Vice Versa, subtitled "America's Gayest Magazine," is the ﬁrst known lesbian publication in the United States. From 1947-48, nine editions of ten copies each were authored, edited, typed and hand-distributed by Lisa Ben, a pseudonym used by the author. Vice Versa was a labor of love and is considered the radical ancestor of contemporary gay journals. The author named the publication Vice Versa to call attention to the fact that being gay or lesbian is not a “vice,” but rather the "versa," or opposite of, vice. The author typed Vice Versa ﬁve carbon copies at a time from her ofﬁce at RKO Studios. Vice Versa was distributed without charge, primarily in lesbian bars, where, in turn, readers passed it on to others. In this manner, Vice Versa was read by hundreds of people before it nearly disappeared.The writer/publisher was sending the copies out via the US Postal Service until she was told the material because it did not treat Lesbianism in a depreciatory manner could get her into significant legal trouble. She was confused as there was no lurid content just a magazine that did treat Lesbians as human.
The magazine covered theatre, film and book reviews. It also published letters from readers and contained short stories authored by the publisher. Unfortunately the magazine only was run for nine issues and the mantle of taking up the Lesbian readership would have to wait.
Here is Lisa Ben's review of the film Children of Loneliness A title derived from the book by Radclyffe Hall The Well of Loneliness:
Despite the gaudy pictures outside the theatre displaying scantily-clad girls in amorous poses, the story concerned effeminate men as well as lesbians. Those in the audience who had hoped to view scenes of lesbian love were sorely disappointed. There was not the slightest demonstration of affection between two women....aside from a brief flash of one girl with her hand upon the shoulder of another....Excerpt from Gay/Lesbian Almanac By Jonathan Ned Katz. 1983 pages 620-621.
Scenes of the she-men were far too prevalent....
Prior to the story a "scientific" preface to the film is delivered on the screen....by a doctor and a social worker.... If this is the type of social worker to which our society is exposed, then Heaven help our civilization! The references to homosexuality as a "weakness" and an "evil" are an insult and an abomination to any clear-thinking and right-minded persons, whether normal or a member of what is so aptly referred to as the "third sex."
"Let this picture be shown to every adult, so that he (or she) will know how to combat such abnormal love and will not be dragged into the depths of degradation" is the moral that the doctor preaches. Ah, self styled judges, who smugly carve the standards for society! If only you would not condemn them as freaks, as weaklings, tragedies of nature...despise, scorn, or laugh at them. If only the third sex could be recognized and accepted as equally as "honorable" as their smug and uncomprehending fellows!...