1. How did the idea of creating Queer Zines first cross your mind ? What is the ultimate purpose of editing political & artistic zines in general, & of Queer Zines in particular ?
I used to run a zine distro called The Alchemist's Closet, with a focus on queer, trans, feminist, punk and anarchist zines, for many years. It was a lot of fun working with different zine creators all over the world and maintaining relationships with them over the years.
When I became ill with CFS/ME (chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis), I couldn't fulfill all the requirements of running a distro, like making copies and going to the post office throughout the week. I started Queer Zines so that I could keep promoting zines by queer artists and authors. I also promote other zines that I think queer people will like.
A while back I also added a Facebook group, Queer Zines, at www.facebook.com/groups/queerz
Queer Zines is a place to promote zines, learn about new zines, and find zines to submit to.
2. What are your demands for LGBTI mainstream, standard political activism as a radical rainbow folk in a liberal society ? What was your first approach to LGBTI political activism, both locally & online, like & how has the LGBTI movement changed your life (changes, new encounters & visions...) ?
I'm not sure if I live in a liberal society but hopefully it's trending toward a more liberalized view of social and romantic relationships. I believe in personal freedom, equality and peaceful relationships. At this point in human development, we actually have some good models for what those values look like in action. We know that people should have the freedom to make, maintain, or leave relationships. We know that people make better choices when they feel supported, safe, and like they have options in life. At the same time, as human beings, we consistently fail to supply these conditions to each other.
As queer people, we have been marginalized throughout much of history in many societies because we don't do what we're supposed to, and that makes people in power look bad. It threatens the different systems that are used to control people. People in general don't want to be controlled, so queer people have a lot in common with other people, including other marginalized people. Nobody wants to live their life under threat.
I would like to see mainstream LGBT+ activism engage in a substantial way with the issues of economic equality, poverty, citizenship and migration, racism and gender. We also have to connect to issues of healthcare access, trauma, and toxic masculinity. It isn't really the time for single-issue campaigns anymore.
My first exposure to LGBT+ activism was through the Human Rights Campaign and equal marriage rights. There were a lot of queer people who were just trying to survive, but marriage was being positioned as the answer to all of our problems. It isn't. A great deal of money was spent on equal marriage during a time when other LGBT+ resources almost disappeared. Now that equal marriage is finally the law, many of those resources are returning, and we can talk about these other issues more, like trans rights and safety and healthcare access.
3. How did you first realize you weren't straight and/or cisgender ? What would you tell a younger rainbow folk who realizes they aren't, surrounded by LGTBIphobic people in a cisheteropatriarchal world ? How would you try to give them hope, support, & even the will to fight this system ?
I was probably 14 or 15 when I realized I was queer. Probably the first thing that happened was that I realized I was attracted to a variety of gender expressions and genders, but that I was particularly interested in androgyny and people who didn't express themselves in mainstream ways. As I went through adolescence I became more interested in gay and bisexual men and started to trend toward being interested almost exclusively in fantasizing about sex between men.
As I was assigned female at birth, I didn't really have any way to process this. It was 2003, when things were very different, and I was not that aware of trans people existing. The only model I had was through books like Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, which mostly described butch lesbian identity. However, I identified with it. I had a feminine romantic partner who identified as a boy, but who later found themselves as a woman. The way I felt about her was the same way Feinberg described feeling about femmes.
I was still very unsure that I could be trans and also gay, because I hadn't really heard of that. Late one night, listening to NPR on the radio in my car, I heard an interview with a gay trans man who said he wasn't able to find a romantic partner. I cried because I identified with him, so I felt like there was some kind of future for me, but also because I felt like I would have to give up love to have it. I think a lot of young trans people have felt this way.
I came out as gay and trans around age 16/17, and as nonbinary in my mid-twenties.
To young queer and trans people, I would say that it's really valuable to study your history and understand that people like you have always existed. It's important to study queer theory and feminism so that you can untangle yourself from your upbringing and the values that have been forced on you. If you don't confront these things they will eat at you from the inside.
Feed yourself with media that shows people like you, whether its mainstream media or online subcultures or zines. If you start feeling bad inside and invisible and alone, bring up some Youtube webseries or TV shows with queer characters.
Unfortunately, some people still hate and fear queer and trans people and you'll encounter them sometimes. You don't have to accept them or their views, and it's perfectly alright to cut them out of your life.
4. In your blog, virtual & local political activisms & movements intersect as you spread the word for local zine events & distros & for virtually-downloaded/bought zines at the same time. What've you learnt about both local & virtual political activisms & movements from running Queer Zines ? How do they complement each other ?
I think local zine cultures are very important because they connect people to zines who might not otherwise know about them. The trouble with the internet is that it's very niche-oriented, so you have to know about things in order to find them. If someone doesn't know about zines, how will they find out about them?
