Toronto
3 min

Never sucking up

Why Pink Triangle Press holds a special place in gay publishing

Credit: Xtra files

After 30 years of publishing, it’s fair to ask what makes Pink Triangle Press – which publishes Xtra, Xtra West in Vancouver and Capital Xtra in Ottawa – different from other North American gay media.



How would I know? I’ve written for more than 300 gay publications and I’m more or less a disinterested outside observer: an American living in San Diego with no particular reason to bash PTP or lick PTP butt.



PTP has been controversial as far back as I remember. The collectivist, anti-bourgeois sex-libbers who published the late Body Politic magazine (for which I wrote for free; PTP didn’t pay back then) still reveal their world views in the Xtra papers, though the Xtra papers feel very different from The Body Politic. For one thing, there’s a lot more ads. And a lot less general leftishness.



The Xtra papers do seem to have a kind of background disdain for capitalism as a religion – even as the publishers became decent capitalists so the papers could thrive. In any kind of conflict between business and the little guy, the Xtra papers usually come down on the side of the little guy.



They also try to keep gay organizations accountable to the old-fashioned values of gay lib that the publications embrace – values which seem anachronistic in most of the North American gay press, which, for the most part, has accepted gay assimilation as the primary goal of the movement.



The papers never seem to suck up to politicians, even gay ones, choosing instead to keep their feet to the fire. One gets the impression PTP sees politics as dirty business.



PTP always has and continues to defend, if not promote, that which some people consider to be radical sex – promiscuity, intergenerational sex, public nudity, cruising, T-room sex, open relationships, three-way (or more) relationships, fisting and pretty much anything else sexually edgy you can think up.



There’s a whole lot more of that in the Xtra papers than in The Advocate, Out, the Washington Blade, the Bay Area Reporter or most any other North American gay publication.



I started reading The Body Politic in 1984 and have read every issue of all three Xtra papers. They’ve pissed off a lot of bourgeois gay people over the years with their unabashed defence of nontraditional sexual expression.



Another personality trait of PTP is its lack of love for the recently humbled USA.



I remember when I went to the Soviet Union in 1991 and wrote about some gay conferences and film festivals that a group of Americans staged in Moscow and Leningrad (see http://members.aol.com/wockner/russia.html). At the end of the piece, I included some sentences on what a nonfunctional mess the Soviet Union had become (the Soviet Union collapsed for good a few days later). An Xtra editor accused me of being a mouthpiece for the US government. Fat chance. I respect PTP’s generalized disdain for the USA, our politics and our cultural and economic dominance on the world stage.



I guess in the end, what I enjoy most about sitting down and opening an Xtra paper, is the sure knowledge that I’m not going to read the same old stuff from the same old viewpoint that I read in every other gay publication. I can be all but certain the paper is going to rag on politicians, rag on bourgeois gay organizations, and promote sexual liberation in all forms.



In some ways, it’s a throwback to 1960s and ’70s gay lib. But it also is a refreshing blast of advocacy journalism, something we don’t see a lot of in North America where journalists have been trained in the “objective” approach of news wire services.



PTP papers are on a mission to change the world, not merely report on it. Gay readers in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver are lucky to have that (though it’s also nice to have access to a newspaper that also strives for objectivity).



I wish US cities had access to a publication operating on the Pink Triangle Press model. Because that model is a good thing.





*Rex Wockner writes a widely syndicated column and runs a gay and lesbian news clipping service.