Printed Voices of the Salt Lake City LGBT Community in the Early 1990s

by BRIAN ROBLES

A newspaper’s success is heavily dependent on the character and strength of the people behind the scenes. This is especially true of the alternative press, including newspapers targeted for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. Without a large group of readers and subscribers, it would make printing and distributing a heavy cost not easily paid. Luckily, there are people who are willing to champion this cause. In recent years, Salt Lake City has become one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the U.S., which contrasts with the city’s conservative image. (Breen) This is in part due to the LGBT community that pioneered for a voice.

Tracy Baim, an award-winning journalist in the gay community, wrote in her book, Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America, that:

There is a reason a gay press was needed. When the media of the previous two centuries were not wholly ignoring everything about homosexuals and the growing gay-rights movement, they were doing far worse: moralizing, demonizing, criminalizing, medicalizing, “repairing,” proselytizing, polarizing, ostracizing and often just pitying those poor, sad, pathetic “avowed” homosexuals. (Baim, 15)

Gay media were able to supply the LGBT community with something that it desperately needed: gay news that was relevant to the community. Because the mainstream media tended to show the gay lifestyle in a negative light, it was important for readers to have somewhere to turn for reinforcement that it was OK to be gay. The gay press was able to provide role models and inspirational authors who were able to help readers find a positive self-image. A study on the effects of media on gay identity states that without these role models there “was a sense of being excluded from traditional society.” (Gomillion and Giuliano, 347) Without the gay press, the LGBT community of Salt Lake City would have found themselves as outsiders with no room for their alternative lifestyle.

The purpose of this project is to illustrate the crucial role that the writers, editors, and publishers of certain Salt Lake City publications played in creating a voice for the LGBT community in the early 1990s. Their staunch support and willingness to represent this minority demographic enabled the LGBT community to have its issues gain public awareness. Highlighted are the attempts by these editors and publishers to draw the lay public into action.

Excerpts from three publications that were published through the early 1990s in Salt Lake City will be presented and interpreted in this article. These publications were: The Bridge, Outfront Review, and The Pillar of the Gay Community. The editors and publishers of these papers reflected on specific LGBT issues at the beginning of each publication, which helped set the tone of that particular publication. Their blurbs, pieces, and publications provided a place for these community contributors to try to bring the LGBT voice of out complacency and to bring the community together as a collective chorus that would assure that their voices would be heard.

The Bridge

Starting in 1990, a monthly publication called The Bridge, and its copublishers Becky Moorman and Alice Hart, brought the call to action and urgency to the Salt Lake City LGBT community. The forceful tone found throughout the publications present LGBT issues that demand to be heard. The Publishers’ Notes varied from introductions of the month’s publication to celebrations of queer culture to short shout-outs to close friends. These Publishers’ Notes are how we see just how deeply invested Moorman and Hart were in their community. According to the note in the second issue of The Bridge, published in November 1990:

Besides being a service to the gay and lesbian communities of Utah, The Bridge is Utah’s watchdog to the arts (and art censors): literary and visual. And if you don’t believe they need guarding; you don’t get out much. America’s art, music, and culture are going to the congressional dogs, and the constitution right along with it.

From the beginning, Moorman and Hart showed a penchant for the political. This was a publication that had publishers who were not willing to let their community be voiceless any longer.

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Cover of The Bridge. This publication, and others discussed in this article, are available at the Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

The Bridge was a call to action for the LGBT community. The publishers were not merely interested in presenting alternative news; they wanted to shape their history and society. The editors and publishers of The Bridge believed that involvement was the way to bring change. But that is not to say that Moorman and Hart were solely interested in what affected the LGBT community. In the sixth issue, published in March 1991, Moorman and Hart wrote to their readers regarding pending legislation — The Hate Crimes Statistics Act and Anti-Abortion laws. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act, which was ultimately adopted in 1992, required the state to collect and publish the hate crimes committed in the state. Pro-life versus pro-choice was also a hot topic at the time with the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case discussing abortion. In this sixth issue, the editors were not afraid to show where they stood nor were they afraid to push their readers to action:

“Be sure to voice your support for the Hate Crimes Statistic Bill and to mention how disgusted you are with the new anti-abortion law. Remember to boycott Utah. Cancel your conferences. Encourage everyone you know out of state not to travel here, spend money or do business with Utah companies until the unconstitutional ban on choice is lifted. Gut and burn any cars you see with anti-choice bumper stickers. Or if you’re a republican pro-lifer, bomb an abortion clinic for Jesus. There’s no one in them right now; which makes it less fun, but infinitely safer.”

