Edythe Eyde: The lesbian who started publishing
If there is one lesbian throughout the whole history of the LGBTQ community we at LesbianNews is thankful for, it’s Edythe Eyde, who published the first lesbian magazine in the US.
Eyde, who is better known under her writing name Lisa Ben (an anagram for lesbian), published the zine Vice Versa in 1947, a time when it wasn’t safe to be out and it was illegal to print homosexual material.
Edythe Eyde: A hidden life
Born in 1921 in San Francisco, Eyde was the only child of parents Oscar Eyde and Olive Elizabeth Colegrove.
Though she had a seemingly normal childhood, Eyde had her first crush on another girl in high school. When the relationship ended, she talked to her mother about it.
Unfortunately, her mother didn’t take well to it, such that she never talked about personal or love matters again with her parents.
In 1945, she moved away from her parents to Palo Alto and then to Los Angeles.
Edythe Eyde: Making art for lesbians
Eyde came out as a lesbian in 1946 with her new friends at her apartment building, and started going out to lesbian bars with them.
She decided to publish Vice Versa in 1947 to meet other lesbians: “I was by myself, and I wanted to be able to meet others like me. I couldn’t go down the street saying ‘I’m looking for lesbian friends.'”
Through her magazine, she said, she had a reason to talk to other girls and convince them to write for her: “I no longer had any trouble going up to new people.”
While she was working as a secretary at RKO Studios in Los Angeles, she printed and copied her magazine via typing them using carbon paper as a way to cope with boredom.
However, she had to do it secretly as under California law, what she was doing was illegal, especially as she had to mail some of the magazines through the post office.
“It was just some writing that I wanted to do to get it off my chest,” she told Eric Marcus in an interview on his podcast, “Making Gay History.”
“I would also say to the girls as I passed the magazines out, ‘Now when you get through with this, don’t throw it away. Pass it on to another gay gal,'” she said.
Edythe Eyde: A life worth living
After RKO Studios closed shop, she couldn’t continue publishing her magazine because her new work didn’t give her enough time. The magazine ran for nine issues from 1947 to 1948.
However, Eyde still managed to let her creativity shine by writing lesbian-oriented songs that riffed on popular tunes of the period. (She also did commercial jingles for companies.)
Likewise, she wrote more articles in LGBTQ publications like The Ladder that was published by the lesbian organization, Daughters of Bilitis.
Though she lived a quiet life in Los Angeles after, the community didn’t forget her contributions as she was inducted into the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Hall of Fame in 2010.
Eyde died on December 2015, but we will always remember that she dedicated her work to “those of us who will never quite be able to adapt ourselves to the iron-clad rules of Convention.”
What’s more, she once wrote in an issue: “Homosexuality is becoming a less and less taboo subject, and although still considered by the general public as contemptible, or treated with derision, I venture to predict that there will be a time in the future when gay folk will be accepted as part of regular society.”
Amen, sister, amen.