Well, here it is, the first issue of Gay News. It is late and we are sorry about that, but we offer the first excuse and apology in the life of Gay News, and sincerely hope it won’t be the first of a long series. During the coming out of the paper almost everything that could go wrong did. To the people who were brave enough to risk their hard-earned cash an a pre-publication subscription, our very heartfelt thanks. Without you it could never have happened, without your help and support there wouldn’t have been a paper at all. For that we are very grateful, for the chance to bring out Gay News. Not just for ourselves, those of us at present working on the paper, but also for the many friends and helpers who have contributed (and put up with us), and the people who were, for a time, part of the genesis of what you are holding in your hand.
Gay News, as you will doubtless tire of hearing and reading after the first few issues, is not our paper, but yours; it belongs to the whole of the gay community. It’s for gay women as well as gay men. for transexuals and transvestites, for anyone with a sexual label but who we like to call “gays of all sexes”. The first issue alone cannot reach as far as it should into the gay community – to do that it needs your help – but in time we hope it will. Those of us involved in the paper, whether we’re still around or no longer into it, have always held to one unifying idea; that it isn’t and never will be enough just to produce a paper for gay people, we could only begin something, in this case the getting together of a newspaper, which would in the end belong to all gays.
In fact, it has often worried us that our action in bringing out Gay News could and possibly would be interpreted as doing something because we thought other people needed it. That’s not it. We feel that, despite legal reform and a certain relaxation in people’s attitudes to sexuality, that nothing much has really changed. It is clear that many gay people are still extremely isolated, many still live restricted lives. We feel that a medium which could help us all to know what we were all doing, which could put us in contact, and be open evidence of our existence and our rights for the rest of the people to see, could help start the beginning of the end of the present situation. And that goes for all of you who buy the paper as well as we who get it together. Maybe that sounds like another way of saying “we think you need it”, but surely it is only a recognition of how people and institutions through lack of tolerance and understanding, still make it difficult for most gay people to openly be themselves, to live their lives without fear of abuse, prejudice, and worse.
After all, gay people are the same as anyone else; whether you are part of the majority or one of the minorities, you are still people, wanting and needing to share news and information about what everyone else is doing, about what is going on among the others who have taken up a similar life-style. And for us especially, there is still a need to dispel and counteract much ignorance and misinformation. So far we seem to have accepted society’s definition of us as something that’s not very nice, to be seen perhaps but not heard. Isn’t that a little crazy? We are all people with our lives, our hopes, our fears and expectations for what life has in store for us. The beautiful, loving times, the not so joyous moments – this is what we are, and more – and isn’t that simply people? And to be isolated from what goes on in the world around us is not only wrong, it shows up some dangerous cracks in the society we live in.
So a few of us got together just before Christmas 1971, having come to the conclusion that a first step to rectifying this situation would be the creation of a newspaper, to provide news and entertainment, and a forum for all gays. By entertainment, we mean things that can be laughed at and enjoyed – we hope that Gay News will never be so completely serious that no-one could smile, laugh, or maybe happily cringe at parts of it. News is not only the bad things that can happen to us all, but knowing about what others are doing, sharing and achieving. Information is knowing where and when this is going on, so that if you have a mind to you could share in it. Why should’nt gay people know what each other are doing in whatever place it is, wherever you happen to live? But you can’t share in something you don’t know about.
By March, Gay News had an office, and from then on most of the collective business was carried on from there (not difficult on one side is a porn shop, on the other a pub, which seems to be a peculiarity of small newspaper offices in London). The main job then and through April was to let as many people as possible know of our intentions and to start to raise the capital to put the paper on a more definite basis. We wrote to many well-known and monied gays, asking for help and support, but unfortunately the response was rather small. But the subscriptions rolled in, and with the generous help of a few individuals the paper began to take shape.
The collective had now grown to about 15 men and women, some from Gay Liberation Front, some from Campaign for Homosexual Equality, a few worked very hard for Scottish Minorities Group, some were just gay individuals (and some not-so-gay) who felt that Gay News could be the start of something important.
