Skip to main content

At 50, Seattle Gay News starts a new chapter

caption: In 2024, Seattle Gay News celebrated 50 years of publishing news for the region's LGBTQ community, elevating their voices over decades, through good times and bad.
Enlarge Icon
In 2024, Seattle Gay News celebrated 50 years of publishing news for the region's LGBTQ community, elevating their voices over decades, through good times and bad.

Seattle is a city that flaunts its queer bonafides, but it’s easy to take hard-fought cultural change for granted. Anti-gay initiatives emerged in Seattle in the 1970s around the same time the city’s first Pride celebrations began. In the 1980s, the AIDS crisis spurred far-reaching fear. In 2015, gay marriage became legal across the United States. Through all these milestones, Seattle Gay News has been instrumental in organizing the queer community and making its stories visible.

“There’s not many organizations in this community that can say they’ve made it to 50 years," Renee Raketty told Seattle Now. "We’ve lost a lot of legacy organizations, and to be honest with you, the SGN is an institution in our community here in Seattle. And I’m so proud to carry that forward for the next 50 years.”

RELATED: Northwest Asian Weekly newspaper turns the page to a new generation

After writing and editing for the newspaper for many years, Raketty now takes over as publisher. In the wake of the death of George Bakan, editor and publisher since 1983, his daughter Angela Cragin stepped into the role. Bakan suddenly died at his desk in 2020, working on the newspaper that has become a fixture of Seattle's LGBTQ community. Cragin later sold the paper to Mike Schultz, who took on the role of publisher in 2023. Raketty has worked under all three publishers during her time at Seattle Gay News.

Seattle Gay News actually started as a newsletter run out of the local Gay Community Center in the 1970s. Its writers depended on local gay bars for donations and businesses for supplies. Since then, the newspaper has been a fixture of the community, through good times and bad. It’s been involved with the city’s Pride celebration since its inception. Even in the early days, the paper became a sort of hotline, fielding calls from people who were kicked out of their homes and had nowhere to go. The newspaper published during the era of “gay cancer,” when HIV and AIDS hit the community hard through the 1980s and 1990s. Raketty recalls a time when it was legal to fire someone for being gay, making it difficult for people to find and keep a job. The paper was there for them, too.

“We were all, basically, criminals according to the law at the time. By sharing our stories, by talking about the ups and downs of our community, we really swayed a lot of policymakers to create good laws that are fair and equitable for everyone,” Raketty said. “Our paper helped elect Cal Anderson, our first openly gay elected official in Olympia."

When Bakan passed away, Raketty stepped into a leadership role and helped keep the paper printing, not missing an edition. Renee says it’s what Bakan would have wanted. Now, Seattle Gay News is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the University of Washington has organized a display chronicling the paper's history at Seattle’s Central Library. That display begins June 24 and will run for a month.

RELATED: As teens, they found belonging at this LGBTQ+ youth center. Now, they're paying it forward

Raketty is now tasked with looking ahead. She is committed to keeping the monthly publication in print, and free, as it's always been. At the same time, she aims to continue its evolution. Starting in July, Seattle Gay News will begin publishing online throughout the week. A new community calendar is also in the works.

“The Seattle Gay News continues to play the same role that it did five decades ago. We continue to share our stories, help the community come together in important times, by reporting on our community, education lawmakers about our lives," Raketty said. "One thing I’d like our community to do is to come together, especially when it comes to our transgender brothers and sisters, nonbinary folks, folks like myself, because we are under unprecedented attack. The same mistruths that were told about lesbian, gay, bisexual individuals back in the day, the same tactics are being used against the transgender community today. And these are important issues that our paper will continue to focus on.”

caption: Seattle Gay News cover Sept. 1, 1978.
Enlarge Icon
1 of 8 Seattle Gay News cover Sept. 1, 1978.
Courtesy of Mike Schultz / Seattle Gay News

The Seattle Public Library's Central Library in downtown Seattle will host a 50th Anniversary Exhibition celebrating the extensive history of the Seattle Gay News as a chronicle of the LGBTQIA+ community in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. The exhibit opens on Monday, June 24. A reception will be held at the Central Library on Thursday, June 27, from 5-7 p.m. This event is free and open to the public and will feature SGN staff, LGBTQIA+ community leaders, and dignitaries.

To listen to the full segment on Seattle Now, tap this link or hit play on the button at the top of the story.

Why you can trust KUOW