Barbara Sanchez-Kane Is Bringing the Macho Sentimental to Menswear

Inspired by sentimentality and love, Mexican fashion designer Barbara Sanchez-Kane is on a mission to create clothes for a muse she has dubbed the “Macho Sentimental.” The Macho Sentimental can be someone of any gender; any individual who is in touch with their emotions. It is out of that space that Sanchez-Kane creates her innovative, unique designs that take inspiration from both high fashion couture and Mexican streetwear.

Sanchez-Kane recently collaborated with Nike on their The Force is Female project and hosted a pop-up in Los Angeles in late November. INTO caught up with the queer designer to talk about the philosophy guiding her inspired menswear line.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane
Barbara Sanchez-Kane

What does “Macho Sentimental” mean to Barbara Sanchez-Kane? Is there a safe way for queer women to be masculine without embracing the toxic parts of masculinity?

MA·CHO SEN·TI·MEN·TAL

Noun

  1. A human being of either sex; a person. Strongly influenced by

emotional feelings and in contact with male and female forces.

synonymous: human being, human, person, mortal,

individual, personage, soul.

I think we need more education – that is the main problem with the toxic part of masculinity. That is derived in aggressiveness and violent response as we have been taught that masculinity is associated with these terms that need to be broken.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane

You are a lesbian fashion designer who makes menswear. Do you think the phrase “menswear” is outdated now since people of all genders wear what is considered “men’s” or “women’s” clothes?

Sanchez-Kane started as a menswear brand. I use the term menswear just as a marketing strategy in sizing purpose, but as I say, we dress the Macho Sentimental.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane

You used to live in Los Angeles where you interned for German designer Bernhard Willhelm. Do you see his influence on your work or the experience of having lived in Los Angeles in your clothes?

Well, my first collection Citizen Sanchez-Kane was designed based on an old love relationship I had during my time in LA.  So yes all experiences and places influence my work.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane

You’ve created pieces in your fashion line that were inspired/for your mother and in your pop-up in Los Angeles, your mother was there to assist you with the event. You also have an alter-ego called “SOLRAC,” which your father’s name spelled backward. How does your relationship with your parents inform your work?

I couldn’t have built SANCHEZ-KANE without the support of my parents.

Family is the main pillar of my education and will continue to be a presence in the brand. I am so blessed to share all the growth of the brand with them.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane

You publish love poems and journal entries on your Instagram signed with the name “SOLRAC.” The graphics on your clothes feature phrases such as “Mexikanemicorazon” and “Freelance Lover,” along with “Macho Sentimental.” Is Sanchez-Kane a brand for queer romantics?

I am a sentimental romantic 100 percent guided by my inner feelings. I found in clothing the best way to deal with my problems good and bad ones. Is therapeutic and a way of living. Women have always been the starting point to create a world where all the misfits are welcome to join.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane

All photos by Navi.

Living ‘The Bi Life’

The Bachelor. The Bachelorette. Love Island. Beauty and the Geek. Rock of Love. Flavor of Love. The Cougar. All these reality dating shows have many things in common, but an overarching, unavoidable theme is their focus on heterosexual relationships.

The highly problematic reality series A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila was 10 years ago now, and since then, there has been little visibility for queer people on dating shows. In 2016, gay men had Logo’s Finding Prince Charming, and the UK’s First Date has featured some LGBTQ cast members. But it’s only recently there has been an embracement of bisexual-identified people on television. Desiree Akhavan’s series The Bisexual recently premiered to praise from the LGBTQ community for its accurate portrayal of a woman exploring her bisexuality, all the while battling and dismantling the stereotypes associated with her sexuality. But that was fictional — where was our dating show?

E!’s The Bi Life, hosted by Australian drag queen, pop singer, entertainer, and Celebrity Big Brother winner Courtney Act. The show, which premiered late October, followed nine bisexual-identified millennials as they summered at a villa in Barcelona, getting to know each other and sharing their bisexual experiences. 

This isn’t a Big Brother or Survivor sort of show with challenges, alliances, and backstabbing to get ahead. There’s no competing for the heart of another with the result being kicked off or engaged a la The Bachelor, either. Think of The Bi Life as if you were hanging out with a bunch of friends, but it’s televised You’re observing their summer getaway as they discover one another and parts of themselves. Courtney Act advises the cast members on being an out and proud, offering advice and listening to their concerns. She plays part host, part guidance counselor.

“I couldn’t think of a single bisexual role model growing up, and so to have that now, to be able to see real people having real problems and most importantly talking about bisexuality is so important,” The Bi Life cast member Irene Ellis told INTO.

The Bi Life

Ellis, who identifies as pansexual and hails from Chichester, England, says she applied to be on the show after seeing an ad — a pure act of spontaneity.

“Seeing that there was going to be an LGBT show on TV, I just kinda felt drawn to it,” Ellis said. “I thought ‘You know what? My dating life is also getting a bit stale — maybe a TV show can help me find someone.’ And deep down, I still had that nagging feeling that I wasn’t being as open and as confident as I wanted to be with my sexuality, so maybe this might help that.”

