Publishes Its First Issue Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Lesbian Tide was the first all-news periodical for lesbians and the first with a specifically lesbian-focused editorial policy. Along with editorials, it published news articles and features on topics such as politics, personal appearance, sexuality, pornography, and lesbian separatism, setting a reporting standard for the lesbian press that followed.

Summary of Event

The Lesbian Tide began as a newsletter for the Los Angeles chapter of the national lesbian organization Daughters of Bilitis. Soon it formed into an independent, lesbian-feminist newsmagazine published by Jeanne Cordova. [kw]Lesbian Tide Publishes Its First Issue (1971) [kw]Publishes Its First Issue, Lesbian Tide (1971) Lesbian Tide (periodical) Publications;Lesbian Tide Media;Lesbian Tide [c]Publications;1971: Lesbian Tide Publishes Its First Issue[0830] [c]Feminism;1971: Lesbian Tide Publishes Its First Issue[0830] Cordova, Jeanne

The magazine’s regular and contributing staff averaged twenty women. Featuring news stories, editorials, interviews, summer-vacation directories, and cultural-events listings, the Lesbian Tide (or Tide) provided a forum for lesbians throughout the United States. Financially supported by private funds and donations, but also by some advertising, the Tide was published sporadically between 1971 and 1975 and on a bimonthly, uninterrupted schedule between 1975 and 1980.

The Tide touched upon issues relevant to lesbians from all backgrounds. There were frequent stories on lesbian musicians, including the article “The Jazz-grass of Robin Flower” from the May/June, 1980, issue. The article discusses the trials and tribulations of writing one’s first album. The same issue features a lengthy interview with Cris Williamson, the “best selling, yet least personally known of the lesbian musicians of the 1970’s.”

Like all magazines, the Tide had its share of advertisements. While announcements for women’s bookstores, such as Magic Speller, Womansplace, and the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, appealed to literary appetites, ads for bars such as Sisters’ Suds catered to those also interested in the party scene. Labyris Auto Repair promised “complete car care by women” and A Pair of Toucans Ethnic Folk Art offered “affordable handcrafts from around the world.” Whatever the content of the advertisements, all shared the underlying objective of connecting women to women.

The Tide also published poetry and cartoon illustrations, which had been common media in the 1970’s. While one woman’s cartoon waxes humor on the lesbian proclivity to constantly “discuss the meaning of life,” another woman’s poem examines monogamy versus nonmonogamy. The overall tone of the magazine was both light and focused. An ad in a 1980 issue pleading for “Lily Tomlin for President” was juxtaposed with an article warning of right-wing power.

The “sex wars” of the 1980’s saw lesbians disagreeing openly about the good and bad of pornography, and the Tide covered the story. The sex wars began when “propornography” or “pro-sex” lesbians started to reconsider the antipornography stance that has always been a platform of lesbian-feminist politics. Antipornography lesbians were repulsed by this move, considering it a mindless adoption of masculine sexuality and masculine attitudes toward women’s bodies and thus a slap in the face of feminism.

The sex wars were highly charged, but the Tide still presented all sides to the story. In her article featured in the July, 1972, issue, Rita Goldberger’s “Exploitation, Misrepresentation Must Stop” laments the media’s portrayal of lesbians. She wrote,

A friend of mine recently ripped off a copy of some sex-rag out of a broken news rack.…The article was so obviously phony that I almost laughed, except that I realized that such ideas represent the stereotyped image the straight world has of us, and these false images are being perpetuated and exploited by the sex-rags.…Our culture has a perverted and distorted image of lesbians. We are not sex objects—we are women, human beings. We must protest such representation!

In a later issue, Jeanne Cordova and Kerry Lobel accuse lesbian feminists of collaborating with the political right on the pornography and exploitation issue.

A new trend has emerged—the anti-pornography movement. The movement to end pornography isn’t a new one, but feminist involvement within it is.…In a patriarchal society, most of what is called “raising a family” is economic exploitation of women by men. Most of what is called “sex” is physical exploitation of women by men. And most of what is called “christianity” is spiritual exploitation of women by men.

Another hot issue that ignited controversy within the lesbian community was lesbian separatism. As with the pornography and exploitation debates, the Lesbian Tide was careful to include opinions from women of all schools of thought. A few of the social advertisements encouraged lesbians to integrate themselves among the larger community. One such ad proclaims, “Sisters and Brothers Together! Every Thursday Beginning July 13. Gentlemen escorted by a sister—Admitted Free! And a free beer or glass of wine for the groovy gal who brings him!” Another announcement states “Non-Separatist Lesbians: Join our established rural communes. Here women and men (primarily hetero) live and work in a gentle culture dedicated to equality, non-sexism, and the good life.” Other establishments, conversely, promoted women-only space and thus were separatist.


In a decade when lesbian writing was scarce, the Lesbian Tide afforded lesbians a forum for conversation, culture, and debate. Unfortunately, economics was always an issue for the magazine, funds were always scarce, and advertising, what little there had been, could not support the publication indefinitely. Cordova had no choice but to fold the Tide. In the May/June, 1980, issue, the Tide announced plans to suspend publication, citing that staff members were “tired, need[ed] a break, and wanted some time free of deadlines to review [their own] work and consider [their own] future.” Publication had been expected to resume in November of that year, but it never did.

The Tide was part of a decade of rapid growth in lesbian politics and had untold influence on the lesbian community. It was at the forefront of a movement for lesbian rights when it published in-depth articles on issues that still are discussed and debated. Lesbian Tide (periodical) Publications;Lesbian Tide Media;Lesbian Tide

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Crow, Barbara A. Radical Feminism: A Documentary Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fejes, Fred, and Kevin Petrich. “Invisibility, Homophobia, and Heterosexism: Lesbians, Gays, and the Media.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 10 (1993): 396-422.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Streitmatter, Rodger. Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America. Winchester, Mass.: Faber and Faber, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Walters, Suzanna. All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

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Categories: History