Editors Note: This issue marks the start of The G&LR’s thirtieth year of publication. Our thirtieth birthday is still a year off, but this seems a good time to take stock of where we’ve been and where we are now.
As luck would have it, a frequent contributor to the magazine, John Killacky, recently wrote a piece for an on-line magazine, The Arts Fuse (artsfuse.org), which provides a general history and overview of The G&LR. While written for a “lay” audience, I think it contains some facts and figures that even veteran readers of this magazine may find interesting. (What follows has been adapted from the Arts Fuse piece.)
DESPITE THE DECLINE of print publications, The Gay & Lesbian Review / Worldwide (G&LR) has published 160 issues to date, all in “hard copy.” The magazine began in 1994 as The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review, a no-frills, black-and-white quarterly that gradually evolved into a glossy bimonthly magazine. Then and now, The G&LR has featured erudite essays from queer historians, scholars, writers, and political figures investigating relevant history, politics, and culture as well as artist interviews and reviews of books, exhibitions, movies, and plays.
Driving the vision is editor-in-chief and founder Richard Schneider. He received a doctorate in sociology from Harvard in the early ’80s. After two careers (as a college prof and a research director), he launched the magazine in Winter 1994. But its origins go back to 1987, when Schneider was recruited by the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Caucus, an alumnœ organization, to produce its quarterly newsletter. This is where he learned how to be an editor and a desktop publisher. While The Review was at first an in-house publication, he soon realized that it could be a national magazine. It was incorporated as a nonprofit in the late 1990s and dropped the “Harvard” from its name starting in 2000.
In a 1998 feature in The New York Times, Schneider spoke about his initial aspirations: “In 1993, there was nothing in the gay world corresponding to The New York Review of Books or The New Yorker that featured intelligent essays. There was a huge niche or vacuum in gay and lesbian letters which I hope we somewhat filled.” From its inception, trenchant writing by such literati as Edmund White, Barney Frank, Jill Johnston, and Jewelle Gomez distinguished the magazine, with its focus on high culture. Remarked Larry Kramer in the 1998 Times piece: “It is our intellectual journal. … If you want to deal with scholarly intelligent arguments, there’s really no place else we can publish.”
As a nonprofit organization, The G&LR has around 750 annual donors, of which around 500 are “Friends of The Review.” The average print run is around 10,000 per issue, of which about 8,000 go to subscribers, with most of the rest going to bookstores. Historically, subscriptions have been the most important source of revenue, though charitable donations have pulled even or even surpassed subscriptions in recent years. Advertising makes up about fifteen percent of the total. The G&LR conducted a readers’ survey in 2022 and found that its readership is predominantly male and skews toward an older demographic, with about two-thirds of its readers over sixty. Fully 66 percent hold an advanced degree.
More than 1,400 writers have been featured in The G&LR’s uninterrupted run over the last three decades. One steadfast presence has been Andrew Holleran, who’s having a critical resurgence with his latest novel, The Kingdom of Sand, a melancholy depiction of isolation, despair, and desire in older gay men. His first essay in the magazine (Winter 1994) was taken from a speech he gave at Harvard about coming out and coming of age in Greenwich Village in the 1970s. Since then, he has contributed well over a hundred articles.
Celebrating the magazine’s 25th anniversary in 2019, Holleran wrote: “We’ve all seen many of our favorite mainstream magazines shrink if not disappear, which makes me all the more grateful for The G&LR. A writer has one basic dream: to see his or her words in print. … I’m always thrilled when someone mentions a piece I’ve written, because one forgets that one does reach people, people we may never hear from, but who are out there—in the dark. Quite literally, being published in The G&LR has been a reward in itself—it’s kept this writer from going into the horror vacui of the digital age.”
I too am fortunate to be a frequent contributor to The G&LR. My published pieces include commentaries on John Cage, Keith Haring, Peter Hujar, and Sarah Schulman, along with interviews with Alison Bechdel, Janis Ian, Bill T. Jones, and Tim Miller. Most recently, I profiled trans filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax. As an editor, Schneider is always open to ideas and he wields an appreciated editing scalpel that cuts for focus and clarity.
Drawing upon its treasure trove of queer writing, The G&LR has published two compilations of past articles. The first, In Search of Stonewall (2019), which marked both the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the 25th anniversary of the magazine itself, delved into historical precedents, the events of June 1969, and their immediate and longer-term impact. The second book, punnily titled Casual Outings (2021), celebrated the work of The G&LR’s longtime artist Charles Hefling with 27 of his most memorable illustrations, including Marcel Proust, Vita Sackville-West, Frida Kahlo, Yukio Mishima, Lorraine Hansberry, Leonard Bernstein, and Langston Hughes. Another book is in development: a collection of historian Martin Duberman’s many contributions to the magazine over the years, to be titled The Line of Dissent.
Collaborating with Schneider on the operational side of the publishing endeavor is his partner of 23 years, Stephen Hemrick, who is the magazine’s publisher. In light of recent Supreme Court decisions, they finally tied the knot on October 26, 2022.
John R. Killacky is the author of because art: commentary, critique, & conversation (Onion River Press).