8 Boundary-Breaking Queer Zine Makers To Look Out For

If you are interested in exploring the world of zines, here are 8 queer zine makers that you should look out for.

Zines are independent non-commercial booklets, usually self-published and printed in small circulations. It may be the self-published nature that has allowed zine creators to use this format to express revolutionary ideas. Zines have been considered to be radical cultural artifacts that attempt to change people’s perspectives on topics as varied as body positivity, sexuality, and even sustainability or art.

Zines attempt to find, and nurture communities that are often considered minorities or outliers by describing a world different from what mainstream media tried to perpetuate. Zines are anti-establishment in ethos, having roots in a radical,  anti-capitalistic culture, which has allowed creators to call out the status quo.

Print and online zines have been flourishing in India over the past several years, and queer zines are even more so. Through these publications, creators attempt to change the narrative around queer communities and allow their readership, albeit a small one, to understand gender identity, sexuality, queer rights, and more in a nuanced manner.

If you are interested in exploring the world of zines, here are 8 queer zine makers that you should look out for:

Thephosphenemag: The phosphene magazine, created by Vani, Erum, Rush, and Parth, is a quarterly print and e-magazine that features a mixture of photography, writing, and digital art. “Our zines usually cover themes that are related to experiences of the intersections of caste, gender, sexuality, and neurodivergence,” explains Vani. Since its inception in September 2020, Phosphene has worked with almost 20 artists to create 6 editions ranging from diverse themes like the relation between queerness and nature, the kink community and explorations of sexuality, art as an outlet for grief during the pandemic, and many more. While Phosphene is for everyone, its target audience is primarily queer people, trans people, non-trans people, Dalit and Adivasi communities, and the allies who wish to witness a celebration of art and intersectionality.

“Our inspiration comes from bringing Dalit/Adivasi and trans narratives or art and expression on the forefront of an arena dominated by Upper Caste non-trans people,” says Vani, before adding, “We hope to convey that no topic is off discussion limits in queer and trans spaces. We want people to be fearless about who they are and express themselves in all ways possible.” Through each zine they hope to provide a home for everyone and convey the idea that queer and trans bodies are beautiful, Dalit identities are worthy, and artists living in margins deserve everything that big media productions, art houses, galleries, and magazines fail to provide.

Find out what’s latest in The Phosphene Magazine

Bogus Blue Lotus: Neelima P. Aryan is a queer feminist graphic designer and illustrator who creates zines featuring mixed medium in the form of hand-drawn as well as digital art.“I’ve been telling stories through my art for years now, but the medium of zines is not something I explored until recently. Telling stories through a medium that makes my art and my thoughts accessible is what led me to make zines. I started with one zine and before I knew it, I was having a lot of fun telling stories through this medium,” she says.

Her zines celebrate loud women with large bodies, self and queer love, and intimacy. “My stories have always been about representation – about large bodies, on being queer, about intimacy, and the loneliness that we do not talk a lot about even while in a relationship. They arise from my experiences and from those around me. They come from listening, empathizing, and finding connections,” she explains.

The one thing she hopes to remind her readers is that they are not alone. “I have found that sense of community in the zines and stories of others that I have read. We all exist in our isolation feeling like we are going through something unique that no one might understand. There is a lot of loneliness in that feeling. If through my zines and my stories, I make even one person feel seen or heard, I think my art has done its job.” she adds.

You can view Neelima’s work online.

Hansika Jethnani: Poet and visual artist Hansika Jethnani, uses her zones to explore a variety of themes as well as mediums. “I like to think of my zines as a place where all the mediums I like to work in come together. I paint, I draw digitally, I photograph and I write; my zines allow me to bring all these mediums together in a singular format. I think of my art as a medium of cathartic self-expression and healing,” explains Hansika. Usually, her zines find inspiration in her personal stories, traumas, history, and her journey toward healing. “Usually a zine idea comes to me because I know there’s something I need to create, let go and release. Some of my zines are also just my poetry and art coming together, but the essence to be honest still lies in catharsis and healing,” she adds. 

She hopes that her zines act as a reminder to anyone and everyone that pain can heal and change us. “Our pain is what makes us human and our humanness is what makes us alive. Healing will change us, but change and growth are the only constant we have in this life. I’m creating to share, to heal and if someone finds some solace in my art and words, that feels like a big win to me as an artist,” she explains.

Find out what Hansika has been creating on their Instagram page.

