This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Categories||American gay-related lifestyle magazine|
|Publisher||RFD Press, Inc.|
|First issue||Autumn 1974|
|Based in||Hadley, MA|
RFD: A Country Journal for Gay Men Everywhere is a reader-written magazine focused on gay country-living and alternative lifestyles. Founded in 1974, the magazine has been edited at various locations and by different communities over the course of its existence, currently published on a quarterly basis from New England. While predating the Radical Faeries movement, it has long been associated with it. The magazine has billed itself as "a country journal by gay men" "for country faggots everywhere." Among the notable writers featured in RFD has been the poet Essex Hemphill.
The magazine began with group of gay male Iowans who attempted to place an advertisement in the countercultural Mother Earth News, about organizing the gay-centered commune Running Water Farm. The ad was rejected on the grounds that the magazine did not run gay-themed advertisements.
The initial organizers of the commune began pursuing publication of their own magazine, as a means of communicating with other rural collectives and gay men living outside of cities. Stewart Scofield presented this idea to the Rural Caucus of the first Midwest Gay Pride Conference in Iowa City in May 1974. By that fall, a collective of gay men centered in Iowa City had developed the magazine, and arranged with the Women's Press there to print it. The publication's first mailing address was in Grinnell, Iowa, where Stewart lived.
According to Donald Engstrom, one of the early Iowa-based founders, the collective wrote and sent copies of the early issues to every gay campus group they could find, as well as to their gay friends in other areas. The first issues of the magazine continued in this "pass along" basis, and was well received by its intended readers.
The early founders, described in issue #6 as "a collective of Iowa faggots" published RFD for its first two years. When lovers Carl Wittman and Allan Troxler moved to Wolf Creek, Oregon they became part of a collective there, where the magazine was then published for many years. The publication's production moved to North Carolina's Running Water Farm in 1980. It moved to Short Mountain Sanctuary in Liberty, Tennessee in the mid-1980s, and then in 2009 to a small collective associated with Faerie Camp Destiny in New England.
As of Spring 2016, the magazine was on issue #165, published on a quarterly schedule.
The publication's name is formally just RFD, currently subtitled A Country Journal for Gay Men Everywhere. "RFD" was originally conceived as the well-known abbreviation for Rural Free Delivery, the residential mail service provided by the USPS beginning in the early 1900s, reflecting the "country living" aesthetic of the magazine. Later, as the magazine came to be associated with the counterculture Radical Faeries movement, the name became widely thought of as an abbreviation of Radical Faerie Digest (an ironic take on the mainstream Reader's Digest), but this was never formalized. Instead, the publishers have adopted the practice of assigning a new expansion of the initials to each issue, such as Really Feeling Decadent, Ranting For Days, or Richly Festooned Drawing.
The RFD website states that "RFD is a reader-written journal for gay men which focuses on country living and encourages alternative lifestyles. Articles often explore the building of a sense of community, radical faerie consciousness, caring for the environment, as well as sharing gay men’s experiences." Having begun publication 1974, RFD is the oldest reader-written gay quarterly magazine. Quarterly issues of the work are 64 full-color pages and produced by volunteers. The business and general production are coordinated by a collective, and the magazine is printed in Hadley, Massachusetts.
The development of the radical faeries involved the convergence of a number of distinct social trends in the 1970s. RFD magazine started in 1974, during a time Becky Thompson cites as a major moment in which affinity groups came together to protest the oppression they experienced due to their intersectional identities. RFD works to create queer communities in rural areas, a goal that was not acknowledged by hetero-activists before them. The socialist and feminist movement came together in the development of an ideology of gay male egalitarianism that remains a central part of the radical faeries culture. As the radical faerie movement gained ground, radical faeries used RFD to promote various gatherings and other radical faerie events.
The Summer 2004 edition of RFD is titled, "30+ What Does the Future Hold". In this edition, RFD discusses how the magazine defines itself and navigates between rural and city environments,
"Ever wonder who the "RFD Collective" is? Surprise! We all are. Be you in the country, the city or some other planet, if you read/write/design for this publication, you have a vested interest in its success. Being one of many voices for the queer community, a place for us to explore and express ourselves, RFD has been gifted with many talented journalists, editors, and artists…." (pg. 1)
— RFD Issue #118
Because RFD is a reader-written work, it relies on the experiences and thoughts of those who subscribe to the work. In this way the magazine remains fluid and changing depending on its readership. Large portions of the work consist of dialogue between reader and writer. This can be seen most pertinently in the personal add section and the "Brothers Behind Bars" section.
RFD also navigates social and political topics, "Through war, social injustice, prison reform, global manipulation and sexual inequities we are placed on the front line of a worldwide shift of values." RFD deems it their responsibility to report on these issues, and makes a point of recognizing why and for whom this is important, "Through it all RFD will take on the challenge (not a new thing) of reporting, changes as they happen, providing a cross-fire format for unique voices, and giving credence to our history, our humor and magik."
From the conception of RFD to today, the publication has always been a political magazine. The act of creating a reader-written magazine for rural queers is in itself a political act.
