Entries Tagged 'Sex(uality)/Gender' ↓
July 7th, 2011 — Interviews, Sex(uality)/Gender, Zines
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.
Max’s Blog – maxmandax.com
Woman Made Gallery – womanmade.org
December 2nd, 2010 — Interviews, Sex(uality)/Gender, Zines
Christopher Wilde is one of the folks behind the Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP), an effort to build a free online collection of zines by queer people and about queer subjects. A zine is a self-published booklet or magazine, and QZAP preserves digital copies of these works. I’m Dan Copulsky, and Chris answered my questions in November 2010.
QZAP launched in 2003 with a couple dozen scanned zines. Where did the idea to start the project come from?
The basic idea for QZAP came about when my partner, Milo Miller, and I were part of the collective organizing effort for Queeruption 2001 in the San Francisco Bay Area. After a particularly challenging meeting, we went home and were discussing what happened and I casually said that one of the issues that came up in the meeting I’d already read good information about how to overcome in an old queer zine. I went to the box labeled “zines” in my closet to prove the point, but it was obvious that this was a rather inefficient way to share the wisdom of this particular zinester.
This sparked between us an ongoing conversation about how we could bring past and present queer zines to a more broad audience within the spirit of how these zines were originally created. We knew of libraries and institutions that archived queer zines but did little to make them publicly available. Since Milo and I are both Mac tech heads and grew up along with the Internet age, it was natural for us to think of starting a website and seeing what we could do from there. I contributed my personal zine collection that was based on trades and zines I’d purchased, and Milo threw in the zines he had saved, and that kicked us off with about 300 zines at the time, which has grown to about 1200 zines today, seven years later.
What’s QZAP’s physical collection like? Where is it, how’s it stored, and is it publicly accessible? If it isn’t, would you want to make it?
Our physical collection is kept in standard two-drawer file cabinets, and we recently added two more to the other three we had for a total of five. The fronts of the cabinets are decorated with posters, graphics, stickers, and in one instance, the front of the package from when one of the largest zine collection donations was sent to us from the Czech Republic (the sender purposefully put an assortment of colorful and gorgeous stamps on the box). Drawers have magnetized alphabet letters to denote the letter range of what is in each drawer, or in the case of zine collections the collection title is spelled out with the letters.
These file cabinets live in our dining room in our flat in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our house, built mostly by hand in the 1890s, is of a style native to this neighborhood called a Polish Flat. The house originally would have been a one or two story house, and then much later in time was jacked up to have a basement foundation of Cream City brick, a creamy yellow colored brick exclusive to the Milwaukee area. We are currently in the process of making minor renovations to this brick basement area so that the QZAP collection can be moved there and at that point we can determine how to make the zines more publicly accessible. It is likely the space, a former two bedroom apartment, will be a work space in addition to having a reading room style area in the front room.
QZAP uses a fairly broad definition of queer zines, including any zines written by queer people and a wide definition of queer. I’m curious where the margin of that is. Are there zines you’ve turned down or considered leaving out? Are there zines you can imagine that you wouldn’t be sure whether to include or not?
We set the definition to be as broad as possible so as not to exclude people from telling their stories and sharing their work. On rare occasions, we do receive submissions that seemingly do not fit with our curatorial mission. In these instances, we attempt to contact the creator to clarify the reason behind their submission. In one case, because we reach out to and collect zines in all languages, there was a language barrier issue that “queer” was translated by a Russian zinester to a meaning that did not have an element of sexual or gender identity. They applied a meaning nearer to the British English meaning of “odd” or “outsider” and when we explained what we mean by “queer” they completely understood why their work would not appear online, but we did keep the copy they sent for our physical collection of non-queer zines.
