21 Unintentionally Gay Vintage Newspaper Clippings That I Wish Were Gay For Real

Once upon a time, the words we use to refer to our sexual orientations and gender identities were also used to mean other things. For example, “gay” means “happy,” whatever that is. This means many archival documents are unintentionally loaded with brilliant subtext their creators were hardly aware of at the time. Luckily, I’m here, now, armed with a newspapers.com membership and a keen eye for rampant early 20th century queerbaiting.

1. The Roseburg Review, Oregon – May 13, 1916

Tell me more about these “dyke headquarters”

2. The Pittsburgh Press, Pennsylvania — July 30, 1912

Also the title of an A-Camp workshop I would definitely attend

3. The Wilson Advance, North Carolina — March 16, 1893

Invitation ACCEPTED

4. The Observer, London, UK – August 25, 1929


5. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania — May 10, 1903

but her mother insisted she would look so cute if she just tried the dress on

6. The Minneapolis Star, Minnesota — May 5, 1922


7. The Lincoln Evening Journal, Nebraska  – June 23, 1932

Is it though

8. The Arizona Daily Star, Arizona – February 11, 1912

Why the scare quotes, Edith

9. The Harrisburg Telegraph, Pennsylvania — April 5, 1947

early inspiration for butcheswithbabies.tumblr.com

10. The Wilkes-Barre Record, Pennsylvania – August 13, 1901

Listen if all the family is not present at the fifth annual reunion, I will be CRACKING SKULLS.

11. The Pickens Sentinel, South Carolina – December 14, 1904

…because every time we explain our fads to you, YOU STEAL THEM

12. The Decatur Herald, Illinois – August 2, 1927

Prime example of the slippery slope from homosexuality to having dinner with rabbits and toads

13. The Frederick News, Maryland – May 29, 1899

the “purpose” of “promoting” the “literary talent” of “the college”

14. The Pittsburgh Daily Post, Pennsylvania – February 4, 1914

Early working title for J. Halberstam’s “Female Masculinity”

15. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri – February 8, 1922

Well Kabakoff can fuck entirely off

16. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York — August 5, 1909

Early working title for “Ramona Quimby, Age 8”

17. The Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico — April 12, 1904

It’s about damn time

18. The Benton Harbor News-Palladium, Michigan — July 7, 1915


19. The Brownsville Herald, Texas — November 28, 1948

Early working title of “Finding Nemo”

20. The Seattle Star, Washington – Sep 14, 1912


21. The Pittsburgh Press, Pennsylvania – March 20, 1888

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave your girlfriend

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3180 articles for us.


  1. going to try to work “THEIR FADS ARE INEXPLAINABLE” into conversation as often as possible; will probably only succeed in sounding even older than I already am.

  2. We have a street in my town called Gay Street, named after one of the Gay family (might or might not be the same as the one you linked).

  3. Ok who’s printing out “Hotel de Queer: Regular and Transient Guests” and hanging it on their bedroom door?

        • I think it might have something to do with like, Sappho maybe being the best-known female poet within the cannon of very-long-dead ancient western civilization poets and she was from the Isle of Lesbos? That’s my best guess. I could be wrong about literally everything in this paragraph though ’cause my intense interest in history drops off once we get earlier than the 19th century

    • I had the same thought with the Gay’s advertisement. I saved half of these to my computer so I can use them everywhere possible.

  4. “A great lady must at times be, or seem to be, a queer woman” :) true. :)
    I also love the way they dropped the patronising ‘lady’ and replaced it with ‘woman’ once they made it clear they were talking about queer women… And not just in that one line but all the way through.
    Gay did have sexual implications in what I think is around this time – a man who was a womaniser was ‘gay’…

  5. Well, I’m so gay I assumed the veteran detective of number 20 to also be a lesbian before I read your caption. This was great.

  6. I love all of these! I presume they were found during research for actual gay things which also makes me excited because I really love all the queer history posts!

  7. #3 I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “gay” written so many times in one image before. It’s giving me something to aspire to in my every day life.

    #11 that caption is SPOT ON!

  8. Riese, can I just hire you to caption my life? Also, I second the request for t-shirts.

    Please enjoy this vintage photo from my alma mater’s yearbook in the early 60s. It’s pretty much my favorite thing ever.

Comments are closed.