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A Wrinkle in 'Time.' (Magazine Omits Any Mention of Gays or Lesbians in Its 75th Anniversary issue)(Column)

Article excerpt

I SEE THAT GOOD OL' LARRY KRAMER FIRED OFF A LETTER TO Time magazine criticizing the fact that gays and lesbians were blotted out of its big self-congratulatory 75th-anniversary issue [March 91.] I quote: "It's a pretty good trick to publish a 200-page anniversary issue ... and to not once include any of the following words: gay, homosexual, lesbian, AIDS. Congratulations on yet again not representing the real world."

Larry made one error--the word gay was mentioned once. But he's right about Time's egregious oversight in ignoring one of the major civil rights movements and one of the deadliest epidemics in world history.

What could they have been thinking--or not thinking? Let's face it: From the perspective of three quarters of a century, Time Inc.'s record on covering gays has been less than honorable. For half that time we didn't. exist as far as Time and Life were concerned. (What else could one expect with founder Henry Luce, a Victorian-era type who never met a right-winger he didn't like, in charge?) The publications "discovered" gays in the mid 1960s, with a 14-page spread in Life's June 26, 1964, issue that oozed condescension and stereotyping. Time followed two years later with an essay that defined homosexuality as "a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality ... a pernicious sickness."

After the Stonewall riots, Time ran a cover story in October 1969 (my thanks to Edward Alwood's Straight News: Gays, Lesbians, and the News Media for this history) that featured a drag ball whose "swirling belles" would find by morning that "dark stubble will sprout irrepressibly through their Pan-Cake Make-up." That prompted the newly formed Gay Liberation Front to picket the Time-Life Building. Luce died in 1967, and by 1975 the magazine was trying to catch up to the 20th century. It ran a cover featuring a glowing piece on Leonard Matlovich, the gay Air Force sergeant who was suing the military for expelling him.

Since then, gradually Time has come to give a reasonably good account of itself on gay issues. …