The Phoenix Society in Kansas City

Midwest Homophile Voice

Like other homophile organizations across the country, the Phoenix Society generated its own magazine, The Phoenix. The publication covered a range of topics. Columns addressing the psychological aspects of homosexuality ran alongside artwork, poetry, and short stories submitted by subscribers.

Other articles included advice on legal rights when interacting with law enforcement and medical professionals. Within its pages The Phoenix reflected an engaged, thriving community, not only in Kansas City, but throughout the Midwest.

A Place to Call Home

A copy of a pamphlet titled "Veneral Diseases and Homosexuality"
In July 1967 the Phoenix Society made a concerted effort to build alliances with political and religious leaders. The pamphlet above was one result of these efforts. Issued by Kansas City’s Department of Health, the pamphlet addressed the gay and straight community. Courtesy: Foster Gunnison, Jr. Papers. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

In addition to networking with city leaders, the Phoenix Society also strengthened Kansas City’s gay community by creating its first LGBT community center. Purchased by the society in 1968, the “Phoenix House,” as it was called, combined social functions with activism and became a haven for members of Kansas City’s gay and lesbian community. Young men and women who were new to the city or otherwise displaced could go there for safety and support.

The first floor of the Phoenix House contained the printing press donated by Drew’s father, Robert, that was used to produce the organization’s pamphlets, flyers, and The Phoenix. Focused on both entertainment and raising awareness, these publications were regularly distributed at meetings, social events, local gay bars, and other sympathetic establishments.