An introvert and self-professed nerd by nature, Ellis was nervous heading into the house, but says her fears were quickly abated when she met her castmates. The cast is as wide and varied as bisexuality is. There’s Daisie, a fraud prevention officer from Manchester; Kyle, a support teacher from South Wales; club promoter Leonnie; an international swimmer named Michael; and London-based makeup artist, Mariella.

“I felt like I knew them all immediately, and we all just wanted to talk and learn about one another,” Ellis said. “One of my favourite things was that we all had breakfast together, often Matt … or Mariella would cook and we’d sit at the table chatting. And between filming, we’d be seen trying to catch up on telly together — often cuddled up on the big sofa inside.”

It was a big happy bisexual family, a positive and relatable space. Ellis said she felt comfortable being herself, explaining her love of cosplay to a very bewildered, but ultimately fascinated Matt. She also showed off her bee tattoo — an ode to her love of Sherlock Holmes to Ryan, a fitness influencer from London.

“Everyone just completely accepted me for who I was,” Ellis said.

As much as a bisexual Barcelona abode may have seemed like a dream vacation, they were all there for a specific reason.

“We would often have conversations in the villa about what might happen after we finished filming, and what people might say,” Ellis said. “However, we all said that the one thing we wanted was to have a mainstream show out there that just normalized being bisexual/pan. We considered that if we could make even one person feel like less of a stereotype, feel less like they had to justify themselves, then that would be one of the most important things we’d done.”

Judging by the immediate and ongoing reactions to the show, they’ve done their job.

One viewer, @Little_Ms_Wise, tweeted, “I’m really excited about #TheBiLife reality series on @e_entertainment it seems like it’s opening a lot of eyes and outing a lot of stereotypes about the #LGBTQ population.”

While there are the inevitable negative comments, they’re not in the majority. Ellis says that most people are “really just excited to see bisexual/pansexual people on their screens.”

“A lot of people messaged us and asked how we’d come out, and to thank us for being the guinea pigs, as it were, to go out and be the first faces of a show of this kind,” she said.

Her favorite reaction came from an Instagram DM she received from a viewer. “She let me know that watching The Bi Life with her parents made it a lot easier for her to explain her sexuality,” Ellis said.

Still, there’s’ room for improvement: Ellis is the only pansexual-identified person on The Bi Life, and the show has faced criticism for every castmate identifying as cisgender.  Those additions would only add more benefits to a show disseminating information about bisexuality that is ultimately helping to normalize it. There is a concerted effort to break down “the complexities” of being bisexual, moreover, the fact it’s not complex at all. Viewers are watching a television show about people who are sexually attracted to people of all gender identities. The conversations the cast mates have with one another both break down the barrier and inform the viewers, as conversations range from coming out of the closet to being told their sexuality wasn’t as important as a gay woman’s, the latter having been an early experience for Ellis.

“Bisexuality is completely valid,” Ellis said.  “You’re not sat on a fence, you’re not undecided, and you’re certainly not greedy. You just like both, and that’s perfectly okay. You can define to what percentage or level or whatever that is, but that’s yours to own.”

The Bi Life has helped Ellis to become more confident in herself and how she identifies, as dealing with bisexual erasure was something she’s struggled with. Even at Pride, she felt like she didn’t belong, with people telling her she was only there for the party; that she wasn’t “gay” enough. She said she was closeted in school because she saw how her bisexual classmates were called greedy or manipulative, people saying they didn’t know which side they were playing for. It stuck with her for years.  

“It’s only really since being on the show and finally talking about those experiences and those discriminations that I now feel proud to be who I am, and no one else can shame that,” Ellis said.

While The Bi Life has had an important impact on LGBTQ viewers, it’s also a show heterosexual viewers can enjoy and learn from.

“By watching the show and being a little more educated about LGBTQ+ issues, you’re going to become an ally that someone you know might really need,” Ellis said of straight viewers. The more people hear about the show and watch it, that’s “. . . one more person in your life that understands you and doesn’t judge you, [it] can make the world of difference,” she added.

“I certainly would have felt a lot more comfortable coming out at a younger age,” Ellis said. “Even if just to say yeah, well, I’m not weird, there’s a whole TV show about people like me!”

The Bi Life airs Thursdays at 9pm on E! UK & Ireland and is also available on heyu.

Party Dyke, Interrupted

Trigger. That was the name of the Castro bar where I attended my first ever lesbian party. I was 18 and the only two gay people that I knew in the world were closeted. I was in love with one of them, but they were in love with each other. Naturally.

As a freshman, I would overhear the seniors in my upper division queer theory class talk about the queer bars they were going to on the weekends. I sat anxiously in my seat, eavesdropping and hoping that one day they would ask me to join.

I wanted so badly for these older queers to accept me as one of them. The invitation I was waiting for finally came on the third week of class. I convinced my only friend with a fake ID to join. It wasn’t hard to convince my friend to come along — even straight people knew that the Castro was the best place to get drunk on a weekday.

My friend with the fake ID, like everyone else, thought I was straight. My tumblr page filled with vintage photos of Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie and the fact that I was in a Queer Theory class wasn’t a dead giveaway for them, nor for me, at the time.

Before that night, my forays into the Castro were by accident.  I used to wait on the corner of Market and Castro in front of the old Diesel store three times a week to transfer onto a bus that would take me to work after school.

