Monday, February 16, 2015

An Insider’s History of Gay Fandom — The beginning

We eventually made t-shirts.
I got the first one.
As I write this—February 16, 2015—the Gaylaxian Science Fiction Society, the first organized group for LGBT (and friendly) science fiction fans turns twenty-nine. Okay, I could have waited a year and done this on the thirtieth anniversary, but I’ve had a couple recent reminders about the beginning of the Gaylaxians, and thought I’d get some of them set down.

There are certain things for which I cannot lay claim, and even for the things for which I can lay claim, I was not alone. A lot of this was being in the right place at the right time and maybe somebody else would have done. Certainly, between 1986 and 1991, there was a great flourishing of gay fandom, all before the Internet.[1]

The first item to which I can lay no claim is the gay fandom party, or even the open gay fandom party. I later found that there had been gay fandom parties at cons I had attended, but there was no way for anyone to let young John Dumas know that there was a party he’d want to attend. Word did get to me of a gay fandom party at Disclave in about 1982. I’m as equally unsure whether or not it was open as to what year it happened.

The party was pretty low-key, but I think it was the largest collection of gay and bi people in which I had ever been. About the only thing I remember that there was one person there significantly younger than I. He was was blond sixteen-year-old, who was wearing a cut-off t-shirt and tight shorts.[2] He was trying to avoid the attentions of a older man, someone in his fifties or sixties. I remember running interference, for which he thanked me, but did inform me that he wasn’t interested in me. Happily, I wasn’t interested in him either.

The party made me realize that I was not the only gay person in fandom, which was news. I had been to several conventions by that point, and this was the first time I had seen any evidence that there were any other gay people in fandom. I wondered if I could actually continue to meet other gay people in science fiction fandom and perhaps find a guy who shared my interests. My interests in gay fandom weren’t wholly altruistic. Fandom was so closeted at the time, finding a boyfriend who liked science fiction looked like it was going to be a struggle for me. In my tentative encounters with the gay community, my interest in science fiction seemed to be something of a shortcoming.

By the end of 1984, though, I had a boyfriend. He was a comics fan, which I figured would be close enough, and I liked him. I dragged him off to Philcon 1984, where I tried the concept of an open gay fandom party. If it was some sort of horrific failure leading to my exclusion from the con, maybe I could escape the shame back in the Boston area. (If it had been horrific disaster, the sort of thing that gets one banned from a con, there were enough Boston fans there that I woudln’t have been going back to Boskones.) The party was pretty much a success, so I intended to repeat this in Boston.

I also wondered if there was a way for the gay fans to keep in touch, so that we would know what conventions we were going to, and be able to better plan gay fandom parties. At the beginning of my activity in fandom, I got involved with an amateur press association, and that seemed to be the best model on which to proceed.

I probably need to explain that bit. Amateur press associations pre-date science fiction fandom. In their earliest form, members each needed to have a press, the physical device, that is. Members would set things in cold type and print a few copies which were shared by other members of the association. By my era, mimeographs and photocopies were the way to go (and mimeo was on its last legs[3]). Like a blog, people would write things on a recurrent basis, typically making comments on what other members of the association had made in prior issues.

I can’t even claim that I created the first gay apa, an honor that goes to Apa-Lambda, which started as an apa for gay comic-book fans. Once again, when I started an apa, GAPS (for “the gay amateur press association”), I had no idea that Apa-Lamdba existed. The people in the room at Philcon were from all over, so the best way to keep us all in communication was some sort of regular contact in the mails. It probably wasn’t the best idea, but it was the one I had.

GAPS, even though it lasted for years, never actually served the purpose for which it had been created. Instead, it just became a way for a small group of science fiction fans to keep in contact long before social media was invented.[4] There was an odd failure in our recruiting: during its entire existence, not one woman joined. It was, not by design, a group of gay and bisexual men. At some point, I gave up on trying to convince women to join, though every once in a while, a woman would ask why the members were all male. I’d explain matters and note that there was certainly no bar to women joining. They always declined to be first.

At the beginning of 1985, I had a fledgling apa, and decided to risk a gay fandom party in my home territory. The boyfriend and I went off to Boskone 22 at the beginning of 1985. I held a gay fandom party and I got queerbaited. Some attendees aware that I had thrown the party taunted my boyfriend and I saying that we were disgusting. Eventually security was called. The committee handled the whole thing very well. I was attending a panel discussion the next day when someone from Ops whispered in my ear. I gave my side of the story. I was told that the offending parties had been kicked out of the con.

In a way, this sparked things. People who were okay with going closeted at a con weren’t so happy when gay invisibility lead to queerbaiting and queerbashing.[5] Word got around fast and lots of people were supportive of an open gay presence in fandom. I think a lot of people began to feel that the gay presence already in fandom had been quiet too long.

