Old Dominion University Libraries

Our Own Community Press, 1976-1998 | Special Collections and University Archives

By Special Collections Staff

Collection Overview

Title: Our Own Community Press, 1976-1998

Collection Identifier: HQ75.076

Extent: 4.5 Linear Feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The collection is arranged chronologically in bound volumes.

Date Acquired: 09/22/1998

Subjects: Gay liberation movement--Virginia--Periodicals, Gay men--Virginia--Periodicals., Gay rights--United States--History--20th century, Lesbians--Virginia--Periodicals, Our own (Norfolk, Va.)

Languages: English


A collection of 15 bound volumes that represent 21 years of the paper’s existence. The paper started in 1976 as a newsletter for the Unitarian-Universalist Gay Caucus of Norfolk and grew into an institution in the Hampton Roads community. When the paper folded in 1998, it was one of the country’s oldest gay newspapers.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This collection spans the years from 1976 to 1998. Of historical note are articles on anti-gay campaigns by Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson; the murder of San Francisco city supervisor and gay rights activist, Harvey Milk; same-sex marriage; gays and religion; gays in the military; gays in the media; the AIDS epidemic; and news, organizations, and events related to gay and lesbian people on local, state, and national levels.

The volumes have been digitized and can be found in the Old Dominion University Libraries Digital Collections.

Collection Historical Note

Our Own began publishing in 1976 when thoughts of liberty were in the air. In August of that year, a handful of gays and lesbians created a social and political group at the Unitarian-Universalist church in Norfolk, called the Unitarian-Universalist Gay Caucus (UUGC). Before long, the group needed a newsletter to keep members informed of activities. The first issue of Our Own featured an article about a spaghetti dinner being held to raise funds for a gay helpline.

The first few issues of Our Own primarily detailed the sparse gathering opportunities for gays and lesbians in Norfolk, and expounded upon the UUGC's dreams of establishing the helpline, a venereal disease clinic, telephone counseling, a public library of gay material, and a free legal aid clinic.

By the end of its second year of publication, the newsletter had grown in circulation and size, distributed throughout the state and covering such news as Anita Bryant's anti-gay crusade (with Bryant's classic quote: I'd rather my child be dead than a homosexual.), same-sex marriage, gays and religion, gays in the military, and gays in the media. Over the next two decades, the topics would remain fairly constant, although Anita Bryant gave way to Jerry Falwell whose media spotlight was eventually usurped by Pat Robertson.

As the years went on, the climate in the country changed. Bryant was just the beginning of a violent backlash against the tentative acceptance mainstream America held out to gays. The pages of Our Own began to contain more and more stories about gay-bashing and murder, anti-gay legislation and anti-gay crusaders. For Our Own's readers struggling for self-determination in the back yard of Pat Robertson's multi-million dollar right wing compound, such events as the murder of San Francisco city supervisor and gay rights activist Harvey Milk brought home the level of hatred directed against gays.

Our Own became a nucleus for the community. The people who started new gay organizations either met while working at Our Own or were brought together through our articles or news stories. But mainstream Virginia didn't feel as fondly toward the newspaper. Our Own found itself fighting to keep its issues in public libraries, which suddenly became unwilling to stock a gay newspaper. Our Own ultimately brought a lawsuit against the City of Virginia Beach with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union in an attempt to force the libraries to keep an issue of the paper with their periodicals. The lawsuit failed, but when the city sued the newspaper to recoup the money the city had spent on its defense, the case went all the way to the Federal Appeal Court in Wilmington, N.C., where the court decided in favor of Our Own.

Near the end of 1981, gays began to hear about a new gay cancer taking the lives of gay men. Gay newspapers and the gay community in general, weren't sure how to react to the news. To many, it sounded suspiciously like a government plot to force gay men back into the closet. But the rising death toll was impossible to ignore, and Our Own forged ahead with stories that educated readers about possible causes of the new disease. The AIDS crisis brought the gay and lesbian community together.

In August of 1998, the paper declared bankruptcy. Low revenues from advertising, increased rent costs, and chronic staffing problems hit a crisis point. At the time, it was one of the country's oldest gay and lesbian newspapers.

Subject/Index Terms

Gay liberation movement--Virginia--Periodicals
Gay men--Virginia--Periodicals.
Gay rights--United States--History--20th century
Our own (Norfolk, Va.)

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives

Alternate Extent Statement: 15 Bound Volumes

Access Restrictions: The collection is open to researchers without restrictions.

Use Restrictions: Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Acquisition Source: Alicia Herr, Editor

Acquisition Method: Gift. Accession # A98-9.

Preferred Citation: [Article author], [Article title], Our Own Community Press, [volume, number], [date]. Special Collections and University Archives, Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry Library, Old Dominion University Libraries, Norfolk, VA 23529.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Item:

[Item 1: Volume 1, 1976-1978],
[Item 2: Volume 2, 1979-1980],
[Item 3: Volume 3, 1981-1982],
[Item 4: Volume 4, 1983-1984],
[Item 5: Volume 5, 1985-1986],
[Item 6: Volume 6, 1987-1988],
[Item 7: Volume 7, 1989-1990],
[Item 8: Volume 8, 1991],
[Item 9: Volume 9, 1992],
[Item 10: Volume 10, 1993],
[Item 11: Volume 11, 1994],
[Item 12: Volume 12, 1995],
[Item 13: Volume 13, 1996],
[Item 14: Volume 14, 1997],
[Item 15: Volume 15, 1998],

Item 13: Volume 13, 1996

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