from the archives

How New York Has Covered LGBT Life in the Years Since Stonewall

Photo: Courtesy of New York Magazine

In 1969, New York missed the Stonewall rebellion. But in the five decades since, we’ve covered the changing shape of LGBT life.

September 24, 1973

“How ‘Gay’ Is New York?”

“It may be reasonable to estimate, then, in an admittedly rough sort of way, that upwards of 500,000 New Yorkers (but probably fewer than 750,000) are, or will grow up to be, predominantly gay. Well over a million more, judging from Kinsey’s study, have, or have had, more than incidental homosexual desires or experiences. And then there are perhaps a million straight New Yorkers who are, without necessarily realizing it, the parents, siblings, or even the children of predominantly gay New Yorkers.

“Yet for all that presumed interest in the subject, knowledge and acceptance of homosexuality by the average New Yorker remains quite limited. The subject remains largely taboo. ‘The gay world’ — as though all the gays were reassuringly segregated into their own world — is thought of by many as a strange, possibly quaint, possibly threatening colony of artsy-craftsy Greenwich Villagers, suitable for sightseeing, perhaps, but not for a prolonged visit.” —John Reid

April 1, 1974

“Sexual Chic, Sexual Fascism, and Sexual Confusion”

“Times have changed. Recently I answered my phone four times to hear four heterosexual female friends saying, ‘You’ll never guess what happened.’ After the third time, I didn’t have to guess: they had all been to bed with women.” —Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

May 30, 1977

“Gays: A New Key Voter Group”

“There is a new political constituency in this town: homosexual voters. Instead of handcuffing themselves to the desks of politicians to get attention, as they had to do in the early 1970s, they’re now sitting across those desks and quietly lobbying for their needs. Congressman Herman Badillo, a probable candidate for mayor, says, ‘Gays are a very important constituency; they vote passionately and are a key voter group.’” —Ken Lerer

June 25, 1979

“The Meaning of Gay: An Interview With Dr. C.A. Tripp”

Q. Why is the question of curing homosexuality so controversial? Surely you can either change homosexuals or you can’t.

A. Not quite. The ‘cure’ issue is seldom raised these days. Nobody could possibly cure homosexuality because the phenomena it comprises are not illnesses in the first place. A number of moralists and psychiatrists still claim to be able to change homosexuality, but whether that is ever possible depends entirely on your criteria. If stopping the action is all that’s meant, then joining a monastery or a nunnery might do it, or listening to Billy Graham and swearing off in the name of Jesus might work for a while. Or if ‘making a commitment to heterosexuality’ is the criterion — Masters and Johnson demand this of their patients — then this sometimes ‘works’ but only with people who have a degree of heterosexual response and who, by dint of will under the eyes of kindly authority figures, push their homosexual tastes aside. It all amounts to a brittle, desperate, tenuous hold on a forced heterosexuality. But if by change you mean getting a person to not want what he does want, and at the same time make him sexually want what he has never wanted, then forget it; there’s never been a validated case on record, and I predict never will be.” —Philip Nobile

May 31, 1982

“The Gay Plague”

“A bizarre assortment of rare and deadly ailments are striking a significant number of young homosexual men and spreading with terrible swiftness … This mysterious plague is, according to The New England Journal of Medicine, ‘a truly new syndrome.’ No one knows what causes it, how to cure it, where it began, nor even precisely what it is. What researchers know all too well is that … out of 351 reported cases, 40 percent — 141 people, gays and straights, men and, now, women — have died … For want of a better name, the acronym A.I.D. has stuck.” —Michael VerMeulen

April 18, 1988

“How We Live Now: The Gay Life”

“I think straight acceptance of gays has diminished in the past few years. At a family function, someone picked up my brother Peter’s glass, realized it was his, and immediately put it down. It was pretty obvious what was going on. It happens.

