Friday, 10 December 2010

Interview 17

Bastian Fox Phelan is creator of Ladybeard and lives in NSW, Australia. Here they write about the perzine and the importance of zine fairs.

Please tell us a little something about your recent perzine,
Ladybeard, and how it came about.
Ladybeard is a zine about how I decided to grow my beard. I am a person that was assigned female at birth, although these days I identify as trans. Thanks to my genetics I have the ability to grow a sweet moustache and beard, but for many years I removed my facial hair and hid the fact that I could grow a beard. Then I moved cities and decided to grow it out and see what it felt like. And my whole life changed. So I wrote a zine about being a bearded gender-variant woman. After great deal of gender questioning my identity shifted again and I started to identify as transmasculine. So I wrote another zine. The Ladybeard zines are personal stories about surviving bullying and heteronormativity but they also present a critique of the gender binary and medicalisation of difference and a celebration of diversity.

What has your zine allowed you to do that other forms of artistic or written practices may not of?
Ladybeard covers a lot of taboo topics: bearded female bodies, queerness, transness, intersex bodies, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, gender questioning, shame, breaking sex & gender binaries, the way medicine reflects social values rather than being objective and scientific. There's a lot of hostility towards bearded women and anyone who doesn't fit neatly into the categories M or F. Writing my zine allowed me to speak from a point of view that is rarely heard and acknowledged. It allowed me to share and connect with other people who have similar experiences of their bodies, and with a whole lot more people who have been moved by my story. Because of the highly personal nature of my writing, zines are an excellent format for me. I love being able to slip my family a copy of my zine after dinner, post a few to a zine maker overseas, have piles of them sitting on my desk when friends come to visit. And because there are no restrictions on my zine making practice (apart from time & money) I get to be the ultimate authority on form & content, and that's very empowering.

What other plans do you have for zines and/or any plans for extending the discussions emerging out of Ladybeard into other projects?
I've been wanting to write another Adventure Time zine - it's a zine about how to have fun in everyday life. I plan to make a radical trans health care zine to give to doctors so they can think about how they interact with trans folk and talk about trans bodies and identities. I want to encourage medical reform where doctors talk about and treat the body part rather than the sex or gender commonly associated with the body part, ie. cervical health rather than women's health, prostate health rather than men's health. I'm also thinking about the next Ladybeard and how I want to go into more detail about PCOS & intersex and the privileging of hair in transmasculine communities. I want to start conversations about the potential for a radical PCOS movement that questions how doctors 'treat' people with PCOS. I also think that hair and size are similar in terms of the experience of oppression and medicalisation of 'hirsutism' and 'obesity.' I've been inspired by fat-positive and body-positive activism so I'd love to start discussions with people about hair-positive activism. I also want to collaborate with a person from the United States who makes a zine called Femme a Barbe.

You are also involved in a broader zine community. How important do you feel zine fairs/symposia are to fanzine producers in Australia?
Zine makers in Australia tend to keep in contact about zine fairs around the country and I know people who are willing to travel long distances for the pleasure of sitting behind a table for five hours. A lot of folks travel to Newcastle for the zine fair at This Is Not Art festival. The mailing list correspondence from Sticky zine shop is a
good place to find out about interstate zine fairs, and Bird in the Hand zine shop/distro have a well-maintained blog. At a lot of zine fairs, especially ones that are part of a larger festival, such as Format Festival in Adelaide, there will be workshops and related events that zine makers put on. But we don't really have zine symposiums like in Portland. Zine fairs in Australia are usually one day only with a few workshops on the side, rather than a big zine-centric event that goes for a few days. I was lucky enough to get myself to San Francisco Zine Fest and Portland Zine Symposium earlier this year. I like Australian zine fairs more but maybe that's just because I get to see a bunch of really awesome folks I don't get to see very often.