45 Years of Stirring the Pot

Ever since the first issue of The Advocate clandestinely rolled off the presses in 1967, the content of the magazine has engendered debate, adulation, and occasionally venom.

BY Neal Broverman and Michelle Garcia

August 21 2012 3:00 AM ET

February 9, 1993: At the height of his fame, and a year and a half before his suicide, Kurt Cobain spoke to The Advocate about his avid support for LGBT rights and came out as bisexual. He said people thought he was gay as a teenager, and admitted spray-painting “God Is Gay” on trucks and befriending queers in his hometown of Aberdeen, Wash.

“I mean, I’m definitely gay in spirit, and I probably could be bisexual,” he told writer Kevin Allman. “But I’m married, and I’m more attracted to Courtney [Love] than I ever have been toward a person, so there’s no point in my trying to sow my oats at this point. If I wouldn’t have found Courtney, I probably would have carried on with a bisexual lifestyle.”

September 6, 1994: Rebekka Armstrong, the September 1986 Playboy Playmate of the month, came out as an HIV-positive lesbian in an Advocate cover story. Her incredible story, which included sex, drugs, and a commitment to survive, helped change the image of AIDS, which had been seen as solely a gay man’s disease. (The Renaissance woman is now a successful bodybuilder.)

December 13, 1994: Because it sported a cover line asking, “Is God Gay?” and an image of Jesus on the cross, many retailers refused to stock this issue. The story inside, which examined whether mainstream religions would ever embrace gay members, was much more tame than the shocking cover.

“‘Is God Gay?’” was inspired by Time’s ‘Is God Dead?’ cover story about religious apathy in America,” former Advocate editor in chief Jeff Yarbrough now recalls. “But also a bit by Rolling Stone’s cover story about Jim Morrison: ‘He’s Hot, He’s Sexy, and He’s Dead.’ We wanted the headline to be the story. And it was. The mainstream media ate it up, giving us a good, strong week in the news cycle. I must have done 10 interviews about that cover in a few days’ time, which back then was a lot. The story itself was rather benign, but that cover image struck America below the belt.”

March 7, 1995:  Shortly after the Republican revolution of 1994 that propelled Newt Gingrich into the position of speaker of the House, his lesbian sister, Candace, gave a prophetic warning:

“I would tell Congress that if some of the bills they are considering become law, it will drive some young people who are struggling with being gay or lesbian to suicide. That’s what scares me for the future.”

April 4, 1995: In the “Rumors” issue, John Gallagher and Alan Frutkin looked at why gay rumors don’t derail certain stars’ careers, specifically John Travolta, Jodie Foster, Tom Cruise, and Richard Gere (Travolta and Foster memorably appeared on the cover). “‘Rumors’” grew out of my impatience and contempt regarding the lack of gay celebrities who were willing to come out publicly at the time,” Yarbrough says. “AIDS was still in full effect, the community was reeling from political and social oppression, and these stars who — like it or not — could shape public opinion were intent on having it both ways. I was sick of having conversations with their flacks, and sometimes even the stars themselves, about ‘maybe someday.’ And we wanted them on notice: You keep blowing our friends in steam rooms around town and we’re going to come after you.”

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