Academic journal article Journalism History

Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America

Academic journal article Journalism History

Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America

Article excerpt

Streitmatter, Rodger. Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1995. 424 pp. $27.95.

Rodger Streitmatter, a professor of journalism at American University, has written a history of the lesbian and gay press in America since World War II that is an important new resource for media studies and journalism history teachers and courses.

Streitmatter tells the story of the earliest postwar publications, published in the shadow of official and social hostility, through careful reading of extant copies and revealing interviews with surviving gay and lesbian journalists. He takes seriously the point of view of a pioneering activist lesbian editor: "The true experts on homosexuality-then as well as now-are homosexuals."

Decade by decade, he shows the forces at work and the tensions in the emerging lesbian and gay communities. One gains new understanding of the McCarthy era of the 1950s by reading about the lesbian and gay periodicals of that virulent time.

The book is rich in its discoveries and insights. It describes a fascinating linkage between the Black Panthers and activists in the early gay political movement, as well as an unwillingness of eastern publications to challenge the mafia control of bars. Streitmatter shows that key eastern publications responded to the AIDS crisis in a community-spirited way while their San Francisco counterparts protected the businesses that benefited from gay sexual activity and undermined the work of organizations that fought the epidemic. In other ways, he shows how the press served to resist as well as to foster change. …

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