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Queer Archival Utopias: Gender Trash From Hell – Renata Critton-Papp

Link to zine: https://archive.qzap.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/337

“Welcome gender queers, to the world of gender trash.”1 Created in 1993 by Xanthra Phillippa and Jeanna B., the first volume of Toronto zine Gender Trash From Hell focuses on the communication and caregiving between people in the “gender community,” which is made up of those who do not identify with the cisgendered experience.2 The zine is archived in The Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP), an online organization that was launched in 2003 to “preserve queer zines and make them available to other queers, researchers, historians, punks, and anyone else who has an interest DIY publishing and underground queer communities.”3 QZAP also protects the self-determined nature of the zine that offers a collection of resources, artistic expression, and a release of anger and grief that exists outside of cisgendered, heterosexual society and temporality.4 Including submissions from the creators as well as additional community members, the zine acts as an important historical material that intervenes in the lost history of queer community and queer support. Gender Trash From Hell is an important site of archival utopia for cross-generational communication and coalition.

Daniel Brouwer and Adela C. Licona’s text, “Trans(Affective)Mediation: Feeling Our Way from Paper to Digitized Zines and Back Again,” situates the function of the zine’s materiality for the queer community. It offers a critical discourse on the digital zine and how its new accessibility impacts both the reader and the represented community. The original intention of the zine, a small, portable, and cheaply printed object, was to circulate information and artistic expression until it eventually disintegrates.5 Translating a temporal item into one that will serve as a historical preservation of the queer stories is an opportunity for intergenerational emotional connection. The subjects explored in the zine— such as poetic explorations of passing, harm reduction resources for the community, and pop culture discourse— create an ongoing dialogue about change, pain, and subjectivity between past and present gender queer communities. In addition, QZAP and others like it (such as the POC (People of Color) Zine Project (POCZP)) are essential in the continued circulation of alternative modes of documentation within queer communities of colour.6 Most importantly, the accessible nature of the digital zine ensures that intersectional lived experiences have a platform within local landscapes as well as academic concentrations like queer theory. In these pages, there is a sense of searing anger for the harm inflicted upon this community and a reverberating chant for resilience. The digital archive becomes an activated space for the community to bond, even when the physical space is limited. 

Kate Eichorn’s chapter “Queer Archives: Collections to Conceptual Framework,” from her text The Routledge History of Queer America, examines the importance of historical objects for the queer community and how they function as sites of retreat.7,8 The creators of Gender Trash From Hell intended for the zine to facilitate conversation and expression between “gender queers.”9 They wanted to create a portable, physical space where safety tips, emotionally-charged creative writing, and explorations of identity could exist together. Their endeavor becomes what Eichorn would call a documentation of daily queer life: the articulation of the subjectivities, needs, and desires of the gender queer community.10 The zine situates a variety of mediums utilized to document gender queer lived experience like the opening diatribe on gendercide, which serves as a call to arms and mourning in the community. In addition, there is the vocabulary discussed in “TS Words & Phrases,” capturing identity terminology in 1993. Eichorn frames these qualities as ones of “extrinsic value,” that were passed down through a trauma originating with their existence.11 Gender Trash From Hell reflects the danger and loss within the gender community; its presence prioritizes community knowledge, safety, and the protection of a constructed collective memory.12 As a historical documentation, Gender Trash From Hell brings emotions and longings to the forefront and counteracts a traditional or rigid view of the archive. 

In “Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity,” queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz defines “utopia” as a questioning of the present that produces possibility.13 Muñoz’s text positions the zine Gender Trash From Hell as a utopic chance— a preserved world and a performance of potentiality. By creating an alternative utopian space for queer self-representation, the zine builds a collective memory of queerness. The gathering of gender queer experience is a form of archival information that reflects what Muñoz refers to as “anticipatory illumination of queerness,” allowing readers in 1993 and readers in the present day to access a potential queer future.14 The sense of belonging that emerges from the chronicled emotions in this zine expands time and uses self-identification to communicate a shared longing for connection.

Gender Trash From Hell is an example of a resource for an underrepresented queer community in 1993 that is undocumented by academia and mainstream media. The zine provides an alternative reality for those who cannot access these utopic and physically collective moments of queerness. Kate Eichorn’s text “Queer Archives: Collections to Conceptual Framework” contextualizes the need for queer digital record-keeping as a historical tool for the queer community. In Muñoz’s text “Cruising Utopia,” the past and present of queer communities are bridged through a reading of hope and authentic subjectivity. The object of the zine serves as an immediate documentation of the community’s feelings in 1993 and hopes for the future. By communicating kinship and community caregiving, the zine transitions from its physical space to a digital one, where its capacity is expanded to present and future generations. 

Fig 1. Gender Trash From Hell, 1993, zine, Queer Zine Archive Project, https://archive.qzap.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/337/
Fig 2. Gender Trash From Hell, zine, 1993, Queer Zine Archive Project, https://archive.qzap.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/337.
Fig 3. Gender Trash From Hell, zine, 1993, Queer Zine Archive Project, https://archive.qzap.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/337.

Notes

  1. Xanthra Phillippa and Jeanne B., Gender Trash From Hell, 1993, QZAP, https://archive.qzap.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/337.
  2. Ibid
  3.  “Welcome to the QZAP Zine Archive,” Queer Zine Archive Project, November 2003, https://archive.qzap.org/.
  4.  José Esteban Muñoz, “Utopian Performative,” in Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (NYU Press, 2009), 29, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qg4nr.
  5.  Daniel C. Brouwer and Adela C. Licona, “Trans(Affective)Mediation: Feeling Our Way from Paper to Digitized Zines and Back Again,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 33, no. 1 (2016), 71, https://doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2015.1129062.
  6. Ibid.
  7.  Kate Eichhorn, “Queer Archives: Collections to Conceptual Framework,” in The Routledge History of Queer America (Routledge, 2018), 123. 
  8. Ibid,124.
  9. Xanthra Phillippa and Jeanne B., Gender Trash From Hell
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid,123.
  12. Ibid,132.
  13. José Esteban Muñoz, “Utopian Performative,” 97.
  14. Ibid, 22.

Works Cited

Brouwer, Daniel C., and Adela C. Licona. “Trans(Affective)Mediation: Feeling Our Way from Paper to Digitized Zines and Back Again.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 33, no. 1 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2015.1129062.

Eichhorn, Kate. “Queer Archives: Collections to Conceptual Framework.” In The Routledge History of Queer America. Routledge, 2018.

Muñoz, José Esteban. “Utopian Performative.” In Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. NYU Press, 2009. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qg4nr.

Phillippa, Xanthra, and Jeanne B. Gender Trash From Hell, 1993. QZAP. https://archive.qzap.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/337.

Queer Zine Archive Project. “Welcome to the QZAP Zine Archive,” November 2003. https://archive.qzap.org/.

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