Reading gendertrash

publishing / trans history

I spent a lot of my first week at the CLGA looking through and digitizing materials related to Mirha-Soleil Ross’ and Xanthra Phillippa MacKay’s zine gendertrash from hell, published from 1993-1995. One of my favourite images I have come across was a drawing of four femme figures holding hands on a yellowing piece of paper. Below the figures, drawn in purple pen, text reads “TRANSSEXUAL SISTERHOOD IS POWERFUL!!!” This image is published in black and white in gendertrash #4.

Materials from the gendertrash series in the Mirha-Soleil Ross fonds. On the left is a collage made from letters cut out of magazines in a variety of colours and fonts. On top is a drawing of four femme figures in purple. Text below them reads "TRANSSEXUAL SISTERHOOD IS POWERFUL!!!"

Materials from the gendertrash series in the Mirha-Soleil Ross fonds.

Reading gendertrash has given me some context into issues, politics and activism specific to transsexual communities that I have never gotten in a gender studies classroom. In my academic experience, trans issues are often tacked on to discussions around queerness. Mirha-Soleil Ross makes an argument for radical specificity that I find really refreshing. Rather than being divisive, this specificity can have generative political possibilities. In an interview in Viviane Namsté’s (2011) book Sex Change, Social Change, Ross says:

I don’t think intersex people, drag queens and drag kings, transsexual people, women who sleep with genetic lesbians, transgender FTM lesbians who sleep with other lesbians, transvestite prostitutes, and hetersexual cross-dressers have much in common personally, sexually, philosophically, or politically. So as long as we don’t expose our core differences, as long as we don’t show how our respective interests put us in conflict with one another, we won’t be able to identify and work on the little bit that we do share in common and that might possibly call for some form of political coalition. (p. 131)

So for me, reading a zine made by and for trannssexual people and communities has offered some insight into the specific, grassroots-level issues that can be erased in a gender studies classroom. I hope that digitizing these zines and making them available to undergraduates and other researchers will help to make more transsexual writings available to researchers, especially writings by those who are excluded from publishing in traditionally academic venues.

References:

Namaste, V. (2011). Sex change, social change: Reflections on identity, institutions, and imperialism. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.