Thursday, May 30, 2013

before stonewall, after 1899 part 6 : the latter

Okay, I'm on a roll with these early LGBT publications. I talked about Henry Gerber's Friendship and Freedom, One magazine and Lisa Ben's Vise Versa but there was another one called the latter. The Latter was the first nationally distributed lesbian magazine in the U.S. It was published by the Lesbian organization the Daughters of Bilitis. It ran from 1956 to 1970. In the beginning it was a newsletter of around a dozen pages produced on a typewriter, copied by mimeograph and hand stapled. It featured short stories, poetry, news, book reviews, letters to the editor and minutes from Daughters of Bilitis meetings.
    By 1957 The Latter had 400 subscribers Nationwide, one of whom was African-American playwright Lorraine Hansberry who is best known for her play A Raisin in the Sun. The Latter became a sort of lifeline for Lesbians across America as indicated by a letter Ms. Hansberry wrote to the editor in 1957. In it she said ''I'm glad as heck you exist'' and the letter was published in it's entirety.
    In 1963 the editorship changed hands and the magazine took on a more political tone. A subtitle was added that read ''A Lesbian Review.'' Photographs of women began to appear on the now slicker and more polished cover to give a ''face'' to Lesbianism and articles on the new ''homophile'' White House pickets were printed. Yes, Gays and Lesbians had begun picketing the White House before Stonewall, too!
    The Latter was not immune to in-fighting and vehement disagreements about direction and in 1966 the new radical editor got the boot! By 1970 the Daughters of Bilitis disbanded. Members fought over whether or not to align themselves with male controlled Gay organizations and the growing Women's movement and it's National Organization for Women[NOW]. The Latter did manage to publish sporadic issues throughout 1971 and 72 before it too shut-down.
    I personally think that the 1970's ushered in a new energy and a new generation of LGBT activisim and the decline of The Latter, and One magazine, was just a reflection of that. It was neither good or bad, it just was.

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