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Linda Simpson, editor and publisher of My Comrade, spoke about her experience running the queer magazine during this fall’s Hofer Lecture on Thursday.
The lecture took place at Houghton library in honor of the library’s “American Drag” exhibition, which runs through January 2023. An issue of My Comrade is one of the first items displayed in the drag exhibit, where the lecture took place.
During the event, Simpson discussed her path to founding the magazine and bringing it to print.
My Comrade, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, was primarily circulated as an underground magazine — an independent or unofficial publication — during the 1980s and 1990s, when there was less acceptance of the queer movement.
Simpson said she was always interested in magazines, describing her adolescent self as a “magazine junkie,” and started My Comrade as a side endeavor to promote “gay power, love, and unity” while she worked a temporary job.
“We were all emboldened heroes of the gay liberation movement,” she said. “Most of all, it was a human magazine to brighten up people's lives.”
“It was more about the upbeat fun atmosphere, including everything special about a lot of gay-charged stuff,” she added.
Although Simpson called My Comrade a “humor magazine” for its lightheartedness, she said the magazine also aims to increase representation and awareness of the queer movement.
“Even the rumor of being gay could really hurt your career,” Simpson said, referencing the 1980s and 1990s. “Drag queens and like downtown celebrities had to kind of take up the slack — we were the most invisible members of the gay world.”
The magazine profiled drag queens and queer celebrities, creating its own alternative “star system” to parallel more mainstream A-list celebrities.
“The visibility that we provided — even if it was, you know, just for ourselves or like a smaller group of people — was very important,” she said.
Simpson, who lived in the East Village of Manhattan, collaborated with her friends who provided writing and art content which she would then compile into the magazine.
“In that part of the downtown East Village scene there were a lot of creative people, so I knew a lot of photographers and illustrators and writers,” she said
Simpson later added Sister — which focused on queer female representation rather than “male-centric” drag — to the flip side of the magazine.
“I certainly wanted lesbians and women to be involved, so that seemed like a good way of inviting people in,” Simpson said.
In revival issues, Sister has been integrated into My Comrade.
Matthew Wittman, curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection, said the next exhibit at the Houghton Library will also feature Simpson’s My Comrade.
—Staff Writer Darley A. C. Boit can be reached at email@example.com.
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