It may help to pause for a moment and explain that we adopted “queer” right from the start as representing the reclamation of the word as a slur and as a denigrating term to be a positive representation of the diversity of sexual and gender identities. Our collective members identify under a wide range of terms, and some even would define themselves as “straight” (meaning heterosexual) but that they acknowledge the right of people to self-identify, especially when there is pressure from hegemonic gay and lesbian mainstream people to subscribe to a single way of being gay or lesbian. This is problematic to us, as it leaves out the lives of folks who identify as bisexual, transgender, pangender, or asexual or other identities that are fluid and ever evolving. Each of those groups has their own struggles, their own cultural traits, and things to share with other sexual minorities, which is why we embrace a term like “queer” that has a flexible meaning.
Who are the people behind QZAP and what do you do when you’re not working on QZAP?
QZAP is a loosely affiliated collective that consists of a core of about five to seven people in the Milwaukee area and many others globally through contact via the Internet and email. All collective members are zinesters themselves and typically produce work outside of QZAP. We’re also big fans of alternate methods of printing, such as letterpress, silk screening, stenciling, and graffiti style street art.
Most of us do a fair amount of traveling to other cities and other countries and speak or at least read one or more non-English languages. Many folks, including co-founder Milo Miller, are avid chefs and share their talents with the collective via meals they prepare for “QZAP night” once a week where we gather to work on various projects, such as scanning and cataloging.
The QZAP collective also joined forces with other local Milwaukee zinesters to help organize the Milwaukee Zine Fest. We’ve benefited from attending zine events around North America and felt that we could create an event here in Milwaukee that brings attention to the amazing zinesters and comic artists that live here in town and around the Midwest. We also have a long history of sponsoring a late-night film at Milwaukee’s LGBT Film and Video Festival where we work with Festival Director Carl Bogner to bring work that ties into queer zine culture.
All QZAP members are also politically active or community minded, participating in neighborhood watch groups, helping to launch efforts such as alternative currencies, promoting art shows and gallery nights, and doing other efforts like community gardening. Many of us also utilize bicycles as a primary source of transportation.
Do you have any plans or hopes for the future of the archive, QZAP:meta (the project’s queer zine about queer zines), or related projects?
We look forward to the day when QZAP moves into its own flat and can become even more of a hub for creative endeavors and a place for researchers and queer zine fans to come and visit and look through the physical collection. We’ve also thought that once we complete a catalog (currently the collection is only partially documented) we might also be amenable to loaning zines.
The call for submissions for QZAP:meta #5 is out in the world as of October 2010 and will be produced in early 2011. We’re soliciting content that explores the connection between queer zines and queercore, the music movement that parallels the advent and rise of the queer zine genre. There are quite a few movers and shakers from the queercore scene who have already said they are excited to contribute and we’re curious to see what other submissions will be sent to us. The queercore scene has never had a truly representative narrative written about it, and this issue of QZAP:meta should be the catalyst to get people thinking about how we can create an inclusive, authentic, and inspirational history.
Is there anything you think queer zines need more of? How about less of?
As I present workshops and lead discussions on queer zine history, I find that two things which were key in early queer zines don’t often exist these days and likely should be revived. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, without the Internet as the go-to reference for just about everything, queer zines often contained both a letters section from readers and fans (and sometimes detractors!) and the zine editors would often have a zine review section. Even though Larry-bob’s stellar “Queer Zine Explosion” documented the bulk of queer zines produced from 1990 to the present, there are always queer zines out there that he or we at QZAP haven’t heard of, and to stumble across zine reviews by zinesters really helps not only to see what’s out there that we missed, but also give vital clues to the networks that exist between different queer zine titles.
I, personally, also miss the now traditional “cut and paste” style layouts punctuated with Sharpie markers! I don’t think they are superior or more authentic, but they do speak to the urgency of the message contained within the pages of a zine. I’m all about computer aided graphic design, primarily as I made a living through this field, but honestly there are times where I know my work would probably get done a lot faster with my old Royal typewriter, an X-acto knife, a glue stick, correction tape, and several cups of strong coffee!
