Who are you? Where are you based?
I’m Darcy Leigh. I co-run Easter Road Press (ERP), an insurrectionary transfeminist DIY press based in Edinburgh, Scotland. I live in Leith, which Leithers like to think of as the dodgy underdog of Edinburgh (which is true, but Leith is also rapidly gentrifying). Weirdly, I work at the University of Sussex, so I also spend half my life in Brighton. The ERP seagull logo was supposed to reference Leith (because we are near the sea and also scrappy joyful rubbish-eaters), but I like that it also references Brighton. When I’m not making zines with ERP I also run butcharchive.com, and am an academic who works on (resisting) colonialism.
What are zines to you?
Zines are recovery from and ‘fuck you’ to academia, where I have spent a lot of my life. In academia, you have no control over what counts as good, who judges the value of your work, how your work is presented, who can access it or even whether or not it exists. Academic publishing is very conservative. Living that way is the slow erosion of autonomy, trust in oneself and creativity. Making zines is taking back control, figuring out what I want to say and how I want to say it. It’s a ‘fuck you’ because zines are so unintelligible within academia, a rejection of academic values and norms.
Zines are also a place to expand butch culture. Part of butchness – particularly stone butchness – is being careful with emotions. Our emotions are not for everybody. They deserve to be lovingly typeset and limited to a small circulation of readers invested enough to get their hands on a zine in the first place. Part of stone butchness is also an ambivalent relationship to being seen or opening up. Zines embody this ambivalence. Technically anybody could buy a zine and read it or get it from a friend. But ultimately only a small number will. Yet we can’t control who that is. What a mixed way of communicating! Of course, zine culture more broadly has been led by and centred on femmes: being in zine culture is taking leadership from, working with and celebrating femmes and also butch femininity ❤
What was your first encounter with zines?
I can’t remember the first time I encountered zines. But the first time I really understood them – the first time they made an impression on me – was when I made my first zine. I don’t think you can fully understand zines without making them. Zines are a practice, a culture and a way of relating with people. Again, invisible from an ivory tower obsessed with abstract concepts.
Tell me about your zines. What kind of zines do you make?
I think I’m most well-known for zines about queer sex and bodies. I like to suspend all the contradictions, the good and the bad, in relation to each other in the same piece of writing. I also like to write about things to do with queer sex and bodies that I’m not seeing other people write about, to invent little bits of queer reality myself. People often find this funny, which surprises me because it usually involves sharing my deepest darkest thoughts.
What inspires you to create zines?
Making a record of queer life.
Treasuring queer life, giving it the attention and care it deserves.
Making space to talk about or imagine something I can’t see in the world already.
Connecting with other people who relate.
Trying to make sense of things.
A need for propaganda.
What’s your favorite thing about zines?
One of my favourite things is also my least favourite thing! I love how the whole zine world makes absolutely no economic sense. We’re generally paying more (at least in terms of hours) than we will ever earn with zines. This makes it accessible in some ways (not least to buy and read zines) but also inaccessible in others (who can afford to make zines?). This is pleasingly anti-capitalist and unsystematised – but it also grates against my labour politics that say we should get paid for our work and that cultural production should be accessible to everyone.
Do you recall your first zine ever, what was it about and what inspired you to create it?
The first zine I made was a collaborative zine called ‘the Case for Revenge’ and is about the neoliberal university. I collected contributions in 2014 but didn’t get my shit together to get it out until 2019. In 2019 I was working with this group Unis Resist Border Controls and we really needed cash. It turned out the zine had got more relevant rather than less during that time (i.e. universities got shitter) and it seemed fitting to sell it to raise money for the group.
The first solo-authored zine I released was called ‘21 Things I did when I was thin’. I wrote it because I see a lot of writing about the experience of being fat, but not so much about the experience of being thin from an ex-thin or fat-positive perspective. I wanted to grapple with the grief that comes with leaving thinness and the real benefits thinness brings – but also how thinness really isn’t all its cracked up to be, how hard it was starving for so long, and how small a world focussed on thinness really is.
Both of these zines are still up on easterroadpress.com.
Tell me a little about your zine-making process.
Although I do make and love traditional cut ‘n’ paste zines, my zine process often includes clean typesetting, InDesign, textured paper, favourite fonts and fancy folds. I like to try to try and get away from established zine aesthetics and find my own. I also like to try to match up the look and feel of the zine with the content. So when I wrote about stone butchness, dark grey textured card felt right. When I wrote about boi tits, navy blue glitter card captured both the butchness but also the joy of the zine. When I’m doing some political work and want the zine to travel as far as possible, I make it as cheap as possible and also easily printable. Most of the zines I have made so far have been the rejected parts of zines that may never get made.
What do you hope people get out of your zines?
I hope people just have somewhere to place their attention for a few minutes, to feel a bit better, really. Maybe not in the most obvious way though: I’d really like them to look into the darkness with me, and find some strength in that, like I do. It would be extra good if some people feel seen, think about things or imagine possibilities in ways they hadn’t previously.
Name two of your favorite zinesters.
Steven Fraser (@stevenfraserart) for holding difficult, weird, unsaid, hilarious, heart-braking things all together. I’m probably a very different person from Steven, but if you read his zines I think you might understand me a little bit more.
The Transfeminism Zine and Trans Reproductive Mini Zine by Nat Raha (@full_nommunism), Mijke Dérive and others have really shaped my thinking about bodily autonomy in community and self-determination in healthcare.
Can I have a bonus one? For rage at universities (and thinking about them sideways via zines): Academics Against Networking edited by Nell Osbourne (@nellosborne) and Hilary White.
Do you have any advice for new zinesters?
There’s this zine by Charlotte Cooper (another favourite zinester) called ‘Get Shit Done’ where she says that there’s pretty much always a point in putting trans, queer and otherwise weirdo stories out into the world – because there aren’t enough and we need them. That really helped me as a motivation.
What also helped me with my first zine was aiming to make something crap. I am not sure I have ever made anything that is actually crap yet, but it really helped me get over my perfectionism and get on with making zines!
I would also say that every zinester does things differently and it’s all about finding your own way. If you’ve done something your own way, with whatever is available to you at that point in time, you might well have made a zine.
Is there a zine website or resource you would recommend new zinesters to check out?
Free digital archives! Open Library, Queer Zine Archive, Digital Transgender Archive, Lesbian Herstory Archives, and the Arquives.
Interview conducted by Solansh M.
Photos provided by Darcy L.