Jose: Jose is a non-binary illustrator from Kerala who aims to bring to life experiences often kept out of the mainstream, mainly around the themes of gender, sexuality, and mental health, with a bit of the paranormal thrown in. “I first learned about zines around the same time I heard about the Gaysi Zine Bazaar, back in 2018. As a creator who’s always wanted to make comics and graphic novels – but the task seemed too intimidating – the concept of short narratives excited me. Having finally found a place to dive into the many ideas in my pocketbook, I started with baby steps of 3-page comics where I dramatized the little things from my life” explains Jose. Over the past few years, they expanded from traditional layouts to exploring new ways to present stories to their audience.Through their work, they hope to challenge perspectives on gender identities. “Gender binary is one of the most entrenched notions held by us as a society. My zines – through their representation of characters as well as the sticky situations they are faced with – attempt to show how rigidly gender is viewed – determined by genitalia and dividing everything from choice of color to rights neatly into two boxes. I try to pepper in situations and questions that make the reader think about this, into whatever narrative I tell through my zines, which usually engage in broad themes of surrealism and horror,” they share.

You can view the surreal world designed by Jose by following them on Instagram

Kokila: Kokila discovered zine-making entirely by chance. “I write and draw a lot of notes and sometimes strung together they happen to make sense. And sometimes other people like to keep it. Poetry, questions (a lot of questions), and music have helped a lot in this journey and so have revelations from therapy,” says Kokila.

Initially, creating content on issues they worked on, where art, stories, information, anecdotes and call for action effectively interested was a struggle. ‘It started with speaking about the truth about the aftermath (ongoing disaster) of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. I was tired of publishers refusing to take up dead issues or unconventional and often controversial themes. Consequently,y self-publishing becomes the last and only resort for folks trying to document unpopular realities,” they explain.

Through the zines, Kokila aims to dig deeper into the socio-political issues of the country. “Personally, I’d like my readers, which could be anyone with a heart, to know the power and beauty in vulnerability,” they add.

Follow Kokila on Instagram and stay updated on their work.

Stale Rumours: Stale Rumours is a collective of Mumbai-based artists and makers who aim to start conversations, blend art and craft, and do what sparks joy. They discuss a range of topics from mental health to dissent to experiences of living in a city like Mumbai, through their zines that they hope to make their readers both laugh and think. “Most of our zines are per-zines created based on our personal experiences. It is the adventures of living everyday life that inspires our zines. Personal is universal. We work in both digital and analog mediums and techniques range from collages to illustration to text-based design,” they explain.

Mental health and neurodivergence feature heavily in their zines. “Through them, we hope to create little cracks of acceptance, that can eventually create a big enough space for acceptance and conversation. We’ve seen people pick up zines like Brain Fog and Anatomy of A Panic Attack, and it’s been eye-opening to see how many people either relate to the experiences in these zines or are curious about understanding us and mental health more,’ they say.

Follow Stale Rumour’s work on Instagram

Preston Olakatu: Preston Olakatu is a writer and illustrator who likes telling stories about the mundane things in life. Their work includes zines such as Faith: In Four Parts a poetry zine that explores their relationship with organized religion,  Things I Worry About And Other Comics, a collection of four comics that deal with different personal topics and show how they have learned to deal with and Beginnings, which started a note they wrote for themselves.

As their zines mainly deal with life and personal experience, they are targeted toward adults who may have had similar experiences or simply might find their stories amusing. “Since I consider myself a storyteller, my goal is to mainly reveal a part of my life or experiences through my words and illustrations. The hope is that the reader finds it comforting, relatable, or even funny. If the zines in any way bring them joy as a reader, I feel like I’ve done my part,” they share.

Follow Preston’s work on Instagram.

Nayanika: Nayanika creates zines on topics that are special to her..”I did look up zine prompts at first, because I just couldn’t find the inspiration to get started. Those prompts really helped me; I came up with a recipe zine for mustard fish, a dish that I hold very close to my heart. I decided to illustrate a song, and that had to be Blackbird by the Beatles, which is a song that has been a guiding force for me whenever I needed the extra push. I also collaborated with friends to make some zines, which really helped me explore this medium,” says Nayanika.

The topics she focuses on are personal but relatable, and so for her, the hope is that the zines reach people from all ages and walks of life.

Follow Nayanika’s work on Instagram

This story was about:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Armed with a B.A in English Literature from St. Xavier's college, Mumbai she set out to become a writer about a year ago. When not binge eating and watching reruns of any show she can get her hands on you will find her talking animatedly/ day dreaming/ glued to a book.
Krupa Joseph

We hate spam as much as you. Enter your email address here.