Bored out of my mind at the stop, I would read the informational billboards offering drug counseling and free HIV tests featuring images of people with hairless, glistening chests. The artfully curated ads were everywhere, but I doubted that the group that I so badly wanted to be a part of had “real” drug problems. They probably just like to have a good time, I told myself.

My first real night out in the Castro took off quickly. After pounding dollar drinks at The Edge, a corner street dive that played classic ’90s movies to its mostly burly, bearded clientele, and then two-for-one wells at Q Bara strobe-heavy bar that is barely wider than a hallway, we walked over to Trigger.

Girl parties aren’t known for drink specials, but the rest of Castro is full of heavy pours. So by the time we reached our final destination, the fake ID I gripped in my hand, like everything else, blurred in front of me. I didn’t need to worry because the bouncer didn’t closely examine to check if it was fake. He was too distracted by a group of snapback-clad girls pulling at his shoulder sleeve, reminding him that he has to let them in because he let them in last time. They don’t have IDs, and Trigger would eventually shut down for letting in too many underage queers like the snapback lesbians and me.

Once I made it past the doorman, a bitter butch in a too-tight flannel stamped the inside of my wrist, and I zoomed in without waiting for my friend to make it inside. Everything was exactly how I dreamed it would be — bartenders with asymmetrical haircuts and lip piercings, go-go dancers gyrating on top of the bar, neon colored shots in lab-inspired tube glasses, and dykes everywhere.  

“It’s just like The L Word,” I muttered to myself. My straight friend asks me to repeat what I just said, but I couldn’t give away that I was an avid watcher of the most lesbian TV show in history. Plus, I was already at the bar ordering a Dos Equis because that’s what Shane drinks. The rest of the night was a blur.

Gay culture is deeply interconnected with drugs and alcohol. Blame it on the fact that most of us are reliving our adolescent years in our twenties, or that we need more sedation than your average hetero to put up with the daily attack on our human rights — either way, there’s always a good reason to order another round of shots.

Historically, the only places that queer people could be out were undisclosed bars, clubs, and parties. Queer people couldn’t fly their flags high back then, so underground venues and exclusive parties served as the primary place to meet other queers. Although we have more freedom now as queer people than our elders did, the desire to escape into a safe space still exists. Queer bars are spaces where we can embrace every part of ourselves without fear being perceived as “different.”

If we want to be around other queer people it often feels like the only option is to go to a bar, where we tell ourselves we will only have one drink. But, it’s hardly ever one. In my experience, gay bars are fueled by alcohol in a way that their straight counterparts aren’t. The drinks are cheaper, stronger, and you can find a party on any night of the week.

As a baby dyke, I drank to calm my anxieties before entering these unknown spaces without realizing that most of my peers were doing the same. Cheap drinks in the Castro, five dollar AMF pitchers in Boystown, double margarita pints in WeHo that make the extra $1 charge for an additional shot worth it.

Gays are taught how to party. It’s not a secret. Straights know it and we own it. It’s part of our Brand™. Bachelorette parties flock to WeHo in search of a Vegas-style good time, and by the time I moved out of San Francisco, the straight-to-gay ratio on Monday night at Q Bar was pretty much even. Cishets venture into our spaces for a “wild night out” away from their norm, but for us, it’s just another Thursday.

The reason there is such a disdain for straight people with an affinity for partying at gay bars is that these spaces are sometimes the only ones queer people have. Straight people already have everything else. For queer women and non-binary folks, the battle is even steeper. Unlike gay men, we don’t have Grindr to scratch that mid-week midnight itch. Dykes have to wait for the weekly or monthly girl parties. If not, then you can hit up Tinder, but that usually entails spending money to meet up with someone for a drink. Meeting other gays sans alcohol has been not an easy task for me.

I still remember the morning after my Tuesday night at Trigger, when I stumbled into class with a swollen jaw, burns on my fingers and very little recollection of what had happened the night before. I wasn’t a stranger to blackouts, but this night was different. My older classmates laughed and told me that I had probably been roofied at Q Bar.

“Everyone gets roofied at Q Bar,” they told me. I’d repeat that line every time I told the story with a smile or a laugh. It felt like a rite of passage. I finally belonged.

Gay adventures in San Francisco continued for me throughout college and those nights consisted of pouring half bottles of tequila into half emptied sprite bottles, hopping on the back of the train and downing the drink before the operator announced “Castro.” On those nights, I never saw the billboards that lined the MUNI station walls warning against addiction, inviting gays to focus groups that might help them. It wouldn’t have made a difference. Those billboards were talking about meth and ketamine binges. It wasn’t for me. I was a fun gay.

In the past eight years, I spent only two handfuls of weekends sober — eight, to be exact. I wish I could tell you that I had a moment of enlightenment that led me to sobriety, but the reality is that my body just gave out — twice in two years. Last year, I spent two weeks in a hospital being pumped full of blood and was released with instructions to stop drinking for eight weeks and “drink moderately” after then, if at all. It was easy at first. But those eight weeks ended up being more like six weeks and before long, I was back at it. I avoided doctor visits, ignored symptoms until it was too much to ignore.

