UCLA Spotlight

Photo shows Karen Lai and Josh Sassoon of TenPercent. (spotlight.ucla.edu)
Photo shows Karen Lai and Josh Sassoon of TenPercent.

TenPercent Student Newsmagazine

  • By Caroline Ouyang
  • Published May 1, 2003 8:00 AM

The year was 1979. The movement then known as “gay liberation” was ten years old, dating to the June 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. At UCLA, student Clay Doyle was about to launch a revolution of his own: TenPercent, the first student publication by and for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.

Doyle faced two challenges. Politically, he had to convince UCLA Student Media that the LGBT community on campus could support its own tabloid. Doyle proposed the name TenPercent after the landmark research study Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Alfred Kinsey, 1948), which found that 10% of males were predominantly homosexual. The name was also a reminder to Student Media that there were more LGBT students than they imagined.

Doyle also faced a practical challenge: he had to produce the first issue of TenPercent. With only a handful of students to help, he needed not only writing and editing ability, but mastery of all the other skills needed to produce a tabloid in the years before desktop publishing: design, typesetting, layout, paste-up.

Luckily Doyle, who later became a professional graphic designer, had the skills as well as the vision to make TenPercent a reality. The first issue of TenPercent, printed in Spring 1979, was remarkably sophisticated for a new publication. And it made history as the first LGBT college publication in the country.

UCLA Student Media Director Arvli Ward says, “When TenPercent first came out, it was controversial because it was a gay and lesbian magazine that really challenged a lot of ideas and conceptions. I think that it really forced student media to expand its whole idea.” He notes that many of the student publications at the time were “directed in the movement of the 60s–all of them came out of the social movements, student based movements, and student partisan movements.”

Says Ward, “TenPercent differed from its fellow student interest publications in that it was outside of that mold...I think it was pretty challenging for the students that worked [at TenPercent] and for the readers.”

TenPercent almost failed to reach its 20th birthday, with a real struggle during the year of 1997-1998. According to Dr. Ronni L. Sanlo, director of UCLA’s LGBT Resource Center, TenPercent was “having trouble getting people to write for it. There were very few women who were writing for it or willing to write for it; they were having trouble selling ad space, there wasn’t anyone who really would commit to doing it, and it really was in trouble.”

Sanlo emphasizes Arvli Ward’s role in making sure that the publication continued. TenPercent survived into the 21st century, returning to UCLA and the West Hollywood community in greater force each year.

Despite its relatively small print run, TenPercent reaches thousands of readers across the country. Each quarter the magazine strives to grow, distributing to more locations and pushing for more copies each quarter. The magazine recently joined a network of alternative press publications across the country to increase its circulation.

Sanlo recalls when she worked as the director of the LGBT center at the University of Michigan. “I don’t know if we were sent copies of TenPercent periodically, [but] . . . I was aware that it existed.”

“It makes an impact in that it exists. Most institutions don’t have something like that. If I’m somebody reading it, the primary impact it’s going to have on me is that I’m going to think that there’s some pretty interesting things taking place at UCLA in the LGBT community.”

So at 24, TenPercent has a strong sense of tradition, maintaining focus on student-related features and interviews. Conversely, the beauty of TenPercent is that it is constantly evolving.

Sanlo concludes, “it’s different now than it was before, it’s different now than it will be next year or the year after. And that’s the joy of having students be completely in charge of TenPercent because it does reflect what students are thinking and feeling, and I think that’s quite wonderful.”