Thanks to the Geography teacher:
Growing up with the Lesbian magazine
I knew I was gay at 14. So did my Geography teacher. He caught me in the high jump sandpit with a girl from my form. This life-enhancing incident heralded my entrance into the “gay world” and my desire for more of it.
Bless my teacher. He did not tell my parents, but helpfully pointed me in the direction of some gay magazines, which became the main source of my gay education in the following few years.
And so I discovered a whole new world, mainly through the pages of the Pink Paper. Through it, I became informed about the politics of gay life, the debates raging on the national and international stage about HIV – and got to know that there was a whole lot of fun happening out there.
Camp America. The start of two love affairs. A very handsome Chinese-American butch, and On Our Backs magazine. I had never seen anything like it in my life. Full on, colour, horny pictures of women getting it on. SM, BD, gender play, and fiction that provided hours of fun.
I had found magazine heaven.
I held a subscription to On Our Backs for 5 delight filled years, and only recently sent my stash to the recycling facility.
Later, through a University friend I discovered Diva magazine. To me it seemed ‘lame’ compared to my exposure to American mags. It was nevertheless a significant tool in starting my new life in London, where I knew no-one. I found out about London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, for which I later volunteered, found out where I could go, and about what was new in books and films.
I rarely interact with non-web based gay press anymore (apart from in an airport lounge). There are many reasons for this: I enjoy the convenience of the Internet, and I am a whole lot more opinionated about the quality of what I read than I ever was.
My regular holiday read is G3, which I pick up at my local in London’s Islington. I like the fact that it’s free, and I enjoy reading the no-nonsense editorial. It’s a great bit of entertainment in a stinky airport lounge. Most of my holidays are group affairs with a entourage of gay boys, so when bored I dip into GT and Attitude, which frankly always scare me, so perhaps I should just stick to my Observer Food Monthly which is lovingly and religiously saved for holiday occasions (I am in rehearsal for the Lesbian Domestic Goddess crown).
When I look back on my personal history with magazines, it is undoubtedly On Our Backs which had the biggest impact on my confidence and identity as a gay woman, and yet it is the magazine that I am least likely to buy these days.
Perhaps it’s an age thing.
In the age of the Internet, the only magazine that regularly drops through my door is National Geographic, which I consider to be essential reading in a long bath.
So I have to ask myself, what is it about ‘traditional’ gay magazines that stops me selecting them for my bath time reading? In truth, I long for something new, something that will stimulate my mind. Being gay is not just about bubbles. It’s about the water too: the fundamentals of life, not just the froth.
Get ready to press ‘Print’ for bath time reading.