“Women Screaming”: QT & queer edginess

Zine of the Gay

A black and white photocopy of the cover of QT zine #1, with a photo of a person in glasses and a leather jacket pointing to a sign that says "Cruise Me Not Missiles". Cut and paste text says "Homosexuality is one of the gravest threats to society in the last 2 decades of the twentieth century." There is a big pink stamp that says "EMMA COPY" in the top left.
Cover of QT #1

Like me, QT zine traveled to QZAP from Montreal, which immediately piqued my interest. Its path there was a little more circuitous than mine, though. It’s part of QZAP’s Emma Centre collection, which collects queer zines that previously lived at the Emma Centre in Minneapolis:

“The Emma Center opened in 1992 thanks to activists who were involved in the Twin Cities Anarchist Federation (an umbrella group) and some folks involved in the Powderhorn Food Co-op. Before closing shop in 1995, Emma Center acted as a center for anarchist activities, sold books and magazines, supplied free clothes, food and weekend child care, and hosted Women’s and Queer Space nights and frequent punk shows.” (source)

QZAP holds two issues of QT, #1 and #4, attributed to the QT Kollective, who were apparently very busy, since #1 is from 1991, and #4 is from 1992. The title is variously indicated as standing for “Queer Tapette” (fag, en français), “Queer Terrorist”, “Cutie”, “On the QT”, or “Queen’s Tit”. It’s made with a kitschy collage aesthetic, campily reclaiming homophobic news clippings.

The highlight of Issue 1 is two stories whose relationship to real events and people are unknown, both told in a dry, satirical, tongue-in-cheek way. “The Faggot Who Thought She Was A Lesbian” is the one that caught my eye as I was flipping through this zine to see if I wanted to write about it.

An illustration of a pair of boots, with text inside them reading "The viewer is seduced by these young men. Yet we recoil from the violence and terror... the politics of skinheads."
From QT #1

The story is about “Alex,” who tries to fit in with a crowd of a-gays who “talked about the art auction raising money for homeless children in Suweto [sic] and how politically correct they were to go to these things, even if they never bought anything because they spent it all on porn pix of white men.”

Unable to stomach that, “Alex took to wearing black, covering her eyes with thick coats of eyeliner and mascara, listening to Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails, and creating an aura of doom about her personage… Alex ceased caring about whether or not she was a homosexual – she knew as long as she was draped in seven layers of black, no man would touch her cock anyway…”

Eventually, via happening across “Women Screaming”, a radio show from “the middle of Ohio”, Alex encounters a political definition of a lesbian as “someone whose primary emotional and political commitment was to other women”, and finally finds an identity that works for her. I always love to see the fag to dyke and dyke to fag pipelines in action! 💜

The second story is about “Dickie”, a fag who gets chased through an alley by a group of armed skinheads, rescued by a punk named Louis, who then fucks him against a tree in a park (it’s incredibly hot).

The highlight of issue #4 for me was its fag hag manifesto, which ends in a call for a “fag hag separatist movement, where we sleep with each other and groovy bisexuals. Fag hags and bi’s – the newest, hippest, funnest coalition ever to emerge! Deal with it!!!”.

STAY TUNED.in upcoming issues, watch for some of these exciting features: - Queer Vampires - tampon tips: just say NO to dioxins and corporations which kill and exploit women... - violence against queer punks - what to do? who to stomp on? what to wear? - censorship - have the sex police caught up with YOU yet? are they? why do some of them call themselves "feminist"? what to do? how to resist? -piercing - the joys, the pain, the instruments...true to life stories!! - crossdressing...the joys of fucking with gender!!! WRITE A STORY FOR QT - it's your moral duty to resist our repressive state in any way possible...what better way than talkin' 'bout queer punk sex adventures??? HMMMM.. VIOLENCE, VAMPIRES, PIERCING.. TAMPONS, WHAT'S THE BLOOD CONNECTION????
From QT #1

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There is, for lack of a better word, an edginess to this that I find so fun. I think there should be an infinite variety of queer media for people of all interests, dispositions, and personalities, but I personally have a soft spot for work that’s kind of mean and gross and horny and troubling, that confronts me more than telling me I am valid. 1990s queer art is a real treasure trove of this! And some of it has aged horribly, but for me, QT, along with work like the AIDS zines I wrote about in my previous post, preserves a rage that I find deeply bracing in its lack of softness and apologies and hedging. It’s not how I write, or how I live, and I might not even get along with the people who wrote those zines, but it’s the work that I’m most drawn to.

