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.



June 19, 2007: In an extensive piece on the absence of a spokesperson for the gay movement, The Advocate mistakenly reported that legendary activist Frank Kameny had died of AIDS complications. Kameny was very much alive (he lived until October 2011) and he had never contracted HIV. When alerted by Advocate editor in chief Anne Stockwell of the error, the octogenarian retained enough perspective to laugh it off.

“Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” he said, quoting Mark Twain. Later he told writer Andrew Noyes of his legacy: “In July 1968 I coined the slogan ‘Gay is good,’ which is the one thing, if nothing else, that I want to be remembered for. It’s not that homosexuality is not sinful and immoral, it’s that homosexuality is affirmatively virtuous and moral. Same-sex marriage is not going to damage the institution of marriage, it’s going to enhance the institution of marriage.”

April 8, 2008: Thomas Beatie, a married transgender man, announced his pregnancy in a first-person Advocate essay. Some thought it was simply a sweet story about the creation of a very postmodern family — Beatie, his wife, and their (eventually) three children. But the magazine’s accompanying photo of Beatie, a goateed 30-something guy with a baby bump, was what really shook the media and the public. The ensuing attention climaxed with an appearance by Beatie on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

December 16, 2008, “Gay Is the New Black,” August 2009, “Nope?”:
“Gay Is the New Black” received much attention in the wake of California’s Proposition 8, which ended marriage equality in the state. Writer Michael Joseph Gross attempted to answer the question, “Is the gay fight for equality similar to the African-American struggle?” A year and a half later, Barack Obama was not living up to his role as a “fierce advocate” of LGBT rights, as he had declared himself in late 2008 — we were waiting for a public endorsement of same-sex marriage and a hard line against “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act. In other words, we posited that the “Hope” that marked his candidacy had now turned into a “Nope?”

“[Both covers] attracted a lot of attention,” former editor in chief Jon Barrett recalls. “I remember the big issue in both cases was whether to use a question mark after them. That one character made a huge difference in how they were read. And we felt angry after Prop. 8 and it felt like we needed to be declarative. At the same time, I think it was too early to go without a question mark with ‘Nope.’ He had only been around a year. And, ultimately, I think we’ve seen that the question mark was right with him — he’s come around and done pretty much all he’s promised on our front.”