Lastly, I think there also needs to be a lot less energy spent on the “zines vs. blogs” debate, both from outsiders commenting about the two genres, and also from us zinesters defending ourselves and our work. Zines are a physical craft with a longevity and a rich history that can be traced back in time over a couple of centuries, whereas blogs are a fleeting ghost of flickers on an electronic screen that can be generated mostly at ease and without much thought given to overall structure and how components fit together. Of course, in terms of the content of each there exists some degree of overlap, and I think this is why the debate gets out of hand. So instead of looking at the messages, we need to look to the physical media and be clear about zines having a rightful and respected place in this history of publishing as well as continuing to be a driving force into the future alongside technological advances in communication.
QZAP – qzap.org
November 11th, 2010 — Comics, Interviews, Sex(uality)/Gender
Tab Kimpton writes Khaos Komix, a series of comic stories about queer kids. When I found Tab’s comics, I read the entire archive in two days. Tab was kind enough to answer my questions (I’m Dan Copulsky) in November 2010.
Where are you in school or work? Does making Khaos support you at all now? Is making comics potentially a career?
I work full time as a costume maker: you can see my work over at KhaosKostumes.com. I attend anime/sci-fi events in the UK and sell a lot of steampunk items as well as promoting my costumes. As Khaos Komix has recently been published I’m now selling that at events along with T-shirts and badges. I’m self-employed, so I pretty much do anything that will earn me money, so my stall is a mishmash of things.
Khaos Komix has earned me a fair amount of money, but I know I’ll never earn back the amount of hours I have put into it. I’m really just doing it because I need to tell these characters’ stories, I never even expected to get published. Also I’m far better at making costumes than I am at drawing, so comic writing was never really a career goal for me.
Since Khaos is so heavily about sexual orientation, gender identity, and relationships, is it appropriate to ask your orientation, identity, and relationship status, and how this has affected the work?
I personally identify as queer, but that’s because saying I’m a poly, pan, trans man with a male and female partner tends to be a bit of a mouthful.
My personal story has affected the work because in ways I’ve been each character. I’ve tried out most orientations in that quest to find myself, so I have a lot more understanding for each character’s viewpoint than the average person. It’s made the work better, and to be honest, if I wasn’t the way I am then I probably would have never written Khaos in the first place.
Each of your stories starts years back in the character’s childhood. Were childhood experience particularly important to your identity? Is there something else about childhood that makes it compelling to include in the stories?
For me much of the important stuff only hit in early teens, so no, I wouldn’t consider childhood to be that important. However Khaos is about everyone’s personal story, and I know if I were writing a biography I would start at the beginning.
How often do you work on Khaos? Do you try to keep any regular update schedule?
I try to update at least once a week, but with commission work this gets pretty hard. Writers block can also hit pretty hard sometimes, but I’m lucky as I have to write out pretty much all of the script in advance to avoid plot holes, so it isn’t as bad as it could be.
After Charlie and Jamie’s stories are finished, is that the end of Khaos Komix? What other comic projects are you working on or planning?
Yes, that’s the end. When writing Khaos I decided I wanted a solid ending instead of a pandering out that many webcomics do. I’d tried that format before in earlier versions of Khaos and it just led to plot holes and horrible retcon.
I have a comic sort of planned for after Khaos, but it would be slightly more mature so I’m worried I’d loose teen readers. Not that you can’t stop teens from reading porn on the internet, but that I’d feel bad for letting them read it.
What comics do you read?
I read a lot of webcomics, specifically queer ones if I can. Unfortunately there’s a bit of a lack of them, especially other trans comics. When it comes to print comics my favorite author is actually Jhonen Vasquez.
Khaos Komix – khaoskomix.com
Tab’s Costumes – khaoskostumes.com
August 19th, 2010 — Comics, Interviews, Sex(uality)/Gender
Erika Moen’s no longer publishing a weekly strip online, but there are years of her hilarious and moving comics available in her archive, and she’s working on new projects. Erika answered my questions (I’m Dan Copulsky) in August 2010, by email.
After six years creating a weekly strip, DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary, you stopped the project at the end of last year. What are you working on now?
I’m working with two different authors on two different graphic novels! One is a dick-and-fart-joke murder-mystery with my studiomate Jeff Parker and the other is a young adult fantasy story with Brendan Adkins. I’m hoping to start serializing one of them in the winter of this year, but I’m probably jinxing that by acknowledging it aloud.