RFD interacts with the politics of its time. One could see RFD as an archive for language used in and for queer communities. The magazine can also be seen as an archive of queer political and personal issues.
In the fall of 2004 (issue #119) RFD published two particularly political essays. One was titled, "Why Soldiers Rape and Why Gay Men Should Care". This article focuses on rape culture in the military, and is one of the first publication that speaks out against patriarchal structures that exist and are perpetuated by the military. The other article was titled, "The Federal Marriage Amendment Counter Curse". This article is a call to action, asking for queer communities to vote against an amendment to the United States marriage policy.
"When the President and every radically conservative organization in the country decided to declare war against queer people by trying to amend the constitution of the United States… This November we will go to vote, and voting is a magikal act - one of the most transformative acts possible in a democratic… The proposed Constitutional amendment is at right. Burn it. Banish it. Tell it that it doesn’t exist in this world… Replace it with a vision of love. Talk to people, tell them that a vicious hateful thing is happening, and that we can’t allow it to continue. Cast a spell in the ballot box and vote against hate. Wake up, get out and change the world." (pg. 30)
— RFD Issue #119
RFD is a way for rural gay communities to interact in a safer space. By using the magazine as a political platform, its writers are prescribing political awareness onto queer rural identities.
Rural to Urban
RFD started as a magazine made for and produced by queer men in rural communities. Queer communities have remained firmly located in the urban, particularly the metropolitan, and have only recently become more acknowledge in the countryside. Despite the fact that queer people are located around the globe and throughout the United States, LGBTQ publications have been primarily focused on urban queer life. This may be because rural areas are often presented as settings for traditional and hegemonic sexualities.
"Give me your tired, poor-ole drag queens,/ Your huddled faeries yearning to breathe free,/ The radical refuse of queers who have more,/ Send these, the freaks, tempest tossed to me,/ I lift my lamp guiding them to sanctuary" 
Although the magazine maintains its rural location (RFD is currently being published in Hadley, Massachusetts) it recognizes the need for inter-community connection and consciousness raising.
Understanding Queer Experiences
RFD begins to become more intersectional in its approach to acknowledging identity politics around 1999, in its "the 25th year" magazine. In this publication there is an article published titled, "The Satanic Transgender Politics".
"Ironically the gay community, despite all of its past persecutions, is intolerant towards some of its own subgroups, displaying toward them cruel self-righteousness that mirrors the bigotry of Christians toward all sodomites. I am referring particularly to the intolerance that many mainstream gays have for transvestites and shemales , those whose inner urgings draw them into a life between genders… I have written this article in hopes that others, perhaps even one person, will respond in a similar vein… we may find networks of support to foster our sense of independence and self esteem."
— RFD Issue #97
The author acknowledges the lack of representation for gender queer individuals who are a part of the RFD community and beyond. The author of this piece makes a call to action, asking that the members of RFD create a safer space for gender queer people within the magazine.
In Issue #106 published in 2001, RFD published an article titled, "Recognizing Privilege". This article acknowledges intersectionality in the forms of class, race, gender, and sexuality. The author first talks about the separation between class lines which occurs in queer communities,
"...I have learned that the Gay and Lesbian Community is not interested in playing on the same field as straight or gay working class Americans, much less people of color, people in poverty, or - Harvey Milk forbid - third world peoples... However, in spite of our fine intentions, our own privilege and prejudices continue to invade our attitudes and actions… Someone from a much lower class background than most of us would likely have to navigate a lot of weird unchecked prejudices in order to benefit from the sanctuary we provide."
— RFD Issue #106
In this text the author acknowledges their own privilege and later acknowledges the struggle for those with identities who's oppression goes beyond exclusively homophobia and/or misogyny. Later he says, "I’d also love to open up more general conversations about what we queers with some measure of privilege are doing with said privilege." By asking for continued intersectional consciousness raising, the author of this work is making important strides for the relevance of RFD's feminist goals.
Over 50 archives around the world have copies of the RFD magazine, however, only three of these archives are complete. RFD has sent out a call for people with copies of the work to contribute to this archival project. The publication is also making an effort to digitize each of the RFD issues. An archive of the magazine covers published between 1974 and 2012 can be found at the Radical Faerie organization website.
- Issue #12 cover
- Issue #3 cover
- Sears, James Thomas (Jul 1, 2001). Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South. Rutgers University Press. pp. 142–147. ISBN 9780813529646.
- Wilson, Warren (December 19, 1998). "History of the Radical Faerie movement in W. North Carolina and its Presence Today". Retrieved 20 June 2012. (based in part on Patt, Rocco (Running Water Farm co-founder). Personal Interview. 8 Dec. 1998.)
- "RFD Magazine". www.rfdmag.org. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
- "Welcome Home". radfae.org. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
- "RFD Magazine". www.rfdmag.org. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
- "The Walt Whitman Archive". whitmanarchive.org. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
- "RFD Magazine covers 1974 – 2012". radfae.org. Retrieved 2017-10-27.