The Florida LGBTQ+ Collection

By Rachel Laue and James Cusick – 

The P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History has started a new collection on LGBTQ+ publications in Florida, focusing on newspapers or periodicals published during the 1970s and 1980s.  At the core of this collection is an 18-month run of The Weekly News (TWN), published in Miami, for 1980 and 1981.   The run reflects TWN’s transformation from a traditional newspaper format into a trendy-looking periodical, and documents the year leading up to the official recognition of HIV by the Centers for Disease Control, when AIDS began to climb to epidemic proportions, disproportionately affecting the gay community.  

Pride March
From the Cover of TWN’s July 2, 1980 issue, Gay Pride Parade in Miami, Florida.

At the time of its final issue in 2006, TWN was the longest running gay newspaper in Florida. The newspaper was part of the National Gay Newspaper Guild (NGNG) and had a circulation of approximately 20,000 issues per week at the peak of its production. It was created as part of the fight to pass an amendment in Dade County that legally banned discrimination in housing, accommodation, and employment based on sexual preference. Although the amendment was a piece of local legislation, it drew national attention when singer Anita Bryant, promoter of Florida orange juice and anti-gay activist, launched an attack on it.  Her campaign provoked determined push-back from gay civil rights organizations across the country.

TWN, June 11, 1980, resembling a weekly reader.
Rally for Tallahassee
TWN, April 26, 1981, with its bolder cover page.

TWN was first published by the Dade County Coalition for Human Rights, but the paper cut ties with the organization in 1980 to become a not-for-profit publication. The UF collection contains a nearly complete run of TWN from January 1980 to April 1981.  Coverage focuses on political issues although late in the run articles about HIV begin to appear.  The newspaper originally followed a layout similar to any newspaper weekly, but in mid-run switched to bold front pages that usually featured a single photograph or piece of line-art illustration.

The Homosexual Citizen
The Homosexual Citizen, September 1966

Other publications in the collection include four issues of The Homosexual Citizen, a co-publication of the Mattachine Societies of Washington D.C. and Florida. Mattachine Societies were the fore-runners of the modern gay rights movement in the 1950s in the United States. In Florida, the president of the Mattachine Society was Richard Inman, one of the first gay activists in the South. The Homosexual Citizen ran for only 1 year, 1966-1967, when its editorial staff parted ways. The papers of two of the newsletter’s other founders, Frank Kameny, who was also a famous NASA astronomer, and Lilli Vincenz are available at the Library of Congress.

Visit Orlando
2014 Travel Guide

Two issues of The Advocate from 1976-1977 and two issues of Newswest from 1977, both newspapers based out of California, provide further context about the milieu of mid-twentieth century LGBTQ+ news publishing. A 1980 issue of Texas newspaper, Upfront America, and a 1977 issue of the Gay People’s Union from Wisconsin, also demonstrate that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights was not confined to the east and west coasts but rather was part of a network of diverse voices from all parts of the United States.  All these issues contain articles pertaining to Florida.

The collection will supplement and fill in gaps in the University of Florida’s online collection, Digital LGBTQIA+ ( which features 25 periodicals published by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual organizations, primarily from 2006 and later.

A Description of the Florida LGBTQ+ Collection