Gender Trash from Hell

Zine of the Gay

A collage of black and white images of faces and bodies against a pinkish background, with collaged text reading "gendertrash FROM HELL"
Front cover of gendertrash #1

Walking into the physical QZAP archive as an intern and a long-time zine dork is overwhelming. There’s so much stuff. There are a lot of things I have read, or that are made by people I know, and seeing those items in the folders feels like running into a friend. There is also a lot of work in the archives by people I don’t know firsthand, but who are some of the people I look up to most, and regard as vital elders and ancestors. The first thing I saw in the archives that made me feel completely teary and overwhelmed was gendertrash (also known as Gender Trash or gendertrash from hell).

As someone who spends a lot of time in both Montreal and Toronto, I regard gendertrash and its authors as a vital part of the trans cultures of both of those cities. Published under the label of genderpress, which also sold some truly excellent buttons, gendertrash was produced primarily by Xanthra Phillippa, who was a fixture of Toronto’s trans communities until her death in 2014, and “Jeanne B,” aka the filmmaker and activist Mirha-Soleil Ross, who was originally from Montreal.

(A note on names: I don’t usually use my full or legal name in my zines, and I deeply respect people’s right to remain anonymous or pseudonymous in their zines. Since Ross is widely acknowledged online as one of the zine’s authors, I’m erring here on the side of giving her credit for her work, rather than sticking with her pseudonym.)

There were four issues of gendertrash. The first issue, which is the one held in QZAP’s archives, was published in Toronto in the spring of 1993, 31 years ago. The other issues are also available online through the Arquives, which also, delightfully, holds many of the original paste-ups for the zines.


Collaged text reading "We're just as queer as dykes and fags maybe even more so!"
Back cover of gendertrash #1

Like many zines, especially of its era, gendertrash contains a wide range of content and tone. (As someone who makes zines that tend to be more like a cohesive essay or book, I think it’s doing me a lot of good to look at this style of zine, and it makes me want to make something that’s a mishmash of personal anecdotes, opinions, resources, recipes, creative writing, etc. — that part of the messiness and imperfection of zines got away from me at some point.)

gendertrash places sex work and sex workers squarely at the centre of its focus, where it belongs. To talk about transness without talking about sex work would be to leave out a huge swath of the community, and many of its strongest pillars, including Ross, whose sex work and creative work have been closely intertwined.

Some parts of the zine are squarely pragmatic. It reproduces a brochure of safety guidelines for electrolysis practitioners, so that electrolysis clients can know what standards to hold their practitioners to. It has a section at the end of local resources for sex workers, people seeking healthcare, and for those experiencing sexual violence, noting which organizations “have no problems with TS’s” or are “aware of the problems of TS youth (esp with shelters & housing)”. It also notes local events like the queer zine gathering Spew 3 at the queer theatre Buddies In Bad Times, which is blessedly still with us.


The zine also contains installments of TSe TSe TerroriSm, a serialized novel about “some members of Toronto’s gender described community,” by Phillips. When its protagonist is street-harassed by some men in a Jeep, she sets off,

“Two huge Catherine Wheels, one pink, one blue, as big as suns, rise up out of the fireball, lighting the street, buildings, stores & all the people rushing out onto balconies & pouring out of the restaurants & nearby shops to stare, laugh, applaud, cheer & give deliberately misleading or useless information to the cops, now beginning to arrive in a parade of sirens & lights, to investigate the blackened & smoking carcass that once was a Jeep.”

After escaping, she’s comforted by a friend or lover, sharing her rage and sorrow that passers-by were,

“celebrating like it’s something wonderful & exciting & like i-did-it-all-for-them, instead of the nightmare it really was. it’s not a game or a party. i mean, where the fuck were they, when i was being attacked? hiding inside their safe closets, shaking & shivering, but as soon as they see & hear the fireworks, out they come with fucking bells on. those creeps nearly killed, would have killed me for certain – it was that dangerous & here they are, out celebrating. i kill four creeps by setting them on fire because it was necessary. i’d do it again if necessary, but it’s nothing to cheer about”

In its combination of magic realism with a clear-eyed look at the emotional and physical toll of transmisogny, it reminded me of the work of another Toronto-based writer: Kai Cheng Thom’s beautiful book Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars.


TS Words and Phrases
“TS Words and Phrases”, from gendertrash #1

The first issue of gendertrash also includes a fascinating glossary of “TS Words & Phrases.” As my piece last week on the QZAP blog shows, I am deeply fascinated with the numerous ways that gender and sexual minority folks have described ourselves over the years, and our consistent vehemence that the current terms are the only correct ones.

gendertrash’s glossary, also reflected throughout the zine, uses the term “members of the gender communities,” instead of what they call “the clumsy-sounding transpersons.” The people I would refer to as cis, it defines as “genetics, genetically/chromosonally described/determined”. This distinction is also delightfully made in the zine’s usage instructions, which state that,

“material in gendertrash may be copied for personal use by any gender described person or for publication within any non-profit journal for gender described, as long as the proper credit is given. Material may be copied & used by genetics only upon prior written consent from genderpress.”

One of the most interesting glossary entries to me is their use of the term “gender oriented”, which is used to refer to “wimmin, men or people who attracted to TS’s”, whether those people are genetics or in the gender communities, or what I’d call trans or cis. Extending the umbrella out over people who date and/or fuck trans people isn’t usually part of the conversation in the circles I’ve travelled in, and I find it interesting to think about! This concept also comes out in the zine’s piece about the 1992 movie The Crying Game, which trans people in my life have felt a lot of ways about:

“This man is spontaneously and strongly attracted to Dil for her female or non-male attributes. not her cock and balls. In fact, the main character thinks she is a genetic womyn & is surprised & upset to find out that she is not. Gay men will have to realize & accept the fact that genetic men who are attracted to us (TV, TG or TS) are not gay, but gender-oriented & that their numbers are constantly growing. In other words. we’re having a party & genetic gay men are not invited.”

(The glossary also includes the delightfully punk “in the pit” as a replacement for “in the closet”, and the poignant entry “that’s the way it is is the phrase we use to describe how we survive in this society.”)

There is so much for a contemporary trans reader to enjoy and learn from in gendertrash. It’s a joy and a blessing to me that it’s been archived so that I can enjoy it 30+ years after it was published.

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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