Mark Thompson (1952-2016) was a gay American leatherman, journalist, editor, and author.
Mark Thompson was born on the Monterey Peninsula in California. He graduated from San Francisco State University, where he studied journalism. While in college, he became a gay activist and joined the Radical Faeries. He was also a co-founder of the Gay Students Coalition with Professor John Paul De Cecco as the faculty advisor, and started a gay newspaper on campus.
Thompson became a journalist for The Advocate, the main gay magazine in the United States, in 1975. For two decades, he wrote many articles about gay activism and the responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He also conducted many interviews, including gay British painter David Hockney and gay American politician Harvey Milk.
Thompson was the author of books about gay culture, including a history of The Advocate. He also wrote his memoir and edited two books. Additionally, he was an amateur photographer, and he exhibited his photography of gay activist Harry Hay and others in San Francisco.
Personal Life and Death
Thompson was married to Malcolm Boyd, an Episcopal priest who was 30 years older than him and predeceased him. They met in 1984 and married in 2013. They lived in Silver Lake, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Boyd’s role as spiritual leader inspired Thompson to explore his own spirituality. Mark, in the course of writing books on queer spirituality, began to see and believe that gay people had a “magical, deep, mysterious quality”. This viewpoint, along with the emotional support of his husband, invigorated his sense of self esteem and the belief that given the choice he would “never have chosen to be any other way” than gay. It was Thompson’s hope that his work would serve to help other queer people with their spiritual struggles.
Thompson joined the Radical Faeries while in college. He was a cofounder of Black Leather Wings, an organization for spiritual gay leather folk, a mostly pagan group affiliated with the Radical Faeries.
Thompson had HIV/AIDS. In an oral history interview with the Lavender Effect, Thompson described himself as “serial monogamous” at the time he contracted the virus, but said he had several boyfriends in a short period of time. He contracted the virus from one of them in 1979 or 1980. Many of his lovers died of the disease, as did his own brother, Kirk. Thompson states that his brother died in his arms in 1987, months before the first effective AIDS medications were released to the public.
Thompson died on August 23, 2016 in Palm Springs, California, where he moved after his husband’s death. His cause of death was undetermined, but it was believed he fell or fainted due to illness or side effects from his medication.
- Thompson, Mark (1987). Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning. New York: St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 9780312006006. OCLC 15196783.
- Thompson, Mark, ed. (1991). Leather Folk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice. New York: Alyson Publications. ISBN 9781555831875.
- Thompson, Mark (1994). Gay Soul: Finding the Heart of Gay Spirit and Nature. San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 9780062510402. OCLC 30777045.
- Thompson, Mark (1994). Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement. New York: St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 9780312095369. OCLC 29704106.
- Thompson, Mark (1997). Gay Body: A Journey Through Shadow to Self. New York: St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 9780312168537. OCLC 36930719.
- Thompson, Mark (2009). Advocate Days & Other Stories. Queer Mojo. ISBN 9781608640164.
- Thompson, Mark, ed. (2011). The Fire in Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries 1971–2010. White Crane Books. ISBN 9781938246043.
Mark Thompson was the recipient of the Pioneer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation in 2008.
In 2017, the art installation known as the San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley was installed; in it Thompson (among others) is honored with a bronze bootprint displaying his name and a short statement about him.