Lesbian culture, but not as you know it

Florence Gagnon, the Founder & Publisher, discusses LSTW magazine.

When I came out as a lesbian at 19, role models were few and far between. There was Ellen DeGeneres, or Shane on The L Word, but how was I supposed to identify with them? They were living fancy LA lives while I was at my parents’ in a Montréal suburb, stuck in a massive heteronormative structure. I had so many questions I wanted to ask, I wanted to feel okay in my own skin and to be part of something greater, but I didn’t know where to find the answers.

By the time I was 24, I was throwing parties and hosting events for lesbians. In 2012, some friends and I launched the Lez Spread the Word (LSTW) website, and things were really starting to change in Québec: queer women were finally getting the role models and media visibility that we needed.

A couple of years later, I wanted to learn more about the vibrant LGBT scene of the 80s and 90s that I had heard about from so many older women in the community. I was keen to see old photographs and flyers from the time, and as I poured over Montréal’s lesbian archives, I was blown away by the sheer volume of them!

That’s when I decided it was time to create more content, to print and publish our own stories from the here and now. So, I got a team together to handle everything from photoshoots and set design to editing and distribution. We relied on our different artistic backgrounds and pooled our skills, and the project that emerged ended up being something quite unique—a 230-page bilingual magazine about lesbian culture.

For the first issue, we were lucky enough to get Tegan and Sara on the cover. We travelled to LA to shoot and interview them and came back with incredible footage. That trip was so meaningful to me, and I couldn’t help thinking back to see how far I’d come, all the way to California! Having famous Canadian pop stars on the cover also really enabled us to reach a wider audience. 

LSTW set out to create something different by not following any rules and focusing on what was missing from the newsstand. The community had really felt the virtual non-existence of positive queer role models in pop culture, and the magazine launched at just the right time for us. Now, a few years down the road and three issues later, it still allows us to express ourselves and bring together supporters and allies who excel in their fields and want to contribute to the community, which is too often invisible. LSTW is still reinventing itself because our culture is so incredibly diverse, beautiful and positively challenging, and we need more creative people getting involved and being out and visible.

Find LSTW at magculture.com or pay the magculture shop at 270 St John Street a visit