It’s probably an incurable disease of the soul that I flew all the way out to Wisconsin from Florida only to spend hours looking through the QZAP archive for the place I’d just left. Pouring over Queer Zine Explosion, Larry-Bob’s painstakingly detailed queer answer to factsheet 5, I noted anything I saw with an address south of Delaware and east of Oklahoma, more or less, with particular attention to the seaboard states which make up the South I’ve always lived in. As one of the members of Gainesville’s Civic Media Center zine collective, I work with the Travis Fristoe zine library, documenting and preserving the personal, punk, political, art which came to the CMC from around the country but especially Gainesville, Florida and the south. Though the Fristoe collection contains work by queer creators, it was not an explicit collection mandate at the collection’s inception, so I was excited to see what Southern zines QZAP was home to, and what queer Southern zines made their way to national circulation.
My favorite Southern zine I found at QZAP was One Mint Julep, the solo zine by Hugh McElroy, who made up one-half of Picklejar, a queer, Southern, kid liberation zine by high school friends in Washington, D.C. When his collaborator went up North for college, Hugh stayed in D.C., and he continued to write about what queerness and Southernness meant to him. Hugh fiercly articulates what many queer Southerners know- that the South is too often dismissed for its supposed backwardsness, despite the often radical community and coalition building work done here. Hugh is frustrated with his peers in D.C. who hide or change their accents and refuse to claim a Southern identity, and that frustration comes through in OMJ’s various meditations on community, dating, home, and family in D.C.
The all-but-last page of One Mint Julep is one of those pages where you have to show somebody, because it hits you exactly where you live. Hugh has drawn, in scratchy pen, maybe ballpoint, a bird-headed, winged creature on tall, leaf-capped, vine-like legs, rising up from the gabled roof an old plank house, surrounded by bats, moon (sun?) behind it like a knock-off halo, fighting a tiny winged creature. Slices of typed text across the page, layering it with this beautiful, joking, angry, little poem about being from the South, some of which goes “i live in a swamp/ kudzu ate my car last night…. I sip sweet mint julep/ to keep me cool and to/ fire me up” and breaking finally into a half-paragraph of exploding frustration saying exactly what i want to say: the North isn’t any better, and we’ve got to stay here and fight, because the South is ours. I took a picture and sent it to my friend, a sweet queer Florida boy who once, when I said I grew up in the south, gave me a Look of withering dismissal and said “you’re from North Carolina.” He loved it, too.
Fi Taylor was a 2018 QZAP Scholar-in-Residence. They are currently working as a union organizer and community librarian at the Civic Media Center in Gainesville, FL.