This use of language — asking the readers to participate in boycotts and the like — was to encourage readers to come out and start taking an active role in their community. While this call for boycotting and law breaking was strong, the idea itself proves to be a radical one and may have perhaps alienated some of the readers of these notes. The other issue with boycotting Salt Lake City as a whole is that it would hurt the LGBT community just as much as the general population. A powerfully emotional, and perhaps too zealous, call to action can prove to be more detrimental than helpful in this case.

As mentioned, not all of the Publishers’ Notes were written in this authoritative call to action, but it was the urge for readers to become one of their community, to shirk their fear of retaliation due to the way they chose to love, that made The Bridge such an important publication. The February 1992 issue featured one of the more powerful calls to raise the voice of the LGBT community:

Love & Hate — this is the month for it! Hate Radio! Hate Crimes! Hate legislation! Homosexuals are the fashionable to-hates. The last sanctioned discrimination. Legislators, churches hide behind silence and exclusion — tacitly financing violence. Stop the straight war on gay love. No one can afford to be a fence-sitter. Violence is everyone’s problem. We can only stop it by saying STOP in as loud a voice as we can. Ask everyone. TELL everyone. They don’t have a right to NOT have an opinion. Don’t be complacent. Don’t let anyone be complacent. They may not like you for it now. Equality is contagious. If you keep on person from being silent – other’s will speak up. Others will listen. Silence is death. There may be blood on your hands for every time you heard gays talked about, joked about, whatever and didn’t say STOP!

Here Moorman and Hart explain that it’s not only a right, but also an obligation to raise one’s voice and to participate. They take a stand against those who don’t walk their talk. Discrimination of any kind is kept in power by the silence of the people who may oppose it in their hearts but never lend their voices to the cause. As a member of a community, one has certain responsibilities. If readers chose to read this particular publication and be a part of the community, it was their responsibility to become an active member to help further the progress of the LGBT movement in Salt Lake City.

Image courtesy of J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

Image courtesy of the Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

Outfront Review

The second publication of focus is the bi-monthly publication Outfront Review, originally Out Front Magazine, whose editor provided a more unified vision to their readers. Throughout the years, Editor Randy Richardson used a voice that seemed more suggestive than authoritative in the call to arms for the LGBT community of Salt Lake. While reviewing the Editor’s Notes in these publications, it’s found that Richardson spoke more with an appeal to pathos in contrast to Moorman and Hart’s lean to logos.

Like The Bridge, Outfront Review called for the LGBT public to participate in politics in order to gain awareness and make political strides. Outfront Review presented this same line of thinking in November 1992 when Richardson wrote:

“When you VOTE, remember all those who have gone before us and died needlessly because we had no rights. Remember all of those who never had a chance because AIDS was a Gay disease. Do it in remembrance of all those who have fought hard all of these years to get us to where we are today … think of all of our children … what future will they have, what legacy shall we leave them?

“PLEASE VOTE. We know you are out there, and that you do really care!”

This piece shows that appeal to emotion in the mention of children and the dead but its plea is similar to that of The Bridge in that the editor still seeks participation from the community.

The second issue, published in November 1992 discussed the role of the community in politics. The Editor’s Note addressed the need for the community to come together rather than remain segregated into gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or transgender individuals ­— an issue that continues even today. Editor Richardson wrote: “Perhaps we need to look at forming a united gay and lesbian alliance … so that we can discuss things together, in an open forum … and then vote to obtain a majority opinion, speaking with one voice, representative of … and in … the best interest of our desires, goals and objectives as a community.”