How do you schedule your time and organize your projects? What determines what you work on and when you work on it?
Scheduling is something I struggle with very much. The level of importance and the immediacy of the due date is what determines when I work on something. I try to block out specific days and times when I’m working on a certain project, but that rarely goes according to plan because I’m also running my own business and when things come up (which they do every day) they need to be taken care of NOW. The one thing that has helped me schedule enormously was setting aside Fridays as my day to fulfill the orders that come in through my online shop, that frees up a LOT of time during the rest of the week for me.
In Drawn to You, you described creating comics as a way to process your life. Does changing the pace at which you create and share comics have an affect on how you understand the events that are happening to you?
No, it hasn’t really changed that. I feel like my process of perceiving and interpreting life is always evolving, so the stage in which I had to document my life into comics is something I’m ready to move on from for the moment. I will come back to it, as I still have some autobiographic stories I want to turn into books (my relationship with my family, the process Matthew and I went through for immigration, etc.), but for right now it’s not what I need in my life. I’m really enjoying just experiencing life without constantly picking it apart to turn it into a comic.
Drawn to You was created collaboratively with Lucy Knisely. Is collaboration something you’d want to do again? Is there anything you’d do differently if you did?
Oh yes, I looooove collaboration! The times when I’ve collaborated are when my art and storytelling have improved the most. When I’m working on my own projects, I’m doing what I’m already comfortable creating—but when I work with someone else suddenly I have to push myself to think outside my normal box and interpret somebody else’s work and make mine work with theirs. It’s challenging in a really great way and I ALWAYS come away from those projects a better comicker. There’s so many ways in which to collaborate, too, and I’m open to trying them all. Drawing and writing with a cartoonist who is drawing and writing simultaneously (Lucy Knisley), drawing from someone else’s script (Sara Ryan, Jeff Parker), coming up with a concept and working with a writer to create the script for it and then drwing it (Brendan Adkins), writing a script and then having someone else draw it for me (haven’t done that one yet)… so many options!
As a queer women who has settled down with a man, and written a lot about your life before and through doing so, do you feel like you still have things to write about being queer?
I think I still have a few more comics left in me about that subject, but overall I feel like I’ve presented the meat-and-potatoes of my personal experience. If I never had the opportunity to do another comic on that subject, I could die feeling happy with what I did share.
DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary – darcomic.com
Erika’s Livejournal – erikamoen.livejournal.com
Erika’s Twitter – twitter.com/erikamoen
August 5th, 2010 — Interviews, Sex(uality)/Gender
Sarah Dopp is the founder of genderfork.com, a “a supportive community for the expression of identities across the gender spectrum,” and a place where I regularly gawk at photos I think are really cute. Sarah’s behind some other cool projects too. She answered my questions (I’m Dan Copulsky) in July 2010.
How did Genderfork.com get started?
Genderfork started in 2007 as an attempt to explore my own fashion sense. I found that I felt most comfortable when my appearance reflected an equal balance of masculine and feminine elements (whether that meant bright red lipstick and cleavage in a tuxedo, or jeans and a white t-shirt with no jewelry—as long as the gender weights were balanced, it felt right). Fascinated by this, I went digging for pictures of people who were pulling this off themselves on Flickr, and set up a system for blogging a photo a day. For the first year, that’s all the project was. Then, once readers started interacting more, it transitioned into a community-supported multi-media publication about gender variance, identity, and expression.
How does Genderfork balance the desire to post high quality, interesting content with the desire to create an open and inclusive community? Are you selective about what you publish, and is that a problem?
Great observation. We do have high standards for quality, and we do try to represent a broad mix of the content we find and receive. Fortunately for this issue, one of our biggest “problems” is that we get way more submissions than we can publish. This allows us to be selective about what we blog, which makes the “quality, interesting content” goal not hard to reach at all.
