Scottish literary magazine publishes LGBT-themed issue

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Scotland’s leading literary magazine is publishing an LGBT-themed issue next month, highlighting the work of both established and up-and-coming writers.

Gutter magazine’s publisher and co-editor Adrian Searle explained: “We’ve published a lot of LGBT themed work in the previous six issues. In this edition I specifically wanted to have a more concentrated collection of LGBT stories to allow readers to compare and contrast the wide diversity of styles and approaches that Scottish writers are taking to LGBT subjects.”

Although awareness of LGBT issues is currently high in Scotland following the campaigns around equal marriage, Adrian insists that’s not why the timing is right. “Contextually, I was interested in the fact that the first anthology of (Scottish) gay writing, And Thus I Will Freely Sing (edited by Toni Davidson), was published around 20 years ago, while Borderline, edited by Joseph Mills, appeared just over 10 years ago. It seemed appropriate to be taking another look at gay writing in Scotland at this time.”

“Looking at these two books there’s a real progression and I wanted to demonstrate that gay writing in Scotland continues to grow and mature in fascinating ways as it becomes more integrated with the mainstream. The first two thirds of the 20th century were a desert for gay writing: the only writers including three dimensional gay characters in the 1960s were outsiders like Alexander Trocchi in Cain’s Book. In the 1970s Edwin Morgan cemented his reputation as one of Scotland’s leading poets, but didn’t come out for another decade.

“However, as UK gay liberation grew in the early 1980s, it coincided with the rise of novelists and poets like Ronald Frame, Jackie Kay and Carol Ann Duffy, who for the first time were writing about gay experience without apology. The 1990s saw more straight writers like Janice Galloway, Alan Warner, Thomas Healy and Irvine Welsh writing gay characters, while after the turn of the millennium, gay Scottish writers like Louise Welsh, Ali Smith, Zoe Strachan and Luke Sutherland have achieved mainstream success.

“Nowadays I genuinely don’t think that any distinction is made by publishers based on content or sexual orientation, as straight audiences have demonstrated that they are willing to buy good books on a gay theme. The quality of the writing is the thing.”

Adrian believes Gutter issue 7 successfully reflects the “range and maturity” of current Scottish LGBT writing. “There’s a good spread of gender and age, with some submissions from much older, established writers (including a previously Booker long-listed author, Ronald Frame) as well as some very young writers.”

Adrian makes no apology that some of the LGBT stories are written by straight writers. He explained: “Clearly writing out with your own experience – whether that’s sexuality, nationality, gender or whatever – is a tricky business that requires skill, sensitivity (and research!) to be convincing. The most important thing is authenticity as the audience will be merciless if you get it wrong. But following the ‘see ourselves as others see us’ dictum, some of the best literature occurs when talented writers inhabit the fictional bodies of others.

“Otherwise, male writers wouldn’t write from a female point of view, and vice versa, Scottish writers shouldn’t write about English characters – where would it stop?”

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