With a following of 3.2 million viewers, the style advice show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” has brought the term “queer” into households across America, and now the term graces the front cover of the first intercollegiate gay magazine.
Once regarded as a derogatory term but now deployed by members of the gay and lesbian society, the word “queer” became inspiration for dialogue among friends and magazine creators Harvard juniors Chris Hughes, Ryan Coughlan and Tim Pittman. From their debates, the idea for “Queer.,” a biannual intercollegiate literary magazine run by Harvard students, was born, Pittman said. The editorial board of “Queer.” has liaisons at schools such as Yale, the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley, to solicit submissions from their peers for the magazine.
“We wanted to use something broad and evocative to encompass all of the most progressive gender and feminist theory,” Pittman said. “Also the kind of bite that comes with the word inspires continuous discussion about whether or not we should be using it.”
For their first issue last spring, the magazine editors solicited submissions by mass e-mailing visual arts departments, gender studies departments and on-campus queer groups at institutions across the country, including Yale. From their efforts they received four times the amount of entries they published, Pittman said.
“Students at Yale have a tradition in voicing their opinion,” Yale campus liaison to the magazine Jennifer Row ’07 said. “If there’s an avenue, they’ll utilize it.”
Row, who works as a researcher in the women’s and gender studies department at Yale, said she learned of the liaison opportunity from professor Jonathan Katz, executive coordinator of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies. As a liaison to the magazine, she acts as an on-campus source, answering students’ questions about the submissions process and correcting misconceptions, she said.
Through the magazine, the editors sought to create a forum that combines issues under the umbrella of sexuality with academic essays on gender theory, personal reflective pieces and visual arts, Pittman said.
“I guess the magazine is not necessarily about what it means to be gay,” Row said. “It encompasses a variety of sexuality; the piece doesn’t necessarily need to be from a lesbian or gay perspective, so a lot of people submit who don’t necessarily identify themselves as gay, but who are interested and engaged academically with the material.”
Row is a copy edit staffer for the News.
Debuting with a circulation of 15,000 for their spring 2004 issue, “Queer” was distributed both in dining halls at Harvard and other participating colleges. Due to the controversial nature of its title, the journal initially had trouble procuring funding. Eventually it received grants from the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus, the Ann Radcliffe Trust, the Harvard Foundation and the Undergraduate Council.
Pieces in the fall issue ranged from a poem, “Generic dyke rock band,” to an expository essay, “Michael Jackson’s Adventures in Neverland: the Construction of the Suspect Queer Image.”