Reflections on the Archive: Lesbian Pages


April 19, 2023
Han Tiernan

A poem titled 'Bad Lesbian Sex' appeared in the centre of page 6 in issue 60 of GCN (March 1994). A bold, black block in the upper left corner of the same page asked, 'Why Women’s Pages?' Next to this, read the heading, 'Lesbian Lives in Ireland'. And so it was that the Lesbian Pages were born.

Why Women’s Pages? outlined GCN’s decision to include a new two-page regular feature dedicated to women-only content. The article explained that the decision had been made not to create division in its readership but conversely to encourage new readership and contribution from women.

As part of the new feature, GCN pointed Deborah Ballard as the dedicated editor of the pages (she would later become the magazine’s chief editor from 1997–1999). Despite the assurances that it was intended as a move towards inclusion, the new feature came under fire, as demonstrated by several letters to the editor in the subsequent April issue. However, the editorial team remained resolute in their remit of inclusion and continued publishing the feature for many years. 

The pages initially came about following consultation between GCN, NLGF (National Lesbian and Gay Federation), and LOT (Lesbians Organising Together). As a result, one of the regular features was LOT News, which continued to appear monthly until 1997. Other content from these early days ranged from poetry to an article series highlighting notable lesbians throughout history to comics by Margaret Lonergan.

As the pages became more established, they often featured full-page interviews with writers, musicians, and other celebrated Irish lesbians. Social and educational events were also regularly highlighted, such as the Cork Women’s Fun Weekends, the annual Women’s Camp, and the Lesbian Lives Conferences. The pages were also firmly committed to expanding the focus beyond Dublin and regularly highlighted activities by regional organisations. 

"Our intentions are not separatist – we think that what unites gay men and women is as important as the differences between us…" Why Lesbian Pages, issue 60, March 1994

In issue 90 (November 1996), the pages rebranded to Lesbian Life. They continued to focus on women-only content and often extended to three pages. As well as this, the volume of women-related articles appearing in the magazine’s general content also increased substantially in quantity and frequency. By 1999, this integration meant the pages began to be phased out. When the decision was taken to remove the feature, there was little objection as it was evident that the original aim of increasing female readership and contribution had been achieved.

Today, GCN remains committed to platforming all of the diverse voices within Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community, especially that of more marginalised groups, with the aim of creating a more equal society.