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"Taking up Deserved Space". An email interview with MissTer Scratch from London, UK

Grassroots media in Europe
LGBT and queer issues
Race & ethnicity
Sex and sexualities
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United Kingdom

This is not a zine; it is an important gender minority document.

Masculine Femininity is stories, poetry, images and all those things that don’t get discussed; all those gender minorities that do not get enough recognition, visibility or representation. It comprises of people of colour, trans femme boys, faggy butches, masculine females, feminine males, trans male drag queens, gender variants, andogynes, femmes, masculine and feminine people of all genders and then some!

- Misster Scratch, editor of Masculine Femininity

Can you introduce yourself?

I am a trans-gender-queer-fem-inist person of colour who currently lives in London. I’m from a lot of places, I have a lot of names and a lot of identities. People always think I’m much younger than I really am.

What do you do besides your zine?

I’m an activist and an artist, I usually combine the two in various capacities around issues of gender, race/ anti racism, feminism and inclusion and education. I also am a painter and decorator and I like to bake. I am a DJ and I’m also in a performance troupe ‘D’Artaganan and the Three Musclequeers’. I do a lot of usually creative and political things as well as health related.

Can you tell us about Masculine Femininity?

Masculine Femininity is pretty much a free zine about gender identity, but saying that sounds quite simplified and really it’s much more than that. It is an incredible insight into voices that don’t often get heard that speak about ‘masculinity and femininity - stories, poetry, images and all those things that don’t get discussed, all those gender minorities that do not get enough recognition, visibility or representation. It comprises of people of colour, trans femme boys, faggy butches, masculine females, feminine males, trans male drag queens, gender variants, andogynes, femmes, masculine and feminine people of all genders and then some!’

Currently there are 2 issues but I envisage many more. It’s pretty well received and there is no shortage of submissions. At present it consists mainly of (amazing and inspiring) words with only few images but hopefully it will develop and change over time. I am open to what it can and will become.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?

This zine was created specifically to have a voice and take up some deserved space as a trans male identified femme person of colour, who didn’t feel like I could always express myself in certain spaces. For example, in a lot of FTM trans spaces where there is a dominant masculine ideal but also in some feminist spaces where it’s difficult to be trans and also in queer space, where because ‘everything goes’ in terms of gender and sexuality and is white dominated, sometimes you end up feeling invisible. I started seeking other spaces to exist and speak and found other trans male identified femmes who felt the same. It began in this way and was thus appropriately titled ‘Masculine Femininity’ but it progressed to include other gender expressions and identities that people felt they wanted to talk about, but don’t often have the place to do so.

Another main reason to create this zine was in direct response to queer/gender theory that was dominating the queer/trans/feminist communities. I felt that there needed to be another perspective to contribute as I saw the danger in only using those labels that academics have created such as ‘female masculinity’ in describing ourselves (that do not always fit but become the default, can be limiting and don’t always deal with multiplicity). Although, I feel queer/gender theory is useful and engaging, I felt it should not be the only voice as there are often people who do not have access to these dialogues (for various reasons such as access to power, education and money) and because we should not let theory speak for us or on our behalf. Instead, we have many things to say and we should use our own voices.

What do you hope to accomplish through DIY projects?

A chance for people to be visible and acknowledged with the dignity and respect that they do not always get. With the zine specifically, something people can relate to or learn from and find engaging in different ways and levels. If possible, some immediate effect of change and something that lasts long term. Hopefully also something to document and celebrate ourselves, by doing it ourselves.

What do you love about zines? Are there things you find challenging?

I like the ability to reach out to people and meet others. The opportunity to make them exist easily without having to wait for a publishing deal or feeling devalued about what you have to say as not being important enough. The best is the freedom to do exactly what you want. I enjoy the variety and creativity of what there is out there but I think there is a bigger scope in terms of extent and I would like to see more from people of colour, about issues of race and sexuality, more about gender and surviving violence and things that don’t often get discussed much in our communities or from certain perspectives. The limiting thing about zines is getting access to them, Often they are distributed at events that are mainly white and middle class dominated, in specific scenes, which is problematic. The e-zine is a good solution to that but I also like when zines are enjoyed within a community setting.

