The latest edition of the queer zine Crooked makes for a perfect raunchy Christmas gift. There are tales of a naughty public masturbator, bathhouse misadventures, sex in porn shops, an interview with amateur porn icon Dom Fournier, photos by Amsterdam-based photographer Paul Bujis and artwork by New York-based artist and author Slava Mogutin. What’s not to love?
Scanning the pages of Crooked is like being in a time warp and on poppers. The “fagazine,” edited and published by Montreal writer Jordan Coulombe, is an homage to the glory days of pre-Internet ’80s and ’90s punk zines. It’s an exhilarating read.
“When I was a closeted kid in the early ’90s I used to collect gay magazines and other gay printed paraphernalia in a box hidden in my bedroom,” Coulombe recalls. “These magazines were my first connection to other fags and to some extent I learned what being a fag was all about from them.”
Even in the Internet era — where it seems everything is shared online, anonymous or not — there’s something refreshing about just how frank the writers are about various perverse, off-the-wall sexual shenanigans. “I’d like people to see Crooked as a platform for confronting taboos and overcoming shame through confessional storytelling and flagrant exhibitionism,” says Coulombe. “At first glance Crooked might just appear to be this sleazy rag, but I think by creating a space for uninhibited, intimate writing, it also manages to normalize human experiences that we’ve been conditioned not to talk about openly. I’ve certainly found myself revealing some compromising anecdotes I would have never imagined myself publishing until the zine started pulling them out of me. But beyond that, it definitely is still a sleazy rag that’s trying to encourage people to have a sense of humour about their human impulses and shortcomings.”
Crooked may put off some on the more earnest end of the politically-correct spectrum, but Coulombe says he’s not about to start wearing beige anytime soon. “There’s certainly this element of contemporary queer discourse that’s all about being cautious and policing what is unsayable. However, Crooked is more concerned with trouble-making than paralyzing people with self-doubt about whether they’re being politically correct enough. I’ve published a certain amount of political articles in Crooked but the fourth issue is definitely leaning more towards the sleazy and scandalous, which you can tell just by the sheer increase in the amount of dicks scattered across the pages. I do a lot of work creating design layouts for each piece in Crooked and I’m always a little panicked that the more militant queers are going to cannibalize me for getting a little too provocative, but so far the project’s been pretty well received, even by the most humourless.”
The publication of Crooked raises the obvious question: a printed zine instead of going online? “I can definitely see the benefits of producing an online magazine but I’ve remained really opposed to the idea. My reasons are certainly more complicated than a romantic nostalgia for print, but there’s probably an element of that to it. I don’t think I’d be able to get people to open up in quite the same way for an online magazine, which would be easily Googled by family members and potential employers. I also like the way reading such a graphic printed magazine in public completely exposes you in a way that digital media doesn’t. For example, I can’t help feeling really conspicuous reading Crooked on a bus and I think it’s healthy to confront that awkwardness and learn to feel comfortable being a giant queer in public.”
Crooked #4 is out now.