Money has always been a problem, but by April other and possibly more important obstacles had appeared. Some of those involved began to have doubts, about the amount of work involved, about the compromises they would have to make with their own political and alternative ideals. Some of us became bored with this destructive soul-searching and lack of action on practicalities. Some of us despaired at the way in which we seemed so small and isolated a group to attempt the task of pulling together a newspaper, and about the lack of response and general wariness with which the whole venture was being treated, except for the adventurous prepared to risk a subscription and our few but generous contributors. There were a few heated rows, many tears, and a general air of disappointment and frustration. It seemed as though we wouldn’t be able to pull it off after all. So we suspended operations for a while until people made up their minds as to whether they or the paper would go on. In the end we did continue with a smaller collective, and you an holding the result.
We talk, and always will be doing, about the Gay News Collective. By collective, we mean the people who are presently engaged in getting the paper together. There is no editor, art director, sales manager or whatever, we are all equally responsible for everything, and by the same token, no one person is in a position of greater authority than any other. We feel this to be important; if this is to be a paper for all gays, then
Of course, the rows continue, but the situation is far healthier. We had been deceiving ourselves about the amount of work involved, we didn’t know how difficult it all was, but now we must just get on with it to the best of our collective abilities. Despite all that, the paper has become great fun, and looks like being more so in future issues. We can but hope.
it is impossible to lay down a given direction for the paper, and a collective arrangement without positions of authority reflects the flexibility we need and will hopefully have. No one person has any more say than anyone else, whether they are writing, designing, pasting down photographs or whatever. And this collective is completely open-ended; anyone interested enough to want to help produce and continue Gay News is welcome, no matter what their sex, politics, or any other quirks of personality. You’re welcome anyway, even if you want to drop by for a chat and a nose around the office but beware, it isn’t large enough for coach parties.
Gay News is based in London. There isn’t really any element of choice or design about this – London happens to be where most of us live and when we started getting it together. So in spite of the fact that we feel it’s wrong for so many things to be based in London, this is where the paper is produced, printed, and distributed from. But we hope the paper will never become just a London paper, covering only what the capital city is up to. People actively involved with the paper are spread over most of the country, admittedly fairly thinly at the moment, but with your help that will soon change (hint! hint!). Most active centres as far as work on the paper is concerned are Manchester, Edinburgh, and London, with possible developments in Eire and some of the county towns. With your help, we will print more information and news from more areas of the country, and with greater involvement from the homosexual community, Gay News could, can, and will become much more than it is now. This is only when we begin.
However, to return to the saga. May was the most hectic period in the paper’s short life. Printers had to be found, design finally decided upon, all the articles and information that had come to us had to be sorted, and the shape and content of the first few issues planned. We have also had to arrange our own distribution, as our dear friends W. H. Smith and Sons weren’t over anxious to touch us, and distributors like Moore-Harness could not be used because of the cost, but with the help of a friendly bookshop in Brighton we have tied to spread the paper over as much of the country as possible. In the very near future we hope it’ll be easier to get the paper from your local bookshop or in the gay pubs and clubs in your town. And if you have any ideas about a bookshop round your way that might sell us and doesn’t, you have only to drop us a line and we’ll write to him or her.
So far that gives you several things to think about – the news and information that you can send us to print, the letters and comments you have to write so that we know what you think, the bookshop round the comer that might be one more outlet – and that is what we mean when we say it’s your paper. None of there things we can do for you – we an asking you to do them for us. for yourselves, for your paper. Gay News will not have any single viewpoint, nor will it be aligned to any gay movement. It is open to all to use it as a medium of news and expression. We will try, for our part, to be honest and objective about what goes into the paper, and in what we put there ourselves.
Thank you very much for your patience, thank you very much for buying the copy you are reading. From now on it’s all yours. The paper belongs to everyone.