Militant prancing pagan homos: Queer zine parties in the ‘90s

Zine of the Gay

The zine BLOT #2, laying atop a pink mesh shirt, on a dirty black and white checkered floor. Printed on white paper, the half-letter size zine has an image of a child's face, with the word "ASEXUAL" across it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about nostalgia as I spend time in the QZAP archive. My posts this week and next will be about items in the archive that relate to events with a queer zine focus. And it’s really hard to read these materials and not to feel envy those who got to attend them.

Issue #2 of the zine BLOT is held in QZAP’s archive, but not digitized. The zine documents two queer events that took place in Toronto in 1993. I grew up in rural Ontario, about 5 hours away from Toronto, and was 6 years old in 1993. The place I grew up in was pretty bad for weird little fruity kids, and it is bittersweet to read about events that were happening in my lifetime and in a place not too terribly far away, but that were nevertheless worlds apart from my own experience.

SPEW was a queer zine event that took place 3 times in the early ‘90s. The first edition was held May 25, 1991, in Chicago, the second, February 28 – March 1 in LA, and the third and as far as I know, final, version, took place May 15 and 16, 1993, at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto.

There’s a really cool little documentary about SPEW 1 that’s available online:

Steve LaFreniere, the organizer of SPEW1, was stabbed in the back by homophobic passers-by on the street after one of the SPEW events, but fortunately, he recovered. It’s always important to temper your nostalgia with a realism about ways that things were also more or differently fucked up in times past.

The SPEW 2 writeup that I linked above opens by quoting the words that appeared over the door of the event, which would definitely make me pretty darn hyped for what was to come:

“GAY TO QUEER- Begin to revel in your sexuality. Trained, disciplined, butt fucking, cunt spreading, militant prancing pagan homos. No apologies. No compromise.”

Text reads "“It’s accessible and cheap. Zines, videos, performances, weird shit, party with live bands. A homocore alternative-queer thing (this is not a “convention”)” There is a handwritten annotation, "Hey!" with an arrow.
From Queer Zine Explosion #7

SPEW 3 is previewed as follows in Queer Zine Explosion #7, an issue of the handout published by Larry-Bob Roberts alongside his zine Holy Titclamps:

“It’s accessible and cheap. Zines, videos, performances, weird shit, party with live bands. A homocore alternative-queer thing (this is not a “convention”)”

BLOT #2 describes SPEW 3 as including “an informal round table discussion on zine production, [including] distribution [and] low cost production,” including QZAP’s own Chris Wilde! There was a zine fair the second day with “close to 60 different zines”, and readings from Charlie from MATCH and Lydia Landstreet. I couldn’t find anything online about MATCH or Lydia Landstreet, but I’d be curious if anyone has info on them!

The evening event sounds like a lot of fun, with “a two-member noise group from Michigan called MATCH, and Toronto’s own Ignatz and Chicken Milk (now know as Venus Cures All)”, as well as “a snack table… with mostly vegetarian food”, “a slideshow of ‘50s lesbian trash novels and other queer media”, and TVs playing Bruce La Bruce’s No Skin Off My Ass and “videos about Toronto punk, Crash’n’Burn and Not Dead Yet

BLOT #2 also documents a queercore party on Saturday August 15, 1993, also in Toronto, featuring screenings from GB Jones, and performances from Daddy Carbon (who I also couldn’t find anything out about) and, again, Ignatz. The author of BLOT notes that it was “really nice to see fags and dykes together having fun and to see a pretty equal split between girls and boys.”

The best answer to what to do about nostalgia is usually to try and identify what in particular you’re yearning for, and to figure out ways to bring that about in your present and future life. That’s a tall order for a messy, sweaty, sexy queer in-person gathering, from the perspective of 2024, year 4 of the forever pandemic. I’m sure there’s still lots of events of that description going on, but they’re less accessible than ever to my disabled friends and dates and comrades. How can we build events and gatherings that capture some of the feeling of events like these, but that are adapted to make space for as broad a swath of queers as possible, in an ongoing pandemic?

Next week, I’ll be writing about Queeruption, a radical queer gathering that’s taken place 12 times between 1998 and 2017. QZAP’s archives have materials from five of these, as far as I can tell. Let’s see what we feel nostalgic for, and what we’d like to leave in the past.

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.

My 2nd Lesbian Coloring Book

Zine of the Gay

As many of the zines we have focused on for the last three Zine of the Gays have been mostly text-based, we wanted to highlight some zines that were more art-focused, and what is more cooperative, comforting, and artistically rule-breaking than a coloring book?

My Second Lesbian Coloring Book CoverMy 2nd Lesbian Colouring Book was created by Sacred Feminine and actually comes from Toronto like our last zine, Shame on Pride!, just a year later in 2006. There is very little text in this zine, but the writing we do have is a request by the creators for completed works from the zine. They say:

We feel that the spirit of art, much like the spirit of sisterhood, is a co-operative one.