Do you consider feminist zines as part of a social movement? Do you think feminist zines can effect meaningful social and political change at large - or do they have significance mainly in individual lives?

I think zines are useful tools and are very beneficial to social movements. Zines are important and not to be underestimated but I also think that to make any political change you need a variety of approaches and tactics. Zines are not enough on their own but are part of a bigger activist movement. The beauty of zines is that you can approach subjects that might not be easy to discuss in other environments and can reach out further than meetings and events (which many people so not also have access to). An example of this is Race Revolt which is a groundbreaking zine that discusses race/ism and other aspects such as queerness, gender and feminism, white priviledge as well as frustrations and strategies.

Do you see yourself as part of “DIY” or “Third Wave Feminism” and if yes, what does it mean to you? Or, why not?

I do not embrace labels usually, though I often find it useful to use them (as I have in this interview). I use them for my benefit and to navigate my interests, beliefs and politics but try to not let them dictate to me who I should be and what I should believe. If anything I would say that I am a ‘transfeminist’ because I feel it is important to take that stance (since some feminism is/ has been transphobic and because I am trans and a feminist and want to stand up as such). It shouldn’t really be necessary to proceed feminist with trans but regarding exclusion from spaces, it has become important to stand up as a trans person and to be included in feminism. I think each person will have their own definition of what it mean to be a feminist and so I cannot say I am a ‘third wave feminist’ as I feel it would mean that I agree with everything that ‘third wave’ feminists say. The same could be said about ‘DIY’, ‘queer’ and ‘anarchist’, I share some of the sentiments, ideas and spaces but it is not something I totally subscribe to.

What are the most pressing issues for you in daily life?

I guess just getting by, whether that means paying my rent and looking after my mental/physical/emotional health or physically surviving on the streets as a nonconforming ‘freak’ and facing the day to day pressures of being multiply oppressed as a brown, young looking trans- genderqueer person who is trying to make social change! It’s incredibly tough but I wouldn’t change who I essentially am (maybe just the way I approach things and react sometimes and the spaces I inhabit).

What would a woman-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to be a safer, better place for women, grrrls, transgender and queer folks?

I think we need to change the whole way we structure our communities in terms of changing society and start there. For a start women/trans/queers need equality with their rights but without having to assimilate into heterosexist society in order to get it or compromise their identities, which I think is the tricky part. It has to be on our terms, not the patriarchal state who thinks they know what is best for us and will offer us small tokens to appease us. I could go on and on so what I will say briefly is that we need to self organize and make things happen for ourselves and not rely on others who couldn’t care less about us and who actually want to control and dominate us.

What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future, if you would like to share them?

I am continuing to be involved with anti racist activism and trans activism which includes a feminist perspective. I am also pursuing my interest in baking!

Aside from ‘Masculine Femininities issue 3’ of course, I am planning another zine entitled 'Explorations of Space: Recapturing the Essence of Queer Childhood Sensibilities'. It’s about childhood activities such as making tree houses and dens and the issues/stories around that and being queer/trans. I’d like to eventually tie it into an event where we would physically and emotionally reconstruct these spaces as queer/trans adults by making these spaces and reading the stories/accounts from people.

The idea came from me thinking (and from discussions I have had with other queer/trans people) about childhood, realising that creating dens/tree houses derived from our establishing childhood queer/trans identities as well as other issues such as being survivors of abuse, Personally, this manifested in needing to create safe space in an unsafe hetero-normative world (my response to my heterosexual parent’s disturbing relationship and divorce). Post abuse, I continued this in the ‘women only’ refuge I later lived in even though it was supposed to create that said ‘safety’ as it was still perpetuating a heterosexist normality and male fearing/phobic environment I couldn’t relate to as a blossoming trans, male identified child even though I was feminist. I would use the spaces I created to safely explore my identity in many different ways.

If you would like to submit something for ‘Masculine Femininities’ or 'Explorations of Space: Recapturing the Essence of Queer Childhood Sensibilities' please get in touch masculinefemininitiesatgooglemail [dot] com

I am also trying to find a way of bringing back ‘The Incredibly Queer Adventours Of SpYkeGrrl and Misster ScraTch’ the commix

MissTer Scatch, zine editor
Red Chidgey & Elke Zobl
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