Our Hearts Were Young and Gay

The 'Voice' reports the queer revolution

And, of course, AIDS. Though the Voice took a while to find its sea legs in the tempestuous early stages of the epidemic, by the late '80s the paper was a primary source of reliable information even as it held up a mirror to the grief, anxiety, and fury that raged through the community. For several years, and working right up to his death in 1994, Robert Massa was the best AIDS reporter in the country.

But the special June issue offered writers—and readers—a chance to step back from the demands of the news peg to contemplate trends, queer identities, contours of culture, political direction, sex. This was one of the few spaces where the Voice remained a "writer's paper" well into the new millennium (despite the ever shrinking page count). The list of contributors over the years reads like the bibliography of a comprehensive queer-studies course. Just a short sample: Dorothy Allison, James Baldwin, Michael Bronski, Pat Califia, George Chauncey Jr., Martin Duberman, Lisa Duggan, John D'Emilio, Allen Ginsberg, Jewelle Gomez, Marga Gomez, Bertha Harris, Essex Hemphill, Amber Holli-baugh, Holly Hughes, Andrew Kopkind, Larry Kramer, Eileen Myles, Jeff Nunokawa, Dale Peck, Vito Russo, Bayard Rustin, Eve Sedgwick, Michelangelo Signorile, Kendall Thomas, Michael Warner, Edmund White, Monique Wittig.

When I joined the paper in 1983, deep and broad LGBT coverage was simply regarded as one of its indisputable duties. The year before I arrived, the Voice had become the first employer in the nation to provide domestic partner benefits to the unionized staff (under the leadership of then staff writer Jeff Weinstein).

Jill Johnston and Arthur Bell at a Gay Pride march, 1971
photo: Fred W. McDarrah
Jill Johnston and Arthur Bell at a Gay Pride march, 1971

I hope the Voice can keep living up to this legacy. I don't smell any conspiracies, just the cautious, compliant scent of the zeitgeist: an increasingly conservative LGBT movement, obsessed with marriage and assimilation, and a liberal print media (and its advertisers) putting their economic hopes in young straight men who are riled by, or at least uninterested in, homos. Meanwhile, virtually all the queer liberationists are gone from the masthead, and the paper is facing a merger with New Times, an enterprise that, to put it kindly, has never been out ahead on LGBT journalism.

There are a million naked stories in the queer city and the Voice knows how to tell them better than anyone. If it wants to.

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