I rolled my eyes at the nurse who said I had a drinking problem. “I drink the least out of all the people I know. I’m just cursed with a weak stomach lining. Faulty genes.” It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago, that while talking to some friends, I realized that I had drank despite all the warnings my body gave me. Just because I didn’t drink as much as I did before, didn’t make my problem any less severe. At first, I pretended to be stoked about my sobriety: “I wanted to quit anyway.” But, on a Saturday night, the only thing standing between me and a well whiskey on the rocks is the stack of hospital bracelets sitting in a box in my room. 

Seven years later and three hundred miles south, I’m now living in Los Angeles. I have been sober for a month. The queer bars with their shiny disco balls and sweaty, gyrating bodies aren’t as fun as I remembered. Sobriety is dulling at times, and the stark realization that so many of the things you enjoyed, you only did under the influence is lonely.

But the incessant hangover state is gone, and my days are longer. I get more stuff done. I look for experiences instead of drink specials.  Most of my queer peers still drink. Some of them don’t have the same issues with self-control that I do, none of them have a stupid stomach lining with a propensity for bleeding.

I’m starting to see a shift. More and more, young queers are opting for sobriety, taking breaks from drinking, tiring of the monotonous weekend festivities. Maybe we’re getting older, maybe the hangovers are getting too gnarly or I don’t know — maybe this is growing up.

Torres Gets The Last Word

By this time last year, Mackenzie Scott had just put out her third and most adventurous album.

A well-tooled, urgent, and provocative record, Three Futures seemed a year ago to be a critical and artistic success. Then, this past April, Scott received some unexpected news: Her label, 4AD, had decided to drop her from a three-album contract, citing inadequate sales of her new record. “I wish them all the best,” she wrote on Twitter at the time. “Also, fuck the music industry.”

As Torres, she had already established a guitar-based vernacular across two records, 2013’s folky Torres and the heavier 2015 release Sprinter, which integrated moments of playful art rock and blistering neo-grunge. Three Futures changed her palette. Mixed in with her wiry, bright guitar lines were drum machine patterns and queasy turns of synthesizer—elements inspired by electronic music and krautrock that buoyed the knotty questions of desire she floated in her lyrics: What is it to have a body, and what does it mean to engage with the physicality of others?

A series of music videos accompanied the album, making visual the themes of queer love and desire that subtly inflected Torres’s former work. Carefully parse the lyrics to “A Proper Polish Welcome,” off of Sprinter, and a lesbian encounter emerges delicately couched in imagery borrowed from the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark: “Rocking and holy, we came two by two.”

In the video for Three Futures’ “Skim,” Scott wears a suit, brandishes an electric guitar, and toys with other women’s bodies, her gaze fixed defiantly on the camera. The video for the album’s title track casts her as three distinctly costumed characters; tripled, she has sex with herself. The cover of Three Futures, set in the same ochre-tinged house as the videos, shows Scott (wo)manspreading in Chelsea boots on a horrible couch while a woman, seen reflected in a mirror, dances before her wearing nothing but pantyhose.

A complex power dynamic plays through these images. Scott is the more masculine of the two figures in “Skim” and on the album’s cover, but she hasn’t entirely shed all her feminine signifiers. Her hair is long, and she’s topless underneath her blazer. She stands in two places at once as both the desirer and the desired, glitching the heterosexual erotics that traditionally accompany rock music. The camp and the sleaze of this visual universe, created with help from director Ashley Connor, let Torres complicate the well-worn role of the rock star draped in naked women, putting a sapphic twist on a misogynistic trope.

Regarding her personal identity, Scott tells INTO, “I’ve never been compelled to self-identify as any particular gender or sexual orientation. I have nothing to hide. You can look at what I choose to share with the public and see how I live. I just don’t care about gender or sexuality and I don’t think they’re interesting conversations, so I prefer to do more showing and less telling.”

For two weeks after the announcement, Scott withdrew from her songwriting process.

“I literally did not pick up a pen or open my computer for two weeks,” she tells me now over the phone from her home in Brooklyn. “It was kind of crushing. I had a come-to-Jesus moment. ‘Is this the industry that I was actually meant to put myself through while I’m here on this earth?’ I did question that for a bit.”

But, after what she calls “a solid pity party,” she found herself drawn back to her music. “I had a total change of heart. I was like, ‘Actually, I’m fucking fine.’ I really switched gears, which is how I am. That comes naturally to me, that pivot,” she says. “When I’m in a position of powerlessness or at least one that feels like powerlessness, my superpower is the songs that I write. It is a very neat way to give myself the feeling of having the last word on anything.”

Torres

Torres had self-released her debut album back in 2013; working without a label was not new to her. She still had a Bandcamp account, and by July, she had offered a new song, “Gracious Day,” for sale. Sparse and slicked over with tape hiss, it’s an acoustic track that calls back to the love songs on Torres. While she plumbed the lower edge of her range throughout Three Futures, toying with the way certain voicings can connote different gender positions (the way she pronounces “I’m more of an ass man” on “Righteous Woman” is a treat), she arcs up into her falsetto on “Gracious Day.” She recorded the track at home, “just myself and my guitar on my laptop.” It begins with a surprisingly intimate voicemail—”I left my coat at your house. I’m wearing your perfume,” says a woman’s voice—and as Scott sings you can hear the space of her apartment folding around her. She sounds perfectly at home as she beckons, “I don’t want you going home anymore/I want you coming home.”

