By Bruce Christian, Sept. 25, 2014.
Knowing this edition celebrates Echo’s 25th anniversary makes me feel weird, because I’ve been contributing in one way or another for so long.
My involvement began because I wanted to help the “cause.” My formative years occurred during the 1960s. I was influenced by the Civil Rights movement, and I couldn’t understand why minorities were treated differently in “the land of the free.”
When I learned my great aunt Alice was lesbian, I watched and listened with interest how family treated her and her long-time partner Mary. It was disgusting. Most of my family always included “uncle” in front of Mary’s name when she wasn’t around. I found that demeaning and wrong. Yet, I’m quite sure that at one time or another, my nephews and nieces have referred to me as Aunt Bruce behind my back.
In the mid-’70s, when a man my age was jumped outside a Tucson bar and beaten to death because he was gay, I became angry. The anger burned when the four teenagers who were out gay bashing were sentenced to probation, because they were good students and football players for their high school and they didn’t mean to kill the guy.
Then a friend and I were jumped outside the Forum, which was located at 41st Street and McDowell Road. Fortunately, the guy walking me to my car was an imposing figure, and he took on three of the guys by himself, as I tried to shake off the blow to my head and concentrate on the fourth guy, whose courage came from being in a group. Neither he, nor did they, expect my friend and I to fight back. Nor did they expect that about 20 other men came storming out of the Forum to help us.
I was horrified when I heard the news about Harvey Milk’s assassination.
When Echo first hit the street, I was somewhat impressed. It took the typical “bar rag” to a new level, as it focused on news stories and issues. Back then it had all the typical trappings of a LGBT publication, including sex ads. But from the beginning it set its editorial focus on exploring topics that community members might discuss among themselves a coffee shop or bar.
If I was alone in the bar, I would sit and edit the magazine cover to cover. I thought it needed help in the writing and editing department. It was doing this one time in 1990 that I saw the classified ad for an arts writer. Since I covered the arts as part of my beat at the Tribune, I thought it was an opportunity to become involved in a rights movement that concerned me.
After two or three issues writing an arts column, the publisher told me the editor was leaving the magazine. He asked if I would do it on a temporary basis until he found an editor. I agreed, and he didn’t find anyone until I chose my successor — Liz Massey — nine years later.
With Echo, I felt I was given a voice to advocate. As a reporter for the Tribune, I didn’t make enough money to donate to fund-raising events or to spend money on causes. Back then, I lived from pay check to pay check and my credit card debt was growing. As much as I wanted to contribute financially, it was impossible; but it was not impossible to lend a voice to a cause.
The early years of Echo was a great time. Publisher Bill Orovan was a hands-on guy, who spent long hours, wee into the night, pouring over stories, ad contracts and publishing details. It was not uncommon to find out he and general manager Jeff Ofstedahl had pulled overnighters writing headlines that were full of puns.
The staff met once every two weeks as sort of an “editorial” round up for the next issue and we would discuss story ideas for issues down the road. Some of my very favorite times were during these meetings, as those who took part had great senses of humor.
While we planned on the stories that discussed everything from HIV/AIDS and hate crimes to employment nondiscrimination and civil unions (and then gay marriage), we also were not afraid to laugh at the world around us, the political leaders of the time — some, like John McCain are still around — and at ourselves.
We never, however, forgot our mission. We wanted to educate the LGBT community and the straight community as well. We wanted to provide the information our readers needed to make informed decisions. We wanted to point out the abuses — such as the targeted Phoenix Police traffic patrols near gay bars — and to praise those straight allies who were ahead of their time by embracing us and our causes. We wanted to tell the important success stories of our own and to keep members of the LGBT community aware of events they might like to attend or in which to participate.
But mostly we wanted to impart a sense of empowerment and pride. We wanted LGBT people to not be afraid of who they are, and to give them the courage to come out. We wanted to let them know that being gay is a natural thing, it exists all through nature and if the bullies and the haters have a problem with us, it is because of the issues they need to resolve.
Although I wasn’t with Echo when it started, I’ve been there long enough to say, it’s been a great 25 years and I’ve been so happy to have been part of it.
Bruce Christian is a former managing editor of Echo Magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]