I almost subtitled this editorial “The Queering of LSQ”, but I felt it might be going a bit over the top. Despite our gorgeous cover (by the talented Priscilla Kim) and more than one story featuring a queer character, LSQ is not suddenly becoming an “LGBTQIA+ Literary Magazine”. Truth be told, it’s been that way for a long time without me saying or doing anything. It’s been a natural progression and opening that’s quietly made me happy as it’s unfolded.
When I started this little magazine in 2009, I was a pretty different person and the world was a pretty different place. I was heavily closeted even to myself, gay marriage was not on the table, and I was filling the most immediate and visible need before me: making sure women’s voices are heard. And so I’ve chosen to publish women writers exclusively. To clarify, if you tell me you identify with the woman end of the gender spectrum in a significant way, there is a place for you here.
That mission, that purpose hasn’t changed. I’m just taking the moment right now, as the world gets rougher by the day, to stick a flag in the ground for queer characters and the queer authors who write for us. (We can argue my use of the word “queer” some other time, yeah?) We need these stories, just as we need stories featuring characters of various races and immigration status. They’re all good, important stories.
But here’s the interesting thing. These stories I’m talking about in this issue? They’re not about being gay. In some cases, the love story and the characters’ orientation are incidental, just as it would be if the characters were straight. There are no coming out stories, these women know who they are and are simply acting on that same impulse of attraction that their heterosexual counterparts would. That’s part of what makes them so all good, so universal. That whole “representation” thing you’ve heard so much about? This is what it looks like.
These stories are not about waving flags, shouting from the mountain tops, or shoving anything down anyone’s throat. They’re actually about superheroes and magic and strange bubbles of time. As with all good characters and good stories, they stand on their own merit. They transport us and, much of the time, both gender and sexuality become incidental to the weaving of a good yarn. Swap Han Solo’s gender and Star Wars doesn’t become a gay story when she and Leia fall in love, right? It’s still the same story. There just would happen to be a couple of gay characters in there. (Poe Dameron, Space Gay. Fingers crossed. That’s all I’m saying.)
The thing is, the world is changing. Things were getting better for everyone for a while. Now we’re hitting the backlash. That’s when stories become more important than ever. That’s when diversity and representation and the voices of minorities need to be heard more than ever. And at the same time, LSQ is not a purposefully political magazine. Whatever else goes on, a good story is the most important thing we publish. It’s a chance to uplift and entertain and provide a refuge from all the rotten crap going on around us.
Stories allow us to escape for a little while, to dream of better times and better places. Stories allow us to hope and hope is needed now more than any time in my own memory. For many of our authors and readers, getting the chance to see themselves reflected back in the stories they read can make all the difference. For them, and for myself, one girl taking another girl’s hand and looking at her with love is exactly the kind of respite we need from a world that feels more and more unwelcoming. For all of us, that’s what hope looks like.