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Journalism and Publishing  
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For many gay men and lesbians, the printed page is one of the chief builders of identity and community. Hence, the gay and lesbian press is of prime importance in sustaining a frequently embattled minority. Newspapers and periodicals directed to the gay and lesbian community not only distribute information about local events and national and world news of interest to its audience, but they also function as the principal link many readers have with other gay men and lesbians.

They typically document the local gay and lesbian scene while also serving as a vital lifeline connecting isolated readers to the larger gay and lesbian social and political movement. Those gay men and lesbians who lack easy access to major cities or other centers of community depend especially on gay and lesbian journalists for a necessary link with others of a like identity.

Pre-Stonewall Invisibility of Gay Men and Lesbians

Before Stonewall, gay men and lesbians found little material readily available from people who shared their identity. The mainstream media rarely presented work of gay and lesbian interest, and when they did, they invariably approached the subject from a heterosexual viewpoint, contributing to the presumption that there was no substantial lesbian and gay male population.

Moreover, on the infrequent occasions when gay men and lesbians received attention in the mass media, they tended to be portrayed in stereotypical and sensationalistic terms. The invisibility of gay men and lesbians in newspapers and other media fostered their isolation and oppression.

Indeed, the development of viable gay and lesbian communities, to say nothing of a mass movement for social justice, was made possible only by the creation of a gay and lesbian press, which helped transform an illicit, almost exclusively sexually oriented subculture into a broadly based mainstream movement.

The Earliest Alternative Media

Among the earliest stirrings of an alternative media addressing gay and lesbian issues occurred in Prussia in the 1890s. Magnus Hirschfeld founded his Wissenschaftlich-humanitare Kommittee (Scientific Humanitarian Committee) to awaken thought about German laws on homosexuality. From this group in 1899 came Jarhbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen, the first scholarly journal for the study of concerns of interest to homosexuals.

Other German publications proliferated throughout the early decades of the twentieth century; among them was one directed toward lesbians, Freundin. Two French journals also appeared quite early, Akademos, which was published monthly during 1909 by Count Adelswärd Fersen, and Inversions, which appeared briefly in 1925 before being suppressed by the police.

Hitler's regime likewise suppressed the publications of the German gay and lesbian movement and destroyed much of Hirschfeld's research; nevertheless, other European groups dedicated to understanding homosexuality and to increasing tolerance for gay men and lesbians arose, and they frequently published newsletters and other periodicals. The journal Der Kreis (The Circle) began publishing in 1932 in Zurich, and, after World War II, Vriendschap (Friendship) and Lesbos were established in Holland.

In the United States, communication was spread through sporadic leaflets and short-lived newspapers such as Friendship and Freedom, which Henry Gerber distributed in Chicago in 1925. Gerber, who served in the American army of occupation in the Rhineland after World War I, was deeply influenced by the German homosexual emancipation movement.

On December 10, 1924, the state of Illinois granted a charter to his Society for Human Rights, the first documented gay rights organization in the United States. The Society managed to publish two issues of its periodical before Gerber and several of his associates were arrested and charged with spurious crimes. In 1925, advocacy of gay rights was dangerous, and a gay press was subject to persecution and suppression, a state of affairs that continued for some time.

The Post-World War II Gay and Lesbian Press

An American gay and lesbian press did not materialize until after World War II, when conditions for the growth of a gay and lesbian community were somewhat improved. Nine issues of a newsletter called Vice Versa appeared in Los Angeles in 1947 and 1948.

Edited and mostly written by the pseudonymous Lisa Ben (an anagram for Lesbian) and intended to provide an opportunity for lesbians to express their thoughts and feelings, Vice Versa featured film, music, and book reviews, occasional stories and articles, and editorials on various aspects of lesbian life.

In the 1950s, the establishment of the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis led to the proliferation of other publications.

The Mattachine Society was the most important pre-Stonewall gay organization in the United States. It was founded in Los Angeles in 1951 by Henry Hay and other radical leftists, but it was soon to evolve into a moderate, accommodationist organization. Its evolution was itself a defensive reaction to the virulent that characterized the 1950s, when homosexuals and other "deviants" were often scapegoated by the McCarthyite crusade against communism.

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