Edited by Jenna Freedman
Zines resist standard definition. Ask ten zinesters or zine librarians to tell you what a zine is, and you’ll get at least ten different answers. Zine publishers, too, resist being defined. They challenge mainstream ideas about race, culture, class, sexual preference, and, with great gusto, gender. There are transsexual zinesters, zinesters all over the transgender spectrum, and zinesters who refuse to recognize gender at all.
Even with the wide variety of gender and other self-definitions in the gender-nonconforming zine community, there is a commonality in the need to share and preserve their experiences. A sometimes misunderstood group even within queer culture, and one that provokes even more deadly hostility, trans people require safe spaces to be candid, to give and get advice, to provide fellowship to one another.
The open web isn’t necessarily the best place for that, so bring on the print zines, the hand-to-hand sharing, and the buffer from prejudice. Also bring on thoughtful and talented writers and artists whose experiences should be of interest to people of all gender expressions.‚ Jenna Freedman
Ballard, Jacoby. Trans~Care. 2006. 18p. ¬Ω size. $1. Distros: The Alchemist’s Closet | The Mimi Zine Distro | Wench Blog
Herbalist Ballard proffers a welcome alternative to traditional biomedical models of surgical pre- and postoperative care. Encouraging individuals undergoing FTM (female-to-male) gender transition surgery to embrace a holistic health approach, Trans~Care provides lists of food, supplements, and herbs to consume before and after surgery to enhance recovery, either in conjunction with or in lieu of pharmaceutical prescriptions. Ballard includes dosage information, as well as explanations of each substance’s function. Trans~Care suggests steps “the healing one’s” friends can take to assist emotionally and physically, including good luck kits and extra love. Written with a keen sense of empathy and empowerment, Trans~Care is an affordable, accessible resource for all involved in this exciting process.‚ Kate Angell, Sarah Lawrence Coll., Bronxville, NY
Kemp, Alix. Genderfailz Nos. 1 & 2. ¬Ω size. Distros: free PDFs: No. 1, No. 2 | Microcosm, $2.
Genderfailz is a personal zine written by a self-described “polycurious transguy with a love of dresses and four-inch heels who refuses to pick a sexual orientation.” Kemp’s first issue is about his steps toward transition, when he files a name change form and finds a doctor to prescribe testosterone for him. He articulately describes the tension he feels between being honest about his genderqueer identity and lying to health-care providers to ensure quicker treatment. In issue No. 2, he explains the concept of cisgender privilege, his personal history with depression, his supportive parents, and the idea of queering heterosexuality. Kemp’s writing is clear and immediate, and he does an excellent job of expressing his thoughts on gender issues. Highly recommended.‚ K.R. Roberto, Univ. of Denver
Miller, Milo. Gendercide. Nos. 1, 2, 3, & 5. 2006‚ 2008. 8p. ¬º size. Distro: Queer Zine Archive Project (free PDFs)
Miller, cofounder of the Queer Zine Archive Project, presents short personal narratives critiquing mainstream concepts of gender. Adorning each compact zine with kitschy clip art, Miller succinctly and effortlessly unpacks the notions of butch and femme and the idea of feeling uncomfortable in one’s own skin. Nos. 1, 2, and 5 offer the publisher’s own ponderings on gender as they relate to the self within queer/genderqueer spaces and in a cisgender world. No. 3 is guest written by Ashley Altadonna, who explores her experience using hormone therapy in the transitioning process. Each issue tackles a different aspect of gender and is sure to enlighten readers.‚ Adam Davis, Palm Beach Cty. Lib., Boynton Beach, FL
Sayers, Joey Alison. Just So You Know #2. 2010. 32p. ¬Ω size. $5. Distros: author’s website | Global Hobo Comics | Microcosm
Just So You Know #2 is a simple minicomic that revolves around the struggle to be seen (and see others) as real people beyond norms and stereotypes. Sayers recently retired from working on thingapart, her weekly webcomic of almost five years in order to focus on Just So You Know, a series of one- and two-page stories that capture aspects of her experiences as a transsexual woman. While all of the stories are told from a third-person perspective, Sayers’s candid sense of humor shines through in each of them. These simply drawn vignettes present the complexity of her trans and gendered experiences with refreshing bluntness and kindness. Appropriate for adult and young adult readers.‚ L.Wynholds, Los Angeles
Shortandqueer, Kelly. Shortandqueer. No. 4: Now That I’m a Dude. 2005. $2; No. 8: I Am Not Unreasonable. 2007. $2; No. 14: The Best Thing That Happened Today Was… 2009. $2.50. ¬Ω size. Distros: Bird in the Hand | Dead Trees and Dye (UK) | Ink Pusher (Canada) | Marching Stars (UK) | Microcosm | Ms. Valerie Park | Quimby’s
As casual and intimate as a good friend, these zines give a glimpse into Kelly’s challenges and support system, including transitioning to living as a man, coming out to friends and family, dealing with issues of gender identity and identification, body hair, and thoughts about daily interactions. While the issues run deep and there are constant confrontations, stories like those in “The Best Thing That Happened Today Was…” show an optimistic outlook (and a love of square dancing!). In addition to being an author with the ability to write in a way that resonates with people of all experiences, Kelly is a performance artist, coorganizer of the Tranny Roadshow, and a founder of the Denver Zine Library.‚ Lani Smith, Ohlone Coll. Lib., Fremont, CA
This article originally appeared in the newsletter BookSmack! Click here to subscribe.
|Jenna Freedman, who coordinates and edits this column, is Research and Zine Librarian at Barnard College Library, New York. She is also a librarian zinester (Lower East Side Librarian, among others)|