Drop in workshop between 1.30 & 3.30pm. Details to follow
AHEAD OF THE CURVE is the story of one of the most influential women in lesbian history most people have never heard of and the impact her work continues to have today. The film opens with the revelation that Franco Stevens’ life’s work is in peril. Franco’s story unfolds through intimate interviews with magazine staff, celebrities, cultural critics, and Franco herself intertwined with extraordinary footage from Franco’s personal collection and LGBTQ archives to situate the story in its historical context. Franco’s present-day struggle is told through verité handheld encounters with queer women leading today’s intersectional work.
Franco Stevens realized she was gay and left her marriage in the late ‘80s, when many women lost their families and sometimes their lives for coming out. She was 20 years old, alone, working three jobs, and living out of her car. Driven to connect with the beautiful range of her new community, she conceived of a glossy magazine. Unable to find funding, Franco took out 12 credit cards in one day, cashed them out and went to the track. She won three races back to back and sunk every penny into her new magazine. Keeping the magazine afloat was a constant battle, but Franco understood the importance of representing the entirety of lesbian diversity and strived to help all lesbians connect with community. After a disabling injury which she largely kept secret, Franco sold the magazine and nearly 30 years later, it continues to make lesbians more visible to one another and to the general population.
When the current publisher reaches out to let Franco know the magazine will fold within a year, she faces a crisis. She’s been away from the helm for nearly 10 years. Should she - and can she - rally the community to keep the magazine going? Is it the magazine or the mission that matters most at this point in the evolving fight for lesbian visibility? Franco struggles to determine the relevance of her own voice given her physical stamina and the vulnerability that raising her own voice now engenders.
In a deeply personal bid to find the answers she needs, Franco reaches out to some of the young women leading in today’s queer spaces. When a major queer women’s conference invites her to join a panel titled Lesbian vs. Queer - Do the Words We Use Matter, she wonders out loud if anyone will even show up. Franco is stunned when the room fills to capacity with a crowd who values her contribution and wants to hear her perspective now. She connects with fellow panel member, National Center for Lesbian Rights Communications Director Andrea Pino, who acts as a sounding board and guide for Franco’s new journey.
As Franco struggles to understand the relevance of her magazine now, she reaches out to educator Kim Katrin, slam poet Denice Frohman, cultural leader Amber Hikes, and a host of young queer people to learn about where lesbian community is today. Kim shares the powerful cultural shift in which queer women and Women of Color are increasingly taking power as she says, “ideally, visibility looks like us being able to be the authors of our own experience and to be able to tell our own stories. I'm committed to making sure that generations in the future see more visibility, more freedom than what we have access to now.” Denice talks about how important it is that we feel connected to a lineage of strong queer women as she calls out how she is “reminded every day about my predecessors, the giants that really paved the way for any of the work that we're able to do. I would not be here if it wasn't for the work of Gloria Anzaldua, Cherrie Moraga in particular, and Tatiana De La Tierra.” Then Amber, who introduced the black and brown stripes into the rainbow flag, calls on the LGBTQ community to work more intersectionally as she says, “white folks in the LGBTQ community have, I mean, that's how privilege works, you were able to ignore it for so long. And so, now it's fine, yell at me and tell me racism doesn't exist, but at least you're talking about it!” Andrea points out that “when there is so much at stake right now, our positive stories are some of the most powerful tools that we have. Now is the time to go to that 8am march on a Saturday, to vote in every single election, to run for office if you feel like you can, to speak up, to share your story. This is what makes our visibility so powerful.”
With the imminent demise of her magazine bearing down, Franco worries that she isn’t physically able to help and questions whether the community still needs Curve. Her approach to threats and erasure in the ‘90s was to lift lesbians up and make them beautifully visible. Through her magazine, she helped to lay the groundwork for intersectional movements being led by today’s activists in the face of accelerating threats to the LGBTQ community. Ultimately, Franco reconnects with her original mission and plans to launch the Curve Foundation to help amplify queer women’s voices and share their stories.
With Franco Stevens, Kim Katrin, Denice Frohman, Andrea Pino-Silva & Amber Hikes.
Director: Jen Rainin & Rivkah Beth Medow.