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SEATTLE -- They aren't sure when they first met, or where. What they both are sure of, without question, is that they are doing exactly what they were meant to do -- co-manage the first-ever news medium to cater to lesbians in the Seattle area.
The Seattle Lesbian is a new online news and entertainment website that immediately fills an important niche previously ignored for far too long in the Seattle community.
The website launched this past Oct 13th to much fanfare. It is the brainchild of some very enthusiastic and dedicated lesbians who, not surprisingly, live in Seattle: Sarah Toce and Kate West; along with the steadfast support of Toce's wife, Stephanie Brusig.
The three ladies took some time recently to chat with the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, to explain how this all came about, share in their collective triumph, and discuss their thoughts about the future of their new endeavor.
Three lives and personal passions converge
"I've always believed everything happens for a reason," said Toce, talking about her serendipitous - and strictly platonic - relationship with West. "There was definitely a reason we met and became friends and put together this project.
"We share a mind," she continued, again referring to West. "it makes for a good working relationship and friendship."
Fate indeed brought these women together for this greater purpose. West is a Seattle native, and has lived in the area all her life; but Toce, a Connecticut native, decided on a whim to pick up and move to NYC on Sept. 10, 2001. "It's interesting how destiny plays out," she said, recalling her fateful decision.
Despite the chaos that followed her arrival, she decided to stick around, eventually pursuing a film and television degree at the New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts. After graduating, she realized film was no longer her passion, but the time she spent behind the camera prepared her for the work that has now become her career. She later moved to LA for a time, but was drawn to the beauty of Seattle and the family she had there.
Toce is no stranger to the online media scene, having freelanced for She Wired, One More Lesbian, and the Windy City Times in Chicago, as well as traipsing across the social media grid for the past several years. Her personal website is the equivalent of an online resume, where she stacks up not only her list of accomplishments, but link after link of celebrity interviews.
As a freelancer, Toce was working her butt off for outlet after outlet, scoring interviews, traveling to red carpet events and various venues to meet up with artists, and in some cases even flying out to concerts on her own dime - like a trip last year to Lilith Fair at The Gorge just to catch a few minutes with Sarah McLachlan backstage. Although photography was just a hobby for Brusig, she happily accompanied her wife as she shuttled around at a back-breaking pace, with camera in tow.
Eventually frustration mounted; Toce realized it was she that had all the contacts. She spent the time and energy to make the interviews happen. She wrote all the articles and her wife was taking the pictures. It was a lot of work and although she wanted to write for local outlets, the gay publications in Seattle would not publish her stories. Lesbians just were not represented in the city of Seattle, or the state of Washington, for that matter.
One day, it all came to a head and Toce said to her wife, "Why aren't we doing this for ourselves?"
So about a year ago, Toce and Brusig met with West for dinner and kicked around the idea of starting their own online news source. After chatting they realized they all shared similar goals, so the decision quickly became a no-brainer; they just had to make it happen.
"It all came together once we decided to just do it and put it out to the universe," explained West.
"All of our energy is going to make this successful," chimed in Toce.
One thing they all agreed was important from the start was that it couldn't be just local news, but also national and international news - and it had to matter to lesbians.
"We wanted it to be sexy and provocative, but smart," recalled Editor in Chief Toce, "and it had to be substantial, because my name was going to be on it."
Once the ball got rolling, things continued to click into place and on October 13th, The Seattle Lesbian - "Seattle's exclusive website for lesbian news, celebrity interviews, exclusives, and more!" was born and the ladies have barely taken a breather since.
As fate would continue to have it, just a week after they went live President Obama made things interesting with an appearance at the University of Washington. Here was their first huge local story, and it was relative on a national level, as well. It was clearly a memorable couple of days for the lesbians of Seattle and it gave them some well deserved attention in and outside of the Pacific Northwest.
"I was in awe," gushed Brusig. "I was up there with real professional photographers and I was so proud to be doing this for our website. There was no one else from the Seattle gay community there doing photos."
Toce was equally proud. "Steph is very humble but her photographs are amazing - and I'm not just saying that because she is my wife."
Brusig took dozens of photos at Obama's appearance, which are incredibly vivid and can still be found on the website. Aside from her photography duties, Brusig also designed the website's Sky Needle logo and acts as the voice behind "Ask the Handywoman!"
West has also been a fixture on the social media scene for the last several years, fitting her tweets and status messages into a life that included raising her now 14-year old son and juggling a full-time job; but the Seattle Lesbian has given her the opportunity to finally focus on her true passion - writing.
"This has reminded me what I wanted to do - to be the creative person I was meant to be," she said. "I feel really empowered."
A big fan of lesbian literature, West has been writing for most of her life and is a published poet, herself. If she had the time, she'd spend some of it reviewing the books of other up and coming authors, but there just isn't time to be found. For now she' ll settle for her all-encompassing role as Executive Editor and all the duties she is currently able to fit under that hat, when she is not working as a health claims analyst.
Social media has changed the way people get their news, much in the way CNN changed it when they made it accessible 24/7 back in 1980. The two women live about 45 minutes apart but talk two or three times per day and do most of their writing and editing from home.
A multi-functional website made for Seattle lesbians by Seattle lesbians
The "SeaLesbian" as it is known on twitter pulls together news from all over the web and presents it in a blog-like format. Toce and West share management of the site and split their writing responsibilities based on their personal interests, with Toce continuing to tackle celebrity interviews and West focusing on local musicians, artists and business women. They also have seven contributors and are still soliciting guest submissions for reviews, shows, etc.
The site offers readers a wide array of information; breaking and regular news, entertainment, sports, travel, LGBT community resources, videos supporting suicide prevention, trivia like "Top 10 lesbian DVDs," an events calendar, and so much more.
What the future holds for The Seattle Lesbian
They've been live for just under two months and the experience so far has completely surpassed their expectations. The more popular the site gets the busier they are and they couldn't be happier.
This time next year they hope to be the voice of the lesbian community in Seattle and even around the world. Although West and Toce also both hope the site can sell enough advertising to be self-supporting and allow them to pay their writers, they wanted to make clear that they won't pull the plug if it is not; they are definitely in for the long haul, regardless.
"It will take at least a year for people to visit us every day or to believe we'll still be around." Toce offered. "If all we can do is cover our expenses, that's fine - we will not shut the site down."
For West, she's already reaping rewards, if not financially. "The feedback has been payment enough. People are reading it and appreciating it," she said proudly.
Toce, who had already slowed down her freelancing to focus on a book, has now refocused all of that energy on the website and is still completely trusting the universe.
"Not sure what road we're going on, we're just going where it takes us. It's like a butterfly experience," she said.
So far, the road ahead for these women looks like it will be one that is well traveled.
Morgan M. Hurley is the Copy Editor for SDGLN. She can be reached at (877) 727-5446, ext 710 or via email at email@example.com.