Max Mandax has a couple of zines in an art show opening tomorrow. I also think he has some interesting things to say about gender. I’m Dan Copulsky, and my friend Max answered my questions in July 2011.
You have a couple of zines in a show at Woman Made Gallery. You aren’t a woman. How do you feel about that?
I feel weird about it. Sort of proud, even kind of validated by it, but also apprehensive about my inclusion in the show being challenged. The call for submissions said the show was “open to women, transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people.” I feel included in that, but people generally see me as a man. So I’m scared someone will look at me, look at the name on the gallery door, and have an issue with that.
What is your gender identity?
I don’t really consider myself a woman in any sense. At least in some senses I do consider myself a man. But I also consider myself genderqueer and gender non-conforming. I think a lot traditional ideas about masculinity and femininity are silly and harmful, and I don’t fit a bunch of stereotypes about men. I also aspire to look more androgynous. In some ways that makes me feel like a man who challenges what being a man means, but in some ways it makes me feel like something other than a man. It’s sort of a recurring theme of my identity that I don’t feel like I’m enough. I feel like I’m seen too much as a straight man to claim a queer or genderqueer identity, and I feel like I don’t have enough experience to call myself poly. But I think that’s kind of dumb.
Do you think the gallery would see your gender identity as one they intended to include in the show?
I sent the gallery three zines. The first was a glossary zine of words related to sexual and gender identity. The second as a glossary zine of words related to non-monogamy. The third was a zine about my own identity, using some words from the first and second zines and brief explanations of how I feel those words fit me. I thought these zines addressed gender in a way that would really let them decide whether I was someone they wanted to include in the show. They only accepted the first two zines though, which makes me a little nervous. Like maybe they decided my gender identity was adequate for them but they weren’t sure it would be adequate for the audience in their gallery.
What do you think of gender inclusion policies?
I think they can be pretty problematic. Sometimes I think they exclude people to detrimental effect, and sometimes I think they reveal sexism and transphobia. But sometimes I think they do help create positive, comfortable spaces, even as I hope social change makes it easier for those spaces to be comfortable and positive while also being more inclusive. I also think it’s important policies are clear and accurately represent the organizers’ intents. I prefer the ones that include me.
Why did you make the glossary zines?
They seemed like a small and direct way to make people more aware of some things I’d like people to be more aware of, like what it means to be genderqueer or polyamorous. I think even a really concise definition can hold a big idea, though, like the definition of fidelity holds in it the idea that being committed to someone isn’t the same as only being involved with them. I didn’t realize how educational it would be for myself to try to put them together. I thought I knew what all the words meant, but I really had to think about them and how they are used to find definitions that seemed clear, satisfactory, and consistent with the other definitions. I think some of them could still be improved.
Why did you release the zines under a Creative Commons license, particularly one that grants other people permission to use and adapt your work, even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you?
I hope the zines can have a positive effect, and I want to help make it easy for other people to help make that happen. I’d prefer people cut me in if they are going to profit off my work, and I’d prefer people not adapt my work in a way that goes against my goals, but I think it encourages more people to use the work in ways I’m excited about to just release them under a permissive license. I also think Creative Commons is really cool, and something more creators and consumers of culture should be aware of and make use of. I put the zines up for sale on my website, but I also posted the files so people could print their own copies, and then I included an option to just donate money too. I guess the ideal is that this results in more people reading them and in people giving me more money, but more people reading is definitely the priority.
What are you working on now?
I haven’t been doing as much writing lately as I’d kind of like to. I’ve been prioritizing my job and social life, and I’m okay with that. But I’d like to make a glossary zine about kink and BDSM, and I’d like to flesh out the non-monogamy zine some. I’ve also been thinking about creating a more extensive, comprehensive glossary of sexual identity called “Asexual, Bisexual, Cissexual.” And I have some fiction I want to work on, and I want to do some more writing on communal living, and I’m sure there are other projects I’ve been thinking about that are slipping my mind right now. But I hope my website will start having some new stuff posted to it a bit more regularly.