Often, it's local zine cultures that connect new people to zines. I started out in Bangor, Maine with GG Irkalla (Up the Witchpunx/Radical Hope) printing paper zines and leaving them around town and selling them at punk shows. We didn't really ship out many zines or sell them online. A lot of people who found our zines were probably like, "What the fuck is this?" Sometimes I got hate mail (and I do mean actual mail) because of my zines.
Once I distributed zines in Burlington, VT and I got a letter that said, "We have enough of you faggots here already." I got letters that threatened to r*pe me or throw me off a bridge for being a feminist. Today, that kind of stuff happens online, but for most zinesters, their online zine scene is a very protected space. Homophobes don't usually go looking for zines to order from Etsy so they can write threatening emails about them. So in a way, that's good, and the internet has connected and protected zine culture so it can grow really exponentially again. Zines are huge these days!
On the other hand, it's maybe less organic and fewer people are being exposed to new ideas.
5. Zines are all about art, writing, & culture. But mostly, zines (at least the zines Queer Zines helps promote) are also about politizing art, writing, & culture. In a cisheteropatriarchal, capitalist society in which culture is monopolized by cisgender, straight upper class men, how do you think zines & their making & distribution & reading can provide women, poor folks & LGBTI folks with an opportunity to both spread their own words & art, to change what is produced and how it is produced & to support & consume a different kind of culture ?
Zines are really cool because they have a low barrier to entry. If you have access to a pen, paper and a copier, you can make a zine. If you have access to a computer and free word-processing software that can make a PDF, you can make a zine.
When something has a low barrier to entry, it will always open up the field to more diverse people and more marginalized people. We have a legacy media system in place where fewer and fewer companies own the publishing houses, newspapers, etc. The media elite are risk-averse, so anything that is too different is a risk. Diversity is not an asset in their world. They want to publish things that are a little bit different, but still marketable to the average person, with all of that person's biases and fears. If you want media that is really for marginalized people, you have to go to the margins.
I hesitate to agree that cis, straight, white men monopolize culture. I think they definitely have attempted to do so, but culture has always been produced by queers, people of color, and poor people. People in power seek out that culture and try to make money from it.
6. When talking about both oppression & political activism, disability, madness & neurodiversity are too often left out of the conversation even in leftist environments. However, your blog does help promote zines on these issues & the way they intersect with being LGBTI, & you are disabled yourself. Do you think zines are accessible enough already, for people who can be disabled in multiple ways ? How has disability, & its intersection with being LGBTI, shaped your life & your political activism ?
I think that people are becoming more aware about the need for accessibility. Zines are very small-scale productions and often the accessibility of a zine comes down to the choices and abilities of an individual person, the creator. So I don't want to criticize anyone for making zines that are not accessible, because we (zine creators) also deal with our own limitations.
One of the things that zine creators can do is to create both digital and print zines. Digital zines can contain text that can be read by a screen reader, which is a computer program that reads text from the screen. Image descriptions and clickable navigation are also good accessibility features for PDF and e-reader formats. Basically, the more formats and features you can offer, the better.
Zine creators can also make sure that their "call for submissions" contains complete image descriptions and transcriptions. That means, don't make your call for submissions just a picture of text on an image. If you want to use a picture of text, also provide a text transcription. This isn't just a disability issue, because those little images with text on top are really hard to read on small screens, like phones.
Cost is another accessibility issue. Keeping costs down, or offering sliding scale, is a great way to make sure more people can access the zine.
Being disabled has definitely changed my perspective on zines. I now see accessibility as more important. I've switched over to digital zines for the most part, through my project Cutlines Press (www.cutlinespress.com). As a chronically ill person, it's easier to create and distribute digital zines because it's less physically demanding. There is also often a lower start-up cost.
However, I believe there will always be a place for paper zines, as well. For some disabled people, paper zines are what is accessible. Variety is good.
7. Finally, let's talk a bit more about you. What are the details, the tools (spirituality, counterculture, art, reading, sport, writing, bonding with other folks, rainbow or not...) that help you stay alive & keep breathing, both trying to live a happier life & to at the same time fight the system, in such a cruel world that so often alienates us & keeps us from understanding our own needs & interests ?
I am queer and trans and disabled. All of these things are important. My queerness isn't just queerness, it's disabled queerness and trans queerness; so forth. As a result of living with multiple marginalized identities, I tend to take different things from different groups of people and communities; like, I may not feel entirely at home in a queer context when disability isn't mentioned, or visa versa. I get things that I need from various communities and people. I rely on friends and family who know all the different parts of me and have known me as a whole person.
I'm an abstract, mixed-media fine artist. I also love to write, and I've written some experimental and sci fi zines and short stories, like Handsome Boy Pilot and Future Benin. I love sci-fi as a genre because it's a great vector for exploring political, social and spiritual concepts all in one package. My project Cutlines Press (www.cutlinespress.com) is a place where my friends and I explore some of these ideas.
We have a really exciting digital zine coming out this September called Radical Hope, edited by GG Irkalla and Ezmyreldra Andrade. It will explore antifascist witchcraft, gnostic anarchism, Queer survivalism, and radical economics.