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Back You are here: Home Sex, Gender & Sexuality Diversity - [Archived] ISGD Dude: Review of a new mag for trans men

Dude: Review of a new mag for trans men

DudeA group of Australian trans guys and genderqueer folks have launched a new magazine aimed at trans men. It’s no easy task to appeal to everyone in a particular demographic and Gauche Sinister finds Dude overall a worthwhile and positive publication – but with some shortfalls regarding diversity.

13 March 2011

DUDE magazine is a new publication, which was launched at Hares and Hyenas bookshop in Melbourne on Friday 18 February. It includes words and pictures from a number of contributors, with Jez Pez as the editor and creative director, and Ash Pike, Blue and my friend Max Attitude as contributing editors.

One of the stated goals for the project is “to enable trans guys to have more hot safe sex in more places with more people” (p. 5).

Knowing this helps makes sense of the zine’s focus on bodies and sexuality – it’s structured like a guide for people who might be interested in playing with trans men. I think it’s fairly successful in this purpose, and it certainly caters for a broad audience: I imagine folks who have never heard of trans guys before would still find the zine easy to understand, while trans guys themselves could get something out of hearing each other’s stories.

That said, there were a few things that jarred for me. Largely, the zine seems careful to recognise the diversity of trans men’s identities and experiences – which is laudable but also makes the oversights more obvious.

For example, the section on chests mentions that some trans guys may have top surgery while others may not be able to or may not want to, but then goes on to say “prior to chest surgery trans guys will flatten their chests by way of binding” as though it’s a given that all trans guys will want to bind and be able to bind.

The section on testosterone doesn’t give any reasons why someone might not be taking testosterone other than personal choice. The section on cocks and holes doesn’t mention bottom surgery at all.

I feel it would have been easy to ensure that every aspect of physical change received the same treatment – as things that trans guys may not want, may want but be unable to perform (for medical, financial, legal or other issues of access), or may have completed.

The inconsistency seems to assume a particular relationship with one’s body and medical treatment.

And while the text acknowledges diverse gender identities among trans dudes, the photographs are all pretty conventionally masculine – certainly none that scream ‘femme’, though some of their subjects may be femme.

To me it centres a particular experience of being a trans guy – which I wouldn’t take issue with in a zine, except that this one sets itself up to be more diverse. On page four, it says:

It is impossible to be able to represent every single person’s identity within this guide, but I’ve made the best effort to be as diverse as possible.

I can understand that a project like this that can seem to represent a community, and thus risks misrepresentation. But sometimes I think these statements read less as an invitation for feedback than a disclaimer against criticism.

I feel in this case that it was intended as the former, but I also find it’s interesting that a zine should need such a statement at all.

In my understanding, the format of a zine is one that is usually assumed to be personal, narrative and non-authoritative by default. By presenting the zine as informative and instructive, the creators have actually put themselves in a representative position, which they then have to refute.

I think the instructional tone has its place, though, and I appreciate that the creators have tried to include varied perspectives.

Trans guys don’t all look the same or act the same way. You also may not be able to know if someone is a transguy just by looking at them or talking to them. (p. 6)

Of course, that can work several ways – you might not know a man is trans, you might not realise a trans guy is a man, you might think someone is a trans man who isn’t trans, or who isn’t a man.

The section on hair mentions that like cis guys, trans guys vary in how much facial hair they might grow and “not being able to grow a beard does not mean that person is any less masculine”.

Understandably the focus is on trans guys, but I think it would have been pertinent to emphasise that facial hair doesn’t have to be masculine at all, and women, genderqueers and femmes can all have facial hair and be proud of their facial hair.

As one of the contributors is the author of Ladybeard, I know this wouldn’t be new to them, and perhaps the creators were reluctant to speak about other identities for fear that they might seem to be speaking for them.

But perhaps it comes at the cost of the zine feeling more connected to a wider trans and genderqueer community.

My favourite part of the zine was the personal essays, where the complexities of individual stories do bring up more connections – to butches and bears, fags and femmes, and myriad other positions and politics.

Bastian Fox Phelan in “I love a fag who loves a femme” places cissexism in the context of hegemonic masculinity, which threatens:

The best thing for trans folk, in my opinion, is not to fuck someone who appears to be a person who would validate your identity if you walked down the street together, but to fuck someone who isn’t cissexist.

In “Never say never” or “Try my mouth, please!” thechicagoL, the oral cub reflects on gay cruising spaces:

The really edgy thing is ... we are already in your spaces and websites and community networks. To think otherwise would be naive – and ask yourself, knowing we are already there, has our presence really changed the often vapidly looks-based, dick-centric gay male culture? No, not one bit.

Joe MacDonald in “Let’s get miscellaneous: negotiating butch and trans with myself” talks about the alleged butch/trans border wars:

I would rather the general public treat me as male instead of female. But I’m actively working alongside many others to create a world where those aren’t the only two options. And in my private or intimate worlds, I love being a genderqueer butch person, or butch trannyboy. [...] Sometimes I have a cock. Sometimes I have a cunt. And sometimes I have heavy breathing instead of any words at all.

Sam Orchard and Jez’s comic looks at “questions we’ve been asked (that you might wanna think twice about asking)” and “questions that are okay by me”. The list of what not to ask includes “do you still have a vagina?”, which gets the response:

I don’t talk about my genitals with people I’m not fucking, just like everyone else in the entire world

while the okay questions include,

Some old friends were still using your old name. Is it okay to say you’re Dan now, and that male pronouns are better?

It’s possibly the most useful part of the zine as it deals with common scenarios in a very accessible and engaging way and doesn’t focus solely on sexual encounters.

All the stories are insightful, tender and intimate in a way that makes me feel very privileged to read them, and indeed diverse.

And I think it’s a trick of diversity, that it doesn’t come when called, that the word itself sounds almost the opposite of its desired effect.

To talk about “diversity” sounds flat, and to list a number of positions (“femme, feminine, masculine, butch, faggy, queer, bisexual and straight” p. 7) sounds hollow until someone comes to inhabit those positions.

More than inhabit it – to animate it, celebrate it, fight for it – to put the heavy breathing behind the words. The personal stories achieve that here.

In the end, I believe this zine will get people thinking and fucking, and really, what more could you ask for?

Visit the DUDE magazine website for more information and where to buy.

Gauche Sinister is a Shanghainese/Melburnian critic who writes to the left at State of Emergency and on living under capitalism at No New Year. Ey also contributes to the queer hanky code blog, flagging opinicus rampant.

Image: Via DUDE magazine.

Comments   

0 #2 beastian fox 2011-05-31 09:15
what a totally excellent, well thought out and articulate review! I feel like you've balanced constructive criticism with posi comments and provided some insight for folks who haven't read the zine. your comments on diversity are super important and I think it's great to have ongoing discussion about the problematic aspect of trying to create something that represents diverse experiences, bodies & identities, especially when it's authoritarian/i nstructional writing. I'm a real big fan of personal stories as well, and it was really excellent to have the opportunity to share mine in the zine. thanks for reading & reviewing!
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0 #1 maxattitude 2011-03-12 19:44
hey dude! thanks so much - this is so rad, and right on the ball.

We are actually doing some minor edits before printing a second-run of the zine, which will totally take into account much of your criticism.

cheers,
max
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