URLF Project: PromotingQueerLiteracy

1980's and 90's

The successes of the 1970's the 80's brought new challenges to bear against the queer community. Visible for the first time in history, the religious right rallied behind political figureheads in an attempt to categorically eliminate queerness from polite society. Concurrently, the AIDS epidemic wreaked havoc through the gay community, while political leaders actively refused to fight it or even recognize it. In the 1980's millions of people wanted queer people dead, and in the wake of a brutal epidemic that killed millions of queer people, the religious right redoubled their efforts at oppression.
In the face of this, queer people joined in solidarity to care for those most affected by the epidemic and built up communities to raise consciousness. The 80's was an era of queer/feminist bookshops, coffee houses, and papers, and safe spaces to organize and live with others like them.
The 1980's were when queerness and queer comics really began to take off. Following the legacy of lesbian cartoonists in the 70's, queer cartoonists organized to put out the anthology series, Gay Comix. Artists like Allison Bechdel and Howard Cruse published regular strips in queer newspapers and magazines about issues in the community and what it meant to live as a queer person.
Up to this point, the queer community had existed largely separate from common culture, and in the 90's queerness broke out. While suffering greatly at the hands of the religious right, the Reagan era, and the AIDS epidemic, queerness was visible, and actively supplied a rallying point for a new young counterculture. The 90's brought a wave of inclusiveness to the queer community, better recognizing transgender and bisexual people, which wasn't always greeted enthusiastically by the old guard of gays and lesbians. As a result, many new young queer artists turned to zines and other more independent mediums to share their stories solidifying themselves in the community. Artists like Rob Kirby and Diane DiMassa joined the stage besides the likes of Bechdel and Gregory to share a new view of queerness.

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