The Magic of Zines

May 2, 2018 in inQueery

Before college, the only context zines had for me was a line from song “Flagpole Sitta.” I didn’t really know what they were, but I knew that the singer wanted to publish them, and they just sounded cool. The first zine I ever encountered in real life was Cindy Crabb’s “Learning Good Consent,” and I was at a residential housing conference attending a workshop on consent. When I held the zine in my hands, it felt like I pulled Excalibur out of the stone – I was instantly enamored. I started looking at zines online, mainly ones about feminism and mental health. But I didn’t start collecting them until later.

A few days into openly identifying as genderqueer, I went to a DIY arts and music festival in San Jose. Once I got there, I felt like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders; I was surrounded by queer punks, and it felt freeing. The fest had a zine library, so I ran upstairs and sat in silence for hours. I read zines about being queer, about coming out to your partner, about being depressed, about not knowing what to do with your life. I had recently graduated and felt directionless, which I knew was not uncommon. I took pictures of a page to send to my partner, telling him that the couple embracing in the comic was us, and I wrote down email addresses of authors. I used what little phone service I had to try to find my favorites online. I couldn’t find the one with the comic, so I emailed the writer. They ended up sending me two copies, one a digital version. This is where my collection really started – I had been finding cool art zines online, scouring Etsy for mostly perzines (short for personal zines) about dealing with depression and anxiety, and learning more about feminism and queerness.

After I had gotten my hands on a few zines, I began sending them to people.  I asked my friends who wanted to trade care packages, and everyone who responded got some zines and tea in the mail.  This was shortly after my friend Jordan had made his first zine.  He stapled copies all over the walls in the student art gallery at school.  He had a poster of the cover up in his apartment. I knew someone who was making zines!  Jordan gave me a copy and I was enamored.  This soon brought me to the revelation that I could make zines, too.  I didn’t have to sit idly by!  Zines had been this magic way to hear others’ stories, and now I realized that I could tell mine the same way.

My first zine was poorly done, and I honestly don’t even remember what it was about.  My second zine was an ode to my best friend, Sarah.  I had decided on a cohesive title – Perpetual Nervousness, shortened PRPTLNRVSNSS – after a Feelies song I really liked at the time.  Perpetual Nervousness #3 was the first zine I ever shared with anyone; I put it together in Microsoft Word and wrote a little about myself and talked a little bit about my queer, mentally ill experience.  I had waffled back and forth over what size to make the zine and decided on quarter-sized because it was cuter.  The zine was two half pages, and I made copies with the printer I shared with my boss at the time (when he wasn’t in the office).  I started sending these to people, instead of zines by other people.  I wrote another, this time during my first big dissociative episode.  I put together a compilation of self-care tips and Lil B tweets and other peoples’ thoughts on selfies as a form of self-care.  I didn’t have a long arm stapler, so I fastened everything with either paper clips or rubber bands.

My first zine fest was the 2014 East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest – EBABZ (e-babes, as I would come to know it).  My friend Kristen, who also made zines, had invited me to share their table.  I didn’t know what to expect, but by the end of the fest, I had sold everything I brought.  I caught the zine bug and purchased a cheap laser jet printer on my credit card later that evening.

Zines have been really, really important to me for quite some time now.  I love to write them, write about them, read them, share them.  I’ve been able to travel to places I never thought I’d go, all because of zines.  I’ve made community and found friends. Most importantly, I’ve learned a lot about myself through writing about myself and my experiences, especially when it comes to my mental health and queerness.

If you think it’s too late for you to get into zines, think again – there’s no “prime” age to do it, you’ve just got to do it.  If you need a jumpstart, reach out to me! I’d love to help.





Maira is a Visiting Writer at inQueery, and you can check out some of their other work @longarmstapler on Twitter and @slppry.ppl on Instagram.