Julia Eff is awesome. I recently bought a bunch of their zines, and will soon go back for more, because Julia already feels like a favorite hang-out buddy and I’ve never even met them.
A few weeks ago I suffered through my daughter’s dance recital. The three minutes my daughter was actually on stage was awesome and I’m incredibly proud of how hard she worked to perfect her cartwheel, a physical feat she was incapable of attempting without a spectacular fall as recently as two months ago, one which she worked her little ass off to be able to land. Seeing her effortless cartwheels on stage in front of hundreds of people was super cool. What was less cool was the other 2 1/2 hours of the recital my daughter was not on stage. I’m sure those other kids worked hard too, but jesus christ life is short and the recital was long. So I amused myself by reading Julia’s Every Thug Is a Lady: Adventures Without Gender by the concert hall’s dim lighting. When something transphobic occurred during the program and everyone else thought it was very funny, my reading choice felt all the more appropriate.
Julia is nonbinary (the zine includes an explanation of the term “neutrois,” which was new to me), and their gender is best described by a giant middle finger pointed at whoever is asking. This thick zine is full of hilarious but earnest reflections on living without a defined gender. In a section in which they’re talking about the perils of shopping for clothes in the men’s departments at various stores (Julia was assigned female at birth), they write: “And apparently it’s okay to ask invasive personal questions to find out where along the line I got dropped on my head and woke up on Genderfuck Island, so they can hopefully avoid a similar fate for themselves.” The zine includes lots of fun (and poignant) lists, like “Getting Ready for Work: A Drinking Game!” in which Julia talks about the internal (and external) wrestling match of trying to decide what to wear, how to present, and how to deal with the backlash each and every morning, and “Places I Buy Clothes, Rated in Terms of Dirty Looks,” which is pretty self-explanatory. Julia talks about their boyfriend, an earnest but somewhat clueless kid Julia refers to as Hank Hill, and, in one of my favorite parts of the zine, explains what online dating is like for someone who doesn’t fit into the neat little gender boxes online dating sites require you to choose. They describe the frustration of deciding how to define one’s self on such a site, not just by a gender, but by all the other ineffable characteristics that make up a whole person.
“Depending on what type you decide to play, you’ll get people who are interested in that one thing. Put up how you’re goth but love skitty metalcore music? 40-year-olds name Wolffsblood Von Ravyn who have an extensive collection of decorative swords & unwashed, thinning, mid-back-length hair–ALL UP IN UR SHIT, sending you bad poetry & asking to be your vampire.”
Every Thug Is a Lady was awesome, and if you’re interested in gender and the multitudinous ways in which people can claim, reject, or express it, you need to check this awesome zine out.