"Transsexual Sisterhood is Powerful": The Making of Gendertrash
In the early 1990s Mirha-Soleil Ross and Xanthra Phillippa MacKay formed a publishing company called genderpress. Between 1993 and 1995 they produced four zines entitled gendertrash from hell.1 The first issue of gendertrash includes a mission statement: "gendertrash is devoted to the issues & concerns of transsexuals. gendertrash also welcomes input from gender positive genetics. in addition to issues of gender hate & oppression, gendertrash is equally opposed to any other forms of systematic oppression by those who are in positions of power."2 The zines are an assemblage of articles, poetry, interviews and visual art, curated by Ross and MacKay. The content was explicitly political, discussing sex-work decriminalization, animal rights activism, the need for transsexual and transgender specific health care and social services, racism, transphobia among the queer community, advocacy for trans prisoners, and much more. Sometimes the information was practical, for example, a guide to safe electrolysis in issue #1. Poetry, short stories, and sketches also filled the pages of the zine. In the back of each issue was a list of other trans periodicals, trans conferences, as well as a classified section and resources sorted by city and province.
The Ross fonds hold an incredibly rich variety of materials related to gendertrash which create a robust image of how the zine was created, distributed and received. Like many zines, gendertrash was made with paste-ups: text and images were glued together by hand to create the layout of the zine. Many of the original paste-ups are held in the archive, including a full-page paste up which was used as a back cover on issue #1. These paste-ups were created from cut up magazine text compiled into confrontational statements which addressed gender oppression/hatred among gay men and discord between gay and transsexual culture. As these statements were highly visible, they set the tone for the zine as unwilling to coddle the sensibilities of transphobic gays and lesbians in the interest of respectability.3
Promotional materials for gendertrash are also held in the archive, and they help to demonstrate the zine’s intended audience. The handbill included here states that gendertrash is “the Canadian community & politically oriented zine that addresses the issues affecting the lives of transsexual and transgender persons.” The handbill describes the intended audience as “members of gender communities,” social service/health care workers interacting with trans folks, or anyone who want to learn about trans issues. This indicates that gendertrash was intended to be both for trans communities as well as an educational resource for people wanting to learn more about trans-specific issues. This secondary purpose of the zine is clear in several articles, for example the pull-out poster of twenty-four “gender myths” included in Issue #2. This list intends to debunk many commonly held harmful ideas about transsexual and transgender people.
The hundreds of letters and invoices in the fonds, sent between genderpress and bookstores, publishers, and distributors around the world, gives us an idea of the zine’s vast geographical reach. Letters can be traced across North America and as far away as Germany and Australia. Other item in the fonds show that gendertrash made its way into several prisons, and was banned from one prison for alleged inappropriate content.
1. The first issue was titled gendertrash from hell. Subsequent issues were simply referred to as gendertrash↩
2. Mirha-Soleil Ross and Xanthra Phillippa MacKay, gendertrash #1, (Toronto: genderpress), 2. ↩