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7 Awesome Zines On LGBTQ Identities That You Can Read Online!

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If you thought zine culture died with Riot Grrrl in the 1990s, think again, because thanks to PDFs and the internet, folks today are putting together some very thought-provoking material on gender, sex and sexuality. In the world of publication, zines (short for magazines) are a league of their own. Far removed from the glossies that deck the fronts of bookstores, zines grow when small groups of people with ‘radical’ ideas about society decide they won’t wait around for mainstream media to up its politics. They simply create their own media and distribute it however they could – in school locker rooms, at sports events, bars, cafés, even rock concerts. And in the internet age, this practice still continues. Here’s a few must-see zines that centre LGBTQ issues:

Gender Pages

Launched in New Delhi last month, ‘Gender Pages’ has the pastiche and hand-hewn aesthetic of the earlier punk feminist movement, but is decidedly more current and local. Co-founders Shirin Choudhary and Vanika Sharma, peer educators with the Delhi-based YP Foundation, worked with poets, artists, writers and photographers to create a conversation on the fluid nature . Because most discussions on gender take place in theory books or seminars and other spaces that are ideologically or physically cordoned off, it was important for ‘Gender Pages’ to experiment with a mix of text and visuals. The project came together with contributions from young visual artists, photographers, writers and poets and is a real community effort. But what’s really great about it is that it’s bilingual, so that it’s accessible to many of the Hindi-speaking youth groups that Choudhary and Sharma work with.

Butch Is Not A Dirty Word

This is one of those zines that pushes for the LGBTQ community to re-examine itself. Says editor Esther Godoy, “if you’re too feminine or too masculine you’re deemed to be not queer enough, too queer or you’re just not accepted,” and that just will not do. ‘Butch Is Not A Dirty Word’ began as a photo project to explore “female masculinity,” in Melbourne, Australia, and now contains several personal reflections. You’ll often hear that there’s a neat line that divides lesbian women into “butches” and “femmes,” and it’s the former that gets the raw deal. The point is, women who like “ball caps, motorcycles, button-ups, flannels, trucks” and more are very much part of the LGBTQ community. But this zine also has us ask a lot of tough questions about gender, clothing and power politics.

Brown And Gray

Put together by Jessica Ramos, this project focuses on that tiny corner of the sexuality spectrum that often gets ignored: asexuality. But there’s more – ‘Brown and Gray’ has the added filter of ‘people of colour.’ Narrowing it down to these two identities was important, because both are thoroughly neglected by mainstream queer discourse. Further, the most visible faces of the now-bourgeoning asexuality movement happen to be white, which has often been a criticism of queer spaces in general, so ‘Brown and Gray’ is an attempt to fill that representational gap. Entirely crowd-sourced from users micro-blogging website Tumblr, where the conversation around queer politics has been maturing since 2007. The zine is made up of cut-and-paste drawings, poetry and short personal narratives and was completed last year. It exists as one of the few but growing resources on the experience of asexuality.

The Forbidden by Xukia

This zine comes from the state of Assam in the North East of India – a region that has historically and geographically been isolated from the mainland. Assam held its first queer pride parade in 2014, one year after the Supreme Court re-criminalized homosexuality. The zine is evidence of how the LGBTQ community is getting organized all over India, and not just in the country’s biggest metropolitan cities. ‘The Forbidden’ is made up of poetry, interviews and articles in English, Bengali and Assamese. Organized in neat newspaper columns, the contents range from serious pieces on health, to queer readings of popular songs, and more. The zine also closes with information about counselling services that the publishers offer, showing how the conversation does go beyond the pages.

Gaysi Zine

Begun in 2011 by Gaysi Family – a forum for the ‘Gay Desi,’ it was started “to reach people living in smaller cities who have no access to private parties or public spaces and hence feel isolated from the queer movement.”  Nine editors who work on ‘Gaysi Zine‘ compile stories of being queer in India, and its fourth issue was a lovely graphic anthology, comprised of 30 individual works – comics and paintings and even a pull-out graphic – by diverse artists from all over India. Gaysi Family puts out a call for submissions and a crowd-funding campaign prior to every issue. Now that’s a community effort, and guess what? It’s fifth issue is in the works right now!

Eyezine

This “Counterculture Zine” was founded in three years ago in Calcutta by Manisha, and Aranya Gupta, and is currently run by a volunteer group of anarcha-feminists. On of the most significant events that occurred during Eyezine’s life-span has been the #hokkolorob (“let there be noise”) student protest which broke out in Jadavpur University, after the administration failed to handle a case of campus sexual assault. ‘Eyezine’ played a big role in covering the protests with its photo stories and personal narratives. In addition to this, it has also been bridging the gap between the feminist and the LGBTQ movements. Like the others, everything is crowd-sourced and community made, but unlike the others it has grown into a platform with campaigns on state repression, menstruation taboos and more, and has even begun holding conventions!

Our Voices By Orinam

Like ‘The Forbidden’ and ‘Gender Pages,’ the Orinam Blog ‘Our Voices’ too goes beyond English-language writing. Started by the Chennai-based LGBTQ support centre Orinam, the blog does news, opinions, and even podcasts in both English and Tamil. It certainly has considerable online presence, and tries to centre fiction writing and poetry created by LGBTQ Indians. ‘Orinam,’ which means “one community” in Tamil, is perhaps one of India’s oldest queer zines online, founded exactly a decade ago. As with ‘Eyezine’ and ‘The Forbidden,’ the makers of ‘Our Voices’ are also involved in offline activities – they’re the ones who organize the Chennai Queer Pride, and film festivals, among other things.

It’s interesting to think that when the subject matter of these zines is considered ‘alternate’ to the mainstream, even the method of disseminating has had to be an ‘alternate’ one. When it comes to the world of publishing – of producing, consuming, censoring and liberating information – online tools have changed the game for the better, which is why we’re seeing a wave of new e-zines that are kind of picking up where the paper ones left off. And all of these are definitely worth poring through!

Do you know of other zines like these? Drop us a comment below and let us know!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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