From ONE to Frontiers, A Brief History of L.A.-Based LGBTQ Publications

Since 1953 more than 300 magazines and newspapers serving the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer communities have been published in Los Angeles. The number of magazine, newspapers, and zines serving the LGBTQ community peaked at over 120 periodicals during the 1990s; as of 2016 that number has fallen to less than a baker's dozen. The ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries have sought to collect full runs of them all – and, where possible, the publications’ business records, too.

These L.A.-based periodicals reflected the diversity of the LGBTQ community. BLK, for example, was the first nationally distributed magazine for the LGBTQ African-American community. Published from 1988 to 1994, Alan Bell’s BLK provided news and entertainment information to the underserved African-American community, including information related to HIV/AIDS. Transvestia, a magazine published from 1960 to 1980 for male cross-dressers, sought to educate, build community, and connect people. Its publisher, Virginia Prince, advanced the cause of transgender rights as she embraced and advocated for a greater understanding of gender (though not without controversy). Lesbian Tide, which started as the newsletter of the Los Angeles chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis. was transformed by Jeanne Cordova into a feminists' lesbian women's magazine.

The Lesbian Tide, September 1971
Cover of September 1971 issue of The Lesbian Tide, courtesy of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries.

ONE magazine was the first homophile magazine that would become internationally distributed in the western hemisphere. The taglines ONE printed on its cover – "The Homosexual Magazine" and later "The Homosexual Viewpoint" – clearly marked its intended audience, even though its publisher preferred the term "homophile" (“same-loving”) rather than the clinical and ill-constructed term "homosexual." ONE Inc. wanted to reach people first; education would come as readership grew, and as people came to understand the diversity of the LGBTQ community.

ONE Inc. fought for the right to publish and distribute its magazine in federal court after the U.S. Post Office barred an issue on the grounds that it was “obscene, lewd, lascivious and filthy.” Losing its case in the U.S. district court and court of appeals, ONE appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1958, in the case of ONE Inc. v. Olesen, the court issued an unsigned, per curiam decision in favor of ONE Inc. The decision would allow materials published by and about lesbian women and gay men to be distributed legally through the U.S. Mail. ONE magazine continued to challenge misconceptions about gay men and lesbian women, publish shorts stories and poetry, and report on the continuing assaults and harassment by police and politicians. In 1965 a split between business manager W. Dorr Legg and editor Don Slater concerning the future focus of the organization devolved into a protracted and expensive legal battle. ONE magazine ceased publication in 1967, foreshadowing the end of the homophile movement and the rise of the gay liberation movement.

The first issue of the Los Angeles Advocate (later The Advocate), September 1967
The first issue of The Los Angeles Advocate (later The Advocate), September 1967, courtesy of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries.

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Frontiers, March 30/April 13, 1983
Cover of the March 30, 1983, issue of Frontiers magazine, courtesy of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries.

 The gay liberation movement, which like the anti-war, Civil Rights, and other movements of the 1960s advocated political and direct action, gave birth to another prominent LGBTQ publication in the same year of ONE magazine’s demise. In Los Angeles, an organization called PRIDE (originally, Personal Rights through Defense and Education and later renamed Personal Rights In Defense and Education) formed in 1966. The group sought to improve the LGBTQ community’s relationship with Los Angeles police and provide opportunities to socialize beyond the bar scene. The organization was dissolved two years after it had started, but Dick Michaels (Richard Mitch) and Bill Rand (Bill Rau) purchased the rights to the organization’s newsletter for one dollar. In September 1967, the first issue of the Los Angeles Advocate, "a PRIDE publication," rolled off the presses. In the next few years the magazine would drop Los Angeles from its title. In 1969 the Advocate changed to a newspaper format where Rob Cole served as the on-and-off news editor and later managing editor between 1971 and 1974. The bulk of the Advocate records at the ONE Archives date from 1971 though 1974, before the paper was sold to David Goodstein; later records were donated by Advocate editor Mark Thompson. The Advocate remains in print to this day.

Frontiers magazine was the latest periodical to disappear when its holding company, Multimedia Platforms Worldwide, closed its doors in September 2016. The first issue of Frontiers rolled off the presses in May 1982, and during 1983 Bob Craig became the sole owner and publisher. Craig became more progressive and developed the potential of Frontiers to inform the LGBTQ community and shape government policies. Craig launched a few titles to complement Frontiers, including Dispatch, which became Frontiers After Dark, and later Craig along with Mark Hundahl, and David Stern launched IN Los Angeles. Craig died in 2000 of complications related to HIV/AIDS, and Frontiers struggled along until Hundahl and Stern purchased it in 2007. IN Los Angeles and Frontiers were merged and over time the IN Los Angeles title would disappear from the masthead. In late August 2016, ONE Archives archivists sorted through materials and rescued more than 50 boxes of materials from the Frontiers offices, just before they were shuttered.

The Pride, December 30, 2016
Cover of the December 30, 2016 issue of The Pride, courtesy of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries.

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