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Soft-focus shots of bras, backs, forests and abstracts beckon and whisper from its pages. There are poems of romance, anguish and self- definition, and essays about loving parents, aunts and uncles as well as desperately dysfunctional families. Its bylines and credits include names such as Chu, Kitka, Solórzano, Gould and Anonymous.
"This is Masque. It urges us not to wait to be asked our stories, for they are too precious to risk losing, unheard," Manoella González wrote in her "letter from the editor" in the debut issue of Masque, a glossy black-and-white 9-1/2-by-9-1/2-inch magazine dubbed "an art and literary journal of queer expression from Stanford University."
González, a sophomore and editor-in-chief of the magazine, began thinking about a literary journal for the gay, lesbian and bisexual community shortly after she arrived at Stanford.
"It wasn't until I came on campus and found out that El Centro and other groups put out their own literary/art magazines that I wondered about a queer literary art magazine," she said.
In October, she cast a wide e-mail net, soliciting copy. "We spammed. We blitzed e-mail," seeking both submissions and staff for the publication from "queer affiliated" mailing lists. With help from the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community Center (LGBCC), the staff also blanketed the campus with fliers.
To raise money, the staff did volunteer work for the Stanford Fund and got donations from a variety of funders such as the Black Community Services Center and the African and Afro-American Studies program; the Office of the Dean of Students; and the publications board of the Associated Students. There were even a few "random" donations, González said, including one sent by a friend from her hometown, Chicago. In addition, the staff spent a day in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood going from shop to shop urging merchants to buy ads for their magazine, sight unseen. The effort yielded five advertisements.
González is pleased with the product, which made its debut on Feb. 28, a date chosen to coincide with Genderfuk, an annual event for the gay, lesbian and bisexual community. Of the 1,900 copies printed, 1,400 are earmarked for Stanford readers. The staff hopes to sell the other 500 beyond campus. So far, response to Masque has been positive, González said.
"The only unfavorable reactions we have had are from people who are very queer-phobic in general," she said. "I would have been happy with just something mimeographed and stapled, but we decided to aim as high as possible."
González does lament the fact that the first issue did not have more variety. The magazine is heavy on poetry and photographs with multiple contributions from the same artists and writers. She's hoping that the next round of submissions will include charcoals and other visual forms of art and more humor and prose submissions. González also hopes that the issue being planned for spring quarter will reflect a better gender balance.
"There was a whole lot of female energy in this issue. We didn't have a lot of male-influenced or male-themed art or writing to choose from," she said.
"For me it was a surprise, because the running joke is that you go to any queer function [at Stanford] and it's all men. The women are off doing their own thing quietly, privately, not very visibly."
For now, there are funds to be raised and plans to be made for the next issue. Submissions can be dropped off by March 31 in designated boxes at the LGBCC's office, the Women's Center, the art and English departments, or Terra House. The magazine's website is www.stanford.edu/group/masque/, and its e-mail address is evident@leland.
To those who wonder why writers and artists don't simply submit their work to one of the more established literary publications on campus, González says: "Just as the other communities on campus have their own arena, we deserve ours as well. And we ought to be able to offer people a choice."
By Elaine Ray