So, with the release of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN comes an awareness of gay cowboys. I grappled with gay cowboys about 10 years ago, when I worked at the Voyager Company. We released a CD-ROM called “Who Built America?” essentially a history textbook come alive with audio, video, photos, diaries, and the like.
“Who Built America?” was bundled with Apple computers sold to schools, and with good reason — it showed off the multimedia capabilities of the machines. However, what some schools realized, and what some parents’ groups didn’t like, was that the CD-ROM also dealt honestly with American history — including illegal abortions and, as the disc called it, “male-to-male intimacy in the west.” And these stories are coming from the turn of the century, not the mid-60s.
The ensuing controversy lead to Apple dropping the disc, which lead to a shitstorm on Usenet — in large part spurred by me (I was pretty much the only Usenet savvy employee at the time.)
It even made the Wall Street Journal.
My favorite Voyager t-shirt is the one we printed up in the face of this controversy, as we were headed to the American Booksellers Association conference that year. It was a screenshot from the CD-ROM, showing the “male-to-male intimacy in the west” entry.
Because of my own naivete, it surprised me that others were surprised by this. I mean, yeah, cowboys are the picture of American manliness, but, come on — men, alone on the frontier, wearing chaps!
Anyway, the CD-ROM is still worth owning, and you can buy it online. I can’t speak to the quality of the second CD-ROM (1914-1946), but it’s probably worth a shot.