“I’m highly attuned to the fact that what I really need right now, what everyone needs right now, is connection,” Scott tells INTO. “It’s not something that I’ve ever really allowed myself too much of. I mean, I’m not a recluse. I have friends, I go out. But I’m a very private person, and I spend a whole lot of time alone. I think in the moment that I decided to record that song that way, I was desperate for some immediacy.”

In September, Scott put up another new song on Patreon, unlockable by way of a one-dollar donation. More upbeat and thornier than “Gracious Day,” “Two of Everything” sees Scott gritting her teeth over a love triangle. “What was it that made her think she could have two of everything?/One of you and one of me/Forever in the in-between,” she sings against the anxious patter of a drum machine.

Torres’s Patreon supporters have access to exclusive content such as the original demo version of “Skim,” the first single from her record Three Futures; a photo of a personal handwritten diary entry; a cover of “Wandering Star” by Porthishead, one of her favorite bands; and more personal work, such as a thank you video made for her Patrons.

Patreon, a subscription service that acts like a monthly recurring Kickstarter donation, has emerged in recent years as one of the more popular options for self-employed artists subsisting by selling their wares online. Freelance journalists use it alongside podcast producers, painters, and musicians. In the United States, where arts grants are few and far between and making a living selling music is one of the most precarious professions among the precariat, crowdfunding services like Patreon can act as a much-needed stopgap.

It’s not a replacement for a record company’s more comprehensive infrastructure, but it can help carry musicians across periods of financial uncertainty. Scott doesn’t love the idea of crowdfunding, but she’s content to use Patreon to share demos and covers with fans who offer a margin of financial support.

Scott doesn’t love the idea of crowdfunding, but she’s content to use Patreon to share demos and covers with fans who offer a margin of financial support.

As a musician in 2018, “you’re not just selling records,” she says. “You’re selling a persona. You’re selling visual art, photographs, videos, you’re selling it all. It’s very hard to know, especially right now, what the best way to do that is.” She’d love to play more shows — she just played a rooftop in New York and a campground in Texas — but the market for touring musicians is oversaturated, given that it’s often easier to make a living selling concert tickets than records. She’d love to make more music videos, but the process is resource-intensive. She says she’s interested in doing a little acting sometime, “off-Broadway, or in a cool movie.”

Mostly, what Scott wants right now is the freedom to make music alongside the freedom to survive. “I would love to just do the basics right now,” she says. “Make a living and keep a home and try and be well while we sit through this major hell of a presidency. Bite our nails hoping that climate change is not really as nigh as it seems. Ideally, I would like to be well. I have big dreams, but right now the big dream is to have my needs met.”

2018 has been a creatively fruitful year for Scott, but it has also been a personally taxing one — an uneasy pairing. The songs are there; the infrastructure for distributing them is hazier. She feels free to make the music she wants to make, but she’s making it in an increasingly precarious environment. The music industry does not favor musicians. Late capitalism continues its steady march to the limits of exploitation, and artists like Torres keep writing songs.

She has written her next album, is about to take it to the studio, and plans to release it in the first half of 2019. The record, she says, furthers the lyrical themes that abounded on Three Futures — music about bodies and desire and pleasure never runs dry — but she expects it to sound warmer, rawer, and less clinical.

“I’ll be going for the jugular more with the new record,” she says. Though the hellish presidency tends to seep into just about everyone’s psychological state, her fourth record won’t in any way respond to contemporary politics.

“I only write music when I feel like I’m about to explode with whatever truth-bomb I need to unleash, and usually it only ever has to do with what’s going on in my interior world,” she says. “This new album will be a love album. Our current administration doesn’t deserve music, even combative music. It deserves eternal condemnation where there is no music and no light.”

If Three Futures was a yellow house in rural America, then Torres’s fourth album will be “a botanical garden,” she says. “It’s going to be lush.”

It’s easy to imagine Torres forging an oasis from scarcity. That’s her alchemy: A vacancy becomes a window, and once she sees it she doesn’t hesitate to climb through. Parting ways with her label didn’t alter her path.

“My world did not end. A record label is just a record label,” she says. “I’m so ready to move forward.”

‘FIST’ Is The Leatherdyke Zine You’ll Want To Hold In Your Hot Little Hands

Unsurprisingly, FIST is the kind of reading material that makes me worry someone could see over my shoulder, even though I’m alone in my apartment. It’s not a bad feeling — FIST, a zine by and for leatherdykes, or, queer women who get off on sadomasochism, is overflowing with photography, illustrations, poems, interviews, and essays exploring leatherdyke identity and culture. Each page cracks with the anticipation and energy that comes from speaking one’s desires aloud.

Although this might sound like a specific kink, the term “leatherdyke” refers to a vast range of activities and dynamics between consenting adults — whipping, wax play, restraints, spanking, verbal humiliation, bootlicking, and mummification, just to name a few.

