A zine centered on the LGBTQ community in Southeast Alaska started up this year, releasing its second issue this month. It’s a small-scale version of a magazine, filled with queer artwork, writing and resources. The group behind the project say they hope to show LGBTQ people in the area that they’re not alone.
Before Ryan McHale moved to Ketchikan, he said he searched the city name paired with the word “queer” — but he didn’t find much. That worried him, he said, because it was important for him to know if he’d be safe when he got here. And he wanted to know if he’d be able to meet other LGBTQ people.
By founding the Loud and Queer! zine, he said he hopes that anyone living in Ketchikan or Southeast Alaska can look up the area and see evidence of queer people living there.
“Hopefully, that contributes to that feeling of people not feeling alone, because it’s hard to be queer, and it’s hard to be queer in a remote community,” he said. “But what we’re trying to do is show queer joy and queer happiness and queer resistance to heteronormativity, to racism, to sexism, to ableism.”
The zine, which McHale said is largely by and for the Southeast Alaska LGBTQ community, is published quarterly by the Ketchikan Queer Collective. It’s distributed beyond the First City, to Craig, Juneau, Petersburg and more.
“It’s really about proving our existence here, and having a physical and tangible proof that we live here,” he said.
So he said flipping through the zine is exciting — but it’s even more exciting to know how many other hands get to hold that proof.
The collective sends Loud and Queer! out to community institutions like libraries and schools. At one point, McHale said a Ketchikan High School teacher relayed a story of one of her students finding the zine in her classroom.
“She saw them physically have a reaction of just shock and amaze,” he said. “They felt alone, and by reading this, they immediately felt connected. And I was like, ‘Wow, that is exactly what we do this for.’”
Ketchikan Queer Collective’s Joe Williams said he spent a lot of his life afraid to be who he is. Now, he said he hopes the zine will help people feel more comfortable with their queerness and and make them realize they have a community to lean on.
That’s sort of the motto of the title, he said — they’re here, they’re queer and they’re loud about it. He said it’s an effort to reclaim the word queer, which can be a slur in some contexts.
“You hear the word queer, and some people may think it’s funny, some people may laugh at it, but however you take it, it’s going to cause some response,” he said. “We wanted to create a publication where it’s: Yes, you know what queer is? But do you know what it means? Do you know who we are? Do you know how to address us?”
Williams will be answering some of those questions with an advice column: “Ask Auntie Queer,” where people can write in to learn more about LGBTQ topics.
But Williams also writes under his own name. His first submission focused on his experiences as a gay man in the Black community, and he said writing it felt liberating.
“The first story I submitted was very personal, very emotional, and very raw and very specific to me,” he said. “But it’s not a unique story in the overall arc of the LGBT community. There was a guy here in town, local. He told me that the article brought him to tears — it mirrored his own experiences.”
Williams is a singer, so he said that he’s used to getting feedback. But he said the responses to his personal experiences have hit him in a deeper way.
That act of sharing your stories is important, he said. That rung true for Ketchikan Queer Collective member JD Martin, who said that the collective and Loud and Queer! is one of the first spaces she’s gotten to be truly open and honest about her experiences.
“There’s been a lot of times, where as a queer woman, I haven’t felt like my voice has belonged, either because I was in a heterosexual environment, or I was in an environment that was purely lesbians or gay men,” she said. “…It’s been really awesome to me to be able to contribute my voice.”
Martin said Loud and Queer! encourages anyone with a connection to Alaska to submit. They can send in whatever they care about and think would be meaningful to the community, whether that’s art or poetry or photography. Along with those submissions, Martin said the Ketchikan Queer Collective compiles resources and gives breakdowns into queer theory.
McHale said that there would be no zine without submissions, and that ultimately, he just wants Loud and Queer! to act as a mirror toward LGBTQ people in Southeast Alaska.
“We’re like an echo of our community,” McHale said. “When people send us that, we’re then reflecting that back and saying, ‘Hey, this is what our community is, this is what we represent.’”