The ArQuives Digital Exhibitions

"Transsexual Sisterhood is Powerful": The Making of Gendertrash

Transsexual Sisterhood

Image of original artwork by Marie Alexandra which appeared on page 2 of gendertrash #4.

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, and a classified section and resources sorted by city and province.

Hands Off

Image of a paste-up from the gendertrash series in the Mirha-Soleil Ross fonds. This paste-up was not used in any of the four issues of gendertrash, but may have been intended for use in the planned fifth issue. 

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 zine's layout. 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 that 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

Subscribe to gendertrash

Image of a handbill advertising gendertrash

Promotional materials for gendertrash are also held in the archive, and they help 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 wants to learn about trans issues. This indicates that gendertrash was intended to be both for trans communities and an educational resource for people wanting to learn more about trans-specific issues. This secondary purpose of the zine is apparent 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 worldwide, 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. Another item in the fonds shows 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. 

3. These terms were indicated as preferable to ‘transphobia’ in issue #1. For more information, see the section on terminology.

"Transsexual Sisterhood is Powerful": The Making of Gendertrash