Empowerment in Print: LGBTQ Activism, Pride and Lust

March – September 2018

Curated by Joanna Black and Jeremy Prince

“Empowerment in Print: LGBTQ Activism, Pride and Lust” highlighted the history and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer periodicals produced in Northern California from the 1940s through the 2000s. The exhibition drew on the world-class collection of more than 5,000 periodical titles preserved in the archives of the GLBT Historical Society.

“From sober to sleek, from coy to explicit, from apolitical to militant, these publications demonstrate some of the myriad ways LGBTQ people have found empowerment in print,” note co-curators Joanna Black and Jeremy Prince. “The exhibition celebrates the important role San Francisco and our wider region have played in the creation of queer periodicals.”

With one title on display for each letter of the alphabet, the show reflected queer people from diverse communities using periodicals to form social networks, create culture, express desire and inspire activism. The magazines, newspapers, newsletters and zines in the exhibition — many of them graphically striking — offer a distinctive window into the intersectional identities, culture and politics of LGBTQ people at the high point of print periodicals as a means of mass communication.

“Empowerment in Print: LGBTQ Activism, Pride and Lust” started with exceptionally scarce private newsletters from the 1940s, when homosexuality was the object of severe legal and social persecution. It also displayed pioneering American homophile movement journals from the 1950s, noting that the United States Supreme Court overturned the ban on mailing periodicals defending homosexual people exactly 60 years ago this year.

The show then offered a selection of the LGBTQ periodicals that emerged as the movement grew in size and force and as commercial publications reached paying subscribers in the 1960s and 1970s. The periodicals on display also suggested the array of LGBTQ issues and publics represented in publications from the 1980s into the 2000s and some of the ways that zinemakers have created alternatives to mainstream LGBTQ publications.

The exhibition included periodicals from the following Northern California cities: Albany, Berkeley, Fremont, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Union City.


About the Curators

Joanna Black served as the managing archivist of the GLBT Historical Society. As manager of the GLBT Historical Society archives, she oversaw acquisition, cataloging and care of the periodicals in the society’s collection.

Jeremy Prince serves as manager of the GLBT History Museum. He previously curated an exhibition for the museum on the history of the gay and bisexual men’s “bear” community in Northern California.

Banner photos: Fat Girl, no 3 (1995), a San Francisco-based “zine for Fat Dykes and the Women Who Want Them,” GLBT Historical Society; Join Hands (January-March 1978), the newsletter of a San Francisco-based support group for gay prisoners, GLBT Historical Society; Vanguard (February 1967), the magazine of an early gay-liberation youth group in San Francisco, GLBT Historical Society.