Joan Jett Coloring PageIn exchange for the reader’s Sapphic graphics, they offer a “care package including herbal tea and a mix tape” which feels so perfectly lesbian it makes us all warm inside.

The coloring pages include queer women of the past and present who were famous across multiple fields, such as basketball player Sheryl Swoopes, musicians Madonna and Melissa Etheridge (who is pictured on the front cover), comedienne Lily Tomlin, writer Virgina Woolfe, and (actually genderqueer) activist Leslie Feinberg.

The zine ends with the statements “Sisterhood is Powerful!” and “Love is tender, knows no gender.” We hope that you carry these sentiments with you, and if you’re able to print the pages out, have fun coloring!

Kit Gorton is a current intern at QZAP and graduate student at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in library science and English, with focuses on archives and media studies. A rather queer Hobbit, Kit is most often seen collecting things (such as leaves, rocks, books and the like) or doting on their cat, Good Omens Written in Collaboration by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett.

Shame on Pride!

Zine of the Gay

Shame On Pride coverEven though this Zine of the Gay project is inspired by Pride month, we at QZAP want to make sure we look at Pride critically. Today’s Zine of the Gay is Shame on Pride! created by Abuzar in 2005. The original zine was created as a part of Queer Diversity, a community focused on the relationship of radical queers to (at the time) modern day Pride in Toronto. Though this zine is specifically focused on Pride Toronto from almost twenty years ago, the messages are still applicable and we encourage you, dear reader, to keep an eye out for racist, transphobic, sexist, or classist behavior at any Pride celebration you go to this month.

Before even giving a table of contents, the zine starts with newspaper clippings from the New York Post and New York Times recounting the Stonewall riots, reconnecting readers with the reason we have pride in the first place. After the table of contents, Abuzar addresses their readership:

Calling all Radical Queers, Trans People, Youth, Sex Workers, Poly People, Anti-Poverty Activists, & Allies:

Sick and tired of the main streaming of the “Gay Movement”?

Frustrated at being pushed out of and excluded from queer spaces?

Angry at getting kicked out of a queer community we helped create?

… If you’re a pissed off and unapologetic hooker, tranny, gender queer, radical, lived/worked on the streets, or an ally, it’s time to fight back!

They then follow what happened after Stonewall, as white gay people began to push down other sexual and gender minorities in order to assimilate into mainstream culture. Abuzar says that in their pursuit for mainstream acceptance, “It doesn’t matter how many of us are murdered, go missing, or find ourselves excluded, bashed, or beaten. The band plays on like the single minded machine that it was always meant to be.” Pride has now become another part of this single minded machine, becoming a co-opted event “that perpetuates homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, social classism, economic classism, polyphobia, bodyphobia, binary-dominance, sex negativity, erotophobia, ableism, ageism, anti-sexwork sentiment, systemic exclusion … in short, all of those issues that it was meant to address and fight.”

There are also other pieces within the zine that address Stonewall’s origins, the internal oppression in gay culture, and how “more acceptable” queer people “sic cops on “less acceptable” queer people at Pride.” There is also a piece on how the fight for gay marriage “dismisses and ignores the decades-long struggle of feminist movements to abolish or establish progressive alternatives to the marriage system imposed by governments and churches over previous centuries of gendered exploitation, colonization and oppression. Instead, the debate encourages non-heterosexual partners to identify the legitimacy and “equality” of their relationships as the ability for those partnerships to be “permitted” by the same legal and religious authorities which have historically dominated, exploited and excluded women from participation and decisionmaking [sic] roles.” These argumentative pieces all support the majority of the body of the zine, which is focused on alternative queer spaces at 2005 Pride Toronto.

The main point of this zine is that rather than just creating alternative spaces for queer people, we need to also actively resist the co-opting of queer spaces. The body of the zine highlights organizations offering alternative spaces and resisting the co-opting of Pride, with events such as Resist! Rovolt! Celebrate! held by Limp Fist to stand against the corporate sponsors of Pride, Whores And Dykes Unite! organized by the Sex Professionals of Canada which is a march supporting trans people, sex workers, natives, and other POC within the greater Dyke March (a politicized, corporation-free, queer alternative to Pride), as well as the events held by Queer Diversity called the Renegade Community Fair and the Protest Against The Cooptation of Pride, both of which looking to dissent against Pride in the community fair and parade. Abuzar writes about these events, saying:

We refuse to participate in Pride in a manner complicit with their oppression. We refuse to be tokenized by Pride and dissent against it’s marginalization of the queer community.

Kit Gorton is a current intern at QZAP and graduate student at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in library science and English, with focuses on archives and media studies. A rather queer Hobbit, Kit is most often seen collecting things (such as leaves, rocks, books and the like) or doting on their cat, Good Omens Written in Collaboration by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett.

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