Whether advocating for gay-marriage rights, reviewing gay porn, or celebrating two young men attending a high school prom together almost a quarter-century later on — “We’re not paid actors. We are real homosexuals” — Voice writers have long been at the forefront of LGBTQ coverage.
We begin with Howard Cruse’s cartoon The Gay in the Street, from June 28, 1984, an issue devoted to “The Future of Gay Life.” Cruse had made a name for himself in the 1970s and ’80s as an underground cartoonist and as editor of the straightforwardly titled anthology Gay Comix. On the Voice pages he envisions a young man telling a television reporter, “Lesbian nuptials will be incorporated subtly into Cagney and Lacey plots!”
In 1993, longtime Voice editor (and food critic) Jeff Weinstein noted, “When I came out, more than two decades ago, I found I could develop a sense of myself that allowed me to ask startlingly obvious questions, such as, why should anyone be paid less for the same work? Why can’t anyone capable adopt children?” Under an X-Acto knife collage that portrayed Jeff as both bride and groom, he went on to point out an important piece of Village Voice history: “When I began to work at the Voice, others asked these questions with me and we won, in a 1982 union contract, the nation’s first health coverage for — lacking sweeter language — ‘spousal equivalents.’ ”
Another instance of the Voice getting the progressive word out before anyone else.
In 1994 the Voice ran a special section, “Stonewall 25,” and invited the likes of Allen Ginsberg to contribute. The Beat icon enthused, “Stonewall’s cry echoed round the world!” and went on to note, “Legendary gay bars owned by organized crime paid off the New York police, and if they didn’t they were closed down. Something went wrong with the payoffs at Stonewall Inn. So the customary repression of gay social life was motiv’d by hypocritical greed & sadism. As the sign says: GAY PROHIBITION CORRUPTS COP$ AND FEED$ MAFIA.”
On the same page, CUNY professor Martin Duberman covered the various ways the press had reported on Stonewall more than two decades earlier: “We didn’t even get to cover our own riot. Which is no surprise. In a heterosexual universe, it had long been assumed that gay men and lesbians were not reliable witnesses of their lives (let alone anything else.) Our experience had to be explained to us, the ‘experts’ of the day insisted, for we lacked the ‘needed objectivity,’ and our ‘pathology’ further compromised our ability to see straight (as it were).… Even the countercultural Village Voice — itself at the journalistic center of ’60s protest — saw nothing out of the ordinary in allowing two heterosexual reporters to cover the outbreak of gay rioting at a Greenwich Village bar, the Stonewall Inn. The lead sentence in Lucian Truscott IV’s piece referred to the sudden ‘specter’ of gay power having ‘erected its brazen head and spat out a fairy tale the likes of which the area has never seen.’ In his second sentence, he referred to ‘forces of faggotry.’ ”
A few pages on, arts editor and photo critic Vince Aletti deconstructed gay porn: “In New York, it’s the Latin angle that seems most resonant. Maybe that’s because the city has a long history of cross-cultural Caribbean connections and that melting pot really boils over when sex is added to the mix. Or maybe it has something to do with the fuck-anything-that-moves stereotype; when it comes to polymorphous perversity, Puerto Rico is definitely in the house.”
Another entry in that issue’s “Forbidden Games” section was Donna Minkowitz’s essay on the transgressions of “Dyke Daddy” play: “Lesbians eroticizing Daddy is about as taboo as straight men declaring they want to be sodomized by Tinkerbell — it doesn’t mesh with the image we struggle to maintain. But in the past few years, Daddy/boy (or girl) erotic role-playing has emerged in the lesbian community — even among women who don’t normally walk on the wild side.”
In her essay “Gay Rites,” the poet, novelist, and performer Eileen Myles covered lesbian nuptials beamed in from Denmark that had a deep Big Apple connection: “Sometimes you stay around long enough to see things you missed. Whole decades come back, and this is actually the most orienting thing that can happen in New York, a city that’s so utterly about people and time and the prestige certain individuals continually resonate. Jill Johnston, 64, and Ingrid Nyeboe, 46, are beaming, walking up the stairs with a shower of confetti falling down on them. This is all taking place on one of several monitors in a large apartment in Soho one night last fall. For those new in town, Johnston is the author of the anarchic masterpiece of ’70s feminism, Lesbian Nation. She was also a legendary Voice columnist who made a career of being there and writing about it.”
An apt description, not only of Johnston but of many other Voice writers on the LBGTQ beat — past, present, and future.