Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Zine Fest: Lessons in DIY and Gender

On the tail end of Generation X, I was just a little too young, and grew up in a town just a little to far from an urban center to take part in the riot grrrl zine hey day of my generation. Luckily, I got to learn about them in college, since Women's Studies loves a good DIY subculture. That meant that when I started learning about the larger punk rock scene through my husband, zines weren't a total mystery (You mean, you used to learn about new music through little stapled photocopies and had to actually write to someone to get cassette tapes through mail order? Whoa...).

Which is why I was at San Francisco Zine Fest this weekend. My husband is a rather good artist and all around creative type, and I think other people should get to find out just how awesome he is - you can do that here - so I helped him schlep and sell his zines and paintings and also helped out at the info table. I like helping.

Since the fest was in Golden Gate Park, we got a lot of foot traffic, which was great, not only because it meant we had over 1,200 people attend on Saturday alone, but it was my job to explain to folks just what the heck was going on. A lot of my interactions began with people in khakis asking me "What is z-eye-n fest?" So, I gave them a brief definition of zines and the ethos of DIY culture - it was kind of awesome.

All in all, the weekend was pretty darn awesome. We sold almost all of my husbands paintings (including all of the ones he painted while we were there), a bunch of his zines, supported other creators and traded for some pretty awesome stuff.

The most (sadly) shocking thing I noticed was that everyone there was really nice. There were a few strong personalities to negotiate, since not everyone let down their defenses, and as in any subculture there are "celebrities" that like to think of themselves as such. But, in reality, we are all still our self-conscious junior high selves and are excited when people think we are cool, fun or talented.

One of these talented people was Joey Alison Sayers. Joey creates a weekly comic, ridiculously cute paintings, hilarious t-shirts, and comic books. One of them, Just So You Know #1, chronicles her journey coming out as a transexual and her transition to living her life as woman. I think it is an amazingly moving and funny (yes, funny!) story, so you should go spend six bucks and buy it.

I read it while I was at the fest and one of the points she made was really driven home. In one of the chapters, she relates an experience at a zine or indie festival in which two (I'm assuming) guys come and talk about how they find her comics awesome. When they go to buy some they address the dude standing next to her who is selling other stuff. After correcting them, they get confused and walk away.

As I was reading this very page in Joey's comic, my husband was exploring the festival and trading for stuff (he traded Joey one of his paintings for her zine, since he is a total fanboy) so I was holding down the fort. Said fort was adorned with a GIANT yellow structure with a HUGE sign that said "TALL GUY."

I am neither of those things. Okay, maybe at 5'9" I'm kind of tall, but I very obviously read "gal" to most folks. However, more than once I explained to people that I was not the creator of the zines and paintings, it was that dude across the hall, head and shoulders above most other people in the bright orange shirt.

But, here is the thing. Because I am cisgendered it is totally okay with people for me to play with my identity. To quote Joey's comic (which you will see cause you are gonna buy it), "That's weird, right?"

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be nice.


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