When I got to Boskone 23,[6] I found that someone had planned a gay fandom party. Saved me the problem. I did get involved. There are lots of things to do to pull off a party at a convention. At the end of things, as the party came to a close, we were gathered. A well-known science fiction writer[7] was in attendance, regaling us with tales concerning his publisher and a book series that he hasn’t finished yet.[8] When the comment was made that it was a shame that we’d have to wait an entire year before getting together like this again, I said that we didn’t have to wait.

Unlike the party at Philcon, the party as Boskone (despite the broad geographical footprint of a Bokone of the era[9]) was pretty much locals. We could have a club. I proposed it and started handing around a pad[10] to get addresses. the writer, [Name Redacted] joked that if he named it after him, he’d sue (he was smirking as he said it). “We can call it the [Name Redacted] Memorial Science Fiction Society,” I said.

He noted that he’d have to be dead for it to be a “Memorial” society. “And if you’re dead, you can’t sue.” But I had no intention of naming it after [Name Redacted].[11] Another science fiction fan offered to help and provided invaluable contributions, including the name. When a date and place had been fixed for the March meeting, I simply typed the words “March Gay Fandom Update” at the top of the page.

  1. I remember reading about a group that did a Kickstarted campaign for an LBGT gaming convention. I did a con before there was an Internet, but I’ll get to that later.  ↩
  2. Who would now be in his late forties.  ↩
  3. The history of fanzine reproduction includes a variety of now obsolete technologies for mass production of reading material.  ↩
  4. I am friends on Facebook with many of its members.  ↩
  5. Point of fact, I was actually bashed, just threatened with violence.  ↩
  6. Personal note. In February 1986, I was no longer with the boyfriend with whom I was queerbaited. New boyfriend. I don’t think he tagged along.  ↩
  7. I could probably name him, but it’s funnier this way.  ↩
  8. At that point, two books of a projected trilogy had been published, after which his publisher concluded that they would not be publishing additional science fiction.  ↩
  9. At that time, Boskone got dubbed the “Winter Worldcon.”  ↩
  10. What the hell. A pad with a beefcake image of a Playgirl model.  ↩
  11. At a party during a later Gaylaxicon (but I’m getting ahead of myself), [Name Redacted] playfully slapped my cheek. “What was that for?” He said that I looked like I was about to start another organization.  ↩

You can follow my blog on Twitter (@impofthediverse) or on Facebook. If you like this post, share it with your friends. If you have a comment just for me, e-mail me at
This blog runs solely on ego! Follow this blog! Comment on this post! Let me know that you want to read more of it!


  1. Hmm, I remember that party... :)

    1. Which of the four? Disclave in about 82 or 83? I didn't meet you until after the Philcon and first Boskone party. You weren't at the second Boskone party.

    2. You left out a number of fairly important things, John, such as I (Franklin Hummel) was the co-founder of The Gaylaxians, the name was my idea, the logo was my creation, that I wrote and published the group's newsletter, and that I was the first president, that I sent up the programming at Boskone (and later Worldcons) -- among many other things,

    3. And, oh yes, I made the T-shirts.

    4. And, to be accurate, while you did the lettering of the name, the actual "Galaxy in Triangle" was my design, The galaxy is actually a variation of the Whirlpool logo and in the original design, which is on your t-shirt, my initials "FH" are formed by one of the star patterns at the very bottom of the right.

      You always did have the trait of taking credit for things you did NOT actually do, John.
      * * *

    5. Frank, I looked through this, and was clear that there were other people involved. Yes, you did all those things. Since in 1991 you threatened legal action if I or other members of the Gaylaxians tried to contact you, I decided it was prudent to note that "Another science fiction fan offered to help and provided invaluable contributions, including the name," and not name you directly.

      "Invaluable contributions, including the name." That's credit where credit is due.

      I did, however, throw the parties I said I threw, and I was the person who suggested forming a club. I feel at no point in my narrative did I take any credit where it was due to someone else.

      Yes, you were the first president of the group. I don't know if you noticed, but in writing this, I hadn't even got to the first meeting. I do believe that for the first few months I was publishing the newsletter. I do know I sent out the "March Gay Fandom Update."

      As for Boskone, I think I had a large hand in getting our programming on the schedule, since I knew many of the people involved. You were more connected to the BSTA. I had friends in NESFA and had already been a program participant. But I don't have any clear and specific memories of who did what with that, so I certainly wouldn't have been so quick to take credit (not that it was something in the post).

      I've also left your bad behavior out of this. If you like, I could give credit where credit is due there. That'd make an amusing blog post, wouldn't it?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...