Pink Papers: The LGBTQ Press in Twentieth-Century Britain and Ireland

‘Pink Papers: The LGBTQ Press in Twentieth-Century Britain and Ireland’. In Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press, Volume 3 (1900-2016), edited by Martin Conboy and Adrian Bingham, 483-501. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020. (With Alison Oram)

This chapter traces the changing aims, content and readerships of the newsletters, newspapers and magazines that we label the LGBT or queer press. There is no homogenous LGBTQ identity; nor can today’s identities simply be mapped onto the past. The language of same-sex love and gender non-conformity has changed significantly across the twentieth century and indeed over the past few decades. It ranges from coded references to queerness since the late nineteenth century to experimental discussions of gender and desire in the 1920s and 1930s. We also trace the histories of more cautious and self-effacing homosexual publications and newsletters of the 1950s and 1960s, the political punchiness of the 1970s–90s LGBT and queer press, and finally the slick, consumerist lifestyle and homonormative glossy magazines of the 1990s and 2000s.

We examine the shifts (that were not necessarily linear) between the LGBTQ press as a vehicle for political purposes, staffed by committed, often voluntary activists, and the more mainstream and commercial magazines that began to appear from the 1970s. The latter were financed by publishing companies that saw an opportunity in monetising the ‘pink pound’. We argue that elements of this pink pound– especially the awareness that some queer men had surplus cash to spend on lifestyle-related magazines and products– appear as early as the 1930s. And while these publications were commercial, many nonetheless continued to play important community roles even into the 1990s and 2000s.

Project Details


November 2020

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