Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Profile: Maria Rivers, founder of lesbian social-networking site

Posted By on Tue, Oct 27, 2009 at 7:41 PM

Maria_Rivers
In 2004, Maria Rivers launched Labrys Atlanta, the only lesbian-centric publication in the city at the time. This year, she shifted Labrys from print to an online ’zine and social networking site.

When did you start Labrys?

June 18, 2004, we had our launch party at what was then known as the Red Chair. It started out that the Red Chair was all male, and I begged them to let me have a Thursday. They were so reluctant [at first]. There were over 600 women there. It was jammin’.

What was your idea behind the publication?

I guess the main reason was that the women’s community needed a presence. When I moved here in 2003, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know where to meet them besides going to My Sister's Room, and that was it.

I got in touch with the only woman who had started a publication, and she was like, “Why? Why are you starting a women’s publication? They won’t support you in this.” She was just totally bitter. And I’m like, “There’s a shift, there’s a change in this world and we have to embrace it, and I believe we can make it this time!”

Why did you choose the "Labrys" as the title?

The labrys is a matriarchical symbol arrived pre-500 B.C., when matriarchical tribes used to inhabit the Earth.  A labrys is a double-edged battle axe. It was a symbol of feminine power. Through the years it has become rusted, so to speak. Have you ever heard the term, “the old battle axe," talking about somebody’s wife unruly wife? That’s what they’re talking about.

I felt that Labrys could be brought back as a household name, meaning a power of unity in women, in numbers, but more of the power of voice.

How do you feel the mag has helped/influenced/changed the community?

I have seen through the past five years the little segments of lesbian groups pull together in such a way to make our numbers so big that these once male-dominated publishing companies are now really searching for lesbian media, because they see that there’s a market. This is the United States of America; it’s a beautiful place, but money talks. If we don’t have our numbers, and we do not have a viable market in this society, then we do not have a voice. That’s disgusting, but that’s how it is. I have seen a huge change. Our market has flourished.

How did running a publication change your life?

It was more than a career to me. I didn’t have much time to sleep, let alone for a relationship. Labrys became my girlfriend. I know now not to marry your business. It was a growing experience. You could say I personally helped give the community voice, but the community gave me the sense of being a whole person.We had a great five years. The recession did have a lot to do with us [discontinuing the print edition], but we could have stayed in print. We didn’t quit publishing because we went broke. We quit publishing because we evolved. LabrysATL.com is a social media now. It’s like a Facebook for lesbians. We have restaurant review blogs, you can be in groups.

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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