The bigger source of tension is our goal of representing balance and diversity. We receive far more submissions from transmasculine people than from transfeminine people. It’s important to us that we aim for an equal balance of “masculinity” and “femininity” (in quotes because most days I’m not even sure what those words mean) in our content stream, even as those traits get mixed up, minimized, or emphasized differently on different people. We have to dig, sift, and reorganize quite a bit in order to piece that balance together. (As we still fall short of it, quite often. It’s a struggle.)
We also struggle to represent diversity in age, race, class, body size, and style of appearance when our submissions piles don’t present the level of variety we’re hoping for. We have a long way to go on these issues, and we appreciate when our readers help us out by recommending content that depicts people with less-commonly represented characteristics.
Has running Genderfork changed your own understanding of issues related to gender or your personal identity?
Yes, greatly. That first year was about me finding my own identity, which I was finally able to put words to: genderqueer, androgynous, genderplayful, and female. Those are all me.
Since then, it’s been about building an understanding of my broader community—how others describe and present themselves, who else is part of our ecosystem, and how radically and utterly NOT alone I am on this path. (What an unexpected and miraculous surprise.)
You work professionally with website development and social media marketing. How much do you think these skills have contributed to Genderfork’s success?
Probably more than I want to admit. The biggest benefit is that I’ve been able to create and maintain the site without hiring technical assistance, and the hosting cost is negligible to me. This means that money can stay out of the picture, and that gives us a lot of creative and organizational freedom.
You’ve run Deviants Online, a social media discussion workshop for queers, sex nerds, artists, and other rebels. How is social media different for those groups, or why does it make sense to have a workshop specifically for them?
Great question. Social media is a set of tools, opportunities, and philosophies that a huge number of people have all of a sudden needed to start grappling with. I’ve noticed that the education/exploration process goes a lot smoother for people when the material is interpreted for their social or professional culture. Deviants Online was just another example of social media being framed for a particular culture.
What’s interesting about this particular culture, though, is that it has to deal a lot with sex. What happens when a professional dominatrix suddenly gets a friend request from her mom on Facebook? What do you do if your educational website about sexual health is being blocked as porn? What does a working model need to consider when he wants to publish his artistic nude portraits online as part of his marketing? While most of the advice for these questions will draw from the same wisdom that’s been circulating in all the other social media discussions, it’s valuable to create a supportive space that encourages people to bring them up and discuss them
You also run a queer open mic. How does that space, particularly in being live, compare to the space you create online for people to express themselves?
There are a lot more hugs involved. Seriously! The internet is MISSING OUT on that incredible aspect of in-person community. Hugs.
Other things… it’s once a month instead of every day, which makes it more of a special occasion, but less of a constant resource. Since it’s offline and usually not recorded, it gives people permission to take a risk that the might not want archived in public memory for all eternity. And we get to go out for beer and hamburgers afterward.
Other than that, it’s pretty similar. My job is to set expectations, shine a spotlight, and make sure people have an opportunity to connect. We always get a mix of new folks and regulars, connections are formed, and the experience isn’t for everyone. But it’s important for us.
Does the future hold any exciting plans for Genderfork or other projects?
The next big thing at Genderfork will probably be the community forums. Right now we’re working with a great group of community members who offered to help us get the scope and guidelines worked out before we open it up to the public. Genderfork receives a lot of submissions from people who are searching for immediate answers and responses, and our publication process doesn’t provide them with that (it can take weeks or months for a submission to get onto our site). I’m excited about the forums because it will let people have full conversations about whatever they want, whenever it’s coming up for them.
The other big project for me is Culture Conductor, which just launched on July 22nd. Like Genderfork, this project is also a community-supporting blog. But unlike Genderfork, this one is about the philosophies and techniques used to create healthy online communities, and it includes much longer articles and interviews. I’m deeply interested in the way communities are created, managed, and expanded, and I want to build a base of information that anyone who’s interested in this kind of work can reference to get started.
San Francisco’s Queer Open Mic – queeropenmic.com
Culture Conductor – cultureconductor.com
Sarah’s Professional Website – sarahdopp.com
Sarah’s Blog – sarahdopp.com/blog