The current vibe of isolation is to get things done that you have been putting off, but somehow i’ve managed to be less productive than ever – but with no valid excuse due to the fact that I am home all the time. A couple weeks ago for a school project (for my gender studies class on Drag Culture) we had the creative freedom to do anything we wanted as long as it related to the theme of drag. I personally love drag queens, drag kings, queer culture, Rupaul’s Drag Race, etc., so I was very excited to come up with something. I decided to settle on the topic of language!
Language is important, because groups have used language as a way to identify with each other and reclaim space that they are not usually entitled to. The problem is, many groups of privilege (white, cis-gendered folks) love to borrow language/vernacular/slang from groups that are oppressed and discriminated against for the very language that they hold. For example, AAVE (African American Vernacular English) are terms and vocabulary that many black communities particularly in urban, working class settings speak. In a world that is constantly whitewashing due to the effects of systematic oppression – there is a negative association tied to AAVE such as “turnt” “finna” “‘gon” “dat” are all associated with lower class structures. The unfortunate reality of AAVE is that white people will also adopt these terms and use them in their own lives, (ie: “bae” “woke” “lit”) and will not face the same stigma and discrimination due to their skin colour.
Similar to AAVE, queer people also have terms and vernacular that have been adopted and passed down through communities for hundreds of years. Queer slang and AAVE are not mutually exclusive, due to the amount of black queer people and drag queens that have existed in the community forever (especially in the Harlem drag ball scenes). With the rising popularity of Rupaul’s Drag Race and general social media/internet connectivity, phrases and slang are being shared and picked up by people worldwide.
Zines (short for “Magazine”) were very popular during the 80’s and 90’s Riot Grrrl Movement, as they were used as platforms to copy ideas and photocopy them easily and get ideas out to the public in a practical way. Zines focus on the idea that personal is political and that lived experiences work as a way to subvert patriarchal ideologies. Zines are great way for artists, writers – or just about anyone – to get their work and ideas spread to the public. They are DIY in nature, which makes them charming and personal. You can make a zine about anything.
Making the Zine
I had never made a zine before, because I never had an excuse to make one! It turns out – there are many different ways to make one! I used Rona Akbari’s “How to make a zine” guide which proved to be very helpful! First I chose what style of zine I wanted to create, and how many pages I would include. I wanted to make a fairly thick book, and make the pages larger than normal because I wouldn’t be photocopying this particular zine. In hindsight, I could have made 3 smaller zines on queer language in the form of editions, but I decided to keep in all in one place.
I really pushed myself to use materials I had on hand, like magazine imagry and art from planners. My printer only prints in black and white, so I decided to draw some pictures in my zine (i’m NOT an artist at all!!) and they sucked, but at least they drove home the point of zines being DIY! 🙂
I made my zine formatted so that every topic would be layed out in a 2 page spread, and every 2 pages would rotate from being a definition/historical background of a word used by queer people (like “yaaass” “fishy” “kiki” “realness). The theme of this zine was to recognize that social media bridges communities together in a way that allows more people to share language, but it’s equally crucial to recognize where these words originated and why they are important to that community.