by Kale, fall 2012
13 pg. at half-letter size
$2 from Stranger Danger Distro, Mend My Dress Press, or Pioneers Press
Nashville was the first place I traveled to completely on my own. As a Canadian, I suffered from the intense summer heat, and from culture shock. I hadn’t realized the extent to which people keep to themselves where I’m from until I traveled around in the South. When I took public transit in Nashville, I was shocked that people would strike up a conversation with me, even if I was reading a book. In Ottawa, a stranger will only very rarely talk to you on the bus, and an open book is understood to preclude any remaining chance at conversation. With this assumption in place, I’d come to rely on public transit as a time to be alone, however paradoxically: squished in with others, I was free to listen to music or to catch up on reading.
This is not the case in Nashville. When I rode the bus with a book on my lap, strangers would sit down beside me, ask what I was reading about, and was it good, and, hearing my accent, where I was from and what had brought me south. This was sometimes annoying, sometimes pleasant, and sometimes scary, but definitely jarring if you’re used to the solipsistic Northern lands.
Kale, who is a trans man, grew up as “a closeted queer in the Appalachian foothills”, and after a long time living in the Northeast, decided to go to grad school in Nashville. This zine chronicles his experiences riding the bus in the early days of his transition. Through his experiences on Nashville buses, he draws out the ways in which public spaces can be threatening or unsafe for people who are trans or who are read as female.
This zine is incisive about misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, but is also funny and sweet in parts, as when Kale relates stories about positive interactions he’s had on public transit where people have reached out to him, sharing bits and pieces of their lives. I liked Kale’s story about being aggressively cruised by a creepy dude who asks if he has a big dick, and being both scared and grossed out, but also a little bit pleased to be gendered correctly.
At 13 pages, this zine is fairly slight, but it makes an impact. The issues of gender, sexuality, and safety that Kale brings up in these pages are big ones. I really like writing that addresses big topics in small ways. I think this zine would be especially good for people who don’t know any trans people personally and are curious about trans issues: reading about one person’s day-to-day, relatively mundane experiences, and how his gender and sexual identity plays into those, would be a great jumping-off point. I’m also just a sucker for slice-of-life zines, so I really enjoyed this one.
Kale and his partner also run Nervous Nelly Records, a record label and zine distro, which seems to have some pretty rad stuff, so I hope you check that out as well!
- Lily Pepper