FIST was founded in 2017 by Cristine, a Brooklyn-based artist, writer, and BDSM educator who saw a need for modern, diverse perspectives on leatherdyke culture and identity. After the runaway success of FIST: Issue 01, Cristine released Issue 02 in May. Both issues open with an intention to be “inclusive of and prioritize the voices of trans dykes and dykes of color.”

FIST celebrates a range of experiences — from “A Poem for the Whip Enthusiast” by Mistress Couple to “I Know Why the Serpent Devours Her Own Tail” by June Amelia Rose — without claiming there’s one way to be a leatherdyke. Cristine’s own essay “Ode to Fingernails/How Do You Fuck With Those?” is a soaring testament to the erotic potential of long, acrylic nails.

Cristine spoke to INTO about creating FIST, Catherine Opie and BDSM in the ’90s, feminist sex wars, and rude Instagram DMs.

FIST
Art by @MarleyKinkead

I spent an evening reading FIST issues one and two. You put so much care into amplifying diverse leatherdyke voices and it really, really shows. What has the response to the zines has been like?

It has been really incredible! It’s still wild to think about all the feedback I’ve gotten from people who say it’s helped them discover their own inner pervert. When I was starting out, I sought out queer-owned printers to take on this project, and the first one I reached out to told me “We don’t print stuff like this.” Luckily I found a really great queer-owned local printer (Publicide) who was happy to print FIST. After issue one sold hundreds of copies, I decided it was worth having a release party for issue two. Here I was also faced with venues who had respectability issues with the zine content. I ended up having the party in a friend’s backyard and 75 people showed up to hang out and hear a bunch of queer perverts read smut out loud. It was amazing and the energy was so loving. I couldn’t have predicted a dyke SM zine would resonate with so many people!

In the introduction to FIST Issue 01, you write “leatherdyke subculture was documented and immortalized in the early ‘90s through zines and documentaries, almost frozen in time. We aim to pick up that tradition and achieve a new moment in time, sharing fresh perspectives through art and writing that encapsulate life as a modern leatherdyke in 2017.” I’ve seen the documentary Blood Sisters (1995), but I know very little about leatherdyke history. Why was there so much leatherdyke art and media in the ‘90s, and why did it stop?

My leatherdyke root was definitely going to a Catherine Opie exhibit at the Guggenheim in 2008. I saw her portraits of queer leather folk and specifically her photo called “Self-Portrait/Pervert” where she is hooded with play piercings down each arm, and the word “Pervert” carved into her chest. This photo was taken in 1994 and I think fits in to the timeline that I have of when the most leatherdyke art was being produced. After the Sex Wars of the late ‘70s and into the ‘80s (did they ever really end?), SM was coming more to light. I was born in ‘86 so I was just a kid in the ‘90s, but I still remember pop culture and that the entire decade was all about sex. At this time we also know there was a huge overlap between the punk and leatherdyke subcultures, and zines were a huge part of the DIY punk scene. A few things happened in the late ‘90s that I think contributed to less leatherdyke art and media after this time — the internet became popular and communities could exist online, and there was not as much resistance from mainstream culture. Mainstream feminism began to adopt sex-positive feminism so lesbians generally became less uptight and eased up on the “all sex is coercive and SM is violence” stance. This is not to say leatherdyke art and culture disappeared, or the fight was won, there just wasn’t as much being documented.

When you were envisioning FIST, were there any particular ‘90s zines or documentaries you looked to for inspiration or guidance?

Because these zines were printed so long ago, they are really hard to find. I have read a lot of books that mention the zines I wanted to emulate, and seen/read excerpts, but when I first printed FIST I had never actually read one. I think in a way that’s good because I got to be creative in making a new zine from scratch. I’ve since been able to purchase a bunch of copies of On Our Backs from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, but they weren’t cheap. This magazine had financial backing, which means the production quality and advertising are not as DIY as I wanted FIST to be. There was a more working-class punk zine out of San Francisco called Brat Attack (a zine for leatherdykes and other bad girls) that put out a handful of issues from 91-94. There is now an archived page up online with select articles to read here. They talk about real issues like class, gear, fat acceptance, race, and SM tourism; there’s more of an authentic feel to this zine.

FIST
Art by @KDDiamond

I’m curious about how you, as a young leatherdyke, access your history. Are there archives, digital or physical? Are there older leatherdykes in your life?

My only real access to leather history is through books and media. There aren’t many out there still in circulation, but they are so important and I wish that all the young people coming into the scene could read them. From what I’ve read, the way it used to be is that elders lead the community and there was more formal training for novices. In New York, where I live, there isn’t much of a close-knit scene. It feels like everyone is casually involved in SM, but not many view it as a lifestyle. There are various leather archives around the country (the most notable one in Chicago), but I haven’t been able to make it out there yet. This past September I went to the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco for the first time where I got to attend a documentary screening on the Catacombs (a fisting club active in the ‘70s in San Francisco) starring Gayle Rubin. The screening was obviously in a leather bar, it was honestly just perfect. I knew that Gayle Rubin had gotten a copy of FIST and I got to introduce myself and to thank her for what she’s done for all of us. Meeting one of the trailblazers was life-changing.

FIST
Art by @Luna.Emuna

Are you doing a third issue?

