When the internet can’t decide whether ‘queer’ is offensive, womxn take refuge offline

When queer women and non-binary people come into the bar Kat Hudson works at in central London, she has to write down events listings for them on a napkin.

“When men come in I have two magazines filled with events I can give them,” she tells PinkNews. “With two existing free print publications run predominantly by and for gay men in the city, Boyz and QX, circulated weekly on the scene, it seems like it’s about time we have one of our own again!”

Lesley Magazine, due to launch on August 29, has been years in the making and received Arts Council funding this year to make the dream of an inclusive magazine for queer women and non-binary people a reality.

“With just one permanent venue in the whole of London that caters specifically to womxn and none that cater specifically to trans and non-binary people, it’s important to the survival of our community that we have a platform,” Hudson says.

“Facebook and other social-media advertising often isn’t an option for adult events, especially when lesbian and trans-centred promotions are being flagged up as ‘sexually explicit’ on social media and they can’t make up their minds on whether we can use words like ‘Dyke’ or ‘Queer’ or show a gender-non-conforming nipple on a poster,” she says.

Illustration by Anshika Khullar (Instagram/@aorists)

Lesley Magazine is a collective effort from people working in London’s queer scene

The issue of reaching the lesbian community is one that the collective behind Lesley Magazine have clearly thought about.

“There’s definitely a feeling that we need to move away from relying on social media in order to get the word out,” says deputy editor Lu Williams. “It’s important for us to distribute and share what’s going on and not have our events be dictated by whoever ‘the algorithm’ lets see our post that day.”

Lesley Magazine is being put together by more than 30 different people, who all work across queer events in London. This means, Hudson says, it will be “one place where you can find everything, created entirely by and for LGBTQIA+ womxn, transgender and non-binary people and our friends.”

And, Williams adds, the number of people working on Lesley means it will have “more of a chance of being reflective of the community.”

Image by Bernice Mulenga. (Instagram/@burneece)

Queer magazine for womxn with emphasis on trans-inclusivity

The aim with Lesley is to really be as inclusive as possible – some of those behind the magazine organised the Trans Rights march at this year’s Pride in London.

“Last year’s protest at the front on the pride parade, and accompanying ongoing campaign by a loud minority of hateful women, was a stark wake-up call that we haven’t been fighting hard enough for our trans family,” Hudson says.

“It really shook our community. Not only our trans and non-binary family but cis lesbians, myself included, felt misrepresented and unfairly spoken for by those hateful protestors holding up signs like ‘transgenderism is lesbian erasure’ – it’s just complete bollocks! That’s why so many of us did what we did this year at Pride.

“It’s hateful campaigns like that that have made us realise that we need to be more explicit about our trans-inclusivity. Lesbianism is becoming increasingly wrongfully associated with trans-exclusionary behaviour and we will not stand for it.”

Katayoun Jalili, Lesley’s events manager and editorial consultant, agrees.

“Now more than ever it’s important for our communities to come together and put inclusivity first, and to break the habit of boxing all non-cis male LGBTQ+ identities together without celebrating everyone’s differences,” they say.

Illustration by Rachel Hodgson. (Instagram/@rachellou_h)

‘Lesley will focus on the heart of our local communities’

To help with this, Lesley will be available to pick up — for free — at queer women, trans and non-binary friendly LGBT+ bars, clubs, venues and events across London.

It’s going to be risograph printed, too – a medium that is historically very political, Williams says, while it’s also “way better for the environment” and uses less energy.

It will also be available to download online.

While they’re starting in London, the team is hopeful that Lesley will eventually expand to cities across the UK.

“A lot of existing content also feels quite celeb-focussed and mainstream. Lesley will instead focus on the heart of our local communities, alternative content and underground art and club culture,” Hudson says.

“What we should really be focusing on is how we can help each other; how can we lift each other up, help each other feel loved, accepted, and celebrated, especially within our LGBTQIA+ community,” she says.

“We are strong together and incredibly excited that we are now finally creating this platform to raise our voices, celebrate each other, and have a tonne of fun doing it!”

Fundraiser on July 26 for Lesley Magazine at Set in Dalston, east London

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