Straight 50: From raunch to rights, the Straight got queer

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      While many publications ramp up their rainbow-related coverage in the lead-up to Pride, being queer obviously encompasses far more than celebrating that fact once a year. Jokes about the name notwithstanding, the Straight’s long-standing desire to cover LGBT issues originates in its alternative roots and continues today with a dedication to addressing human rights, social progress, and sexuality.

      Ellen Woodsworth

      As a matter of fact, one of our founding editorial members was gay author and activist Stan Persky. He was also part of the editorial team that launched a series of literary inserts—the Georgia Straight Writing Supplement, in 1969—that featured the work of publisher Dan McLeod, Milton Acorn, Gerry Gilbert, Jack Spicer, Maria Hindmarch, Robin Blaser, and more. (This development gave way to a book-publishing project, the Georgia Straight Writing Series, which, in turn, led to the founding of publisher New Star Books.)

      Among those involved in the publication’s early years was Ellen Woodsworth, who became a prominent local activist and one of Vancouver’s first out lesbian city councillors.

      Rand Holmes

      With a penchant for drawing sex scenes and penises, underground-comix artist Rand Holmes started as a Straight illustrator and creator of the Harold Hedd comic strip, which would go on to stir controversy with its explicit depiction of gay sex.

      Kevin Dale McKeown

      In 1970, in the wake of Canada’s legalization of homosexuality, Kevin Dale McKeown became one of the city’s first gay columnists (using the pseudonym QQ) with QQ Writes…Page 69, covering the goings-on of the burgeoning community.

      Over the decades, we’ve covered issues ranging from the HIV/AIDS crisis to gay refugees to LGBT parents. Our cast of queer contributing characters has included Mannequin menswear columnist Guy Babineau and theatre reviewers Colin Thomas and Kathleen Oliver. Our roster of freelance writers has also included author and broadcaster Bill Richardson; authors Charles Montgomery, Michael V. Smith, Karen X. Tulchinsky, and Ivan E. Coyote; Sher Vancouver founder Alex Sangha; journalists Jeremy Hainsworth and Rob Easton; former and current (respectively) Qmunity executive directors Dara Parker and CJ Rowe; and former Out on Screen staff member Shana Myara, just to name a queer few.

      Shana Myara

      Probably the best-known of them all is LGBT activist Dan Savage. The Straight has published his sex-advice column Savage Love since November 21, 1996. For some readers, his column has been among the main reasons to pick up the print edition.

      That’s in addition to ongoing coverage provided by non–LGBT staff and writers, such as Mark Leiren-Young’s 1994 coverage of the battle that Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium waged against censorship by Canada Customs, Shannon Rupp’s 2005 cover story about Rape Relief’s legal dispute with a woman they prevented from volunteering because she is transgender, staff writer Stephen Hui’s coverage of trans issues over the past decade, and writeups about annual events such as the Queer Arts Festival and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. In 2007, the Georgia Straight was kicked out of participating in the Vancouver Pride parade for running a cover story entitled “Pride Incorporated”, which examined corporate sponsorship for the parade.

      Alex Sangha

      Although we haven’t been in the parade since then, we have not stopped our coverage of it or of other LGBT issues. Quite the opposite. In fact, in September 2011 we launched our LGBT webpage, along with the @StraightLGBT Twitter account. We did so to consolidate all LGBT coverage in one handy-dandy place and to help readers find queer-specific content that could otherwise be buried in the daily news feed.

      Of course, this is all to say that the flame lit by some of the city’s groundbreaking queer citizens continues to fire up both the pages and web pages of the Straight and will be carried on into the future as both struggles and celebrations continue. Because we're still here and we're still queer and, after 50 years, you better be used to it by now.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.