I'll admit, I kind of fudged when I said this would be a three-part series about zine artists I love. Honestly, I could probably do a fifty part series on zine artists I love, then publish it as a memoir called Can I Be You? But I'm not doing that, and instead, I'm going to take a few minutes to tell you about something really important. A couple of weeks ago, you might have stopped by the Portland Zine Symposium (or any zine fest anywhere) and thought to yourself "Wow, there are a lot of white people here, where are all the zinesters of color?" Or at least, that's what I was thinking. I scoured the entire space looking for people of color only to find one table all alone, in the back of the warehouse. One amazing table, to be sure,, but I still left wishing for something more. I'd imagine Daniela Capistrano had some similar thoughts when she founded the People of Color Zine Project in 2010 in order to make zines by folks of color accessible, available, and distributable for all, because really, these things can be incredibly hard to find in such white dominated DIY, activist, and artist communities.
One fateful evening in a kitchen in Brooklyn in the winter of 2008, I stood leaning on a window, freezing air seeping into the sweaty room. A woman emerged from the bathroom wearing a modest black dress with a white collar. In the smallest voice, she said, "We're Screaming Females and we're from New Jersey." My eyes lit up.
Cristy C. Road, a Miami-raised, Brooklyn-based, Cuban-American illustrator, writer, and of course, total dreamboat, is no stranger to DIY, punk, queer, zine, and activist communities all over the place, and certainly no stranger to the pages of Bitch magazine. You might recognize her work from covers of books such as We Don't Need Another Waveand The Revolution Starts at Home, or maybe you've caught her on tour with Sister Spit The Next Generation when they rolled through your town, or perhaps you've flipped through an issue or two of Green Zine, or you stole your ex's copy of Bad Habits, or you saw her band play in someone's basement, or maybe you've never heard of her at all, but basically, she's a big deal, not to mention a badass. This is what happened when I sat down for a chat with her on a sunny Friday morning, pajamas on, and breakfast in hand. Cristy shared her feelings about everything from her art, to astrology, to racial dynamics in radical communities, to cats and brunch. It's all here for you to read, so let's get started!
Back in 1983, Frankie said "Relax" and a media unsettled by gay S&M did the exact opposite. A generation later, we pride ourselves on being a little cooler with queerness and BDSM, but I suspect there are still some double standards when it comes to gay men getting kinky....
I had felt unsafe in that space. The night had represented every micro aggression I'd ever experienced from straight people: cab drivers that kicked me out in the middle of the night because they wouldn't tolerate "that" at the back of their cabs, store managers who kept insisting I'd find better clothing in the women's section, every gay boy that looked me up and down with disdain because I wasn't conforming to their inherited fucked up view on what a woman should look like or wear to be "fabulous," straight women who blatantly ignored me because I didn't fit in the coop, and femme girls that ranted on and on about masculine privilege, but hardly ever acknowledged that their pretty privilege made their worlds so much bigger than mine. That my girl could mindlessly shimmy onto a dance floor even as a gay woman and enjoy the simple pleasure of a dance, go out with her straight friends to bars and not be stared at or called names, etc., while everything about the landscape, from the "Ladies free before 11PM" sign to the man-woman dance partner pairings made me so angry all of a sudden. And, I didn't know how to handle it.
You know when you come across a super rad zine artist and you're really into their work, then you casually waltz into a comic shop, and you find one or two of their zines from years and years ago, but you get pretty bummed that the zine and comic shops in your area don't have a sufficient selection, so you scour the Internet but can only find so many other things, then you realize you've wasted hours looking for who has the lowest shipping costs? You then proceed to read every interview with them, you learn all you can about their life, then you step back for a minute, and it hits you—maybe you're a little obsessed with the artist and you feel weird about it, but you end up e-mailing them professing your undying love for them and their work anyway? Please tell me this isn't something only I go through.
Regardless, starting right here, right now, I will be taking you on a journey, showing you why I love three incredible queer zine artists, and why you should love them too.
As a good queer studies (not to be confused with lgbt studies, gender studies, and women's studies–though, they're all related) student, it's important to have your bases covered. You start with the foundational texts, because as an incredibly new (we're talking about my age, here) and constantly evolving field of knowledge, queer studies theories inevitably build on each other as society changes. As Michael Warner coined, queer studies is "a subject-less critique, with a focus on a wide field of normalization as the site of social violence." Terms are carried from one essay to the next, ideas are thrown diagonally, across, backwards, and mixed up with a whole bunch of other things ranging from race theory, to postcolonial theory, to pretty much every social study under the sun, and basically, if you start somewhere in the middle, you'll probably get lost, and overwhelmed. It's like a secret club where everyone cites each other. But don't be discouraged—you can catch up! Let's take a trip down queer memory lane, and visit some old friends. If you've ever read any contemporary feminist or women's and gender studies material, it's likely that you've come across the names of those who are considered pioneers of queer theory—Judith Butler, Gayle Rubin, Lauren Berlant, and of course, Eve Sedgwick, amongst a host of other fancy academics. Like many queer theorists, Sedgwick's writing is dense, and not the easiest to unpack in a single read, but I swear she was an awesome lady who I am definitely grateful to have read in such depth.
JD Samson is certainly no stranger to Bitch; a significant voice in the Riot Grrrl movement, and a more than prominent queer and feminist icon, it only makes sense to let you know what she's up to this summer. Last week, while attempting to figure out exactly what to write for this post (because leaving you with just a list of tour dates would be boring), a dear friend deemed me a "JD Samson connoisseur." While I gladly accepted this title, there's definitely a bit of a difference between knowing a lot about someone and having a mild obsession* with (read: giant crush on) that person, and you can probably guess where I stand within this spectrum of connoisseurship. Though, with this giant crush, comes a great deal of respect and admiration for JD as both an artist and an activist.
When people come to know I'm an Indian feminist (from India even! That, somehow, is always an extra bonus), after a quick round of, "What do you think about child marriage/sex-selective abortions/sati?" inevitably the question of the film Fire comes up. Hilariously, people are offended that I don't quite have an opinion or any interest in assessing whether Fire is "really" queer or if it's simply a story about loneliness (anyone who has ever been a token feminist knows what a blasphemy it is to not have an opinion on the 0.3 topics your opinion is demanded on), and that I'd rather talk about the events the film spurred on.