For 22 years, Hougen was owner and publisher of The Guide, which started as a Boston bar rag and through a focus on gay travel, came to be distributed around the world, but especially the U.S. and Canada. The magazine combined travel features with irreverent coverage of sexual freedom – articles on amputee sex, bestiality, and coprophilia were early internet sensations. Civil liberties were another focus, with critiques of hate-crimes statutes and the draconian overreach of kiddie-porn laws and sex-offender registries frequent themes – seen by the magazine as bastions of authoritarianism as a sanitized vision of LGBT became politically acceptable.
The Guide’s coverage of then gay-teenager Bernard Baran’s conviction amidst the1980s “Satanic abuse” daycare hysteria caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal, and eventually sparked Baran’s exoneration after 21 years in prison.
Hougen’s early life didn’t point to such controversial pursuits. Born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the son of a doctor, Hougen graduated from Harvard and later Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he met fellow divinity student Margaret de Velder. They married and a daughter and a son followed.
Edward was a pastor at the United Church of Christ in Orange, Massachusetts, when he came out as gay and both husband and wife spoke out in support of an open marriage. The UCC soon pushed them out.
The couple moved to Boston with their two small children and eked out a livelihood as ministers in Boson’s MCC. Around 1975, Edward led his MCC congregation on a walk from Jacksonville to Tallahassee to protest the firebombing of an MCC church in Florida. After a string of gay rights defeats in Boston, in 1975 he held a public three-day fast on the steps of city court.
In a community effort starting in 1977 to protest public sex arrests and men charged with sex with willing teenage boys, Edward was co-chair of the Boston/Boise Committee, which became the center of organizing in Boston in the late 70s and garnered nationwide attention. Two groups later emerged from the committee after it succeeded in its projects and wound down its work – Boston’s LGBT legal group GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) and the controversial NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association).
Besides ministering, Edward found work where he could – including a stint clerking in a leather coat warehouse – but he found success building up The Guide into one of North America’s largest gay magazines, with the help of the phone-sex boom brought on by the AIDS epidemic.
With the rise of the internet, the business model became less profitable, and in 2006, Edward retired, selling the magazine to Canada’s main LGBT publisher, Pink Triangle Press in Toronto.
Edward leaves his wife of 51 years, Margaret de Velder Hougen; his daughter Sarah M. Hougen; his son Eddy. T. Hougen and wife Sarah Curro Hougen, all of Northampton; his boyfriend of 41 years Bobby Stevens of Chicopee; his three grandchildren and their families and other relatives and friends.