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Patricia W. & J. Douglas Perry Library
The Papers of Our Own Community Press
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.
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 collection is arranged chronologically in bound volumes.
Gift of Alicia Herr, Editor, September 1998. Accession #: A98-9.
The collection is open to researchers without restrictions. Questions on literary property rights should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian.
15 Bound Volumes.
Volume 1: 1977-78