Yes, and hopefully many more! I have submissions open for issue three until November 15 and I hope to have it up for sale along with reprints of one and two by mid-December.

This next question switches directions a little bit. Your Instagram is spectacular. I noticed you field a lot of presumptuous and misinformed comments from randos who are clearly turned on by BDSM, but aren’t navigating their interests with respect or a clear understanding of what it means to be part of a kink community. I’m wondering: how do you protect your time and psychic energy when you’re viewed as a free resource, or an authority on all things leatherdyke?  I know this a huge question, so I understand if you can only stab at it.

Oh, what a question! There was a time when I didn’t post my kinky stuff on social media (I have a vanilla career), but then I realized this was such a huge part of my life that I’d rather risk whatever consequences came about than hide who I am. One of those consequences is, unfortunately, there are always people who think my account (which is just me — Hi! A real person who has a life outside of Instagram) is here for their education. The majority of questions I receive are around BDSM books to read, so I put together a recommendation spreadsheet I share with people that takes just a few seconds. I don’t usually answer DMs asking for advice, but once in a while I do use the Q&A feature on stories and answer people’s questions where I always have one rule: Don’t ask me questions you can easily Google.

Over 1,200 Anti-LGBTQ Hate Crimes Were Reported During First Year of Trump’s Presidency

Over 1,200 anti-LGBTQ hate crimes were reported during the first year of Trump’s presidency, according to new data from the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Released Tuesday, the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) report found that hate crimes against marginalized communities increased for the third straight year. There were 1,130 bias attacks on the basis of sexual orientation in 2017, a five percent increase from a year earlier.

In addition, another 119 attacks—whether property crimes or assaults on someone’s person—were motivated by the victim’s gender identity.

Despite a record number of anti-trans murders, the number of hate crimes related to gender identity in 2017 actually represents a slim four percent decrease from the year prior. There were 124 attacks targeting transgender people in 2016.

The increase in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes overall follows larger surges in violence against marginalized communities.

Of the 7,106 single-incident bias attacks recorded in 2017, the largest percentage—or 59.6 percent—were motivated by the victim’s ethnicity. The injured party in more than half of those incidents was black.

Likewise, the lion’s share of hate crimes on the basis of religious faith targeted people of the Jewish faith. In 2017, nearly six in 10 religiously motivated bias attacks—or 58.1 percent—involved a Jewish person. That figure amounted to more than 1,600 incidents in total.

While 18.6 percent of hate crimes related to religion targeted Muslims, that represents a slight decline from 2016.

Matthew G. Whitaker, the acting attorney general, called the FBI report a “call to action.” Whitaker, who was recently tapped by President Trump to replace outgoing Jeff Sessions, claimed he was “particularly troubled by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes” following an October shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

“The American people can be assured that this Department has already taken significant and aggressive actions against these crimes and that we will vigorously and effectively defend their rights,” he said in a statement.

But it remains to be seen whether Whitaker will take appropriate action to address the increase in crimes against LGBTQ Americans under Trump.

When Whitaker was announced as Sessions’ stand-in at the DOJ, critics noted concern about his history of anti-gay remarks. The former Iowa district attorney has referred to marriage as a union “between one man and one woman” and predicted that former president Obama’s LGBTQ rights legacy would leave an “unbelievable, long-term negative impact” on the United States.

As the Anti-Defamation League claimed, responding to attacks on LGBTQ communities around the country will take significant action at every level. After Tuesday’s report was released, it noted that 91 metropolitan areas with populations over 100,000 people didn’t submit hate crime data at all.

Its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, concluded that “more must be done to address the divisive climate of hate in America.”

“That begins with leaders from all walks of life and from all sectors of society forcefully condemning anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate whenever it occurs,” Greenblatt said in a press release.

As INTO has previously noted, the White House has yet to condemn the wave of attacks on LGBTQ centers across the country. Since Trump was elected in Nov. 2016, queer resource centers in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Wisconsin have been vandalized or shot up.

Meanwhile, a volunteer at Washington, D.C.’s Casa Ruby was physically assaulted.

Critics of the POTUS have pointed to Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ policies as a contributing factor to the increase in violence and property crimes since his surprise win. Many perpetrators of hate crimes over the past two years have mentioned the president’s name during the attack.

This YA Fantasy Series Is Queer AF

Amy Rose Capetta’s next year and a half will be hectic. Her five upcoming books (two in The Brilliant Death series; two in the Once and Future universe, an Arthurian space fantasy co-written with her partner Cori McCarthy; and The Lost Coast, a novel about a group of witches) all have queer protagonists. In a country where just last week the administration suggested trans people could be written out of existence, Capetta is doing everything she can to take up space. She’s the voice we need to guide us through these horrific times, a shining reminder of the strength inherent in being queer.

The Brilliant Death, a story about the distance one will go for family and love, takes place in Vinalia, a magical version of 19th-century Italy. Teodora DiSangro is a strega (magical person) in a house that hates magic. When her father is poisoned by the Capo, the new leader of Vinalia, Teo has to represent her family in a meeting at the capital. But girls can’t be heads of family. With the help of Cielo, a strega who can fluidly shift between genders, Teo has two days to learn the magic she needs to rescue her father, and possibly all the stregas in the land. Teo and Cielo’s gender journey makes this book the queer gem we’ve been looking for. Their story is one of glorious self-acceptance standing in stark contrast to our present world that so frequently erases queer stories and lives.

