While I’m waiting for the legal things to complete on the purchase front, I’m getting a lot of interesting reading done about queer life in the country side. One of the interesting articles I came across recently was written by Scott Herring from Indiana University and looked at how the debate – almost antagony – between “rural queer” and “urban gay” played out (and was aided by?) three different magazines: the glossy American gay magazine “Advocate”, and the early version of the “Rural Fairy Digest” (RFD), with a mostly male readership, and the lesbian magazine “Country Women”.
In his article Herring describes how the Advocate shaped the image of the “sopisticated”, hedonistic and “free” urban gay man, living in either Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York. In fact, Herring shows how the Advocate stylised and aestheticised this stereotypical image and crafted the idea that only urban folks can be free and express themselves freely, mostly reliant on consumption and materialistic/hedonistic pleasures as a means to obtain and maintain happiness, validation and a sense of “belonging”. Although the Advocate didn’t usually depict the countryside at all, it relentlessly portrayed and embedded the idea of the conservative and homophopic countryside that is still there today (although not actually true – see here).
During the early years RFD (still published today) and Country Women tried to counter this idea. They did this through creating a more wholesome imagery, more inclusive and less “crafted” than the imagery of the glossy urban gay press. Much of the imagery had an amateurish look to it, although I wonder if this was entirely “by design” or also by necessity (the Advocate was, after all a magazine with enormous financial “muscle”, while the two “rural magazine” were collective based). So, if you ever wonder where some of the idea that gay men (at least) can only be truly themselves in a metropolis comes from: look no further than the Advocate magazine.
On a different note: RFD magazine is still around – although it has changed pretty substantially from the original magazine. It is now closely aligned with the Radical Faeries, rather than more widely “queer in the country”. In my humble opinion, it is still a great read though!
If you want to read the full article by Scott Herring, the reference for it is:
Herring, S. (2007). Out of the Closets, Into the Woods: RFD, Country Women, and the Post-Stonewall Emergence of Queer Anti-urbanism. American Quarterly, 59(2), 341–372. http://doi.org/10.1353/aq.2007.0043