“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.

How Fuzz Box emerged from the Sex Garage

Zine of the Gay

A zine cover printed in black ink on neon yellow paper. The title reads Fuzz Box, mirrored underneath. There is a photo of someone in a cowboy outfit. Additional text reads: "Fall 1991 - Faggots galore - Justine and her pussy - Juicy Fruit & co interviewed - Sex Garage - Whirling lesbian dervishes - out come the freaks"
Cover of Fuzz Box Issue 2 No 5

Around 4am on July 16, 1990, around 400 Montrealers were enjoying a party in a second-story downtown loft, featuring go-go dancers, contortionists, house and garage DJs, and projections of queer porn, until a spotter stationed outside warned that police were on their way in.

The party, Sex Garage, was organized by Nicolas Jenkins, an experienced event promoter who was used to his events getting shut down. But what followed was much more violent than he was used to, with dozens of cops waiting outside to beat attendees as they tried to leave the party.

Photographer Linda Dawn Hammond was attending the party, and risked her safety to photograph the violent arrests. The next day, she brought her photos to both The Gazette and La Presse, Montreal’s main French and English newspapers. The violence of the raid, and the existence of photos capturing it, sparked a wave of community organizing.

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Image of a raised fist, with text reading, "FREEDOM CAN SEEM LIKE A REVOLUTIONARY IDEA. Freedom to know your own history. Freedom to walk the streets safely. Freedom to have sex without fear. Freedom to keep or adopt children. Freedom to be proud. Freedom to be honest. FREEDOM TO BE OUT. Are these such revolutionary ideas? ISN'T YOUR FREEDOM WORTH FIGHTING FOR?"
From Fuzz Box Issue 2 No 5

Soon thereafter, Jenkins started publishing the zine Fuzz Box. QZAP holds two issues of Fuzz Box, the first undated, and the second from 1991, following closely on the Sex Garage raids and documenting some of the fallout from them.

Unsurprisingly, the zine is political but irreverent. It includes a lot of fun items, like horoscopes, a gossip column, “Titi Galore – Dishin’ Dirty” (there was a party that was supposedly raising money for a hospice for people with AIDS, but the hospice had no idea their name was being used!), club playlists, lots of porn collages, and even recipes (“Chop one small firm and well shaped eggplant into large cubes and spread out comfortably in a baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with 1/2 a wine glass of olive oil (virgin is always a special treat)”).

Amidst the fun stuff, there’s also an article about La Ligue Antifasciste Mondiale, which began in 1989 as a beating-up-Nazis gang, and later evolved into a community organization:

“Presently, LAM is working on a list of bars in Montreal that are either frequented by nazi punks/skins or are barring access to them. Of course, as is well known to lesbians and gays, the practice of refusing entry to nazi skins all too often becomes a scapegoat for denying access to anyone the bouncers decide they don’t like the look of… prejudice in the guise of politics.”

Ads for parties are a fascinating graveyard of defunct Montreal queer venues, including The Candy Bar, an Act Up meeting in the Village, k.a.t. club, Cafe Tutti Fruity (links go to Google Maps, if you’re curious like I was what’s replaced them).

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For me, the highlight of the first issue was an interview with two “F2Ms who sleep with men”. It is a true joy to me to witness the continuity of transfag history, with the interview even beginning with that time-honoured question of (paraphrased) exactly why taking T turns everyone gay. It’s a really rich and thoughtful conversation, including the nuances of passing in different communities, cruising while trans, tensions and possibilities for solidarity between trans and cis queers, and drawing connections between trans and disability communities in opposition to body normativity.

My favourite item in the second issue was an interview with Boyd McDonald, or as Wikipedia calls him, Boyd McDonald (pornographer), creator of the legendary gay smut zine Straight to Hell. Founded in the 1970s, STH, which still exists under new management, mostly collected letters sent in by readers, documenting (or potentially imagining) stories of mostly anonymous and transient gay sex, sort of like “Dear Penthouse”, but with way more scat.

McDonald, who died in 1993, two years after the publication of this interview, shared some of his philosophy of sex:

“FUZZ: Your stories present a lot of potentially degrading situations. Initially you are shocked, until you realize that there is consent involved. It really makes you realize a lot about sexuality.

STH: Those are men who can afford to be humiliated. You see, I wouldn’t recommend that type of humiliating experience for someone who has nothing else going for him. But these men sometimes have satisfactory careers and they have enough money. They live well, and they are doing well in their professions. They might be a priest or what have you, and can afford to be humiliated. They want to be, and they enjoy it. But for someone who is unsuccessful and unhappy in all other ways, I wouldn’t recommend that he have this humiliating and degrading sex unless he wants it.”

He also describes why he handed STH off to his successor, Victor Weaver, in a response that is deeply relatable to me as a long-time zine maker:

“I just gave it to him. It got to be too much trouble. I was doing it as a one-man operation, including peddling it to bookstores, sending out copies to subscribers, and I just got tired of it. I did it for ten years. A lot of people don’t do anything for more that one year or three years, or at the most five years. But I stuck with it for ten years. Now it’s much easier. The publisher has a distributor, so that’s how the stuff gets into circulation.”

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Clipart of a man and woman leaning over a baby, with text reading "It is a simple reality... To be born gay is an honor and a privilege"
From Fuzz Box Issue 2 No 5

The site of the Sex Garage party and raid is unsurprisingly now a condo. So is the nearby site of Le 456 Sauna, which was open for 33 years, and before that, was the Neptune Sauna, site of another notorious police raid in 1976. It’s hard to imagine it being a fun part of the city. But I can assure you with complete confidence that there will always be queer people in Montreal throwing weird gay parties, staying up too late, and hating cops. 💜

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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.

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