Vice Versa (magazine)
Third issue, August 1947
|Publisher||Edith Eyde (Lisa Ben)|
|First issue||June 1947|
|Based in||Los Angeles, California|
Vice Versa (1947–1948), subtitled "America's Gayest Magazine", is the earliest known U.S. periodical published especially for lesbians, as well as the earliest extant example of the lesbian and gay press in that country.
The magazine was the project of Lisa Ben (an anagram of "lesbian"), a secretary at RKO Studios in Los Angeles. By her own account, Ben had "a lot of time to herself" at work and, starting in June 1947, "twice each month typed out five carbons and one original of Vice Versa. She recalled being told by her boss that he didn't care what she was typing, but he wanted her to "look busy" so people at the studio would think he was important.
She described the intention of the magazine being to create "a medium through which we may express our thoughts, our emotions, our opinions- as long as material was 'within the bounds of good taste'".
The nine issues of Vice Versa created by Lisa Ben "combined a unique editorial mix and a highly personal style" and opened up a forum for lesbians to communicate with each other via readers' letters, personal essays, short fiction and poetry. The first issue was 15 pages long; subsequent issues ranged from 9 to 20 pages.
In Unspeakable, his history of the gay and lesbian press in the United States, journalist and historian Rodger Streitmatter noted that Vice Versa "contained no bylines, no photographs, no advertisements, no masthead and neither the name or address of its editor... yet it set the agenda that has defined lesbian and gay journalism for 50 years." As examples of the 'defining qualities' of the magazine, Jim Kepner, founder and curator of the International Gay and Lesbian Archives cites Vice Versa's mix of editorials, short stories, poetry, book and film reviews and a letters column as setting "the pattern that hundreds [of gay and lesbian magazines] have followed".
The publication was free and Ben initially mailed three copies to friends and distributed the rest by hand, encouraging her readers to pass their copies along to friends rather than throwing them away. Ben believes that several dozen people read each copy. Although scrupulous about avoiding material that could be considered "dirty" or risqué, she stopped mailing copies after a friend advised her that she could be arrested for sending obscene material through the mail. Publications addressing homosexuality were automatically deemed obscene under the Comstock Act until 1958.
Ben eventually left her job at RKO and publication of the magazine ceased in 1948.
The editor expressed the hope that "perhaps Vice Versa might be the forerunner of better magazines dedicated to the third sex, which, in some future time, might take their rightful place on the newsstands beside other publications, to be available openly and without restriction."
- Lesbian literature
- List of lesbian periodicals
- Society for Human Rights, publisher of Friendship and Freedom, the earliest known gay publication in the United States (although no copies are known to survive)
- Katz, pp. 618-20.
- Streitmatter, p. 15
- Potter, p.xii.
- Lo, Malinda. "Back in the Day: The Ladder, America's First National Lesbian Magazine" 2005. Retrieved on 2008 March 10.
- Interview with Leyland Moss, Gaysweek (New York), Jan. 23 1978, pp. 15-16
- Ben, quoted in Streitmatter, p4
- Streitmatter, p. 2
- Streitmatter, p. 4
- Kepner, quoted in Streitmatter, p. 2
- Brandt, p. 133
- Murdoch and Price, p. 47
- Ben, quoted in Streitmatter, p. 16
- Brandt, Kate (1993). Happy Endings: Lesbian Writers Talk About Their Lives and Work. Naiad Press. ISBN 1-56280-050-7.
- Katz, Jonathan Ned (1983). Gay/Lesbian Almanac, Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-014968-X.
- Murdoch, Joyce and Deb Price (2001). Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court. New York, Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-01513-1
- Potter, Claire (1986). Lesbian Periodical Index. Naiad Press. ISBN 978-0-930044-74-9.
- Streitmatter, Roger (1995). Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America. Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-19873-2.
- Vice Versa by Lisa Ben at JD Doyle's Queer Music Heritage website, which includes every issue of the historic publication online (June 1947 - Feb. 1948)