Qwerty, the literary magazine published by the UNB English graduate department, launched its 38th issue, dubbed “the Queer Issue”, on Feb. 15 at the Capital Complex.
Co-managing editor Annabelle Babineau credits the inspiration for the theme to the Qwerty Reads event held during Fredericton’s first Winter Pride last year. The event was a success and drew attention to the larger LGBTQ+ community around the publication.
“Many of us working for Qwerty identify as queer, and so do some of our writers and readers,” she said. “At Qwerty we want to celebrate queer voices and give them a platform to shine.”
Babineau said the theme is important in showing LGBTQ+ audiences and authors that they have a place to express themselves.
“A lot of the literary canon is predominantly heteronormative, and we wanted to read and publish newer forms of stories. Stories where heteronormativity wasn’t the norm,” Babineau said. “We also want Qwerty to be a place where queer authors feel safe and comfortable to submit.”
Several members of the Qwerty editorial team read excerpts from the issue at the launch party, including co-managing editor Perry Reimer, fiction editor Mckenna James Boecker and art editor Rebecca Salazar.
Their readings highlighted the work of authors Benjamin Cutie Dugdale, Alana Mary Scott, Alicia Doclos and Erin Kirsh, as well as personal writings by the presenters.
Reimer said it was important for them to express the queer theme of the issue through both its content and contributors.
“Ultimately, we were looking for work by LGBTQ+ authors, but with an eye towards work that deals with queer themes, or themes of queerness,” he said.
Reimer explained that public representation such as that provided by Qwerty is critical for community-building in a smaller city. Similar LGBTQ+ efforts, such as the establishment of The 203 Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity on campus and Bottomless Bingo (the drag bingo event held regularly at the Capital Complex), work to create space for the Fredericton LGBTQ+ community.
“It adds to a growing presence of queer space and queer visibility on campus and in Fredericton as a whole,” Reimer said. “It’s about visibility and letting other queer folk know that there are spaces where we’re welcome, not just to be, but to express ourselves freely.”
Babineau said themed issues might become more common with Qwerty due to the positive response they received for their “Queer Issue.”