The Pillar

Image courtesy of J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

Image courtesy of the Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

This brings us to The Pillar of the Gay Community (The Pillar for short), which began publishing in 1993 with a specific demographic in mind — gay men. As The Pillar grew in popularity, it became apparent that the niche it filled could be inclusive to all of the LGBT community. The paper started to expand its role in the LGBT community, which can be seen in the paper’s changing tagline. For example, it started as a publication for “For Utah Mehn,” [sic] then billed itself as being for the “Lesbian and Gay Community” before broadening its focus to the “the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Community” of Salt Lake. The Pillar was the longest lived of the three publications presented in this article and continued publication until 2007. Its longevity may be due to its mix of LGBT news, entertainment, and flat out in-your-face attitude. Here, in the paper’s debut issue published April 1993, the writers set the record straight on what they will contribute to their community — and what the community could expect in future issues:

Why another paper in an over-developed market such as Salt Lake City you might ask? Great Question! We at The Pillar feel that there is a “hole” that is not being filled in the Gay Media and we hop to plug it! With the demise of The Bridge, and the Outfront, a group of us desired to compliment The Womyn’s Community Newsletter by mirroring them in our Mehn’s community. We are not out to offend anyone but get use to seeing Faggot, Dyke, and Queer in print and some outrageous Gay consciousness raising at times. We are firm proponents of the Gay Human Rights and we make no apologies for being homosexually proactive.

As mentioned in the note above, The Bridge and Outfront Review had both closed their doors, leaving a gap for this publication to fill.

The Pillar seemed to combine the best aspects of both The Bridge and Outfront Review. In the premier issue, readers were introduced to what they could expect from The Pillar — an unapologetic, authoritative use of language, which is reminiscent of the pieces published in The Bridge. But then The Pillar also adopted that same desire for unity that The Bridge sought, as seen in the “From The Editor” piece by Kim Russo in the December 1995 issue:

Too many times and on too many occasions when we have had a conflict or could not come to an agreement as an organization, we tended to “eat our own.” Instead of resolving differences or understanding that we can disagree and still function as a group or organization, anger took its turn and we “ate our own.” Torie Osborne coined that phrase and I resolved never to forget it. She said that in gay and lesbian communities around the nation, when conflict occurred, members would turn against each other and tear the other one down. How right Torie is. Therefore, resolve to be fair and not too critical. You know of all communities that should stick together because they have personally experienced their own kind of pain, it is us. Indeed may we stand together through it all.

This piece echoes Richardson’s note from Outfront Review, showing us that there was, and is, still the need for the community to band together.

Conclusion

The Editor’s Notes and Publisher’s Notes are often missed or skipped over for the traditional news and entertainment articles. This is a problem as these notes and additions to periodicals reveal so much emotion in them and provide insight to why the LGBT publications existed in the first place. The stories found between the covers of the publications discussed here held many of the same qualities found throughout great journalistic articles, but these notes presented something similar to a dialogue, which helped make these documents relevant even after nearly two decades. It was like reading a letter from a dear friend. They provided summaries of what had happened, and hopes of what may come, and always pushed readers to be better in their community and their lives.

The efforts by the influential people of the time helped make the LGBT community as strong as it is today. There’s still work to be done and maybe today’s publications, like QSaltLake, will be what The Bridge, Outfront Review, and The Pillar were for the LGBT community in the early 1990s. There’s still a need for gay press to spur the people into action, to inform them of what rights they have (or don’t), and to unite the factions within the LGBT community.

Brian Robles is a senior at The University of Utah. He is majoring in mass communication.

Sources

Kim Russo, “From The Editor,” The Pillar of the Gay Community, December 1995, 6.

Kim Russo, “From The Editor,” The Pillar of the Gay Community, May 1994, 2.

“Premier Issue,” The Pillar of the Gay Community, April 1993, 1.

Randy Richardson, “Editor’s Note,” Outfront Review, November 15-30, 1992, 2.

Randy Richardson, “Editor’s Note,” Outfront Review, November 1-15, 1992, 3.

Randy Richardson, “Editor’s Note,” Outfront Review, July 15-31, 1992, 3.

Alice Hart and Becky Moorman, “Publishers’ Note,” The Bridge, February, 1992, 5.

Alice Hart and Becky Moorman, “Publishers’ Note,” The Bridge, March, 1991, 4.

Alice Hart and Becky Moorman, “Publishers’ Note,” The Bridge, November, 1990, 3.

Baim, Tracy and John D’Emilio. Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012.

Breen, Matthew. “Gayest Cities in America,” The Advocate, January 9, 2012.

Gomillion, Sarah C. and Traci A. Giuliano. “The Influence of Media Role Models on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Identity.” Journal of Homosexuality 58, no. 3 (2011): 330-54.

 

 

 

 

 

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