Zines are more than Riot Grrrl and punk music culture.
Historically, zine making began in the 1770s with Thomas Paine’s political leaflets and pamphlets like Common Sense and The American Crisis. Benjamin Franklin in the 1800s and science fiction fandoms in the 1930s all contribute to the dense yesteryear and current events of zine culture — paving the path for what exists today. Zines have provided a radical way for dissidents and marginalized people to self-publish opinions and words through print form and provide an outlet for an audience that may not have a form of refuge otherwise. Today, zines are both online and in print, sold for a few dollars or handed out for free.
Zines typically feature appropriated or original images and text, and in a feasible effort to save on money, zine-makers will typically use a photocopier to publish and distribute small quantities of print.
Now I don’t want to disregard the punk scene in the 70s (zines like Homocore and Chainsaw) and the Riot Grrrl movement in the 90s, they are prolific examples of activist groups and subcultures who utilized zine making to spread their personal and political perspectives. For current marginalized groups, like the queer or LGBTQ community, zines are still prevalent and are even more accessible with the emergence of the internet and online shopping. Understandably, in the late 1990s during the rise of the internet, zines faded due to a sudden interest in archiving text online; however, zines offer something more tangible. The interaction and physical touch of the zine, the collective quality, and the permanence of a printed image or text offers a give and take response for both the reader and the distributor. The creator of the zine deliberately and carefully curates each issue or leaflet, providing motivation and inspiration for the reader, whoever their intended audience may be.
Zines aren’t meant to make a profit. Instead, they are the printed material that publishing houses reject, as they are geared towards the interests of the mainstream. The voices that are present in zines are colorful and raw — they speak to those who have no one to speak for them. Since LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than those who are straight, outlets like zines, music, and community can create a safe and accepting space for those to turn to in times of need. Zines are a way of building and sustaining a community. All across the country, cities hold zine festivals that promote and engage readers and creators to share their work. Here, LBGTQ youth can find a community of people who understand and share experiences and stories.
Out of the hundreds upon hundreds of zines that exist (and are being made daily) here are 3 zines to check out for the LGBTQ community.
Sister Ectoplasma Distro
Based in London, this zine focuses on queerness, feminism, art, and other handmade items like pins and t-shirts. Most recently, Ectoplasma published, “Nancy 2” by Alex Creep which is a 36-page zine that discusses and illustrates topics like non-binary identity, sexuality, and transness.
Mixed Race Queer and Feminist Zine
MRQFZine compiles art, illustration, and expression for the mixed-race and queer experience. The zine, which operates with revolving editors, recently opened submissions for Mixed Up V2 — their deadline is August 6th.
Based in Southern California, Pascual is a femme, queer, non-binary, artist who works alongside themes of mental illness, queerness, and decolonization through mediums of drawing, writing, and zine-making. Pascual released the gender-neutral coloring book GODDEX in 2016. Keep up with their artwork and zines through their Tumblr.
To conclude, zines invite interaction. They urge you to flip through the pages, resonate with the words, and bravely admit your experience. Like queer television or films, a zine can create a profound and instant bond between creator and reader. Marginalized groups are rarely depicted accurately in mainstream media, and this includes literature. The LGBTQ community needs this, and more importantly, they deserve this.