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A bit of queer Quebec history

In the early 1900s, Montreal was the home of the first underground queer magazine in North America. The publication was called Les Mouches Fantastiques and was run by Elsie Gidlow and Roswell George Mills. Both Gidlow and Mills were queer. Gidlow was also the author of the first openly lesbian poetry book in North America, On a Grey Thread.

The magazine, Les Mouches Fantastiques, was originally supposed to be called Coal from Hades. It featured poetry, social commentary, essays, and blatant discussions of queer issues. Between 1918 and 1920 five editions were published, but only one was spread widely to the public. Very few copies of these editions still exist, but some can still be found in North American museums and archives. The magazine’s run ended when its editors moved to New York City.

One of the most infamous things about this magazine was the hatred that the famous horror author, H.P. Lovecraft, had for it. He published writings actively against the publication, and specifically had an issue with Gidlow. The most common theory to explain this malice is that he was homophobic and had trouble with how clear the publication was about queer ideals. The rivalry between Lovecraft and Gidlow stemmed from when the two of them worked as co-presidents for the United Amateur Press Association of America; a problem with the organization’s 1912 election led it to instate the two as presidents, resulting in a power struggle between them.

About half of the content that was published in the magazine was written by Gidlow and Mills. The rest was contributed mainly by amateur underground queer writers. About a hundred copies were made of each edition. Though it did not last long, it was a huge step for the queer community.

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