(Was supposed to have been published but editorial whoopsie so here's this)
Just west of the Village is a room with brick walls, a red floor, and a black stage. On the floor are tables, on the walls are art, and on the stage are microphones. Sitting at the tables are people, waiting for the official start of the official launch of the second edition of Spectra Journal.
The journal—and its launch on October 22nd—is the culmination of half a year of work by a team of editors, designers, and contributors from Concordia’s Queer community. Queer Concordia provided funding. Containing poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and visual art, Spectra presents an exclusively Queer perspective. By focusing on marginalized voices, Spectra wants to build a home for safe expression and self-discovery by Queer artists. That Théatre St-Catherine is packed for the launch underscores Spectra's appeal.
“It’s such a…” Tara McGowan-Ross pauses, overwhelmed by the turnout. “I was not expecting this many people.” Tara is a member of the journal’s organizing collective—formerly the Creative Director before they abandoned a hierarchical structure. She believes that it’s vital for her community to be able to express and explore itself without judgement or censorship, vital for people to speak their truth.
“Art and writing is one of the most sincere ways to get to know yourself,” she says; it's also how to get to know your community. She wants Spectra to represent community for all Queer people in Montreal. “We’d like to become a pillar… we’d like to be somewhere where people can go, be they first-time writers who are trying to get published or established Montreal writers.”
Some of those writers are at the launch, reading their work, building community, sharing their truth. The evening has a spontaneous vibe. Some artists are no-shows. Others don’t read their work from the journal, instead reciting hilarious poems about burning papeteries. Asher Faerstein does read their poems from the journal, “Untitled (For Now)” and “Flight and Cursing.” Alone on stage with their words, their struggle, and their love, it’s impossible not to find the work compelling. It’s impossible not to be moved by the raucous applause, by the support for a young person who, through their poetry, shows that to be so lacking.
“These // streets are as unconcerned with // me as you were // if i may be // so bold,” Asher says and writes. Spectra faced similar difficulties getting off the ground.
Tara says they lost an editor-in-chief midway through producing the first Spectra. The hierarchy of the organization interfered with effective communication. They had to transition to a collective, and collectively adjust. But it all worked out in the end, Tara says. “It would’ve been great if it went super hunky-dory, but we wouldn’t have learned anything.”
What Tara and the Spectra team learned, and what they are trying to share, is that “communication is the name of the game.” Openness and trust are the only ways to get things done. And by showing what can be done inside her community, Tara and Spectra are providing an example for broader society.
Sharing their stories, building empathy, and including outsiders without compromising a safe space is tough. So between the readings and the local bands (Strange Froots, The Dusty Faces, and Bats in the Belfry), I ask one of the artists how she pulls it off. Katerina Sevelka, who reads her poem “Life Lines,” attributes it to the intersectional and diverse environment. “This crowd is a testament to… what this journal strives to be."
As for the future of Spectra, Tara sees more diversity and intersectionality, more opportunity for personal growth, and more views of nontraditional liberation. She feels like some people who open their minds to one type of change close them to everything else. To her, as an indigenous Queer person, that’s insufficient. The crowd’s size agrees. “I’d like to be part of the fight against that,” she says. “We all would.”