Love it. I love it when you go to punk shows wearing lipstick and army boots, and everyone freaks out. I love get all these people yelling at you, calling you "FAGGOT" I love it when you stop at the fanzine table and no one wants to talk to you. I love it when these same tables are filled with "anarchist" and "radical" literature. I love it when bands talk about how we have to stop the violence against lesbians and gays, even though none of them know what it means to live with that on a daily basis. love it when male punks say they're anti-homophobic. but wouldn't show up at a hardcore show in a dress if they had to save their lives. I love it when gay punks say they're anti-sexist, but wouldn't show up at a hardcore show in a dress to save their lives. I love it when young female punks look at boys in dresses at shows, and the jealousy is written all over their faces. wondering why that dress looks so good on them! I love it when no one thinks that doing drag is punk as fuck. I love it when punks think that "hardcore" means being more gendered than the planet of the apes. I love it when people think that a fag is something you smoke, not someone you do. I love it when het punks suck face at a show and don't think about queer punks' inability to do the same thing. I love it when het punks talk about punk to queer punks and say thatpunk is asexual anyway, and then they quote Sid Vicious or someone. Ι love it when your mother seems to get punk more than most punks you know. I love it when punk is so self-enclosed, so afraid of trying anything new or different, that it strangles itself: I love it when people have no sense of punk's history. I love it people think that NOMEANSNO is punk and Devo isn't. Punk. Love it.
“Punk as Fuck”, from QT #4

A friend who’s a couple years older than me in chronological age, but more importantly, came out as trans in the early 2000s, over a decade earlier than I did, was talking recently about the enormous capacity that queer people of their microgeneration have for brushing things off without taking offense, and their dismissiveness about their own experiences of violence (“Nothing that bad even happened to me, sure, I got gaybashed every once in a while…”).

I have been thinking about this a lot! I think it lies near the heart of the infighting around books like Sarah Schulman’s Conflict Is Not Abuse, and in a lot of failures of communication and understanding amongst queer people of different ages and generations. There are a lot of ways of metabolizing pain. I think it can be very beautiful to choose softness and gentleness, but I want people who do so not to write off bitterness and rage, confrontation, and the power of laughing off immense violence and danger with dark, dark jokes.

I wouldn’t have based my whole darn life around zines if they hadn’t turned out to be such a weirdly good way of connecting with people, and of finding people who are moving through similar experiences. Spending time in the QZAP archive, I’ve found a lot of writing that mirrors my own experiences, but they are reflected back to me differently in each instance. They reflect contexts different from my own, make different assumptions, imagine different readers, and map the edges of acceptability in different locations than I might be accustomed to. They expand my sense not just of the breadth not just of queer experiences, but of ways I can make sense of my own queer life.

Lee P is interning at QZAP in spring 2024. Ze is a long-time zine maker, and hir current project is Sheer Spite Press, a small press and zine distro. Originally from unceded Algonquin land, Lee calls Tiohtià:ke // Mooniyang // Montreal home. Ze’s also a member of the organizing collective for Dick’s Lending Library, a community-run, local library of books by trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit authors.

Infected Faggot Perspectives & dark AIDS humour

Zine of the Gay

Cover of Infected Faggot Perspectives #12

The cover of Infected Faggot Perspectives #12, dated to December 1992/January 1993, and priced at “$3.00 or free to the infected”, confronts the reader with a caricature, signed to Rick Cole, of an emaciated figure in a hospital bed, strangled by IV lines, stuck full of needles, and dripping sweat. The zine’s tagline, which seems to have appeared on every issue, was:

“Dedicated to Keeping the Realities of Faggots Living with AIDS & HIV Disease IN YOUR FACE Until the Plague is Over!!!”

The zine dates from a time when AIDS was high in the U.S. public consciousness, following, for example, shortly after the death of Freddy Mercury, but a few years before the availability of the combination therapies that began to make HIV/AIDS more survivable for many of those able to access them.

I am about a generation younger than the generation of (Western, white, not necessarily street-involved, because we know now that the virus had been killing people for decades before it became known here) people most affected by AIDS. I was spared those traumas but grew up with a huge absence where my elders should have been. As far as I remember, I first learned about HIV/AIDS through saccharine, pitying, heterosexual representations like Philadelphia.

Image of a satirical American Express ad, where the credit card is labelled "AIDS Express", with text reading "BECAUSE MEMBERSHIPHAS ITS ITS PRIVILEGE ! ! ! ! !.!!! AIDS EXPRESS (DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT, GIRL!!!) W. WAYNE WAYNE KARR, AKA THE FABULOUS VIEJA SIDOSA, CONCEPTUAL CONTROL QUEEN OF THE UNIVERSE, CO-CREATOR & CO-EDITOR INFECTED FAGGOT PERSPECTIVES; MEMBER SINCE AT LEAST 1983 (PROBABLY A LOT LONGER THAN THAT)"
From Infected Faggot Perspectives #12

The records that people who were actually living with AIDS left, as they fought for their friends’ lives are deeply precious to me. A crucial component of this cultural legacy is a dark, dark, dark gallows humour, suffused with rage at the abandonment of PWAs on both individual and cultural levels, the physical messiness of living and dying with AIDS, and the social messiness of organizing amidst mass sickness, death, and grief.

Directed outwards at a wider audience, AIDS gallows humour, alongside actions like the political funerals of ACT UP, aimed to force those not yet affected by the virus to confront the reality that people were dying young in excruciating pain, and nursing, burying, and mourning entire social circles in the face of public indifference and hostility.

Directed inwards at fellow community members also grappling with AIDS, dark humour offered a pressure release from those same realities. It’s not actually possible to live full-time as a tragic, saintly victim, sometimes you’ve got to laugh.

