Apr 1, 2021
Fall 1982: The Gayellow Pages
But the gay characters appeared in movies and tv programs that I wasn't allowed to watch, the gay books did not appear on the shelves in any library or bookstore that I had access to, and the nearest Gay Pride Parade was in Chicago.
I knew about gay bars, bath houses, and adult bookstores, but I had never been in one. I knew about pornographic magazines. And that's all. I figured that since being gay was illegal (it wasn't, at least not in Illinois), there couldn't be any organizations or publications, no community, nothing except clandestine closet bars and porn magazines.
In the fall of 1982, I began graduate school in Bloomington, Indiana. On the night of September 25th, I went to an adult bookstore near the campus and asked "Do you have anything gay?", hoping for some porn. I got got copies of Mandate, In Touch, and Christopher Street, and a directory called the Gayellow Pages.
There were 16 listings for Madison, Wisconsin. 6 bars, 2 bookstores, a community center, two health services, a legal service, a liquor store, a religious group, a place called "the soap opera," and a women's center.
Kicking myself for not going to the University of Wisconsin, I looked up Bloomington. A little more sparse: a bar called Bullwinkle's, a women's center, and a gay student group. When I called the student group, I got the message: "All conversations are recorded and delivered to the police," so I hung up quickly to avoid being arrested. But still, it was obvious that there were many more gay people than I ever imagined, and they were much more organized than I ever thought possible.