Queer Magazine Born Again

Founder of Venus, a publication for black lesbians, repudiates lifestyle


| Utne Reader September / October 2007


Regular readers of Venus magazine got a shock when they picked up the January issue.

Instead of the usual rabble-rousing stories for African American gays and lesbians, they found a cover photograph of editor and publisher Charlene Cothran with the headline: 'Redeemed! 10 Ways to Get Out of 'The Life' if You Want Out!' Overnight, and without warning, the country's leading publication for the black queer community had gone straight.

For the past 13 years, Venus has been one of the only national magazines to cover gay and lesbian issues with a specific focus on African American lesbians. Cothran, a dynamic and outspoken gay rights activist, founded the magazine in Atlanta and built the independent publication to a national circulation of about 35,000.

Thanks in large part to Cothran's unflagging dedication, Venus had become a key voice for black gays and lesbians. 'It was a staple,' says the Reverend Irene Monroe, who used to write a spirituality column for Venus. 'It was the first and only gay magazine owned and operated by a black queer person. It was a very important vehicle.'

But then Cothran made her startling revelation: 'I have recently experienced the power of change that came over me once I completely surrendered to the teachings of Jesus Christ,' she wrote in the magazine. 'As a believer of the word of God, I fully accept and have always known that same-sex relationships are not what God intended for us.'

While the sudden editorial change at Venus has largely been ignored by mainstream media outlets, the news dropped like a bombshell in the tightly knit black GLBT community and on like-minded websites, where Cothran was charged with betraying her readers and the cause. 'It's huge,' Monroe says. 'It is the talk throughout the chitlin' circuit.'