How to create your own culture
LSTW's Florence Gagnon on what it means to create your own culture
Words— Florence Gagnon
Role models are a big deal when you’re growing up. Fitting in isn’t easy, and unless you have a diverse group of people to admire, you can easily feel like an outsider if you don’t want to wear or listen to what everyone else seems to like.
As a teen, I always had more trouble shopping for clothes in the women’s section than in the men’s. All those different styles and prints, when all l I wanted was a simple shirt and a pair of jeans! (I remember being so happy when the “boyfriend cut” became the new cool thing.)
One of my greatest wishes was for magazines and ads to feature women who looked more like me—or even just to showcase different options for women who weren’t into dresses or bodycon. I wanted to wear more “masculine” clothes but still feel good, and look good, as myself. To take pride in who I was.
I was constantly looking for content created by people who were game changers in their fields. In university, I fell in love with indie music and photography. People were building new cultures by distancing themselves from the mainstream; through their openness, they were making what was deemed as “strange” and “funky” perfectly fun and “normal.” I soon discovered that many of those game changers were part of the LGBTQ+ community—and that I was finally starting to fit in somewhere.
These new role models helped me gain confidence in my style and in myself. I was influenced by many strong women, from Emily Haines and Tegan and Sara to Peaches and the members of Le Tigre. They were making awesome music without conforming to societal norms. In Montreal, blogs and publications such as Nightlife were showcases for this exciting culture, and every time my friends and I would go out we secretly hoped to have our picture taken.
We wanted to be part of it.
We wanted to help build it.
By the time I was 24, I was throwing parties and hosting events for lesbians. As well-known Montreal-based singer Ariane Moffatt was publicly coming out of the closet, a few friends and I were launching our website, Lez Spread the Word. Things were finally changing in Quebec: queer women had needed role models and more visibility in the media and we were getting it.
I have devoted the past six years of my life to documenting and celebrating our culture. These days, there’s a greater understanding that the concept of gender is fluid and ever changing—and that is thanks in great part to the committed culture makers who have helped shift perceptions. Yes, there’s still a lot of work to do. Every day. But when influential artists and LGBTQ+ folks decide to live openly and vibrantly, things change. When we gather together to make the strange and unknown exciting and familiar, things change.
If you don’t see yourself represented in the media, start something. Change something.
What if the things that set us apart are actually what bring us closer together? What if instead of saying “or”, we say And? True inclusion is as simple as one three letter word. Check out our latest “And” collection in support of Pride Month.