Congratulations to my friends at the Washington Blade for celebrating their 40th anniversary covering the LGBT community and news in Washington, D.C. They have a great set of features on the website that definitely shouldn’t be missed.
The Blade plays a unique role on the national level, describing itself as the LGBT “paper of record” covering “official Washington” before much of the mainstream press was paying attention to LGBT news. It continues to thrive in an era when alternative newspapers and the LGBT press often struggle to stay alive.
One of my favorite features is the first in a series of stories by Lou Chibbarro Jr., who has been with the Blade for 33 years. He chronicles the beginning of the newspaper and its founding by lesbian and gay activists in D.C. He also talks about how he started at the Blade.
My 33-year association with the Blade began in July 1976 as a volunteer freelance writer.
I had worked full-time since 1974 as a reporter for a company that published newsletters on environmental, energy and science issues. Its offices were located in the National Press Building, which would decades later come to house the Blade.
Like Crislip, I determined my own job could be jeopardized if I used my real name as a Blade reporter. So in an effort to at least retain my ethnic heritage, I adopted the pen name Lou Romano.
The need to do this became even more apparent a short time later, when I started a new job as a public information officer for a national trade association representing municipally owned electric utilities.
As someone who came to the realization that I was gay just a few years earlier, I became fascinated over the enormous potential in chronicling a fledgling gay rights movement. I had an undergraduate degree in political science and was close to completing a graduate journalism program at American University. Up until early 1974, I had almost no contact with the gay community — in Washington or anywhere else.
There is also a list of the 40 most-important headlines, a collection of photos, couples who met through the Blade’s personals, and reflections by editor Kevin Naff, publisher Lynne Brown, and former editor Lisa Keen. I especially liked Kevin’s take on the role of the Blade–and the LGBT press generally–for young people.
I found inspiration where I could, secretly yearning to learn more about what it meant to be gay. And then, on a trip with high school friends to D.C., I snuck away from the group for a few minutes and wandered into Lambda Rising.
It was there in those glorious aisles that I first encountered the Washington Blade. Feverishly paging through the newspaper, I realized for the first time that I wasn’t alone; that there was a vast gay world waiting for me that I knew nothing about.
IT WAS AT once frightening and reassuring. Frightening, because I never envisioned myself as part of a “gay community,” whatever that means. Reassuring, because somewhere, deep down, I knew that I wasn’t just “different,” that it wasn’t a “phase.”