From California came our most
important pre-Stonewall organizations, the Mattachine Society and the Daughter
of Bilitis; our first major publication, ONE Magazine; the pioneering ONE
Institute of Homophile Studies; and the first major attempts to reconcile
religion and homosexuality, the Council on Religion and the Homosexual
and the Metropolitan Community Church. Also from California came our earliest
pioneers: Harry Hay, Lisa Ben, Jose Sarria, Dr. Evelyn Hooker, Dorr Legg,
Don Slater, Morris Kight, Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon - and Jim Kepner.
News—Daring Views: 1950s' Pioneer Gay Press Journalism
Jim Kepner; Harrington Park Press; 462 pages; 1998.
Those who think that gay
liberation began with New York's Stonewall Uprising of 1969 ignore California's
pre-Stonewall contributions to our community and our cause.
The scope and variety of
Jim Kepner's contributions to lesbians and gay men are the most extensive
of any single individual, with the possible exception of Jack Nichols.
As an activist, Kepner founded or led groups as diverse as ONE Incorporated;
PRIDE, the activist entity that gave birth to the Advocate; and the Council
on Religion and the Homophile.
As an archivist, Kepner began
the collection that later became the International Gay & Lesbian Archives.
Now combined with the ONE Institute, the Archives is the largest collection
of its kind. But it is as a journalist that Kepner was best-known
in our community. I first learned about Kepner when, as a newly-out 20-year
old (1973), I began to read his columns in In Touch for Men.
Kepner had no qualms about
writing for a magazine that featured male nude photos, realizing that by
that doing so he was reaching an audience of gay men who never read ONE
or the Advocate. By that time Kepner the journalist was a seasoned veteran
of over two decades. Not counting Lisa Ben's short-lived Vice Versa (1947),
Kepner's career encompassed virtually the entire history of the lesbian
and gay press.
ONE Magazine was only
a year old when (April 1954) Kepner began writing for that journal, and
the rest is gay history: "Until the end of 1960," Kepner recalled, "I helped
edit and wrote for ONE Magazine and our membership newsletter, ONE Confidential;
as well as America's first scholarly-type journal, ONE Institute Quarterly
of Homophile Studies, which I conceived, designed, and edited for the first
dozen issues. I've since written over 2,000 news reports, history essays,
theoretical articles, speeches, a book, film and theater reviews, as well
as some fiction, verse, and erotica for scores of Gay publications - including
a few from Canada, Switzerland, and Denmark, and in a few books."
Kepner did all this
for little or no money, and at a time when open expressions of homosexuality
were subject to constant attacks and censorship. Those of us who write
for the lesbian and gay press owe Kepner a huge debt of gratitude for helping
build the trail that we now follow. Rough News - Daring Views: 1950s'
Pioneer Gay Press Journalism is a collection of articles written by Kepner
during his first decade as a journalist. Many of the articles were
written by "Lyn Pedersen" and other pseudonyms, not because Kepner was
in the closet but because he didn't want his readers to know that
such a large part of ONE's contents came from the same pen.
Unlike the members of today's
National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, Kepner was a talented
amateur with a day job; a fact that shows in some of his early articles.
However, like many of us in similar circumstances, Kepner grew and
developed as time went along, and his journalism generally improved.
At a time when the mainstream press generally ignored the gay community
- outside the occasional arrest or police crackdown - Kepner's "Tangents"
column told its readers what was going on in the gay world, both
here and abroad.
Not having the funds to be
an investigative reporter, Kepner got his facts from the mainstream media,
as well as from a large network of gay friends, correspondents, readers
and activists. Much of the articles in Rough News-Daring Views deals with
people, events and issues that are now dead and forgotten, and from
points of view that even Kepner is now ashamed to admit he held at the
"In Fort Lauderdale," wrote
Kepner for the October-November 1957 issue of ONE, "a 16-year-old
boy, described as a 'confirmed homosexual,' was given a 15-year prison
term. Son of a thrice-wed mother and a father waiting sex-crime trial,
the boy's sentence contrasted to that of a Miami man ordered simply
to move out of [the] neighborhood after molesting 3 young girls 6
||However, as a documentary
history of gay men (and sometimes lesbians) in America from 1954 to 1959,
as witnessed by a talented participant and commentator, Rough News-Daring
Views is unparalleled.
It is interesting to
read (on pages 49-55, 60, 80, 85, 94 and 116) about Miami's less
than admirable treatment of its gay citizens during that period.
Nuff said. Sadly, Jim Kepner
passed away earlier this year, just as Rough News-Daring Views neared
publication. I hope that Harrington Park Press continued Kepner's legacy,
and sees fit to publish his articles from the sixties and seventies.
Rough News-Daring Views is only the first part of an active and productive
career, one that only death could put an end to.