of a gay man who yearns to be taken seriously. I'd rather see Divine tell (or eat) the real poop. (1987)

    He Delivers!
    By Karen Finley

    There was a knock at my dressing-room door."Ms. Finley? Someone is here with a package that must be PERSONALLY delivered, HAND DELIVERED." "Why, let him in, by all means." My voice became Blanche Dubois-and she did fancy Stanley, that beast!

    The intern was delivering my trousseau, the copies of gay porn. I instantly imagined the exchange as a metaphor for the gay male editor who had assigned the piece standing over me, holding his golden genitalia and saying, "I insist on hand delivery." And I respond with fire in my eyes, "Let him in, by all means," as I open myself and wrap my long legs over the beast shoulders and he mounts me and I become his animal. (2001)

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