Line drawing of someone on their hands and knees simultaneously pissing, shitting, and vomiting, with the word "END" above it

IFP offers arch advice like, “let’s face [it,] an AIDS Queen isn’t Glamorous until she is way below 100 [t-cells]… sorry, girls, maybe next year… keep trying.” Its articles share useful resources, like “Around the World in AIDSy Days”, which gives travel advice for PWAs, including resources for DIY healthcare, and considerations of border restrictions for poz people, but also opens,

“Hey girlfriend… wanna take one last trip to a tropical paradise before kicking the bucket but you’re afraid ‘cause you’ve heard there’s a 50% or better chance you’ll get something other than fucked during your visit & then what would you do?”

Other articles vent anger at fairweather friends of PWAs, and the unique social dynamics of the AIDS crisis:

“People with AIDS are often abandoned… but the deathbed is well attended and there is plenty of loud crying at the memorial – Nice new outfit there.”

At times, the zine’s tone is more straightforwardly sincere, as with its long obituary for Cliff Diller, who was among the founders of the West Hollywood SM party Club Fuck!. IFP’s memorial for him includes beautifully specific and evocative moments like:

“A celebration of Cliff’s life took place in L.A. on Sunday Oct. 25, the highlight of which was a performance and ritual by Aztec fire dancers. Over 100 friends gathered, most wore green, ate lasagna, ceasar [sic] salad, and pulled together. Instead of feeling, I am over this, I left feeling that, yes, I can do this one more time.”

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Cover of Diseased Pariah News, a zine printed in black and white on green paper. Above a photo of two hands, there is a speech bubble reading "The blood of over 100,000 Americans who have died of AIDS, Mr. President? You're soaking in it!"
Diseased Pariah News #1 (reprint)

One of the most famous examples of dark AIDS humour is Diseased Pariah News, an influential AIDS zine published from 1990 to 1999. All eleven issues of it are available to read online at the Internet Archive, and it is well worth your time. It offered a similar combination of resource-sharing, irreverence, and political rage, with the first issue declaring its mission to “provide a forum for infected people to share their thoughts, feelings, art, writing, and brownie recipes in an atmosphere free of teddy bears, magic rocks, and seronegative guilt.”

Another example of grim AIDS humour in the QZAP archives is AIDS Kills Fags Dead, by Eric Deutsch, whose title references a shirt worn by the singer of metal band Skid Row (although misattributed to Axl Rose in the zine itself, for what it’s worth).

A collaged zine page, featuring an image of two people having sex outdoors, a statue of someone lying down, and a list of rules for safer sex in French.
from AIDS Kills Fags Dead

According to an academic article on “Counterpublicity and Corporeality in HIV/AIDS Zines,” Infected Faggot Perspectives ultimately ran to 14 known issues. There is at least one issue held in Duke University’s Bingham Center zine collection. There is a copy of issue 6 in the Columbia University Libraries and of issue 8 (April 1992) at the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries. Traces of it are also scattered online.

The writing in IFP is mostly under pseudonyms like La Vieja Sidosa, Pansy Ass Faggot, and Trixie Trash, but the zine appears to have been the work of W. Wayne Karr, who died in 1995 and was remembered for his advocacy around access to AIDS drugs, and Cory Roberts-Auli, who died in 1996, after writing a final essay about facing his death, which was published with a preface remembering him for the depths of his solidarity with the often-neglected population of women living with AIDS.

He wrote,

“When I think of what is ahead of me, I feel almost a sense of relief. I know I am capable of letting go and I look forward with a sense of adventure to what lies ahead. If all of you hearing or reading this could step outside of your own emotions for a moment and be happy for me and for my freedom, you would see just how ready I am for this to be over. I’ve been carrying this disease around for many years and I am elated to be free of it. Of course, I have little to no information about what lies ahead, after all, I have never died before. Still, I can’t help being excited and scared at the same time.”

Mia Mingus, the writer and activist in disability justice and transformative justice, writes a blog titled Leaving Evidence, with the description,

“We must leave evidence. Evidence that we were here, that we existed, that we survived and loved and ached. Evidence of the wholeness we never felt and the immense sense of fullness we gave to each other. Evidence of who we were, who we thought we were, who we never should have been. Evidence for each other that there are other ways to live–past survival; past isolation.”

Zines like Infected Faggot Perspectives, Diseased Pariah News, and AIDS Kills Fags Dead, left evidence of their creators’ immense creativity, brilliance, and a mordant, furious, catty, grief-laden, exquisitely faggy sense of humour. I’m grateful to have these zines available to me, and to count those who made them as my elders and ancestors.

Lee P is interning at QZAP in spring/summer 2024. Ze is a long-time zine maker, and hir current project is Sheer Spite Press, a small press and zine distro. Originally from unceded Algonquin land, Lee calls Tiohtià:ke // Mooniyang // Montreal home. Ze’s also a member of the organizing collective for Dick’s Lending Library, a community-run, local library of books by trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit authors.

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