Fighting For the Term “Lesbian”: An Art and Poetry Publication Strives to Uplift Lesbian Writers

(@wmn_zine / Instagram)

There are close to 19 LGBTQ+ poetry publications across the United States—but not many that are solely dedicated to lesbian poets and artists. A publication is trying to change that. 

American photographer Jeanette Spicer is the co-editor and co-founder of WMN, a lesbian publication of art and poetry based in Queens, N.Y. WMN provides a platform for marginalized lesbian-identifying artists to have their work seen and heard. Spicer runs WMN with co-founders Sara Duell, a Swedish designer, and Florencia Alvarado, a Venezuelan artist. 

“We really felt like there’s a lack of lesbian visibility in all aspects of the world—the art world, the sports world, and even in the LGBTQ+ spectrum,” Spicer told Ms. “Living in New York City, one of the most liberal and populated places in the world, there’s only three lesbian bars, and it’s just like, ‘This is our reality.’ It kind of hits you where you’re sort of like, ‘Where’s my community?’” 

WMN was born with the idea of highlighting the term lesbian—an identity and community often pushed to the side.

“We want to fight for the term lesbian and the people who really fought to claim that term and reclaim the term dyke. And you know, the people who have lost families or jobs or even their lives over the ability to stake a claim in that part of the community and we just didn’t want the word [lesbian] to be lost. We didn’t want it to be this historic phrase,” said Spicer. 

(Instagram)

Since their founding in spring of 2019, WMN has published three issues focused on uplifting all voices and highlighting inspiring artwork. 

“Our main mission is not just focusing on lesbian artists, but those who are are marginalized,” said Spicer. 

Their first issue, Seasons of a Dyke, is a compilation of art and poetry by lesbian artists living in rural areas of the United States and in smaller cities, such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The publication includes work by 24 artists living in 13 different states with populations less than 800,000. 

According to WMN, Seasons of a Dyke “was important … to call attention to those working on the outskirts in the vast landscapes, small cabins, and on farms who create outside larger cities where the LGBTQ+ community tends to gravitate. The breadth of the works represents a substantial amount of experiences and intimacie.”

The second issue, Show Me What You Got, is an international collection of art and poetry by older generation lesbian-identified artists. The third issue, Taking Space, is also international and focuses on lesbian artists who identify as disabled.

(Instagram)

Seasons of the Dyke was published in Winter 2020, right before COVID-19 hit, so WMN had to find unique ways to become known to the world. One of the most challenging aspects of getting WMN off the ground was social media and building a sustainable community. 

“Sara [Duell] and I are more low key when it comes to social media while Florencia [Alvarado] is much more in that world. So when we decided to get an Instagram, I struggled with [getting comfortable with that world], and COVID-19 has only made that worse in the sense that we’re trying to build a community like in real life, physically in person. Where do you find the space to do that? And how do you collect people?” 

With only three lesbian bars in New York City, WMN wants to create a space where the lesbian community can come together and share their experiences in art and poetry. 

“We have almost 14,000 followers on Instagram, but what does that mean?” said Spicer. “I think some barriers for us still are just how we make a real substantial community. We’ve definitely had amazing feedback, but we’re still really trying to wonder: What would we be without Instagram?” 

To order copies or to submit a piece for consideration, head here

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About

Ashley Lynn Priore—a social entrepreneur, writer, public servant and innovative speaker—is the founder, president and CEO of Queen's Gambit, a national nonprofit using chess as a catalyst for change. Ashley is the author of Let's Learn Chess! and is currently completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh.