The Gay Blade: An Independent Publication Serving the Gay Community
December 28, 2016 11:02 PM   Subscribe

Through an ongoing partnership with the DC Public Library, digitized issues from the first decades of LGBT newspaper The Washington Blade (1969-) are now freely available online.

First launched in October 1969 as a replacement for the Mattachine Society of Washington's newsletter, early issues were densely packed sheets of community news (a call for blood donors), services (a roommate referral—"Don't bother if you want to talk dirty. We won't listen."), events (caving trips with The Gloryholers), and classifieds.

After its founding, the paper quickly added pages, expanded its circulation, and increased in frequency. The Blade continues to this day (through various ownership changes) as the oldest LGBT newspaper in the US.
posted by waninggibbon (7 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
That's really interesting; thanks for posting! In a lot of ways it reminds me of the Queer Exchanges that now exist on Facebook for various cities, including mine, especially the community news and services stuff. (Which reminds me, I need to post to ours looking for a roommate sometime soon!) They do similar kinds of things with respect to creating a place for people to share local news, stuff or pets people have for sale or free to good home, experiences with local service professionals, etc. The main difference as far as I can see based on a quick scan is that these days people also ask for experiences, opinions, and referrals on the Exchanges, since the difference in medium makes responses much faster and more effective.

Some of the listings ("Give-Away: Guinea Pigs Free to Good Home"; the August 1970 edition's "Pier Nine Is opening a restaurant"; May 1972's "A Gay Alcoholic Anonymous group continues to operate weekly) could have come right out of my local exchange today. Although I suspect I'd be less likely to see the May 1972 edition's excellent depiction of a State Corporation Commission official as a human penis on the Facebook groups...

It's interesting also on a quick scan how what started as a very localized community broadsheet sort of thing turned into an actual newspaper with more in-depth reporting and articles on local politics by the mid-70s, over the span of about five years. Thank you for sharing it!
posted by sciatrix at 7:31 AM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

DC Public Library has been killing it with the stuff they've been able to digitize. They got a big grant for their Memory Lab and it's been terrific watching them put it to such good use.
posted by jessamyn at 7:40 AM on December 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

When I was growing up in DC, my father owned a hair salon nearby in VA. Copies of The Blade were always out in the waiting area. I learned a lot from reading it in bits and pieces over the years -- about LGBT issues, about AIDS, about sexuality, and about community.
posted by feckless at 8:53 AM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

That linked page for the caving club is a wonderful little snapshot of 1970 LGBT community notices.
  • Anti-gay psychiatrist looking for research subjects
  • Offer for for subscriptions "if you don't get to the bars often"
  • Notice that a gay bar is being torn down
  • Proposal for "counter-harassment" of the police harassing gay people
  • Notice the swimming club event is cancelled because the YMCA doesn't want homosexuals, but that they don't want to get political so aren't fighting it.
  • Request for moral support for New Yorkers having trouble getting city permission to have the Christopher Street Festival
  • Offer from the Mattachine society to help you get security clearances. "If Uncle Sam tries to get into your bedroom, say NOTHING, sign NOTHING
  • The caving club report; they had to turn back because there was ice and they had no rope
All delivered with a bit of humor and the occasional sexual entendre. It's this heady mix of civil liberties activism, socializing, and coping with being a despised minority. This is the LGBT community I grew up in, identify with.
posted by Nelson at 10:20 AM on December 29, 2016 [10 favorites]

Oh, this is great stuff. Thanks for posting it! I'm definitely passing it on to a lot of people I know who will be interested.
posted by theatro at 10:42 AM on December 29, 2016

Fascinating. I agree that this is the queer community I identify with. This one was particularly interesting:

Warning to Du Pont Circle people: Cars seen too frequently in the Circle area are having their license numbers taken down; their owners later are being harassed and blackmailed.

And now DuPont is about as queer as Georgetown or Alexandria. (That is to say: not at all.)

Other postings could be from 2016. Loved seeing that gays in the 1970s were also following up church service at All Souls Unitarian with a hearty brunch. I did that just last week. Except their reverend probably wasn't gay, too... would love to know what that service was like.
posted by Emily's Fist at 1:40 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I get such a range of feelings from reading through these. The church ads are hopeful. The information about where to cruise or not cruise this month is pragmatic, but the threat of cops and "the gay murders" and the blackmailer who will write down your license plate number and then want $1000 to not ruin your life ... it's so heart-wrenching. But that their response is to print up what they know about the unmarked cop cars and the haircuts of the entrapping officers and distribute it everywhere gay folks hang out is really heroic.

I'm also happy to see talk of the marriage fight as early as 1970, and even one announcement of two women's "matrimony" ceremony in a church.

But the one that kicked me in the gut, and where I have to stop reading today, was (in 3/72):
Eddie [lastname] -- your father is seriously ill. Please call Steve at [number].
It's a simple sentence, but you just know Eddie is some kid his family didn't or couldn't love, they kicked him out or he ran for his own safety, he went to DC to try to find a new family and love and survival. They don't know where he is, haven't heard from him for years, and maybe didn't even care until dad got sick. Dad who couldn't accept him. Did dad change his mind, or does Steve just think he will now if Eddie confronts him? It's horrifying. I cry for Eddie and his dad too.

Worse, I know a lot of families are still like this today.

Happy new year everyone. Hug your chosen family, and your well-meaning Steves, too.
posted by fritley at 12:01 PM on December 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

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