Lavender founders resurrect 1980s queer mag for modern-day audience
Two members of Champaign-Urbana’s LGBTQ+ community are rebooting a newsletter initially published in the 1980s.
Sophie West and Jada Fulcher said they were inspired to create the newsletter in June after seeing an Instagram post from the Urbana Free Library showcasing the library’s archive of The Lavender Praire News, a 1980s newsletter for lesbians.
“I was like … that's cool,” Fulcher said. “Wish something like that existed. And I talked to Sophie about it.
“Eventually, we thought about this project as something that could happen in the modern day, and then we just kept trying to make it happen. And now, here we are.”
By mid-July, the duo was meeting regularly to figure out the logistics of creating their own publication, West said.
Their goal was to premier the new Lavender Newsletter at C-U Pride Fest 2022, they said. They did that Oct.1 at the Pride Parade and vendor’s fair in downtown Urbana.
The newsletter was well-received by the parade attendees, West said
“People at Pride fest were saying, ‘Thank you for doing this,’ or ‘I'm really glad that you're doing this,’” they said, “or ‘I can't wait to read it. How can I support you? How can I be in it?’”
The new Lavender Newsletter is meant to create a central space for local LGBTQ+ people to see queer news, events and resources, the founders said.
Although the 1980s-era Lavender newsletter was aimed at lesbians, this new version is meant for all members of the local queer community, West said.
“We want to keep sort of the local queer community, learning together, learning about each other, and their different identities,” they said. “There's a really beautiful community here and that if we expand the audience of this newsletter, we can better represent that community.”
Fulcher said she hopes the Lavender Newsletter will build community among members of the local LGBTQ+ community.
“This is a way to make it a bit easier to find people with similar identities and be able to share that time with them and create meaningful community,” she said.
Urbana Free Library archive assistant Ann Panthen said she used to read the Lavender Prairie News when it first came out.
Because people couldn’t communicate via email or the internet at the time, she said the newsletter was a lifeline for the local lesbian community.
Panthen said she met West and Fulcher after they visited the library to browse copies of the Lavender Prairie News.
“They're the ones that came in and reminded me, essentially, of the whole thing,” Pantheon said. “It has been so many years, and I haven't thought about it in 30 years or so.
“When I saw what they had, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, that is so great. It's so great.’ And then, after they left, I kept the box with me and looked through them.”
She said she’s excited to know that the archives have made such an impact in the community.
“That is exactly the kind of thing that we exist for, is for people to come in and have an idea and we can pull out stuff that we have and really fuel their ideas,” Panthen said. “And, you know, I think it worked perfectly in this case.”
The Lavender Newsletter’s next edition will come out Nov. 1. Its theme will be gay politics, featuring a midterm fact sheet with information about local politicians’ views on LGBTQ rights.
Anyone interested in subscribing to receive the newsletter’s print and/or digital editions can visit the Lavender Newsletter at www.patreon.com/thelavendernewsletter.