In politically trying times, the representation of marginalized voices is both necessary and affirming. Enter LINOLEUM, a newly established Toronto-based publication that aims to “create a platform that prioritizes and empowers queer individuals on the fringes of the community.” The Varsity sat down with founder, Editor-in-Chief, and U of T student Avneet Sharma to discuss the importance of intersectional queer art, how the magazine came to fruition, and his goals for its upcoming production.
At the moment, the publication is a grassroots one. The team is comprised of an “editorial collective” of five staff members without office space or revenue. Unlike other publications Sharma has been involved in, though, he emphasized that LINOLEUM is strictly a queer magazine. LINOLEUM will first be producing a zine to give readers a taste of what’s to come, and submissions for that issue, appropriately titled “Issue Zero,” will remain open until late September. The zine is set to debut at this year’s Toronto Queer Zine Fair in October.
The thriving drag scene in Toronto served as an inspiration for LINOLEUM, which emerged from Sharma’s experiences at the Green Space Festival during Pride Week. There, he listened as gender-fluid activist and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Velour gave a speech on the importance of queer self expression, which Sharma credits as the impetus for him to embark on the project.
That same night, Velour performed to a mash-up of Marlene Dietrich’s “Illusions” and Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon” – a song that contains the word “linoleum” in its final verse: “your lyrics are dumb like a linoleum floor / I’ll walk on it.”
“Originally, I wanted to call us DECEPTACON magazine,” Sharma admitted, “but then I realized that, first of all, it was too on the nose with the inspiration and, second of all, we would get a lawsuit from the Transformers movie franchise.”
Jokes aside, when asked about his overall goal with LINOLEUM, Sharma was hopeful about representing the intersectional side of queer identity. “I think now, more than ever, we’re in this very tumultuous time where queer people’s voices are now being heard , but there are also still very backwards things going on,” he said. He noted the prevalence of cisgender, white gay men in many queer publications and emphasized that he wants to collect an array of queer voices in order to “challenge our ideas of gender, our sexuality… our ideas of beauty [and] happiness.”
LINOLEUM hopes to publish biannually, with its content ranging from queer fiction and visual art to articles about local queer artists. Returning to his source of inspiration, Sharma also wants the magazine to expose more people to the local drag scene. “They do amazing work,” he said, citing House Of Filth and Crews & Tangos as popular venues. “It would be nice to get some recognition for them.”
The magazine has already gained some traction in its infancy stages. Sharma said that he has held a meeting with potential contributors, and that many members of Toronto’s queer community have reached out to help. He praised their collective efforts to make the magazine a success. “It is my passion project, but I don’t want this to come across as [just] my passion project. This just seems like a good way to give back to a community that has helped me so much in my life,” he said.
Disclosure: Avneet Sharma is an active contributor to The Varsity‘s Comment and Arts & Culture sections.