INTO talked to Capetta about The Brilliant Death, gender, and chosen families.

INTO: I’ve known a lot of queer young adult authors who won’t write anything but queer characters, and I have known some who don’t prioritize it as much. From what I can tell, your first books did not have queer protagonists and your recent ones do. Is this intentional and a response to the current administration?

AMY ROSE CAPETTA: It’s not intentional so much as I think I was writing my way into my own queerness in those first books. It’s interesting because they are by far the most straight-passing of the books that I’ve written, but the main character, who is a human girl, falls in love with a masculine alien whose other half is a feminine spaceship, which is not the straightest thing ever. It might not be strict queer representation, if we’re talking about who identifies and says on the page what they are, but it’s also not super straight. By the time I was done writing those books, the only characters I wanted to keep writing about were the queer ones. I was so invested in their relationship and their love story.

Plus, my life was changing – I had just fallen in love with a very wonderful person. I had been out to friends and family for a while but I felt like I needed to be fully out in my writing and always be prioritizing the characters I wanted to see in books, which was, and has been, queer characters. The thing that changed in my writing, in response to the current administration, is that it got even MORE queer and I got more loud. I talk more boldly on the page about queerness now. I’ve expanded from one or two queer characters to often writing full queer casts. There was such a long time when LGBTQ folks weren’t allowed to add their stories to the canon, and while I’ve got a chance to tell mine, I’m not going to step down. While there are queer young people who need to see themselves reflected in the world, and other readers who need to see us as part of it, I’m not going to hedge my bets or be quieter. In fact, I’m going to do the opposite.

There are so many lines that do such a gorgeous job of personifying the very complicated feeling of being non-binary. I’m thinking specifically of when Cielo says that both ‘she’ and ‘he’ pronouns “feel a bit like coats that are too tight in the elbows” (74). Is there some part of you hoping people who do not understand the concept of transness will read these lines and feel more empathy for people living outside the gender binary?

Absolutely yes. I wanted to get into those little pieces of nuance that I talk about with my queer friends all the time, but I’m not sure other people have those discussions. So they don’t have a way of seeing it or feeling it. When we empathize with a character in a story we really get to feel and experience who they are. I think it helps us understand. For me, I was like – I’m going to put these gender feelings in here. I’m going to do it because I need that story. And to be able to see non-binary characters who are different. I didn’t want it to seem like there is only one way to be non-binary. That was very important to me. I do use she/her pronouns personally and they’re fine. I haven’t found a pronoun that would work better for me but that’s not me saying that those words always feel perfect.

The Brilliant Death

It was so interesting how, as Cielo’s outside presentation changed, so did the pronouns used. But even then, you frequently defaulted to just calling them “the strega” without any pronouns. In fact, for much of the book it was unclear what gender they were assigned at birth.

For me, it was important to not put weight on Cielo’s assigned gender at birth, because I didn’t want people to too quickly narrow down their understanding of who Cielo is. I do think sometimes, for some people, they will use that information to try to simplify the character or default to thinking of them in a binary way. The truth is we don’t know the assigned at birth gender of most people we interact with in life, we just assume we do. So I didn’t want to foreground that information when Teodora meets and interacts with this amazing, wonderful, magical person. My partner, Cori, was a huge inspiration for this book. I knew I always wanted to write about where my family came from with all the Italian history and the transformation magic of the folktales. But the story didn’t come together until I had Cielo, who is very much based on Cori. When I was writing this book I was having a really hard time getting started, so they would ask me to write the next chapter and then I’d come back every night and read it to them. It felt like unfolding a fairytale.

Amy Rose Capetta

There’s a scene where Cielo is telling Teo to honor wherever their gender journey takes them and to deny neither side – male nor female. Do you think because of the very binary nature of the world the more liminal spaces are often perceived as transitional and not valued as their own truth?

Yes. I get into that a little bit more in the second book because Teodora is most comfortable in a space that is less gendered overall. In terms of just writing my own truth, that is my most comfortable space, as well. Which, to many people, is a liminal space that is seen as either non-existent or being a transition moment. But for me, it is the most happy place. So I wanted to honor that. With all love and respect for people who are going through a journey from one end of the binary to the other, I wanted to show there are lots and lots of stops in between or even outside of. It’s an exploded diagram of gender; it’s not just a line you have to walk.

I love how the first chapter is titled “The Beginning” and the last chapter is titled “The Beginning.” So many LGBTQ people have to split their lives and their stories into separate beginnings. Is this your tiny nod of acknowledgment that our existences are fissured in that way?

Okay, I’m going to cry a little. When I wrote that ending, I knew Teo was starting a story that was really hers for the first time, and no longer living out a fate that had been assigned to her at birth. I don’t know that I thought about it in terms of queerness in an overt, intentional way, but now that you’re saying it that’s really perfect. I feel like you just encapsulated that better than I ever could have. Thank you and yes.

Amy Rose Capetta’s The Brilliant Death is available where books are sold.