“But then there are people who surprise you. My parents never talk about AIDS. Out of the blue, though, last week, my mother said that because of the crisis, she wants to start a chapter of Parents of Gays in her community. I said, ‘Is this the same woman who twelve years ago wouldn’t march in a parade?’” —Chris Lione, as told to Ellen Hopkins

April 8, 1991

“With Extreme Prejudice”

“Random cases of gay-bashing in New York [constitute] a crime wave … The [NYPD] recorded 102 anti-gay hate crimes in 1990 — more than double the number for 1989, at a time when hate crimes against all other groups dropped by 8 percent.” —Eric Pooley

May 10, 1993

Lesbian Chic

“One of the biggest changes in the lesbian community is the political influence it is wielding within the larger gay world. What took so long? It’s simple, lesbians say. Gay men have always treated gay women the same way straight men have treated straight women. ‘Lesbians have always been in the gay movement,’ says Rita Mae Brown, ‘and we have always been ignored.’” —Jeanie Russell Kasindorf 

June 20, 1994

“Is Everybody Gay?”

“Is everyone gay? I’m afraid so — it’s the law. Tom Hanks nabbed an Oscar for playing an opera queen with AIDS in Philadelphia, and outed his high-school drama teacher during his acceptance speech. The last two Pulitzers in drama have gone to gay men, Cindy Crawford shaved k.d. lang on the cover of Vanity Fair, same-sex marriages came closer to being legalized in Hawaii last month, and a recent Ikea ad even allowed a gay couple to browse openly. For the first time in my life, I’ve begun to feel enormous sympathy for heterosexuals; they have become the new beleaguered minority, today’s punch line. Nowadays, what could be more shocking than a straight kiss on Broadway, a female model who isn’t rumored to be having a relationship with Madonna, or a sitcom without the annual gay-is-good episode?” —Paul Rudnick 

September 30, 1996

“We’re Here! We’re Queer!
Let’s Get Coffee!”

“The most dramatic cultural assimilation of our time has been the heterosexualization of gay culture. As homosexuality has moved, however slowly, toward the mainstream, there’s been less and less for gay culture to do what it’s best at, which is to stand on the margins and throw shade. And while no one doubts that the political progress made by the gay movement has generally benefited gay people as individuals, you have to wonder whether something just as valuable has been lost in the process.” —Daniel Mendelsohn

April 29, 2002

“Growing Up Gay”

“Even though outer-borough kids say Manhattan in general and ‘the Vil’ in particular are the easiest places to be out, Adam points out the considerable distance between Park Avenue and Central Park West. ‘My friends on the Upper East Side would have a really, really hard time coming out to their conservative families,’ he says. ‘With my family, like, half my dad’s office is gay.’” —Rory Evans

January 12, 2004

“Where the Bois Are”

“Being a boi means different things to different people — it’s a fluid identity, and that’s the whole point … What all bois have in common is a lack of interest in embodying any kind of girliness, but they are too irreverent to adopt the heavy-duty, highly circumscribed butch role. To them, butch is …
a relic from a world of Budweiser and motorcycles gone by.” —Ariel Levy

July 13, 2014

“Sex Without Fear”

“For the past several years, the conversation about gay life has been … a conversation about gay marriage. This summer … what many gay men are talking about among themselves is Truvada. And what’s surprising them is how fraught the conversation can be. For some, the advent of this drug is nothing short of miraculous, freeing bodies and minds. For doctors, public-health officials, and politicians, it is a highly promising tool for stopping the spread of HIV.

“But for others, a drug that can alleviate so much anxiety around sex is itself a source of concern. They worry that Truvada will invite men to have as much condomless sex as they want, which could lead to a rise in diseases like syphilis. Or they fret that not everyone will take it as religiously as they ought to, reducing its effectiveness and maybe even creating resistance to the drug if those users later become HIV-positive and need it for treatment. And just as the birth-control pill caused single women in the sixties to wonder whether they’d be seen as ‘sluts’ and to internalize that real and imagined shame, some gay men wonder how Truvada will play in the straight world; it sends a strikingly different message from the one in the ‘Sunday Styles’ wedding announcements.”    —Tim Murphy

*This article appears in the June 24, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

How New York Covered LGBT Life in the Years Since Stonewall