Celebrating grassroots LGBTQ media

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On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Dorian Jesse Fraser. Fraser is part of the Queer Between the Covers collective, which maintains a distro of hard-to-find queer and trans print media and organizes an annual book and zine fair in Montreal -- one of the largest queer book fairs in North America.

In the last two decades, space for LGBTQ representation, voices, and creators has opened up in mainstream North American culture in a way that would have been unimaginable in earlier years. This is an important claiming of space, and a product of both broader grassroots political victories by LGBTQ movements as well as of the relentless persistence of queer and trans cultural creators in the face of marginalization.

As important as this change has been, however, it is important to recognize how incredibly partial and uneven it is. Most of the rich diversity and depth of queer lives and queer communities remain largely excluded from this space, while the pressures to accommodate a mostly cisgender and heterosexual audience plus the profit imperative of cultural production in a capitalist society mean that what does find its way into mainstream consciousness is often narrowed and distorted. Those identities and intersections under the broad LGBTQ umbrella that remain more marginalized in real life continue to face the most profound marginalization in terms of culture. Which means there are a lot of people who rarely if ever see themselves represented, see stories that speak to their experiences and struggles, or see ideas and information that they need to thrive. As such, spaces dedicated to creating, celebrating, and sharing queer and trans cultural production, including in grassroots and do-it-yourself ways, remain as important as ever.

In 2002, Montreal’s queer book store shut its doors. A lot of people saw this is a major loss in the community, and a few years later some of them came together to strategize about what to do. In 2007, they founded Queer Between the Covers, a collective under the umbrella of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia University. Queer Between the Covers' annual book and zine fair usually occurs in conjunction with the more grassroots events that happen during the city's Pride celebrations. The book fair is coming up this year on August 19 at the Centre communautaire de loisirs Sainte-Catherine d’Alexandrie at 1700 Amherst in Montreal, and it will feature dozens of zine creators, independent publishers, distros, and other vendors of queer and trans print media. As well, at least in years when the group has the people power to do it, they organize and participate in smaller events throughout the year with their distro.

Dorian Jesse Fraser is a graduate student at Concordia University, a writer, and a member of the Queer Between the Covers collective. They speak with me about the relevance of print media in a digital age, about queer and trans politics in Montreal, and about the ongoing importance of grassroots queer and trans cultural spaces like the Queer Between the Covers book fair and distro.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact [email protected] to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

The image modified for use in this post is used with the permission of Queer Between the Covers.

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