Gay Community News (Boston)
|Owner(s)||The Bromfield Street Educational Foundation|
Designed as a resource for the LGBT community, the newspaper reported a wide variety of gay and lesbian-related news. The newspaper's influence was such that it enjoyed a "national reach that was considered the movement's 'paper of record' throughout the '70s, and whose alumni at one point occupied so many leadership roles around the country that they were called the 'GCN mafia'".
Founded as a local newsletter early in the struggle for gay liberation, it was soon expanded into a major newspaper with an international readership. The publication saw itself as part an important vehicle for debating gay rights, feminism, antiracism, multiculturalism, class struggle, prisoners' rights, AIDS, and other causes.
The newspaper's political stance was reflected throughout its reporting. It often served as a place in which liberals and radicals in LGBT groups debated conflicting agendas. An article entitled "Gay Revolutionary", published in 1987, led to claims from the conservative right that the newspaper promoted a "homosexual agenda" to destroy heterosexuality and traditional values.
The premier issue of Gay Community News was published out of the Charles Street Meeting House on June 17, 1973, as a two-page mimeograph, at first titled "Gay Community Newsletter". In less than a year, Gay Community News developed from a two-page mimeograph to an eight-page, tabloid-style newsprint, and moved its office to 22 Bromfield Street. The first issue was loosely organized into sections titled Events, Volunteers, Needs, Notices, and Directory. The editors introduced the very first newsletter by stating:
"There has been a long standing need in the Boston gay community for improved communication between the various gay organizations and gay individuals. The lack of coverage in the "straight" press has added to this problem of getting necessary information to our community. Gay groups have attempted to overcome this problem by newsletters to their members, but this has led to duplicated efforts with vast portions of the community left uninformed events until after they have passed." The Gay Community Newsletter is meant to solve this problem. The purpose will be to list all of the events and information of interest to the gay community in one publication. This will not be a literary publication. We are fortunate to already have several serving the community. We feel weekly publication will be necessary to fill this need for quick current information.
On March 8, 1975, the newspaper made two major changes: it began distributing color copies, and publishers expanded distribution to a regional level. In 1978, the membership of Gay Community News voted to become a national newspaper in both its focus and distribution.
"Gay Revolutionary" article
In 1987, Michael Swift published an article in the Gay Community News entitled "Gay Revolutionary". The newspaper's editors had requested that Swift write an article as satirical proof of the so-called "gay agenda" that conservative right-wing Christians were establishing. Thirty years after the article's publishing date, conservative religious groups continue to quote "Gay Revolutionary", but omit the crucial first line of the piece, "This essay is an outré, madness, a tragic, cruel fantasy, an eruption of inner rage, on how the oppressed desperately dream of being the oppressor." The original article has come to be known as The Homosexual Manifesto.
The Prisoner Project was initiated in 1975, coming as a result of the staff member Mike Riegle, who responded to letters sent by prisoners to the Gay Community News and granted them free newspaper subscriptions. The project grew to a larger scale, with The Bromfield Street Educational Foundation sending prisoners books, providing legal assistance, and receiving and publishing letters and about homophobia, racism, and sexism in prisons. In 1977, The Bromfield Street Educational Foundation and the National Gay Task Force joined together to sue the federal prison system and won the right for prisoners to receive gay publications in jail. Although the verdict came in 1980, The Bromfield Street Educational Foundation continued to spend subsequent years advocating on behalf of prisoners who were denied copies of the Gay Community News and other LGBTQ publications. Starting in 1981, a regular prisoners' column was published in every edition of the Gay Community News.
End of the newspaper
By 1991, the newspaper "was the oldest, continuously published gay newspaper that had a national audience." It had ten people on staff and was publishing issues of 20 pages. In spite of "a strong readership", it had financial difficulties. As a result, it stopped publishing on July 3, 1992. The revived Gay Community News was published bimonthly as a 28- to 32-page tabloid-style publication. In April 1993, the first new edition of the paper was distributed at the gay pride march in Washington, D.C. The final issue of the Gay Community News was published in 1999.
- Regular contributor Amy Hoffman wrote of her time at the newspaper in her 2007 book An Army of Ex-Lovers: My Life at the Gay Community News.
- Former Gay Community News employee and LGBTQ+ activist Nancy Walker is interviewed about her experiences working for the paper on Season 6, Episode 4 of Making Gay History.
- "How Boston powered the gay rights movement". The Boston Globe.
- "Rainbow Alliance, ''The Gay Agenda: How the Conservative Religious Right Created a Lie''". Rainbowallianceopenfaith.homestead.com. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
- "Archives and Special Collections Finding Aids: Community Resources for Justice Records." Northeastern University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections, July 2013. Web. Accessed 06 March 2017.
- Gay Revolutionary Article
- Boston LGBT History Resources (The Mike Riegle Papers).
- An Army of Ex-Lovers: My life at the Gay Community News.
- The Bromfield Street Educational Foundation records, 1968-1999 (bulk 1985-1993) are located in the Northeastern University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department, Boston, MA.
- Gay Community News Collection (partial run, 1973-1988) housed by The History Project, Boston, MA.
- Gay Community News Photograph Collection