In 2009, ‘The New Yorker’ Rejected This Marriage Cover


The New York Observer has posted this never-published illustration by popular artist Robert Crumb which was displayed at the Venice Biennale in June. Crumb had intended it for the New Yorker in 2009, when New York was still in the throes of the battle for marriage equality:

"Though an answer was never given on why the cover wasn’t run, Mr. Crumb suspects it was because the New Yorker was too afraid of offending people with the image of a (possible?) drag queen and a twee person of unidentifiable sex trying talking to a sweating official from the marriage license bureau, with a sign pointing to a “Genders Inspection” office next to his window."


  1. G.I. Joe says

    Well, DUH! Of course they were afraid this would offend people… because it’s offensive!

    I hate these pieces that are only homophobia and transphobia disguised as “provocative art pieces” or whatever.

    It’s a pathetic pile of steaming clichés older than the artist, with nothing redeeming to it, that plays right in the hands of the anti-marriage equality crowd.

    Thank you New Yorker for not publishing this.

  2. sparks says

    What I find offensive is that as long as one person is a biological female and the other a biological male, they can get a marriage license in any state in the US — they don’t even have to know each other — and NOM supports their union completely. Meanwhile two men or two women in a committed, loving, monogamous relationship spanning decades have a mere handful of places in this country that will allow them to marry, and NOM would seek to deny them even one.

  3. G.I. Joe says

    @ SPARKS:

    Yes lack of marriage equality is offensive of course. But what this piece says is
    1. Transgender people look like freaks
    2. Look!! With the law in place THESE FREAKS can marry!!! So why not let the less-freaky GAYS marry, hm?

    Which is offensive both toward transgender people and gay people.

  4. kujhawker says

    I remember years ago in a meeting about marriage equality. Many people where expressing their views. Then a trans individual made the comment that she doesnt want a gay marriage she wants a normal marriage. There was a gasp from many in the crowd. That even among our own community gay marriage was some how different. And if you want to know why some gays have issues with trans it is when they make statements like that.

    I talked to her after the meeting and I got it she wants to be recognized as a female marrying a male. I can understand her desire to be legally recognized as the gender she identifies with, but marriage needs to be though of has two people marrying not in terms of the gender.

    Thats what I think this piece was about that gender shouldnt matter and we dont need gender police. Maybe they didnt do it in a tasteful way, however the point is valid. Lets not let gender enter into who gets married at all. There is no straight marriage or gay marriage just marriage between two people.

  5. says

    pretty much all of Crumb’s work is offensive in some or many ways but this seems like more of an attempt to make a statement about how confused people are over who should get married, the gender inspection sign seems to say government getting too much into people’s business than a straight out statement against gay people. Don’t think I would have run this cover either.

  6. Jack M says

    Yes, disturbing, not offensive, but definitely not the style for the New Yorker magazine. Crumb is still stuck in the Sixties, it seems.

  7. johnny says

    Offensive, perhaps, but it’s also simply not good art for a magazine cover. Having created hundreds of them myself, (a self-employed illustrator/designer) I think it’s a bad composition and not really in keeping for the style New Yorker is known for.

  8. says

    I expected typical PC knee-jerk victim reaction to this cartoon. No room for irony, folks? It’s seems pretty clear that Crumb is directing criticism at strict heterosexual marriage laws. You really think the artist is giving a ringing endorsement for a bureaucratic validation process for one’s gender? There is an element of ambiguity (on more than one level), but to just dismiss it as “offensive”?

    Can’t wait for the days when there is nothing to read between the lines and everything is spelled out for a dumbed down society. Or are we almost there? (It’s nice to see comments like KujHawker’s and Vincent’s, though)

  9. says

    Considering the eclectic array of style of The New Yorker, it wouldn’t have been out of synch for them to have included Crumb into the fray:

    The bottom line is that The New Yorker was too afraid. Too afraid to offend readers just as the ones above who immediately assumed the worst about the artist.

    And though I don’t believe they have ever had Crumb on one of their covers, they haven’t exactly turned a blind eye to the man over the years.

  10. Mike128 says

    I’m not particularly impressed by this illustration. It neither captures the issue for me nor makes me think in any helpful new way. I’m my sure the new Yorker was “afraid” to publish it. Maybe they just thought it was bad.

  11. rustytrawler says

    This picture is AWESOME!

    If you wanted a drawing of some Banana Republic clones tying the knot, R. Crumb is not the person to go to.

    If you’ve ever looked at any of Crumb’s other works, there are ALWAYS huge hulking women in them and some tiny little guy drooling over her.

    So it may be typical for Crumb’s work but these characters are not drawn as gay stereotypes.

    The gay stereotypes at this point would be the two clean, yuppie WASPs getting married in front of a smiling clerk.

  12. Dennis says

    This is what happens when you stop identifying yourselves as gay men and lesbians and start identifying yourselves as something called “LGBT”. You tell the world that you are inherently linked with cross-dressers and the world believes you and starts portraying you accordingly.

  13. rustytrawler says

    Dennis, why are you so afraid of being identified as a cross-dresser?

    It’s ok if the world finds out. We support you.

  14. rustytrawler says

    Dennis, why are you so afraid of being identified as a cross-dresser?

    It’s ok if the world finds out. We support you.

  15. That Burning Sensation says

    Also, Crumb has done several New Yorker covers over the years. So it kind of is their style.

  16. David says

    Yeah, I think the point is that this is a gender-bending straight couple who will pass the “Gender inspection” because in fact one is a man and one is a woman. “Deviancy” is privilege of heterosexuality and it is socially sanctioned, even if, sadly, homosexuality is not. Still, the cartoon seems to insist on the fact that these two straight people do love each other (the heartbreakingly tender and precious way that the woman on the left raises her right leg and foot…) That they love each other is the point. The commentary is about the bizarre categories that we have which say that marriage is fine as long as the genitals are “correct” It is a “deviant straight couple” that has a right to marry, while gays cannot. Now if you are a “deviant,” and you want to be offended, I understand. But then, you should also stay away from all of Crumb’s work. If you are a gay, like me, you probably shouldn’t be offended, because we are not being equated with the deviants. There may be a more general solidarity being asserted, that deviants are the straight queers. But the image suggests that even if “deviants” are queerly heterosexual, they will always be accepted more (at least institutionally) because they are straight.

  17. Paul R says

    What exactly is offensive about this? So he put a woman in men’s clothing on the left and a man in women’s clothing on the right. WOW. You all really don’t understand the point that he was trying to make?

    I think they rejected it because a lot of people don’t have any understanding of anything. The New Yorker did the “Obamas fist bump” cover and got heaps of scorn for it. This is Crumb. It’s a drawing. Get over it.